Thursday, January 15, 2009

They Never Learn

Since 2006, when neoconservatism and the Republican Party of the George W. Bush years were thoroughly discredited, I began to realize that the GOP is like the Bourbons, the royal family deposed during the French Revolution, and fully restored after Napoleon’s final defeat. When Charles X became King of France in 1824, he ignored the liberals (not liberals in the current sense) and remained loyal to the royalist factions. Talleyrand, the distinguished diplomat, said that the “Bourbons had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” So it would also seem with the Republicans and especially the neoconservatives.

George W. Bush squeaked his way to reelection in 2004 but the victory was short-lived. His second inaugural address was skeptically received due to its unfounded and ahistorical vision about “eliminating tyranny from the earth.” As if Afghanistan and the only-beginning to burn Iraq were not enough, the president seemed to think that America had the might and mandate to eliminate tyranny from the world and turn every other country into another America - at the point of a gun, that is.

In 2005, violence ratcheted up in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina hit, and the president was quickly becoming an abandoned man. The shabby response to the hurricane signaled a failure of government, or at least the bloated bureaucracy. The president was painted as a man who did not care about the plight of the New Orleanians displaced by the storm. It has been said that that was the beginning of the end for a positive Bush legacy.

Iraq descended into civil war in 2006 and every Republican faced an uphill battle in the midterm elections that year because almost all Republicans had steadfastly and unconditionally supported the president on his war that the country was souring on. When those election results returned, Democrats, who promised they would end U.S. involvement in Iraq, gained 31 House seats and the majority.

So how have the Bush Republicans and neoconservatives learned nothing and forgotten nothing? Even though they have been abandoning the president in droves, many of the neocons are only abandoning the man and none of the ideas that led to the failure of his presidency.

When presidential nominees began announcing their intentions in early 2007, the automatic frontrunners for the Republicans were Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Both were fervent supporters of a war the American people had already decided they were tired of. No one in the entire Republican field, except Ron Paul, would admit that going to Iraq was a mistake. They only had differences with the way President Bush handled the war.

What is more, nobody would ever actually mention President Bush’s name because he had become such a pariah. But nobody would ever actually depart from the philosophy that led to Bush’s ruin: neoconservatism. There was no discussion about whether Iraq was the right course or not, only how it could have been done better, or whether we have any business beginning to bomb Iran, as if engaging that country militarily would prove any better for our country than engaging Iraq or Afghanistan have been.

The philosophy has not changed and the Republicans seem ready to continue losing elections and influence in the country.

This past Tuesday President-elect Barack Obama had his now-famous dinner at the home of George Will, who was hosting, among others, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, one of the main theorists for American intervention in the Middle East. The meeting has been called, “Obama breaking bread with conservatives.” However, there is nothing particularly conservative about any of the people the new president dined with (besides Kristol, there was Rich Lowry of the formery conservative National Review, New York Times "conservative" David Brooks, and The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, another main theorist of American interventionism around the globe.

What is odd about this is that Mr. Obama spent his entire presidential campaign complaining about the path George W. Bush led us down and how we can’t afford any more of it.

So why was he meeting with several of the people who either planned or vociferously defended this disastrous presidency? As I have commented before, it is not as though the president-elect met with those on the Right such as Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, or Joe Sobran, who opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, as Mr. Obama claims he had done. Is it possible that the "Change" president isn't going to change much of anything at all?

Despite his occasional antiwar rhetoric about the Iraqi quagmire, he seems intent on escalating the quagmire in Afghanistan. Escalating any war is sure to make any neoconservative or anyone pro-war on the Right delirious, so they are naturally gravitating toward him.

Even though this ideology of perpetual war for perpetual peace has crashed and burned during the Bush years, many of these people are still intent on preserving it for some time in the future.

A word of confession is required here: I was an Iraq war supporter from around 2003-late 2004. I didn’t understand too much of the war or the region, but supported it because I wanted to support my country and my president. But as I expanded my reading and my reasoning matured, I discovered that perhaps this war was not in the nation’s best strategic interest and may actually hurt us. I admit that I was wrong and have changed my mind. I maintain that it is not a flip-flop; I do maintain that I have gotten smarter than I was when I was 19/20 years old. Not to blow my own horn, but I believe it’s a shame others are still blinded by their own ideology of imperialism that they rationalize that it fails not because it is a fallen, sinful world where no ideology can work the way it does in one’s mind, but because the current executive was too incompetent to make it work right.

This policy of imperialism will fail with Barack Obama, too, but it doesn't look like he, nor anyone around him, will learn that before it is too late.

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