Recently (in a comment thread), Polimom’s use of the term “neocon” was challenged, and while PNAC’s ideology is never totally “gone” from my thoughts, that dialogue brought the entire subject back to front and center.
Folks, just because A (neocon) is a subset of B (Republicans), and B is a subset of C (conservatives), A does not necessarily equal B or C.
Simple, right? Yet the term “neocon” has become terribly over-used and -applied. The neoconservatives have had a profound effect on American foreign policy in the current administration, but it’s a mistake to automatically paint Republicans and conservatives with the same brush.
Yesterday, digby at Hullaboo wrote:
When are Americans going to take the neocons seriously?
I’m not talking about the Republican party here or the movement conservatives. I’m speaking specifically of the group that can be called the true neocons of the era: The PNAC signatories and their supporters throughout the rightwing think tank intelligensia.
Polimom’s afraid they never will, digby. The distinction you define is blurred for most folks, largely because thus far, the only people who have tried to define it are those on the left… and the right won’t listen to them.
During the presidential elections in 2004, Polimom was beset on nearly all sides by folks who supported the current administration. These weren’t just neighbors or acquaintances (though living in Katy, TX would have made this true regardless); they were some of the people nearest and dearest to my heart.
During one particularly difficult discussion with Dear Mother-in-Law (DMiL), Polimom brought up PNAC — and unsurprisingly, she’d never heard of them. Ever-helpful, I brought up their website on my computer, chattering brightly to negate the sense of threat she obviously felt… and stood in stunned awe as she told me, “This is probably just a propoganda site put on the web by W’s enemies.”
You just can’t talk to people like that.
In recent years, every objection to the Iraq war has been attacked as “treasonous” or “anti-American”. Now, with an incredibly complex situation unfolding in Israel/Lebanon, we have the converse: any mention of Iran or Syria as part of the current crisis is being labeled as “neocon”… and that’s just as misleading.
Who, then, can explain the problem to the “true” conservatives and traditional Republicans? Will they listen to George Will?
The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard — voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, “neoconservatism” — everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything .
“Why wait?” Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq. And if Bashar Assad’s regime does not fall after the Weekly Standard’s hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?
As for the “healthy” repercussions that the Weekly Standard is so eager to experience from yet another war: One envies that publication’s powers of prophecy but wishes it had exercised them on the nation’s behalf before all of the surprises — all of them unpleasant — that Iraq has inflicted. And regarding the “appeasement” that the Weekly Standard decries: Does the magazine really wish the administration had heeded its earlier (Dec. 20, 2004) editorial advocating war with yet another nation — the bombing of Syria?
PNAC’s vision has taken America on a truly terrifying ride — one that most voters didn’t realize they were going on, but the situation in the Middle East is far too dangerous to simply write off discussions about Iran’s involvement as a neocon agenda. While that may very well be true, it doesn’t equate to Iranian innocence. We have to be able to talk about this.
Are Iran and Syria behind Hezbollah? I think so. Does that make Polimom a neocon? Pffftt.
America would be foolish to preempt the situation or expand the confrontation. Does that make Polimom a liberal? Pffffftttt.
George Will is right. So is digby. Pay attention. It matters.
This is why I read your blog — your willingness to explore ideas regardless of which side of the aisle they’re on. The slippery slope doesn’t make you jittery — you’re more intent on seeing the matter straight on, wherever it falls. 🙂
Polimom says – Polimom’s afraid they never will, digby.
You’re right Polimom only not for the reason you think. It goes back to something far more basic.
If you go around calling people names, they stop listening to you. Just like the little boy who cried wolf, going back to Johnson’s Goldwater ad with the little girl and the mushroom cloud, liberal Democrats have labeled conservative Republicans without bothering to consider what the effect would be should they ever become the minority – And to be honest, but to a much lesser degree because conservatives, vice versa.
Today, you see the effect. No one believes each other. Someone may put a label on someone else and think it fits, but consideration wasn’t taken into what that does to the mindset of the other person.
Of all people Polimom, you should realize this. Think of what most of those people on the Lebanon blog board were saying. They didn’t trust the other side and each had names for the other side – and NONE argreed with the names they were called by the others! None of them trusted anyone as everything was attributed to “PsyOps” (psychological warfare). Why? Because they’re so used to believing each side is lying. “They must be lying because they lied about us before, calling us things we are not.”
If you want to call them PNACers (or such) fine, that’s what they call themselves! Then people have to deal with what they, themselves believe. But “neocon” is a derogatory term that goes back to the 1920s. It was derogatory then and it’s derogatory now.
I think I used a term on your chron.com blog for a guy that was constantly running down all Republicans and calling them “neocons.” Do your remember? It was “neolibs.” What’s a “neolib” was asked? I said, it’s a liberal that’s against anything that Bush, Christians, or the Constitution says is good!
I called him a name and laughed about it (as an inside joke) because he called me a name. Would you allow your children to do that?? No. If they came up to you and said in that whiny particularly-pitched voice only YOUR OWN CHILD can hit, “But mommmmm, everybody else is doing iiiiitt!” Do you let them? NO!
We don’t agree how things should be done – so we call each other names – we begin to dislike the person PERSONALLY because of it – dislike turns to anger – anger turns to – hate – finally, civil actions, and maybe civilization, go bye-bye … All because we adults do something we wouldn’t let our kids do.
Correction : There are people who DO let their kids calls names and labels, and they have all ready gone over the edge. I saw on TV a set of beautiful pre-teen blond girls that sing whose parents are like that. Lovely girls – ugly songs.
darn it- proof read Laz!:
And to be honest, but to a much lesser degree because conservatives, vice versa. should be
And to be honest, but to a much lesser degree because conservatives were the minority so long, vice versa.
Quick note: There’s an old Canadian saying, “The mouse that sleeps next to the elephant must be the one on alert.”
Lazarus, the term is considered derogatory because the ideology itself appalls so many. Certainly when I use the term, I’m not trying to flatter anyone. That doesn’t make the term itself invalid. It’s the application of it that requires thought and attention to fair play.
BTW – you said:
I don’t see where I said why I think the right won’t listen to the left, but as it happens, I agree that the shouting and name-calling are the main cause for the fingers-in-ears, lalalalala response. However, I also think some conservatives are every bit as nasty as some liberals with their barbs, snarls, and insults.
You’re right about the comments and dialogue in the Lebanese bloggers threads. Assumptions rule the dynamics, on all sides.
And we — Americans most especially — still have to understand PNAC.
Polimom says considered derogatory because the ideology itself appalls so many.
No ma’am. It’s derogatory because it was created to be derogatory. It was a term used by people who DID NOT LIKE the people they were describing and wanted a derogatory to get that point across.
It’s the same as anti-baby, anti-choice, fagget, and all the other terms people come up with to indicate someone else doesn’t agree with their opinion and wish to put it in as negative light as possible.
Citizens of the United States need to understand PNAC and every other group that is involved with their government. But you don’t do that by calling people names. *sigh*
One more thing, how do you know “the ideology itself appalls so many.? As I remember Bush and CHENEY (a PNACer) was elected president and vice president, twice. Seems enough people agree with the PNACers to get them elected.
Can we just call this one even and that we agree to disagree? I don’t like arguing with you and I fear on this topic, one will not change the other’s mind.
From the Notebook of Lazarus Long : “Never try to outstubborn a cat.”
“Never try to outstubborn a cat.”
A good rule to live by. You don’t annoy nearly as many cats that way.
BTW, ‘neocon’ is like any other label. It tries to make simple something that is definitely very complex – how humans think. I may agree with PNAC on some issues, while disagreeing with them (vehemently) on others. Ditto for Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, even John Whiteside’s “Blue Bayou” blog!
Laz — Of course we can agree to disagree! lol… We often do.
In terms of neocons and PNAC, my reason for wanting the issue expanded and discussed wasn’t to have a conversation about labeling, though. You said,
I know several folks who voted for Bush/Cheney in both elections who really weren’t factoring in the implications of the foreign policy. I’m very concerned that we (Americans) aren’t fully understanding our stature — and impact — on the world. We are enormously influential, and while I think we tend to elect people based on events at home (duh), foreign policy as a major plank has not hit the dialogue levels it needs.
Given this morning’s WaPo article about the “conservative anger” at “bush’s foreign policy”, though, I’m not sure anymore that people didn’t understand PNAC. That astounds me, and also means that I’ve underestimated folks.
Did people deliberately embrace the PNAC approach to foreign policy, do you think?