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The Neoconservative Cursus Honorum

Having experienced several more weeks of mainstream media jingoism about the “Iranian threat,” culminating in the outrageous Joshua Muravchik op-ed [1] advocating war with Iran as the “best option” for dealing with that country, one has to ask why it is that a gaggle of self-proclaimed “experts” has been able to capture the foreign-policy narrative so completely, in spite of the fact that they have been wrong about nearly everything?

Neoconservatives have two core beliefs. First is their insistence that the United States has the right or even the responsibility to use its military and economic power to reshape the world in terms of its own interests and values. Constant war thus becomes the new normal. As Professor Eliot Cohen, a former State Department adviser under George W. Bush, put it [2], “For the great mass of the American public … and for their leaders and elites who shape public opinion ‘war weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation… .”

The second basic neoconservative principle, inextricably tied to the first, is that Washington must uncritically support Israel no matter what its government does, which makes the defense of all things Israeli an American value. William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, made the neoconservative viewpoint clear when he recently wrote [3] that Benjamin Netanyahu would win the GOP’s presidential nomination, if he could run, because “Republican primary voters are at least as hawkish as the Israeli public.” Other neoconservatives continue to pursue the goal set out by the “Clean Break” memo [4] provided to then-Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996, which recommended the reordering of the entire Middle East to benefit Israel. The memo was written by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, James Colbert, and David and Meyrav Wurmser.

Beyond foreign policy, things get a bit fuzzy with large variations regarding the kinds of social issues that energize many actual conservatives. In fact, neoconservatives usually avoid discussing abortion, immigration, gay marriage, race, and the proper place for religion in a civil society because they find themselves on the progressive side of the argument. They are also light on the ground when it comes to constitutionalism and civil liberties, concerns of traditional conservatives, preferring instead to back the warfare state coupled with a unitary executive, which frees up the president to exercise the military option in international relations.


This ambivalence is because, as it has been observed, many neoconservatives are former leftists or even radicals who have by their own account [5] “been mugged by reality,” leading to a gradual shift away from the Scoop Jackson Democratic nest where many of them were nurtured to the Republicanism of Ronald Reagan, where they focused more practically on obtaining positions in the Pentagon. Many eventually supported John McCain before gravitating to the George W. Bush administration, where some of them found senior-level government positions in both the White House and Defense Department.

Neoconservatives largely mix with other neoconservatives, which means that they operate with considerable internal cohesion, but that does not fully explain their success in selling a product that has begun to smell very bad if one judges by results rather than marketing. But perhaps the answer lies in understanding how the bubble around Washington works, which the neoconservatives have mastered. They are particularly adept at resume building within their clique, understanding full well that a Fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies is more likely to find space on a friendly editorial page than someone without that cachet who has a large audience on the alternative media, particularly if that someone is diverging from status quo policies or staking out a position that differs substantially from foreign-policy groupthink. Their ability to seek out and build relationships with friends in the mainstream media, which the Guardian describes [6] as “extraordinary,” has significantly contributed to their success. In 2002 alone the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an AIPAC spin-off, by itself placed 90 op-eds in the mainstream media. They also enjoy, for the same reason, unchallenged access to government committees and advisory commissions.

Muravchik, currently a Hopkins’ Fellow, is a prime example of an ascendant neoconservative. His biography [7] is typical of the older generation of neoconservative, starting out as a socialist before becoming a Democrat in the Scoop Jackson-inspired Coalition for a Democratic Majority, and finally ending up as a GOP-leaning neocon. Stops along the way include what some have described as “neoconservative alphabet soup.” Muravchik is or has been affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI [8]),  WINEP [9], Project for the New American Century (PNAC [10]) the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA [11]) and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq [12] (CLI), where he served on the board.

Always completely protective of hardline Israeli interests, Muravchik was one of the neoconservatives who pushed most diligently for war against Iraq post-9/11, and he has persistently called for an attack against Iran. In 2006 he wrote an op-ed [13] declaring that “We must bomb Iran,” with follow-up pieces demanding more of the same in 2007 [14]2008 [15]2011 [16], and 2014 [17].

Neoconservatives like to write books as part of their credential building process, making sure that the results are promoted through their networks and favorably reviewed no matter how ridiculous. Laurie Mylroie’s Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America, which claimed that Iraq had bombed the world Trade Center in 1993, was both printed and praised [6] by AEI. Muravchik’s 2014 offering [18] Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel explains that Israel has been the victim of the embrace of a progressive-inspired model of “national/ethnic struggle.” In other words, the turn against Israel is due to leftist politics and has not been the result of anything Israel has done.

Muravchik’s career has carefully advanced in such a fashion as to validate himself as an expert on international affairs even though it should be apparent that he is little more than an academic apologist for a rather narrowly construed point of view. And nearly every other neoconservative has a similar trajectory, starting out in elite academia and then bouncing from position to position inside and outside the government, aided at every step by others in the movement. The neoconservatives benefit particularly from their ownership of a number of foundations and institutes, the aforementioned alphabet soup, that provide resting places between university and government positions, complete with salaries and important-sounding titles. Many also are provided with lucrative opportunities in the private sector that free them to subsequently concentrate on the true task at hand, which is shaping U.S. foreign policy.

If one looks at the careers [19] of 30 well-known neoconservatives, one notes that there are a number of stops that pop up on many of the resumes, a progression that might well be described as something like a cursus honorum whereby the neoconservative aspirant is afforded status and credibility before stepping out onto the national or international stage. Muravchik’s multiple affiliations are exceptional, but they are actually exceeded by Richard Perle, who has been connected to AEI, FDD, PNAC, JINSA, CLI, the Hudson Institute, U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, Center for Security Policy, and the Committee on the Present Danger.

The Project for the New American Century, launched in 1997 by William Kristol and Robert Kagan, served as an apparent incubator for the modern neoconservative movement and was a popular introduction to national politics. By the time it ceased to operate in 2006, four out of five of the neoconservatives who rose to prominence in the George W. Bush administration and subsequently were in some way affiliated with it.

The second most popular stop for neoconservatives, not surprisingly, was and still is the American Enterprise Institute, where more than half have been affiliated. Other popular destinations include the Foreign Policy Initiative, founded by Kristol, Robert Kagan, Dan Senor, and Eric Edelman. There is also the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is backed by Kristol as well, but headed by Canadian Mark Dubowitz, a Hopkins product and FDD’s Executive Director, who is regarded by Congress [20] as an expert on how to deal with Iran and also reportedly briefs “…counterterrorism officials on a range of national security and terrorism-related concerns.” Dubowitz’s resume [21] suggests, however, that he actually doesn’t appear to know much about Iran apart from what can be done to punish it economically. Nor does he have the depth that comes from actually working for a law enforcement or intelligence agency. He is basically an academic, a familiar pattern for neoconservatives.

Another focal point is Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the disastrous Iraq War, served as dean prior to entering the Pentagon as a political appointee in 2001, which might partly explain the attraction. Indeed, one might suggest that SAIS is the academic wing of the neoconservative movement. Ten out of 30 leading neoconservatives have had some connection to Hopkins.

A third of neoconservatives have worked for JINSA. More than two-thirds have written for The Weekly Standard, National Review, or the Wall Street Journal. Surprisingly few have had any direct connection to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), but more than half have worked with WINEP, which was founded by AIPAC. Neoconservatives also figure prominently in the Middle East Forum and the Hudson Institute. Some have been active in Bill Kristol’s most recent venture [22] the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), launched in collaboration with Christian Zionist Gary Bauer. Military service is rare among the neoconservatives, which has led to frequent charges that they are armchair warriors more than willing to let others die to achieve their aggressive foreign policy objectives.

That the neoconservative cursus is supported by large amounts of money should not be ignored, as that is the glue that enables aspirants to persevere and turn one’s political leanings into a viable career. AEI had income totaling [23] $46 million in 2013. WINEP received [9] $8.7 million in the same year.

So how do critics of the incessant warfare combined with obeisance to pro-Israel policies get heard? Well, by and large they don’t get to capture an audience because they have little or no access to the mainstream media or to policymakers. There are no traditional conservative media outlets in any way comparable to the mainstream magazines, newspapers, and talk shows that the neoconservatives dominate, though TAC probably comes closest to being a viable alternative. The Ron Paul movement’s interest in fixing America’s global role has withered and died as the organizations he spawned have turned inward and largely eschewed foreign policy. No one who is a traditional conservative with cautious views about interventionism is particularly welcome on television or in testimony before government panels or commissions.

Most of all, there is no structure in place in any way comparable to what the neoconservatives have developed to nurture, support and guide young conservatives who would like to make a career in exposing the all too evident falsehoods inherent in the new American nightmare. The neoconservative example may be deplorable, but it has been all too effective, and seemingly impossible for those with limited resources to emulate.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

40 Comments (Open | Close)

40 Comments To "The Neoconservative Cursus Honorum"

#1 Comment By Ron On March 24, 2015 @ 2:06 am

It shouldn’t be too surprising that bad conservative ideas hang on past their expiration date. Just look at all the conservative predictions of rampant inflation due to the national debt. Same deficits and same rhetoric since the Reagan administration, and still no such rampant inflation. So, if you stick to that shibboleth, why wouldn’t neocons stick to theirs?

#2 Comment By HP On March 24, 2015 @ 3:45 am

The real question in my view is what governants need to do to be perceived as having failed. We’re not talking about an untried ideology here but about very real policies that have had real world consequences. And yet even a catastrophe such as the rise of ISIS, which is a direct consequence of these policies, does not seem sufficient to rub the Teflon off. Perhaps the point is that their policies were very successful for people who managed to make a living out of them, which might explain why the neocons are still awash in corporate money. In other words, maybe the neocons aren’t the affliction but only a symptom of the decay of US democracy.

#3 Comment By pasca On March 24, 2015 @ 8:42 am

Incredible piece. Very enlightening.

#4 Comment By AnotherBeliever On March 24, 2015 @ 9:18 am

It’s not impossible. Merely extremely difficult. With limited resources, it’s perhaps no easy thing to counter a bevy of think tanks and people with access to Congressional committees. This would be like attacking a conventional force head on when all you have are small arms. Think asymmetrically. Think creatively. Could TAC run a series of MOOCs, perhaps under the aegis of traditional realist academics like John Mearsheimer? I wasn’t kidding about the correspondence courses. Could it hold periodic gatherings for presentations and networking? Could it work on attracting Rand Paul supporters and veterans and other young thinkers?

#5 Comment By Hammurabi On March 24, 2015 @ 10:25 am

This sounds like a whole lot of Blame America First.

Okay, so admittedly, the military approach might not have worked perfectly in Syria. Or Iraq, either time. Or Afghanistan. Or Vietnam. There were a few small problems, massive debt and some dead people and such, I’ll give you that. But unless you fall back on facts, reason, evidence, etc, you can’t seriously claim that those places aren’t better off for our intervention. Imagine how much worse the situation would be had we not invaded brought them Democracy!

What about the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIL? Clearly, they only came about because we didn’t bomb the monolithic Muslims aggressively enough! Terrorism exists because Islam. Muslims hate us and our values, which is why they do anything at all. There are no other possible explanations. American Exceptionalism means we can’t be held responsible for anything that notes wrong; that’s always the other guys’ fault.

If we’d only man up and bomb Iran, an existential threat to America and Our Closest Ally Israel, we’d fix it too. Just like we fixed those other places. And even if we didn’t fix those other places, and instead we made them worse by intervening in cultures and situations we didn’t understand (an absurd notion I’m only entertaining for the sake of argument), what makes you think cause and effect will necessarily apply again? It’s arrogance to presume doing the same thing again will produce similar results. This time when we do it, it’ll be different. We won’t reconsider our military interventionist policy, we can’t entertain the possibility that anything we did was wrong. Instead we’ll double down, and disregard unpatriotic and twisted interpretations of previous outcomes based on observable evidence. We’ll arm rebel groups virtual indistinguishable from our enemies if they mouth the right words, we’ll bomb more civilians and expect gratitude for it, we’ll keep supplying Israel (and South Korea) billions in military welfare support and then complain about the deficit Obama is entirely responsible for. We’ll do the same thing we did before and this time it’ll be different. You just have to have faith… which is, after all, belief in the face of all evidence. You’ll see.

Not that anything went wrong. Just saying.

#6 Comment By Colm J On March 24, 2015 @ 11:29 am

A very informative piece. Neo-conservatism has also heavily infiltrated the Catholic Right – as much of the current affairs output of EWTN illustrates. The Christian conservative embrace of this hard-line liberal ideology is one of the great conundrums of modern times – and speaks volumes for the neo-cons’ master of the dark arts of rhetorical deception. Depending on their target audience, they’ll pose as committed left-wing secularists, or staunch defenders of Christian freedoms. And as Naomi Klein wrote in The Shock Doctrine, when the media wheel out neo-con “experts” they rarely acknowledge that many of these folk have financial interests in the war industries and therefore have very personal reasons for supporting the permanent war agenda; “arms dealers with good vocabularies”, to use Klein’s descriptive phrase.

#7 Comment By ageerdes On March 24, 2015 @ 11:54 am

Great article! Thank you for informing readers about this.

There may not be an organized “movement” behind Ron Paul any longer. But don’t forget the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, run by Ron Paul and Daniel McAdams. Its website exposes the government’s war propaganda with numerous articles, columns and videos. It has other programs, also.

#8 Comment By Johann On March 24, 2015 @ 12:04 pm

Spot on Hammurabi. The only thing I would add is that Iran is three times as big as Iraq and has 80 million people instead of a measly 38 million like Iraq. So if we attack Iran it will give us a chance of influencing more people positively and helping more people, like we did in Iraq. And it will stabilize the region even more.

#9 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On March 24, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

Excellent piece. As is always expected from Mr. Giraldi. One caveat, though, the use of the term “academic” in the case of n-cons degrades true academicians and people who do their homework. N-cons, in general, have a huge issue with the history in general, and 20th century history in particular. Virtually all n-cons I encountered have absolutely ridiculous outlandish views on warfare. It only partially related to them being insulated from the military and geopolitical reality, albeit it counts, it is just the way they are–they simply don’t get it. They can’t.

#10 Comment By JohnG On March 24, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

Thank God for TAC!

An even deeper underlying belief of the not-so-neo-whatevers (conservative they are NOT, and there is not much new in their ramblings either) is that a world-dominating empire is possible . Despite the fact that the reality (you know, the thing they despise) and history have been screaming that it’s not.

Any empire, and especially a global one, eventually cannot manage its long list of clients whose interest inevitably start to clash at some point. Case in point: are our “allies”/clients Turkey and Saudi Arabia really eager to fight ISIS the way we want them or are they pursuing some other goals? Now add Israel and its interests to the picture and it becomes clear that we are trying to square the circle here. Same thing with Ukraine and our European “allies”, North Korea and our Asian “allies”, etc.

And, yeah, the other side is simple economics. This insane global game is costing so much that it’s hollowing out our economy and infrastructure. We are falling behind on infrastructure, education, and our national debt is downright frightening. We either smarten up or we are in for a major economic and social crash, as simple as that.

PS I love this picture of Bill Kristol striking what in his mind might be a Churchillian pose. To cite a former French president, “pauvre con” is probably completely oblivious to how oblivious he really is. But while he and his cabal and sponsors will probably never smarten up maybe WE still can?

#11 Comment By JohnG On March 24, 2015 @ 1:02 pm


I love your analysis! And let’s not forget Libya, where we finally got our western allies to demonstrate that nothing is as effective in spreading freedom and democracy as western missiles. Together, we have managed to light the fire of freedom that has spread to the neighboring countries and keeps burning full force in Libya itself.

And how about Ukraine? Our great luminary scholar and stateswoman Madeleine Albright once said that a huge de facto sacrifice of Iraqi children was WORTH IT. Another stateswoman and luminary is now showing how we are generous, non-racist, equal opportunity agents of freedom eager to sacrifice thousands of blue-eyed people too.

Heck, I am sure that even our own people will get a chance to die for freedom and democracy, when they travel and get to experience how much people in faraway lands appreciate everything we have done for them. I for one, can’t wait to travel to Iraq or Yemen (the list is actually very long) to experience that love of America first hand.

#12 Comment By Kurt Gayle On March 24, 2015 @ 4:29 pm

“Neoconservatives largely mix with other neoconservatives, which means that they operate with considerable internal cohesion…Many neoconservatives are former leftists or even radicals…” They are particularly former Trotskyists, as for example, Joshua Muravchik was National Chairman of the Young People’s Socialist League from 1968-1973. The internal cohesion is aided by a shared leftist background of adherence to party discipline and to the principle of democratic centralism – so that once decisions are made by the central group other neoconservatives do not publicly criticize or contradict those decisions.

A large part of the internal cohesion is based upon ethnicity and the shared principle of working to advance the interests of the State of Israel. For example, “the “Clean Break” memo which recommended the reordering of the entire Middle East to benefit Israel…written by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, James Colbert, and David and Meyrav Wurmser…[and] provided to then-Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996” became the central goal of all neoconservatives. Adherence to the memo along the lines of the old Trotskyist party discipline and democratic centralism of decision-making was expected to be observed by all neoconservatives, and it was. It was also easier, by experience, for former leftists to closely coordinate neoconservative policies with the government of a foreign state. Ethnic caucusing, ethnic cohesion, and the coordination of the group’s policies with the government of a foreign power might be viewed as severe handicaps by some groups operating in the US, but neocons have turned these dubious activities into advantages by frequently suggesting that effective criticism of neoconservative policies is driven by racism.

Another part of the Trotskyist-turned-neocon modus operandi is the projection of exaggerated power and influence power via the establishment of “front” organizations. Philip Giraldi describes the “network of credentialing institutions that secure [the neocons] outsized influence.” I can remember the 1960s hyperbole that “if you give two Trots two weeks, they’ll set up 20 front groups.” In the case of the present-day neocons they set up think tanks with standing invitations to provide op-ed pieces and “experts” for network TV. It’s the old Wizard of Oz phenomenon – the little bald-headed man with the wrinkled face behind the screen that everyone imagines to be so powerful, but is actually merely the projection of vastly exaggerated of power and influence.

#13 Comment By Clint On March 24, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

The neoconservative agenda seems to be financed, in large part by interests that profit from supplying everything from jobs,to boots to vests,to vehicles,to chow,etc. for military and security use in every U.S. state and around the globe.

The global cop complex money trail.

#14 Comment By Cave NeoCanem On March 24, 2015 @ 11:19 pm

Having completed a few legs of the “cursus honorum” before taking honest work, I can attest that Israel is the sine qua non. Reliability on that score is constantly monitored in an oblique, creepy way. Another funny thing is that actual Israelis start turning up, their presence treated as though it were normal and unremarkable, though I often said to myself “why are these people here?”

I knew a couple of bright, articulate American kids, nascent conservatives, Ivy or public Ivy background, one of whom went the distance. He confessed orivately to being startled at both the centricity of Israel and its non-negotiable, grotesquely inflated valuation. The highest priority. Far higher than what his history or international relations courses had led him to believe. You say “China”. They say “Israel”. You say “Europe”. They say “Middle East”. The regional focus amounts to obsession, and the geopolitical types are sick with it.

They really don’t like the Old Right, believing correctly, I think, that the Old Right is on to them. A bete noire.

My advice to young conservatives is to stay away from these places and people. They’ve got pots of money and connections, and that’s seductive, but there’s a bad smell in there, and it’s not going to end well.

#15 Comment By Russell On March 25, 2015 @ 12:35 am

The 21st century discourse of such Reagan era acquaintances as Perle, Kristol & Feith represents the application of a plenum of fluid hostility and force evolved to countermand the global reach of the Evil Empire applied instead to a patch of the Levant no larger than New Jersey

Would New Yorkers really feel safer if Cris Christie had the hydrogen bomb and was building more each year ?

#16 Comment By EngineerScotty On March 25, 2015 @ 2:14 am

The neocon diploma mills need to be more forcefully called out.

#17 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 25, 2015 @ 4:07 am

Someone extended a thanks for TAC. because they oppose what seems to be the norm as described in no small detail and thoroughness.

Given that I have to wonder why mebers of TAC are not in wholesale swing with others they are n agreement with in making the media circuit making the counter argument.

A media that is in cahoots in promoting fear demanded by the agenda in question must be pressured to give space for the counter.

Though in the years I have been reading TAC, I am not as convinced as others that TAC is unison on the above issues enough to mount such an effort.

It would be interesting.

#18 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 25, 2015 @ 10:13 am

Okay, I will say it.

We did not lose the Vietnam war.

#19 Comment By Agent76 On March 25, 2015 @ 11:11 am

US House Votes 348-48 To Arm Ukraine, Russia Warns Lethal Aid Will “Explode The Whole Situation”

Yesterday, in a vote that largely slid under the radar, the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging Obama to send lethal aid to Ukraine, providing offensive, not just “defensive” weapons to the Ukraine army – the same insolvent, hyperinflating Ukraine which, with a Caa3/CC credit rating, last week started preparations to issue sovereign debt with a US guarantee, in essence making it a part of the United States (something the US previously did as a favor to Egypt before the Muslim Brotherhood puppet regime was swept from power by the local army).


#20 Comment By James Canning On March 25, 2015 @ 1:24 pm

Great piece. Perhaps one should underline the simple fact that Israel steadily damages the national security interests of the American people, by expanding the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

#21 Comment By PoliteLiberal On March 25, 2015 @ 5:06 pm

All I have to say is “thank you.” It looks like this is the place a young liberal like myself can get some real answers from intelligent conservatives. I’m not hear to call people names or insult your religion/values/beliefs. I’m just here to get answers.
Unfortunately, I tend to agree with the aiauthor of this article so no questions but I look forward to having real discussions

#22 Comment By Cursus Iniquitatis On March 25, 2015 @ 5:14 pm

@Cave“there’s a bad smell in there, and it’s not going to end well.”

“End well”??? Hell, it didn’t even start well …

What young American conservative would want to kick of his career tainted by association with the architects of multiple military and foreign policy errors, some of them outright disasters?

What young American patriot would want to have to effectively pledge allegiance to a foreign country as the price of a career in public service, journalism, or scholarship?

#23 Comment By Plano Born On March 25, 2015 @ 5:36 pm

Inertia rules …

Many of these institutions should have disappeared after the military and foreign policy failures of the 2000s.

That they didn’t disappear suggests a very serious problem indeed.

Basically, the powerful were not made to pay for their mistakes. Interventionists kept their jobs, op/ed columns, professorships (some got new appointments), their perches on boards of directors, think tanks.

The dumb ones either tried to justify the unjustifiable to even dumber people, or wrung their hands and whined that “no one saw it coming”.

The smart ones couldn’t believe their luck.

But neither the dumb ones nor the smart ones paid for what they did.

The powerful must learn to fear consequences. They must be fired or prosecuted for incompetence and malfeasance, subject to imprisonment, public obloquy, impoverishment, and shunning. Otherwise they will continue to distort and pervert, to create distorting and perverting institutions like those Giraldi mentions, and what has become a global crisis of legitimacy and authority will deepen.

#24 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 25, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

I knew it was all over when the MSM, without questioning and without a trace of irony, started using the self serving, self valorizing titles (eg “senior scholar”) bestowed on the neo con “experts” by their own, completely full of it, entities. As if they were real positions of merit in real institutions of learning.

#25 Comment By Larry in Texas On March 26, 2015 @ 1:54 am

An interesting article. The failure of neoconservatism is not only a failure of ideas, it is a failure of strategy, a failure to understand history. At the time President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney (heavily influenced by neoconservatives in their administration) were making decisions about how to conduct the war on terrorism, they had already decided (to Richard Clarke’s horror and dismay) that Iraq was the next focus once Afghanistan was cleansed of the Taliban. Why? Because Bush was convinced that if he could establish a foothold for democracy in the Middle East, terrorism would vanish from the face of the planet (I know that this slightly oversimplifies Bush’s policy, but space limits a further exposition). Also, Bush and Cheney were left unsatisfied by the way Iraq had turned out after the Gulf War, and wanted to rid the Iraqi people of this scourge and source of instability. The problem was that both men had ignored the history of the region and the dynamics of the geopolitics that has driven the region since World War I. Israel is the example of democracy in the Middle East, but no one in the Muslim/Arab world would have been inspired by that, because of the religious fervor of Islam across all sects of Islam against the Jewish state. It should have been apparent to Bush that there was an interest in stability of the region that went beyond the idea of cultures of democracy, which have no chance to flourish in a Muslim, desert-style of culture. Further, because there was mounting evidence that Iran was developing centrifuges for nuclear purposes, including weapons-grade uranium, and established evidence of Iran bankrolling terror groups such as Hezbollah to further Iranian interests in developing regional dominance as a Shiite empire, by the time Bush had become President, the geopolitical situation had changed – the Iranians were now the ones who presented the greater threat. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein had been more neutralized as a regional threat, but was still in a position to cause more problems for the Iranians. This is what kept the Iranians a bit more cautions in the pursuit of their ambitions back in 2001. With the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the destabilization of the state of Iraq by the chaos of the transition to so-called democracy, and the rise of the insurgents from the old Republican Guard elements and foreign interlopers (al Queda, among others), a massive power vacuum was created in the region. Iran has stepped into this power vacuum. Because Barack Obama is equally confused about the geopolitics of the region, he has abandoned an American presence on the ground in Iraq, which has given rise to the Islamic State, another Muslim group with pretentions to regional domination. The failure of American historical understanding and strategic imagination in the region is not unique to neoconservativess, but certainly it will result in disaster for American policy in the near future.

#26 Comment By Kurt Gayle On March 26, 2015 @ 11:01 am

@ Cave NeoCanem:

Thanks for what you wrote.

I share the same worry: “It’s not going to end well.” I had long hoped that somehow it would, but increasingly I don’t believe it will.

A related worry is that the “not-ending-well”-ness of the thing – I’m talking about Americans waking up and things getting ugly — will be a further distraction from the simple, necessary business of focusing back on the national interest as the basis of American foreign policy.

#27 Comment By Street Kred On March 27, 2015 @ 12:55 am

Right now the big bold headline on the Drudge Report is “USA Caves to Iran Nuke Demands”. It links to an article in the Washington Free Beacon by the wonderfully named “Adam Kredo”.

For a laugh, look up Kredo’s academic credentials and job history, keeping in mind that this is how a substantial number of people get their news about things like the Iran negotiations these days.

They really think we’re stupid, don’t they?

#28 Comment By Futurism On March 27, 2015 @ 5:33 pm

@Kurt Gayle “I’m talking about Americans waking up and things getting ugly “

A bit jarring to contemplate it at a moment just past the veritable zenith of America’s Israel madness, but what you suggest may well be in the cards. The failure to rein it in at an earlier stage could combine with another economic or military disaster to augur in a period that would make the Red Scare and McCarthyism seem tame.

#29 Comment By David Naas On March 27, 2015 @ 5:50 pm

Street Kred said: March 27, 2015 at 12:55 am
“They really think we’re stupid, don’t they?”

Well, given the track record of the American Public… they might be right.

#30 Comment By Been There On March 27, 2015 @ 8:16 pm

Scholarship is the first thing to go. Ideological discipline and general “reliability” is what counts.

#31 Comment By blue On March 28, 2015 @ 5:29 pm

Just give the neoconservatives an M!6, rations, parachute, and put them in a DC3 and drop them into Tehran. Let them do the fighting, not my kids.

#32 Comment By A Fellow Citizen On March 28, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

Giraldi’s on point, as usual.

Thanks, Phil. This is high public service, not just alerting a concerned citizenry of its peril, but giving it solid information on which to take decisions and act.

#33 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 29, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

“I’m not hear to call people names or insult your religion/values/beliefs.”

Then you just might be a conservative.


#34 Comment By Fran Macadam On March 31, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

Phil, you got me so worked up about neocon duplicity that my commentary devolved into what I thought were clever, if ad hominem, insults. It was accurate, but not likely to win any of the more doubtful among them over to reason, which ought to be the objective. “Them’s fightin’ words,” even if true, are not necessarily the language of reason necessary to reduce the perception that those who disagree are implacable enemies in a war of attrition, even if one only of words. Words have far reaching consequences, so one should exercise restraint in the service of not making things worse. Never hold back the truth, but be responsible.

#35 Comment By Philip Giraldi On April 1, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

Thanks Fran – I understand, believe me. If no deal goes through with Iran, which is what I now expect, we all will have to accept our differences on style to work together to avoid another neocon/rabid Republican war that will be catastrophic for everyone involved. The neocons have so much to answer for but their ability to manipulate the narrative is second to none. We all must pull together to expose them and stop them.

#36 Comment By de La Valette On April 2, 2015 @ 12:02 am

I mentioned and quoted your article in my blog post “Hold Open The Gates!!”


#37 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 3, 2015 @ 6:34 am

There is only one problem here. The dog pile on neoconservtives misses the mark. The last eight years have been conducted by an administration that came into power based largely on the anti-neoconservative arguments made here, That admin. is liberal and members of democratic wing.

I find myself defending almsot any form of conservatism, even neoconservatives, but they should not be taking the beating they are when they hold no particular power in government.

No one held a gun to the head of this executive, not the Sec. of State to pop the lid off of Egypt, Syria, Libya, and the Ukraine.

And just by chance I picked up a book lent out some time ago, and within a very brief read, discovered that the none of what has been attributed to the neocons originated with them, but in the strategic operations of the Pentagon in 1993/94 in response to the retraction of Russian(Soviet) expansion.

Ultimately, democrats will have to take some responsibility for their leadership and the choices they have made. Neoconservatives may want to push their agenda as various organizations do, but no one is holding a weapon to the executives head. Sec. Clinton on her own volition pushed for intervention in the Ukrain. Expanding operations in Syria, Iraq, and now possibly Yemen.

#38 Comment By EliteCommInc. On April 3, 2015 @ 7:08 am

Excuse me,

the text is: The American Way of War
by eugene Jarecki

#39 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 5, 2015 @ 4:59 pm

@ Philip Giraldi:

In your comment to Fran Macadam you wrote on April 1st (4:57 pm) that “if no deal goes through with Iran, which is what I now expect, we all will have…to work together to avoid another neocon/rabid Republican war that will be catastrophic for everyone involved.”

Since you wrote that you didn’t expect a deal with Iran to go through, a framework agreement has been reached and the parties have until June 30th to reach a final agreement.

From your vantage-point now, Philip, do you think a final agreement with Iran will be reached?

#40 Comment By David On May 19, 2015 @ 4:04 pm

Good morals, good values and good judgement seem to be lacking in the government of the US.