What Next For The Neocons? Watch Very Closely!

October 15, 2003

With the

revelation
that the

chief suspect
in the outing of CIA analyst Valerie
Plame is I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney`s

Chief of Staff,
aptly described by

Antiwar.com`s
Justin Raimondo as

“the nexus of the neocon network in Washington,”
the
neocon empire is now unmistakably under siege – and, in
Libby`s case at least, possibly on the way to jail.

The war in Iraq has failed to crush definitively
those who rattle the neocons, either in the Middle East
or here. Their recent urgent calls, for example in the
New York Post,
to raise new armies and revenues to
finish “the war against terrorism” face rising
public resistance. The British Guardian
may be exaggerating (September
23
), when it depicts the neocons hunkered down in
the AEI`s “fortress-like building,” and arguing,
“counterintutively,” that continued Iraqi sniping
is a “good thing” because it steels American
resolve. But the “ultra-hawks” might be in over
their heads. And, before long, they may be fading from
the Bush Administration—if the President`s advisors
convince him to junk the war issue to get re-elected.

Of course, the neocons are not giving up. For
example, Ralph Peters, on the New York Post`s
opinion page, keeps
rubbing salt
into wounded international relations
(September 22),

referring
to the French, for not endorsing the
current American policy in Iraq, as “the parasites in
Paris”
and to France as a “garbage-dump Carthage”
full of moral pygmies and Eurotrash.  FrontPageMag.com`s
(September 23) Peter Brookes has raised the ante for
neocon hawks by

calling for
the isolation (and more, at least
implicitly) against the Syrian regime. Strong action, we
are told, befits the U.S. Syria`s

alleged efforts to build WMD
, willingness to allow
our

Iraqi enemies to cross its borders
, and support for

Palestinian terrorists
, has made it a “roadblock
on all three fronts; we need to clear the way..”
In
NRO, Larry Kudlow has even

opposed
any attempt to make Chinese stop artificially
depressing their currency, which is cheapening their
exports and

undercutting American manufacturing
, on the
extraordinary grounds that the Chinese are using their

export earnings
to buy U.S. Treasury debt – and are
thus “effectively…financing the Iraq War.”

All of this points to a certain rigidity among the
neocons, which is bound to affect their fortunes. Far
from being pragmatists, as Irving Kristol

describes
them, they are dogmatic, even fanatical,
about their key issues, e.g., global democracy neocon-style;
Israel as the touchstone of democratic pluralism;
revulsion for Europeans, American Southerners, and other
groups whom they grew despising up in their parochial
world.

It was only because of lucky accidents – for example,
the

implosion
of William F. Buckley—that the neocons
were able to take over the American Right and became
advisors to what Sam Francis appropriately calls

“the stupid party.”
In my view, it is doubtful
that they will go on ruling the Right as firmly much
longer.

The neocons` empire is not about to fall quickly,
given their journalistic and financial power. But while
the neocons confront a Left that is skeptical of their
war policies, an even more determined adversary is
pestering them on the right. Respectable conservative
critics in Establishment print journals now swing away
freely at one or all aspects of their global-democratic,
pro-immigration line: e.g., Robert Novak,

Paul Craig Roberts
,

Taki
, Charley Reese,

Michelle Malkin
.

Moreover (and, I must admit, to my surprise) the
internet is making it possible for the real Right get
round the exclusion engineered by the neocons and their
liberal friends. Paleoconservatives as a rule are kept
off Fox News and out of the Wall Street Journal.
But they swarm night and day on the web, on sites like

www.LewRockwell.com
and

www.Antiwar.com
, where they reach hundreds of
thousands of readers each month. Paleolibertarians and
the rest of the anti-immigration Right do have
fundamental differences. But far more important is their
agreement on their neocon enemies, whom they blast
simultaneously.

Furthermore, the neocon attempt to tar conservative
opponents as anti-Semitic may be yielding fewer and
fewer dividends. During their campaign for the invasion
of Iraq, neocons happily applied the A-word to their
opponents on the left as well as on the right. But Jewish
liberals, and most conspicuously

Richard Cohen
and

Michael Kinsley
, flew into a rage over this
practice. Because the neocons` Jewish liberal friends
have denounced the tactic, it may be harder to use
indiscriminately.

Finally it would seem that the neocons, who were
never traditional conservatives to start with, have let
go of conservative social and political issues in order
to gain support for their foreign policy. (See my
forthcoming article “The Neoconservative Sixties”
in the next – mid-October – issue of

The American Conservative.
)

Inevitably, this will weaken their grip on the
conservative coalition.

Particularly on gay rights,

NR Online
and the

New York Post
have recently shown

breathtaking flexibility
(if that`s the word). Larry
Auster on his website recently

noted
that the latest symposium on affirmative
action in Commentary suggests that the neocons
may be caving here as well. In contrast, the failure of
paleos to rally to neocon Middle Eastern policies has
earned them condemnation as
“conservative no more”
and

“extremists”
—despite their unfailingly conservative
views on other domestic issues. But such blatantly
perverse litmus tests of who is a “conservative”
will likely prove unsustainable—and all the more rapidly
if the neocons do not carry the day in Iraq.

What may happen, if I read the tea leaves correctly:
neocons will attempt a slight feint to the right, a
process that may already have begun. Thus Front Page,
a neocon website that is relatively interesting in
contrast to NROnline, now features

essays
that are critical of immigration. Rich Lowry,
the painfully-scripted editor of National Review,
has also been raising critical questions about
immigration. So far, apparently, Norm and Midge have not
asked for his head. At this point the neocon mandarins
seem willing to tolerate and occasionally sponsor those
who, like Robert Locke, are

immigration critics
and traditional
conservatives—but who fully accept neocon positions on
the

Middle East
.

Pragmatically speaking, this tacking does make sense.
What remains to be seen is whether it will continue, or
whether the neocon intolerance of the Right poses too
great an obstacle.

Alternatively, or quite possibly simultaneously,
there may be a decision by neocon leaders to rally
behind a Democratic presidential candidate. Remember Ben
(“Universal
Nation”
) Wattenberg endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992.
This will happen if and when Bush gets tired of them –
and certainly if he shows signs of losing his bid for
reelection.

The neocons` preferred candidate would be Lieberman,
whom they`ve been talking up for years. The fact that
Lieberman favors affirmative action and partial birth
abortion obviously counts far less than how he stands on
Iraq and the Palestinians. (See my essay

“Is Lieberman Worthy of Conservative Kudos?”
in
Insight
, September 11, 2000.) But neocons are
simultaneously building other bridges to the left. Thus
in August and September, Christopher Caldwell in the
Weekly Standard
had several articles presenting
Howard Dean as a spirited, intelligent presidential
candidate who could be “Bush`s worst nightmare.”
It is hard to read such stuff without perceiving the
presence of an extended olive branch.

Recently, I even heard Cal Thomas, putatively
Evangelical but a predictable neocon lickspittle,

interviewing
on his Fox News talkshow Tom Lantos,
the leftist Democratic Congressman from the San
Francisco Bay area. Particularly striking was Thomas`s
deferential attitude toward someone he would not be
expected to agree with—except on one issue (guess which
one?). Lantos, who is Jewish, is an open-borders,
multicultural leftist – but he and the neocons agree
about the Middle East.

If Dean or some other Democratic candidate can be
brought around on two critical issues – namely (1) the
Middle East and (2) giving neocons prestigious jobs in a
Democratic administration – the neocons would likely
sign on. This in turn would require them to tilt
leftward on domestic issues, something they would do on
a moment`s notice.

As late as September, 2000, as the neocons
reluctantly accepted the GOP Establishment`s anointing
of W, they were

playing up
what Ben Wattenberg

called
the “Lieberman choice.” This was in
combination with

courting
Senator McCain, a

media-approved
Republican the neocons thought they
could groom.

Now, they are certainly preparing for new
maneuvers—whether or not their dimmer hangers-on are
able to grasp them.




Paul Gottfried
is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of


After Liberalism
,

Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory
, and
Multiculturalism And The Politics of Guilt: Toward A Secular Theocracy.