THOSE LOVABLE NEOCONS….Reihan Salam thinks that neocons have gotten a bad rap:

What people misunderstand about neoconservatives is that they’re not reflexive unilateralists, like Rumsfeld or Bolton; rather, they believe the United States has the power to provide global public goods. The idea of a “League of Democracies,” unwise though it may be, is about constraining the unilateral exercise of force, and building consensus among liberal market democracies….I tend to think [neoconservatives] want American power constrained by the need to maintain and ideally extend the “security oxygen” the affluent world has enjoyed for so long.

It’s this kind of thing that makes me despair of ever understanding my interlocuters on the right. Reihan is not some kind of Bill Kristol-ish nutbag, but even so it’s as if we live on different planets. Does he really think that the neocon community envisions their mooted League of Democracies as a check on American power? Hell, the Iraq war was opposed by at least half the states that would make up even the most narrowly construed League of Democracies, and that opposition didn’t even make the neocons blink. They just tarred the opposition as a bunch of weak-kneed appeasers and carried on as if they didn’t exist.

In theory, yes, neocons possess an idealistic streak of democracy promotion that motivates their policy preferences. In practice, however, unfettered projection of U.S. military power — not NATO power, not UN power, not “League of Democracies” power — has always fundamentally informed their view of how to carry out these policies. Pax Americana is an elemental part of the neocon temperament, not just an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise benevolent movement, and constraints on American power have been anathema to them since before there was even a word to describe neoconservatism.

At least, that’s sure how it looks to me from my own little perch here in the Alpha Quadrant, watching what neocons actually do, not just what they say. More importantly, I imagine it’s also how things look to the rest of the world — democracies and tyrannies alike. Words may matter, but actions matter even more.

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