The Inevitable Triumph of the Neocons

Robert Farley expresses skepticism that Bill Kristol’s new Foreign Policy Initiative is going to succeed:

For one, not many people seem to be buying into the efforts of neocons to distance themselves from the Iraq War. Second, the Iraq War hasn’t become notably more popular; it still seems to be widely regarded as a misstep, with the only serious discussion being on how disastrous the mistake was. Finally, the information infrastructure is different; because of the efforts of “Mad” Matt Duss, Stephen Walt, and others, the launch of FPI has been greeted as much by mockery and derision as fear and respect. Bill Kristol is a 20th century guy lost in a 21st century world…

I think that’s way too optimistic. The commanding heights of the information economy remain incredibly friendly to neocon perspectives. Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Charles Krauthammer are still all there op-edding away at The Washington Post. The Council on Foreign Relations is staffing up with neocons, adding Elliot Abrams to its arsenal. The Very Serious People at the Brookings Institution remain more likely to collaborate with neocons than with, say, Stephen Walt. And the FPI’s unveiling was validated by the attendance of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) and John Nagl, head of CNAS the left-of-center national security think tank of the moment. Basically, neoconservatism continues to be the mainstream voice of right-of-center national security — the perspective that establishment-oriented institutions feel compelled to shower with respect. The odds of a Republican president getting elected within the next 12 years are extremely high, and the odds of such an administration being heavily influenced by Foreign Policy Initiative ideas strike me as good.

In terms of Iraq, think about it this way. If things continue to be fairly calm for a few years, that will “prove” that the surge “worked” so we should be glad that the doves didn’t manage to ruin things back in 2007 and 2008. And if things don’t remain calm, that will also “prove” that the surge “worked” until the doves came along to ruin things in 2009 and 2010. If the military-industrial complex were to suddenly vanish over the next couple of years, or cease to be interested in subsidizing the generation of ideas that serve to justify maximalist levels of defense spending, then neocons might go away. But why would that happen?