Not Giving Up On The Arab Spring

Some so-called “neocons” have given up on the Arab world, but Mehdi Hasan has not, and neither have I.

My main quibble is over something trivial: his use of the term “neocon.” The word “neocon” used to mean something specific: a liberal who came to have hawkish views on foreign policy because they believed it was in American and world interests to oppose totalitarianism and felt that the left (the Democratic Party in America, to be precise) was too soft on the matter. Oddly enough, during the Bush years, people who had been rock-hard conservatives and/or hawkish Republicans their whole lives, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, were suddenly being called “neocons,” not for any reason I could determine except that people on the political left didn’t like them and they thought “neocon” sounded sinister. There was nothing “neo” about their conservatism on any particular matter; what was novel was they, as conservatives, embracing of the idea that leaving dictatorial regimes alone to do whatever they wanted was no longer acceptable foreign policy.

Ironically, as the Republican Party is moving more toward military isolationism, it is Obama that is carrying forward the neocon mantle, the actual Bush Doctrine–not the fake doctrine of “pre-emptive war” that is a leftist slander, but the actual doctrine that it is directly in American interests to oppose totalitarianism and foster the spread of democracy wherever we can, by whatever means are feasible and practical. What’s “feasible” and “practical” being a matter of debate of course. This is one of the reasons why I voted for Obama: for keeping to the Bush timeline on Iraq (and even trying to extend it when it looked like it might be necessary) and by continuing the very necessary struggle in Afghanistan: even though there are things we can and should be doing better there, the isolationist wing of the Republican Party, as it grows power, made me fearful that a hypothetical Romney administration would do something disastrous like pull out of Afghanistan suddenly and without much of a plan. With four more years of Obama, with the anti-war faction on the Democratic side of the aisle more or less mollified by having a Democrat in the White House, that’s unlikely to happen.

In any case, to get back to it: anyone who believed that the Arab world was going to spring up into full blown liberal democracy overnight was fooling themselves. I never believed it; ten years ago on I was publicly writing that anything American foreign policy achieved in that part of the world would take an entire generation to see through. I said, and still say, if we aren’t thinking in terms of decades rather than weeks, we are foolish. And I still stick to that. The progress the Arab world has seen in recent years is amazing. It is nowhere near enough. There will be struggles and setbacks. These are all to be expected. But as long as technology continues to advance through that part of the world, and more and more voices are heard, we can expect change to continue.

Yes, even in places like Egypt. But I recommend reading Mehdi Hasan entire article on that.

(Thanks to Mary Madigan for the link.)

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  • maggie – labrat

    I think the signs are all pointing Islamists gaining in power across the ME. That they might be “elected” to that power doesn’t give me warm and fuzzies.

  • Scott

    I think opposing totalitarianism is a worthy goal, I just don’t know if our system can support an active military opposition to it. I began to think this way in ’06 and especially ’07.

    We simply have a political party dead-set on divisiveness and destruction of the political “other” (I’m talking about the Dems) now embodied by the most hateful and intentionally divisive President in our history. In this clime no foreign military effort can really flourish since we simply lack leadership.

  • Dishman

    After the vitriol of the Bush years, it’s hard to imagine Republicans wanting to expose themselves to that again.

  • Dean Esmay

    You mean that’s not what they’ve been doing the last 4 years?

  • Mary Madigan

    Thanks for the mention! I think many people in the west have forgotten what concepts like “All people are created equal” and democracy are all about. If it’s not about Republicans or Democrats, Commies vs. fascists, or ‘American interests’ vs. China, Russia, etc., we just don’t get it. This is bigger than the US or even the Middle East. It’s about new technologies and better communications putting the idea of ‘all people are created equal’ into action. Many of the ‘liberals’ in Egypt, Iran, Tunisia and even Syria understand this better than we do.

    But about the Middle East – One of the best sites for keeping up with the news from Egypt is Mahmoud Salem’s