MORE NEOCONS….Tom Spencer and Atrios both responded to my post yesterday about the neocon grand plan with a bit of gloating that, while perhaps not pretty, is understandable. I’m going to write more about this later, but for now I just want to throw out a few miscellaneous observations:
Atrios is quite correct to say that recognition of the neocon grand plan is now conventional wisdom. If you doubt this, just go to Google News and enter “neoconservative.” You will be rewarded with a vast number of recent articles about what the neocon plan is, who’s behind it, and how it affects administration policy.
Still, even with the neocons clearly in the ascendent, there’s a very interesting open question about their ranks: does it include George Bush?
The jury is still out on this. For starters, there’s no question that Bush was not a neocon when he ran for president. For example, take a look at the original 1997 signatories of the Statement of Principles for the Project for the New American Century, a key neocon group, and you’ll find Jeb Bush’s signature (and Dick Cheney’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s) but not George Bush’s. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that George Bush really didn’t have any settled ideas at all about foreign policy before he became president. What’s more, while he certainly turned far more hawkish after 9/11, there are still influential people around him, including Colin Powell, Karl Rove, Tony Blair, and George Bush Sr., who aren’t neocons. The neocons have a lot of clout in the administration, but at the same time I think there’s a real battle going on around George Bush. It’s not entirely clear yet who the winner is going to be.
And the most important question of all: will the American public support the neocon grand plan? Until now, the neocon movement has been mostly an inside the Beltway phenomenon, but that’s about to change. What’s going to happen when ordinary people start discovering that these people aren’t just generic “Reagan hawks,” but the purveyors of an enormously expansive and dangerous policy to reshape the world using American power?
Americans have traditionally been tolerant of projecting power around the globe in small doses, but our basic temperament, even during the Cold War, was still fundamentally isolationist. Will the American public be willing to support the neocon agenda, massing hundreds of thousands of troops in nearly continuous combat and suffering thousands of losses via both terrorism and conventional war, all for a piece of desert halfway around the globe? Let me ask it another way: how long did ?ber-hawk Ronald Reagan stay in Beirut?
I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I admit that my faith in the American people has been shaken by recent poll results. Still, we’re in the middle of a war, and the tendency to rally around the flag is understandable. But once the war is over, will the neocons win the war for Bush’s soul? Will the American public sign on? Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Sam Rosenfeld at the Columbia Political Review’s blog, The Filibuster, thinks (a) Bush is a neocon, and (b) the American public is not. Probably. His full take is here.