April 17, 2005

Rip van Winkles...

Michael Kinsley has an article suggesting that the neocons pulled the wool over our eyes....

...[neocon Jeanne] Kirkpatrick thought that U.S. power should be used to shore up tottering but friendly dictators, such as Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua and the shah of Iran. Carter sat on his hands, she complained. Now we have an administration that -- wisely or foolishly, sincerely or cynically -- claims to have the aggressive pursuit of democracy everywhere as the focal point of its foreign policy. And the Bush Doctrine is said to have the fingerprints of neoconservatives all over it....

...Plenty of explanations are available. The collapse of the Soviet Union (which the neocons did not predict -- their theme had been that the Soviet Union was getting stronger and stronger while the United States diddled) surely changed the calculus. The seemingly easy spread of democracy over the past couple of decades may have disproved Kirkpatrick's pessimism.

But all these explanations require an admission of error, something the neocons are not very good at. They are selling certainty. [Thanks to PowerLine]

The problem with Kinsley's article is that it assumes that the necons were placed in cryogenic sleep about the time of the Iranian hostage crisis, were thawed out in 2001, and have played us a dirty trick by secretly changing their positions while they dozed.

But in fact they were in power for 12 years, holding various positions in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. And while they were dealing with the world's problems they learned some new tricks. There was nothing secret or sudden about it. The big change came, as has been amply discussed, with the fall of Philippine President Marcos, when the decision was made to encourage democracy instead of propping him up. Done for the practical and tough-minded reason that this was more likely to prevent a communist take-over.

The Reagan Administration went on to apply that idea in Latin America, with the truly astonishing result that, by the time Bush I left office, all but one Latin American head-of-state was competitively elected! Far from owing anybody an admission of error, the men of the Reagan and Bush I teams, including several well-known neocons, ought to be showered with Nobel Peace Prizes, and all the rewards and praise we can offer.

The people in deep sleep were the news media, at least as far as recognizing these accomplishments. They are the ones waking like Rip van Winkle, and saying, "Whaa? Neocons? Aren't they supposed to be for propping up friendly dictators? Did I miss something?"

Posted by John Weidner at April 17, 2005 7:53 PM
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