History Isn’t Over, but the Neocons Might Be

In 1989, State Department planner Francis Fukuyama wrote his now-famous, seminal essay "The End of History." In it, he argued that humanity had reached "an endpoint in its ideological evolution" and capitalist liberal democracy would be the inevitable, worldwide status quo in the not-too-distant future.

Post-9/11 America, mired in conflict with stubborn "militant Islam," seemingly brought the pretentious assumptions of the Fukuyama school of history crashing down. But the hubris and arrogance manifested in Fukuyama’s premise is with us still, in some ways more than ever. The difference is that today, rather than an organic historical evolution (which is how Fukuyama foresaw a capitalist liberal democracy coming into primacy), the Washington elite who subscribe to Fukuyama’s way of thinking want to bring about a world patterned on America not by example, but by force.

In order to do this, hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops would be required. But right now, capitalist liberal democracy is having an increasingly difficult time recruiting enough soldiers willing to fight and die just to cover Iraq, let alone the entire Middle East.

As reported by Reuters:

"The Iraq war marks the first test of the all-volunteer U.S. military during a protracted war, and Army officials have conceded that all three components of the Army likely will miss their recruiting goals for fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30. … It has not missed an annual recruiting goal since 1999."

After the Sept. 11 assault, alleged to be an attack on our entire way of life, at a level of severity equal to Pearl Harbor, supposedly an existential threat to America, how can this be? Is it because Americans now know Iraq had no connection whatsoever to 9/11 and believe we were misled into war, or is something else at play?

"Staff Sgt. Jason Rivera, 26, a Marine recruiter in Pittsburgh, went to the home of a high school student who had expressed interest in joining the Marine Reserve to talk to his parents. It was a large home in a well-to-do suburb north of the city. Two American flags adorned the yard. The prospect’s mom greeted him wearing an American flag T-shirt. ‘I want you to know we support you,’ she gushed.

"[But] Rivera soon reached the limits of her support.

"’Military service isn’t for our son. It isn’t for our kind of people,’ she told him."

Washington Post columnist Terry Neal thought Kelly’s anecdote raised some interesting questions:

"There has been much talk about the relationship between race and ethnicity and military recruitment. But what about social and economic class? Are wealthier Americans, who are more likely to be Republicans and therefore more likely to support the war, stepping up to the plate and urging their children and others from their communities to enlist?

"Unfortunately, there has been no definitive study on this subject. But it appears that the affluent are not encouraging their children and peers to join the war effort on the battlefield."

In Andrew Bacevich’s recent book, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, the author discusses how in the past, the perceived connection between Christian values and the U.S. armed services aided in recruiting soldiers to serve the American cause. This perception was fostered mainly by evangelicals, and a bond was formed between them and the military during the Cold War.

"In a decadent and morally confused time, [evangelicals] came to celebrate the military itself as [a] bastion of the values required to stem the nation’s slide toward perdition," Bacevich says.

Since then, the union has been consummated through tribulations like the first Gulf War and, presumably, the current Iraq one.

"Conservative Christians have conferred a presumptive moral palatability on any occasion on which the United States resorts to force," writes Bacevich. "They have fostered among the legions of believing Americans a predisposition to see U.S. military power as inherently good…."

Of course, in the run-up to the Iraq war, conservative Christians and many in the media were on the same, pro-war side, and so the media itself also fostered among the legions a predisposition to see the use of force as good. But the perception that nearly all evangelicals (and most Christians) were fully behind the effort to remove Saddam and invade and occupy Iraq became the conventional wisdom.

President Bush encouraged this perception when, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, he characterized the putative war on terror as a "crusade." He later retracted his use of the "C" word, but since then, he has invoked religious language in his war advocacy so often that even some Bush supporters have called his rhetoric "God-drenched." (It is no coincidence that Mike Gerson, an evangelical Christian and former theology student, has been the principal author of many of Bush’s most important speeches.)

In theory, then, American Christians should by now have been primed by the media, the pro-war evangelists, and Washington politicians to sign on to the Bush crusade to "remake" the Middle East.

But were Christians really ever fully onboard our latest Middle Eastern foray? Were even the vast majority of evangelicals? Or, like the belief that Saddam had WMDs and was tied to 9/11, was the perception that Christians overwhelmingly supported the Iraq war a construct of the War Party’s imagination that was turned into a "reality" through media repetition and manufactured "evidence"?

A February 2005 posting on Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group that tracks "conservative misinformation" widely disseminated in the media, recorded the following:

"Reverend Jerry Falwell erroneously denied that many evangelicals opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Appearing opposite Sojourners editor-in-chief Reverend Jim Wallis on the February 11 edition of FOX News’ Hannity & Colmes, Falwell called Wallis’s claim that ‘evangelicals around the world were against the war in Iraq’ ‘baloney’ and remarked: ‘You could fit your [antiwar evangelical] crowd in a phone booth.’ …

"In fact, many evangelical leaders openly opposed the Iraq war, and a March 2003 poll by the Pew Research Center indicated that although most American evangelicals supported removing Saddam Hussein from power, less than half ‘favored the use of force if our major allies did not want to join us.’"

The relevant section of the Pew poll cited by Media Matters said that "for many people, support for war was contingent upon the U.S. assembling a coalition of major allies. Even among white evangelicals, less than a majority – 48 percent – favored the use of force if our major allies did not want to join us; this view was shared by 43 percent of white mainline Protestants, 37 percent of white Catholics, and 33 percent of secular respondents."

Majorities of nonwhite racial groups have also polled against the war.

But this was never emphasized much in the American media. Instead, they either ignored Christian opposition altogether, or focused like tabloids on militant Christians like Falwell who were drooling over the prospect of war, and on Bush’s call for a crusade. A serious examination of the issue, which might have derailed the war, was never undertaken.

Because of their successes in finessing the issue, the pro-war factions from both sides of America’s narrow mainstream political and media spectrum may have assumed that the same public that was stampeded into war could be stampeded into military recruiting centers as well. But it hasn’t happened.

As left-wing columnist Molly Ivins has observed: "[Americans] are a practical people and often quite shrewd. That means knowing when to cut our losses."

We know why the Falwells of the world wanted the war. As Bacevich indicated, many in the evangelical leadership see an American clash with other ideologies as an opportunity to rally Americans around their ministry.

But why were the media so gung-ho for war? Indeed, why was so much of the Washington establishment? To find out, Americans have followed the money – and the ideologues.

In a review of Bacevich’s book for Chronicles magazine, Jerry Woodruff, editor of Middle American News, touches upon how each hoped to benefit from an American invasion and occupation of Iraq:

"Proponents of the new militarism see America’s war on Iraq as an effort to establish an invincible force in the Middle East, resulting in a new political order in the center of the Persian Gulf. Policed by the United States, that new order will help pacify the region and guarantee uninterrupted oil supplies, while enforcing acceptance of a Jewish state in the Islamic Arab world. In Bacevich’s view, the events of September 11, 2001 merely enhanced the progressive militarization of U.S. policy."

So in addition to opportunistic evangelists, add to the list of powerful pro-war constituencies business interests hoping to protect their profit margins by ensuring the flow of oil to domestic markets, and Zionists whose primary motive is the defense of Israel. On top of that, of course, there are myriad U.S. military contractors. And the media grease the skids for them all.

As Woodruff noted, Bacevich believes 9/11 merely accelerated the militarization of existing U.S. policies in the Middle East. As we now know, 9/11 was a backlash against those very policies. In theory, then, the attacks should have immediately triggered a wholesale reassessment of the thinking that led to them. But they didn’t. Instead, the Machiavellian authors of those policies managed to capitalize on the blowback by using it as an excuse to dig us even deeper. The Iraq quagmire is just the latest disastrous example of where a government firmly in the grip of ideologues and special interests run amok will lead us.

Today, Americans have apparently concluded (and perhaps suspected all along) that our Middle Eastern intervention is more a massive government program tailor-made for a relatively small group of special interest elites than a "war on terror."

Whether these ideologues are pushing their war against "Islamofascist" bogeymen in order to scapegoat Muslims for the consequences of Washington’s insane foreign policy, or to protect big business’ profit margins, or to perpetuate Israel’s iron-fisted rule over the "threat" posed by stateless Palestinians, the Iraq war has demonstrated that such schemes are destined to blow up in the faces of those who are commanded to carry them out – which is why parents across the U.S. refuse to allow their children to sign on to the charade.

"Recruiters say parents increasingly don’t want their sons and daughters to join the military and risk combat service. Many are becoming more militantly anti-military. And age isn’t always the issue. Recruits who are 20, 25, even 28, sometimes express interest in joining the armed services, only to back out after their parents object," reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Militantly anti-military? Shrewd people that they are, Americans recognize that it’s one thing to allow the special interests to lash out at their enemies, but it’s quite another to let it use their children to do so.

Cindy Sheehan is one mother who let her guard down just long enough to give the War Party time to get its hooks in her son. Thankfully, the Bush administration is now learning that hell hath no fury…

Author: Steve Breyman

Steve Breyman will teach "War in Afghanistan" at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fall semester. Breyman is a veteran of the U.S. Army.