Friday, August 19, 2011

Neoconservatism Interrupted

You will remember the Obama campaign of 2008. His was a fresh and pleasingly multicultural face and his candidacy, although unexamined by an incurious national media, took pains to present a foreign policy sharply different from either the meliorism of Hillary Clinton​ or the jingoism of John McCain. Barack Obama was unambiguously the peace candidate and it was on that basis that he became our President.

That was then. Once in office, Obama established Ms. Clinton as his Secretary of State, listened long and mindfully to Sen. McCain, and then proceeded to outreach both of them in an intermittently coherent but unmistakably neoconservative assault on the Middle East (however horrified the anti-Israeli Obama would be to know he's acting neoconservatively). Obama amped up the war in Afghanistan, started another one in Libya, helped to topple a staunch U.S. ally in Egypt, and launched "kinetic military actions" against Somalia and Yemen that, to the locals, looked very much like war. All of these initiatives were undertaken in the name of Western democratic values and, unlike the Bush wars, could not be said to have been contaminated by either a thirst for Arab oil or a hunger for Israeli favor. Obama's policy was manifestly propelled by neoconservative impulse, most brightly illuminated in the putsch against Mubarak. In that instance, the U.S. made it clear that it would support any successor regime. Our strategic judgment, ultimately arrived at, was this: better the street mob, any street mob, than the aging autocrat, even a reliably pro-American autocrat. That judgment represented neoconservatism in its distilled form.

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