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15 March 2005





It’s not often The Economist disappoints, but a recent article on Neo-Cons was pretty underwhelming.

Apparently the Neo-Cons had a bad year. Oh dear. But now they’re feeling vindicated and “back in their pomp”. Good for them.

So you might be wondering, as I am, what exactly was it that turned their frowns upside down? Well look further than The Economist, or at least further than this article.

One of the reasons cited is “recent events in the middle east”. There’s a reference to a subscription-only article How much credit should Bush get?, which presumably explains what those events might be and why the Neo-Cons deserve the credit. In the absence of that explanation, you have to make do with a quote from noted looney Charles Krauthammer, who is in turn quoting Jon Stewart (!) as evidence that things are going well for the Bushies.

The next thing the Neo-Cons are happy about is their continued demolition of the UN. John Bolton has been appointed US ambassador, a man who apparently…

[…] described his signing of a document formally notifying Kofi Annan of America’s intention, in effect, to withdraw from the International Criminal Court as “the happiest moment of my government service”.

Way to go, John. It’s easy to see why Neo-Cons would be happy about this, but how is this good news for the rest of us?

Lastly, the Neo-Cons are happy because Europe has decided to sell arms to China, which mysteriously vindicates the Neo-Cons…

[…] both in their worries about Beijing’s military ambitions and in their impatience with Europe’s claims to moral superiority.

Err, huh? What moral superiority claims would these be? There’s no doubt that lifting the arms embargo on China is not something to be proud of, but how does this translate to a vindication for Bush and co? It’s not like they haven’t sold arms to dodgy regimes in their time…

It seems to me these victories for the Neo-Cons are only victories if you view the world from a Neo-Con point of view.

The article goes on to describe the challenges faced by obstinate stick-in-the-muds within the Bush administration like Condi Rice. Apparently she is not a Neo-Conservative, you understand, but a “realist”, complete with irony-free quotation marks.

It all wraps up with some prognostication:

The limits of neo-conservative influence may well be shown by Iran. It is axiomatic in neo-con circles that Iran cannot be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons by a combination of diplomacy and bribery.

Axiomatic, as in not needing evidence. Explanations, justifications and evidence? That’s soooo pre-9/11. Without axioms the terrorists may have already won.

This modus operandi is surely one of the most infamous flaws on the Neo-Cons, but it’s hardly challenged in this article. Obviously the author took axioms to heart and hence dispensed with any need to justify any of the bizarre “success” stories listed above. The result just looks like a gushing love letter to the Bush gang. The Economist is usually quite a dependable journal, it’s disappointing to see this guff grace their pages.

F-, must try harder.


Posted by
2005-03-15 22:11:31 -0600

The Washington Post has a pretty interesting article about recent events in the Middle East. It doesn’t really go much into the question of how much credit Bush deserves—it seems to kind of assume he deserves most of it—but seems a reasonably balanced (and appropriately small-c conservative) analysis of the way the Mid-East seems right now to be going.

Posted by
Alan Green
2005-03-15 22:11:31 -0600

The Economist article accomplishes it’s goal: it sets forth the reasons that neo-cons are feeling good about being neo-cons. The article makes no pretence of exploring whether those reasons have substance, and I therefore think that your review is overly harsh.

If you want that kind of deep analysis, you would be better off going to a serious source, like Fafblog.

Matt: did we read the same article? The one I read had no analysis of the Mid-East at all, just a summary of what neo-cons (and, parenthetically, cons) are saying about the mid-east.