The upending of the political landscape by the Trump revolution has affected every political grouping and rearranged our politics in ways that are still revealing themselves. His populist America First views on foreign policy and international trade have split the GOP, opened up growing divisions among the Democrats, and even disrupted the ideological certitude of the libertarians.
There is one ideological group whose entire trajectory and partisan political allegiance has done a complete turnaround, and that is the neoconservatives.
Originating as a split from the Trotskyite movement, these extreme leftists moved from one end of the political spectrum, over the course of several years, to the other. Motivated by their hatred of Stalin and their abandonment of the old Communist Party, the neocons – as they came to be known – became the most vocally anti-Soviet faction and advocate of a military confrontation with Russia. Few in numbers but strategically placed, they constituted the staff of Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson and agitated constantly for increased military spending. While still ostensibly men of the left, they gradually abandoned the characteristic tics and attitudes of that tribe and focused on what they really cared about: foreign policy, and their obsession with destroying their old enemy, the Soviet Union.
They wormed their way into the Reagan administration and started taking over the major institutions of the conservative movement. When the Soviet Union began to fall apart, they declared it wasn’t happening, that the whole thing was a trap and that Reagan was a fool or a traitor (possibly both) for negotiating with Gorbachev.
The neocons’ glory days came in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when they seized control of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, forged phony “evidence” of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction,” and started a series of wars in the Middle East. Iraq was just the beginning.
Indeed, the push for war in the Middle East on Israel’s behalf continues to this day. And it’s the same neocons who told us the Iraqis would welcome us as liberators.
Except it isn’t the same neocons in the sense that Bill Kristol, Max Boot, and the Weekly Standard crowd have taken on a completely new coloration: as the aspiring leaders of the NeverTrump movement, they are MSNBC regulars whose rhetoric is indistinguishable from the most conventional Clintonite. In symbolic acknowledgment of this ideological about-face, they ditched the Weekly Standard (or, rather, the billionaire backing fled). In any case, they were back on the streets almost immediately, with “The Bulwark,” which runs articles like “The President is Hallucinating and I Think We Should Be Concerned.”
All of this has come to pass just as I predicted it would way back in 1999.
The neocons have played a key role in expanding the power of the State, negating the ostensible conservative opposition to Big Government under the rubric of wartime necessity. As long as they were able to convince the country that a state of emergency existed, the growing power of the national security state went unchallenged. When the Cold War ended, this scam fell apart – 9/11 revived it under a new name, the “war on terrorism.”
The machinery of surveillance that allowed US government officials to spy on the presidential campaign of the opposing party was put in place during the G.W. Bush administration. The national security bureaucracy, already bloated, grew to monstrous proportions, arrogating to itself more power than the elected representatives of the people.
Perpetual war abroad and universal surveillance – an incipient police state – at home. That’s the neocon agenda. If they have to call themselves liberals to achieve that then so be it. And of course the actual liberals rush to eagerly embrace them: such are the consequences of a media diet consisting of Rachel Maddow and “The View.”
So you thought they were finished after being discredited by the Iraq war? Think again! Constantly reinventing themselves according to the needs of the moment, their strategy has so far worked, at least as it concerns their own survival. The Weekly Standard has become The Bulwark and the neocons are all over television and the op Ed pages of the nation’s newspapers.
And this it seems is a characteristic of evil: that it has the ability to quickly and seamlessly reinvent itself.
Antiwar.com has been in the forefront in reporting on the inner workings and endless machinations of this malevolent sect: indeed, our singular achievement has been to make the public aware of their power and continuing influence. Stayed tuned to this space for more.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.