The “Neo-Conservatives” and the GOP
One of the most dangerous and pernicious influences within the Republican Party over the last thirty years has been the so-called “neo-conservative” movement, a constellation of scribblers, theorists, and political power-seekers who are not conservatives at all, but, rather, big government globalists who have wreaked havoc in American foreign policy.
The “neo-conservatives” are actually refugees from the Democrat Party who began abandoning their party in the early 1970s after the Democrats took a sharp left turn with the nomination of Senator George McGovern for President in 1972. These “neo-conservatives” who started to rise to prominence in the Reagan Administration ( exemplified by then-United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick ) were old-style pro-labor social Democrats in the LBJ- Hubert Humphrey vein. They were generally supportive of the “Great Society” welfare policies of Johnson and backed the Vietnam War. They may have been anti-Communist and cognizant of the Soviet threat, but, on domestic matters ( aside from some cultural issues ), they were largely indistinguishable from mainstream liberal Democrats. They were not conservatives in any way, shape or form. They were not students of Russell Kirk, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises, or even William F. Buckley, Jr. They were not with Goldwater in 1964 or with Nixon in 1968. In fact, amazingly, some – like Irving Kristol – had backgrounds as Trotskyites!
The Republican Party—trying to recover from super-minority status after Watergate – welcomed the partyless “neocons” into their ranks. That was a serious mistake.
Once entrenched through think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, magazines like Commentary and the recently-shuttered Weekly Standard, talking heads like William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer and foreign policy “experts” like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, the neocons began making their move to hijack and re-direct U.S. foreign policy toward an “all war, all the time” agenda. This agenda has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and horrific casualties as well as $7 trillion lost in foreign adventures from Bosnia to Haiti to Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine.
The neocons had a particular interest in the Middle East. They even organized a secretive and shadowy group called Project for the New American Century to advocate for aggressive war in that turbulent region of the planet. Reflexively committed to the hardline settlement policies of the Likud government of Israel and equally determined to see American democracy planted and blossom in autocratic Arab soil, the neocons launched their first offensive in the summer of 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
It was never really clear what the U.S interest in the Iraq-Kuwait war was. Ambassador April Glaspie made that clear to Saddam Hussein prior to the outbreak of hostilities. The United States had no treaty with Kuwait and that nation was not exactly an ally. Instead, it was a typical despotic Arab monarchy with lots of oil. Of course, maybe the oil was the reason. The neocons never had a particular love of the Arab states opposed to Israel, except where the black gold was involved. So, when it came to the Saudis, Kuwait, Qatar, or the UAE, things were a little different and it was all right to send American kids to die for those regimes.
Although the neocons primarily perched in the Republican Party, their influence continued to dominate U.S. foreign policy under Democrat Bill Clinton where the U.S. continued bombing Iraq even after they had surrendered and new interventions were launched in Haiti, Kosovo, and Bosnia. Pat Buchanan once referred to Clinton’s foreign policy as “drive-by shootings with cruise missiles.”
Sniffing around for its “Pearl Harbor” moment, the Project for the New American Century got it on September 11, 2001 and within two years, President George W. Bush – led around by the nose by neocon Vice President Dick Cheney and his advisers – had the U.S. mired in the quicksand of the Iraq War. It was no “cake- walk” like the neocons claimed the war would be and no “MacArthur regency” was installed in Baghdad. Instead, the war devastated a nation, killed and injured hundreds of thousands, virtually wiped out the Christian populations of that country, empowered Iran, and destabilized the entire Middle East. By the time George W. Bush left office, he was the most unpopular President in American history, even worse than Nixon at the height of Watergate. Much of that unpopularity can be traced to the Iraq War.
Although Barack Obama was elected on a platform opposing the Iraq debacle and generally offering a lighter U.S. footprint abroad, anyone interested in peace knew the jig was up when Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State. Called the “queen of warmongers” by Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Hillary’s itchy trigger finger was ready for action from day one.
While not a card-carrying neocon, Hillary embraced the neocon agenda on foreign wars. Simply put, she was for them. Especially, if she, Bill and the Clinton Foundation could make money off them. So, under Obama and Hillary, we lurched from one foreign policy catastrophe to the next, from the botched “Arab Spring” in 2011 to the brutal overthrow of Khadafy in Libya to the “red lines” in Syria, to Benghazi, secret drone attacks in Yemen, the 2014 coup in Kiev ( which pushed Ukraine to the front of world headlines ) to the largely discredited Iran nuclear deal. So much for the 2008 “peace” candidate.
The fruits of neo-conservatism are a world in chaos and an America whose National Debt now outstrips her Gross Domestic Product. A legacy of thirty years of non-stop war and turmoil, of using America’s sons and daughters as mercenaries on foreign battlefields, and of failing miserably in their oft-repeated mantra of promoting “world democracy” and liberating the captive masses of the globe.
Neo-conservatism is not in fact conservatism at all. It has far more in common with the pax universalis of Democrat Woodrow Wilson than the enlightened nationalism of Republicans Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. The GOP has never stood for the crazy concept that American democracy is to be forcibly imposed throughout the world at the point of a bayonet. It is quite simply a heresy within Republican ranks. And, like all heresies, it should be exposed and purged so it can no longer spread its dangerous and deadly errors throughout the party, the nation, and the world.
Dr. James Veltmeyer is a prominent La Jolla physician voted “Top Doctor” in San Diego County in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Dr. Veltmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you like my commentaries and podcasts? Help me get the message out to a wider audience by making a donation today. Thank you for your support!