Return now to the days when conservatives and Republicans listened when neoconservatives talked, when they gave a fair hearing to their leading analytical lights. Many to the right-of-center had subscriptions to the Weekly Standard. They digested Bill Kristol’s editorials with an open mind. They gave credence to the views of Fred Barnes and Stephen Hayes when they appeared on Fox News Special Report panels, and wrote supportively about the Bush family’s doctrinal foreign policy. They read with interest Max Boot reports from strife-torn Middle Eastern countries that always seemed to spin American involvement, either peripheral or direct, as somehow necessary and in the best interest of the United States.
The elaborately spun catch-phrases linger in memory: Bringing democracy to a troubled region. We must intervene to ensure global peace and the continued flow of lifeblood oil. After 9/11: we have to fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here.
September 11, 2001, was a boon to the neocon narrative. From the moment the second plane hit, the pounding of the neocon policy drums thundered with renewed resonance in the halls of executive federal governance. Afghanistan, “the good war,” was precipitously launched, and though 9/11’s mastermind and his extremist accomplices were not Taliban and soon fled over the Pakistan border, few conservatives questioned the incursion.
How could they? Americans wanted blood, somebody had to pay.
A notable dissenting voice on the right belonged to Patrick J. Buchanan. His position, in a nutshell, was, “do we really know what we’re getting into here, and should we?” He kept questioning the top-level decision-making and upped the tenor of his critique when the ostensibly WMD-provoked Second Iraq War broke in the skies over Bagdad. Buchanan was still declaiming against Mid-East interventionist policy when Obama won the presidency, but his views had always been and continued to be pointedly marginalized by The Weekly Standard and other neocon organs.
This, from an excellent retrospective on the road to Iraq (“The Bush Doctrine and the Iraq War: Neoconservatives versus the Realists”), sums up the source of the pro-interventionist influence that Buchanan was warning about:
The neoconservative vision of American foreign policy provided the theoretical and policy content of the Bush Doctrine, which in turn underpinned the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and depose the leadership of Saddam Hussein. Although hardly himself a neutral observer, Charles Krauthammer’s declaration that “the Bush doctrine is, essentially, a synonym for neoconservative foreign policy” is one that commands widespread assent across the political spectrum.
As time went on and casualties mounted, even as the nation honored the fighting men and women called to serve in the conflicts, questions about the wisdom of the Iraq invasion, and to a lesser extent the Afghanistan War, began to permeate America’s collective consciousness.
By 2015, when Donald Trump came down the escalator, Saddam Hussain had been unceremoniously hung, the Iraq War had come to an ignominious “end,” and the Afghanistan War was still, and is still, seething, if not raging.
Candidate Trump said things that nobody (except Buchanan) had dared to say. He picked up on the “endless wars” mantra and began so characterizing our Mid-East misadventures. He asked point-blank, “And for what?” Once elected, while rebuilding a military woefully neglected by Obama/Biden, he probingly called into question the neoconservative doctrine that had guided George W. into war-making that cost billions of dollars, counted millions of injurious wounds suffered, and thousands of lives lost.
Trump recommended the unthinkable, “Take the oil,” which caused neocons to blanche in indignation while inspiring the growing legions of the president’s supporters to think, “Hello? Yes!” (Trump followed through on that promise in the wake of the 2018 Syrian mission.)
More unthinkables followed after Trump took office. The Standard folded, and Mr. Kristol—now self-identified as a Democrat–was given a prominent seat at MSNBC’s and CNN’s viciously anti-Trump tables. You never see Stephen Hayes on Fox News anymore. In his book Ship of Fools, Fox host Tucker Carlson methodically deconstructed everything Never-Trumper Max Boot stands for.
There is so much here, too much for any one post. Books have been written, with more to come. The subject of economic globalism is another whole detrimental aspect of what neoconservatism sought to achieve.
This post is about the endless wars and ending them.
What we can state succinctly is that the neoconservative foreign policy worldview has been inextricably shunted into the dustbin of history by Trump and his administration. Neocons’ shadowy doctrines play out now on a sad, true-colors website known as The Lincoln Project.
President Eisenhower warned about the influence of a powerful military-industrial complex. The Lincoln Project is the tired remnant of a policy agenda that promulgates unending, unnecessary, and witless war-making in the name of keeping that vast complex humming along. The Never-Trumpers collaborating on the LP site are furious that Mr. Trump is in the process of dismantling their antiquated and unsustainable Mid-East and globalist foreign policy framework.
Their anger and impotence have driven them into the camp of one of the most un-American movements in our political history, the Democratic Socialists, currently represented by a Trojan Horse go-along, a career politician who never met a quagmire police action he wouldn’t sign on to. A presidential candidate who voted for the Iraq War–though he now claims otherwise–and against the raid on Bin Laden.
Trump is achieving many of the goals that neoconservatives like Bill Kristol purported to support back in the old Weekly Standard, Special Report days. Since Trump is the man who’s getting things done, they cannot abide. As nails in coffins go, Trump’s recent negotiation of the Abraham Accords represents a diplomatic railroad spike into the casket of neoconservatism.
The American military, strengthened by President Trump, stands ready to confront any clear and present foreign danger to our country. Under the Trump Doctrine, they will never again be deployed to unwinnable wars in far-flung lands against American-adverse governments and rogue factions fighting ceaselessly in an age-old enmity. We have achieved energy independence, and thereby rendered a key rationale for such folly moot.
When Biden is defeated in November, the Lincoln Project Never-Trumper war pig agenda will exist only at the round table of full-circle irrelevance.