A Sour Holiday Season for Neocons
For the past couple of decades, the neocons have ruled the roost of American foreign policy, but they have now suffered some stunning reversals that have left them fuming
America’s extended Christmas holiday season, stretching through much of November and all of December, has not been a happy time for Official Washington’s dominant neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks.
First, they had to lick their wounds over the defeat of their preferred U.S. presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton; then they had to watch as their “moderate” Syrian rebel proxies and their Al Qaeda allies were routed from east Aleppo; and finally they watched in disbelief as the Obama administration permitted passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian lands.
To say that the neocons and liberal hawks have not taken these reversals well would be an understatement. They have pretty much blamed Clinton’s defeat on everyone but themselves and Clinton herself. They have been apoplectic over Aleppo and their lost dream of “regime change” in Syria. And they have sputtered in outrage over President Obama’s failure to veto the Israeli anti-settlement resolution.
Regarding Clinton’s defeat, her embrace of the neocon/liberal-hawk “regime change” obsessions siphoned off enthusiasm among the peace faction of the Democratic Party, a significant and activist part of the progressive movement.
Clinton’s alignment with the neocon/liberal hawks may have helped her with the mainstream media, but the MSM has lost much of its credibility by making itself a handmaiden in leading the nation to wars and more wars.
Average Americans also could feel the contempt that these elites had for the rest of us. The neocons and liberal hawks had come to believe in the CIA’s concept of “perception management,” feeling that the American people were items to be controlled, not the nation’s sovereigns to be informed and respected. Instead of “We the People,” Official Washington’s elites treated us like “Us the Sheep.”
Though this “perception management” idea took hold during the Reagan administration – largely in reaction to the public’s distrust of U.S. foreign policy following the Vietnam War – it became a bipartisan practice, extending through George W. Bush’s WMD sham about Iraq and into the behavior of the Obama administration in manipulating public opinion about Syria, Libya, Ukraine and Russia, pretty much any country targeted for “regime change.”
So, when this establishment tried to force Hillary Clinton’s coronation down the nation’s throat, enough Americans choked at the idea – even to the extent of voting for the eminently unqualified Donald Trump – to deny Clinton the White House. Indeed, many Americans who reluctantly did vote for Clinton did so only because they considered Trump even more unfit to lead the nation. The two candidates were in a fierce competition for who would arouse the most public revulsion.
But the neocons and liberal hawks are not ones for self-reflection and self-criticism. They move from one disaster to the next, finding others to blame and justifying their own failures by publishing self-apologias in the editorial pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.
Thus, for the past several weeks, we have witnessed daily meltdowns across the mainstream media as neocons and liberal interventionists fume about all the forces that conspired to deny them their God-given right to select who runs America.
The mainstream media ranted about a few incidents of “fake news” – concocted stories designed to get lots of clicks from Trump supporters – despite its own long history of publishing false and misleading stories. The MSM then tried to tar with that “fake news” broad brush serious independent Web sites that simply displayed professional skepticism toward propaganda emanating from the U.S. State Department.
The smear blurred the “fake news scandal” with what was deemed “Russian propaganda.” Anyone who wouldn’t march in lockstep with the State Department’s messaging must be a “Kremlin stooge.” Mainstream media outlets even began demanding that major technology companies, such as Facebook and Google, join in establishing a modern-age Ministry of Truth for the Internet that would punish independent Web sites that didn’t toe the Official Line.
Then, there was the hysteria over the CIA’s still-unproven claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw a scheme to hack into Democratic emails and expose embarrassing facts, such as the Democratic National Committee’s tilting the primary playing field to favor Clinton over Sen. Bernie Sanders, the contents of Clinton’s paid speeches to her Wall Street benefactors, and pay-to-play features of the Clinton money machine.
Though this information all appeared to be true — and revealed dubious or improper actions by Democratic officials and the Democratic presidential nominee — this truth-telling was also mixed in with the “fake news scandal” and other excuse-making for why Clinton lost. Her defeat was Putin’s fault. It was also FBI Director James Comey’s fault for chastising Clinton for her “extremely careless” handling of U.S. government secrets because she insisted on using a private email server as Secretary of State. And, of course, there was the supposed over-reaction to Clinton calling many Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.”
In other words, the Clinton campaign appears to have been done in by various people telling the truth about a variety of unsavory aspects of Hillary Clinton’s behavior and decision-making. If none of these facts had come out before the election, the thinking was that Clinton would have won and the neocons/liberal hawks could have continued and even expanded their dominion over U.S. foreign policy.
Yet, to me, the biggest head-scratcher about Clinton’s disastrous campaign was why – after she left the State Department in 2013 – did she jump into the sleazy business of collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for brief speeches to Wall Street and other special interests.
Her prospective presidency was crucial to the Clinton business model of soliciting huge donations and fees from corporations and foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation and to allied consulting firms, such as the Podesta Group. These corporate and foreign leaders were pre-paying for “access” to the future U.S. president. However, instead of shielding Clinton from the grubby business of collecting the money herself, she was dispatched to join in the money grabbing.
This greed or hubris left millions of Americans troubled by what a restoration of Clinton control of the Executive Branch might mean. Whether Trump was sincere or not, he hit a nerve when he talked about “draining the swamp.”
‘Regime Change’ Reversals
The neocons and liberal hawks also watched their “regime change” plans for Syria – something that has been on their agenda since the mid-1990s – collapse with this month’s fall of east Aleppo to Syrian government troops, backed by Russia and Iran.
In the battle for Syria, the Obama administration, other Western governments and Persian Gulf states illegally armed a melange of rebels and terrorists. But the West and its allies also deployed state-of-the-art propaganda techniques in which government agencies and like-thinking private foundations invested tens of millions of dollars in training Syrian activists to use social media to rally international support.
This propaganda strategy reached its apex in Aleppo, which was portrayed in Western media as a case of the Syrian government and its allies willfully slaughtering helpless children. The fact that the “moderate” rebels were operating under the command structure of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, was almost blacked out from the West’s mainstream media coverage.
The last piece of coal in the neocon/liberal-hawk stocking came last week with the U.N. Security Council’s repudiation of Israel’s illegal settlement building on Palestinian lands. Though the Obama administration only abstained from the vote, the lack of a U.S. veto enabled the resolution to pass unanimously, 14-0.
Again, the neocons erupted in fury. Rather than acknowledge that Israel had brought this condemnation on itself by its illegal actions, the neocons lashed out at Obama and the world for not taking Israel’s side. The neocon editors of The Washington Post decried Obama’s decision as “a dangerous parting shot at Israel.”
“It will encourage Palestinians to pursue more international sanctions against Israel rather than seriously consider the concessions necessary for statehood, and it will give a boost to the international boycott and divestment movement against the Jewish state, which has become a rallying cause for anti-Zionists,” the Post lamented.
“At the same time, it will almost certainly not stop Israeli construction in the West Bank, much less in East Jerusalem, where Jewish housing was also deemed by the resolution to be ‘a flagrant violation under international law.’”
Similarly, the neocon editors of the Wall Street Journal labeled Obama’s abstention his “Anti-Israeli Tantrum,” claiming that the non-vote was simply an extension of his “personal pique at adversaries,” in this case toward Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Like virtually all neocons, the Post’s and Journal’s editors insist that the U.S. government always stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel though that usually means that Netanyahu stands wherever he wants and U.S. officials sidle up to him.
Though neocons always blame the Palestinians for not making the concessions that Israel demands – and thus holding them at fault for the moribund peace process – the reality is that the Israeli leadership has no intention of reaching a reasonable two-state solution with the Palestinians and hasn’t for at least two decades.
A Fig Leaf
The mirage of a two-state solution has simply been a fig leaf for neocons and their liberal allies to cite as an excuse for allowing Israel’s steady gobbling up of Palestinian land to continue apace.
The reality is that Israel is on a steady march to become a full-scale apartheid state in which Palestinians are kept as either stateless or second-class citizens indefinitely. When these facts on the ground can no longer to obfuscated or denied, then the world will have little choice but to engage in the sort of moral and economic pressure that confronted racist South Africa in the 1980s.
At that point, peaceful pressure, such as boycott and divestiture, will be the most reasonable steps to convince Israel that it has veered off onto a dangerously racist course that can’t be justified simply by mystical allusions to ancient biblical text.
But the American neocons and their liberal-interventionist junior partners seem more committed to defending Israeli interests than American interests. So, they denounce any international criticism of Israel as “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic,” a smear that has for years terrified politicians and journalists in Official Washington but may now be so overused and abused that it is no longer taken seriously.
The other grave danger from this neocon manipulation of America on behalf of Israeli interests is that this behavior will revive the historical evil of actual anti-Semitism, a threat that could be avoided now by convincing Israel to act like a responsible global partner, not a racist rogue state.
There is some hope among hardline pro-Israeli Americans that Donald Trump will support Israel as it encroaches more and more onto Palestinian lands. But the neocons and liberal hawks recognize that Trump’s “America First” rhetoric is implicitly critical of undertaking more “regime change” projects against governments on Israel’s enemies list.
By appointing a pro-settler American lawyer, David Friedman, as ambassador to Israel, Trump also may be, in effect, giving Netanyahu encouragement to cast aside the “two-state” fig leaf and reveal his territorial ambitions in all their nakedness.
The neocons, of course, would still find arguments to defend Israeli apartheid – we’d hear about what animals the Palestinians are, much as we heard about the savagery of South Africa’s blacks from defenders of white supremacy – but that might finally be pushing beyond what the modern world could tolerate.
Thus, 2016 is ending on a decidedly sour note for the neocons and liberal interventionists. They had high hopes that 2017 would mark the beginning of an escalated “regime change” adventure in Syria and the start of their “mother of all regime change” schemes for destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia and somehow staging a “color revolution” in Moscow, all while Hillary Clinton took the relationship with Israel “to the next level” as she promised in her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Now, the neocons and liberal hawks find themselves on the outside looking in and one can expect their anger to be voiced at increasing decibels across the mainstream media. But whether anyone still takes them seriously is another question.