It was all too delicious for words. Francis Fukuyama, the boy wonder of the neocons who had famously pronounced the End of History, sat listening to a lecture by War Party stalwart and neocon comrade Charles Krauthammer, and wondered if the former psychiatrist had become unhinged:
"As he was listening to his friend Krauthammer deliver a recent speech on the theme of the United States as a unipolar power, Fukuyama said, he grew increasingly agitated. Krauthammer’s speech ‘is strangely disconnected from reality,’ Fukuyama said in his article.
"’One gets the impression that the Iraq war,’ Fukuyama continued, ‘has been an unqualified success, with all of the assumptions and expectations on which the war had been based vindicated.’"
What’s this? A break in the ranks? A neocon civil war? Are the crusaders for global democracy – or, at least, some of them – losing their revolutionary zeal? Will we soon be treated to the publication of a volume entitled Neoconservatism: The God That Failed? Well, that would be good news, but I’m afraid not. As the New York Times goes on to report:
"Fukuyama said he retained his neoconservative principles – a belief in the universal aspiration for democracy and the use of American power to spread democracy in the world. He said he was acknowledging the mistakes to preserve the credibility of the neoconservative movement."
Good luck with that one, but it seems a hopeless cause. How does one rescue the credibility of a fanatic and secretive cult that lied us into a quagmire and is even now agitating for us to get in deeper?
Now that growing numbers of people on the right as well as the left are on to their machinations, and are especially enraged by the brazen manipulation of "intelligence" engineered by their cadres in government, the question arises: credibility in whose eyes?
Since the neoconservative movement is not at all a mass phenomenon, and is entirely oriented to the elites in government, the media, and academia, the answer is clearly: credibility in the view of opinion- and- policy-makers in the centers of power, New York and Washington. But it may be too late for that.
Rumor has it that there is a break in the Plame case, in which one prominent neocon in government service has turned state’s evidence and is "singing like a canary." In questioning a plethora of prominent journalists, special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald is said to be especially interested in their contacts with one Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby. As multiple investigations – not only the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame, but also Chalabi’s shenanigans and the Niger uranium forgery case – zero in on the neocons clustered in and around the Office of the Vice President, Fukuyama’s apostasy is the least of their problems.
The neocons are down, but they are far from out. Anyone who believes they’ll be driven from power by the outcome of the 2004 election is unfamiliar with their modus operandi. As Tim Carney, a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report, has pointed out:
"A year after the Iraq war and after [David] Frum’s attempted purge, the New York Times went to William Kristol to ask him his thoughts on Iraq now that things weren’t moving as smoothly as he had hoped.
"Kristol told the Times that John Kerry had the real answer to the problems there: we need to send more troops. Kristol explained that this agreement between the neocons and the Democrats should surprise no one:
"’I will take Bush over Kerry, but Kerry over Buchanan or any of the lesser Buchananites on the right. If you read the last few issues of The Weekly Standard, it has as much or more in common with the liberal hawks than with traditional conservatives.’
"Kristol continued, ‘If we have to make common cause with the more hawkish liberals and fight the conservatives, that is fine with me, too.’"
Some, like Pat Buchanan, believe – or hope – that Bush is on his way out of Iraq, and is even now in the process of handing the country off to Iyad Allawi, the aspiring Iraqi strongman. In the end, it seems, the "liberation" will have amounted to the victory of a kinder, gentler Ba’athism. This the neocons will never countenance, just as they won’t give up their dreams of future conquests: Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the central Asian republics – so many targets, so little time. And, as Carney says, "if we balk as the battle moves to fronts we never imagined, they will have no trouble finding a new movement, and even a new president, to march beneath their flag."
If the architects of this disastrous war in Iraq are to be held accountable – not only for the costs incurred, in lives and treasure, but for the crimes they committed on the road to war – I wouldn’t count on the occupant of the White House to administer justice. For that we must look, not to any politician or elected official, but to special counsel Fitzgerald and the Justice Department.
The neocons seem to be unraveling, but I wouldn’t count them out just yet. They’ve endured disgrace before, and lived to fight another day. It will take far more than a Democratic administration to entirely dislodge their hands from the levers of power. Nothing short of a political bunker-buster will eliminate their influence, no matter who wins in November.