Sunday, January 22, 2006

Neoconservatism: Why We Need It

Sometimes one reads an article, a book, a post that makes one burst out "exactly!". This review by Amir Taheri of the book in the title, by Douglas Murray, makes me feel like that (ht: Crossroads Arabia).

Murray starts by suggesting that the classical political divisions based on notions of Right and Left are now outdated, at least in democratic societies, if only because there is a consensus on the basic rules of the political game and the general economic system of society. The blurring of the distinction between Right and Left, however, has not been entirely positive. For, it has also promoted a moral relativism, itself a child of multiculturalism, in which the very notions of good and evil are frowned upon as medieval relics.

Murray believes that good and evil do exist as distinct categories and could be readily identified by anyone in possession of a system of values. Thus the principal task of politics becomes the identification of good and evil as a prelude to the promotion of the former and the combating of the latter. Neo-conservatism, far from being a conspiracy by extremist right-wingers who wish to conquer and reshape the world, is a political vision based on a hierarchy of values. It was in gestation long before George W Bush entered the White House in 2001 and, as Murray asserts, will be a key player in the international politics long after he has retired.

As might be expected Murray is a passionate defender of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He believes that the Taliban and the Ba’ath regime were evil and had to be removed for the forces of good in Afghanistan and Iraq to have a chance of building something different. That something different may not correspond exactly to the West’s ideal of a democracy. But one thing would be certain: the new regimes in Kabul and Baghdad would be better than the ones they replaced.

Murray shows that neo-conservatism does not limit itself to issues of foreign policy. In domestic politics, neo-conservatism seeks a return to the fundamental principles of capitalism, the only system in history that has produced long-lasting wealth, both individual and collective, in scores of culturally diverse societies.

Murray asks why has neo-conservatism aroused so much anger and hatred around the world? Some of that anger and hatred has come from despotic rulers and their hangers-on who feel targeted by the idea of regime change. They hate neo-conservatism because they fear it might toppled them as it did with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, or may force them to eat humble pie as did Libya’s Colonel Kaddhafi, the Sudanese military rulers, and the Ba’athists in Damascus.

But neo-conservatism is also hated by the remnants of the left who have not yet recovered from the shock of the Soviet Union’s sudden collapse. They blame the early neo-conservatives under President Ronald Reagan for policies that made it impossible for the USSR to continue its existence at any level.

Read it all and buy the book.


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