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Neo-Cons and Hillary Clinton

Jacob Heilbrunn has a column in the New York Times arguing that the neo-conservatives who have found such influence in the Republican party over the last 35 years are now preparing to embrace Hillary Clinton in a bid to keep that influence if she wins the White House.

It’s not as outlandish as it may sound. Consider the historian Robert Kagan, the author of a recent, roundly praised article in The New Republic that amounted to a neo-neocon manifesto. He has not only avoided the vitriolic tone that has afflicted some of his intellectual brethren but also co-founded an influential bipartisan advisory group during Mrs. Clinton’s time at the State Department.

Mr. Kagan has also been careful to avoid landing at standard-issue neocon think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute; instead, he’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, that citadel of liberalism headed by Strobe Talbott, who was deputy secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and is considered a strong candidate to become secretary of state in a new Democratic administration. (Mr. Talbott called the Kagan article “magisterial,” in what amounts to a public baptism into the liberal establishment.)

Perhaps most significantly, Mr. Kagan and others have insisted on maintaining the link between modern neoconservatism and its roots in muscular Cold War liberalism. Among other things, he has frequently praised Harry S. Truman’s secretary of state, Dean Acheson, drawing a line from him straight to the neocons’ favorite president: “It was not Eisenhower or Kennedy or Nixon but Reagan whose policies most resembled those of Acheson and Truman.”

Other neocons have followed Mr. Kagan’s careful centrism and respect for Mrs. Clinton. Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted in The New Republic this year that “it is clear that in administration councils she was a principled voice for a strong stand on controversial issues, whether supporting the Afghan surge or the intervention in Libya.”

And the thing is, these neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy.

It’s easy to imagine Mrs. Clinton’s making room for the neocons in her administration. No one could charge her with being weak on national security with the likes of Robert Kagan on board.

Very easy to imagine. For all practical purposes, both Clintons have been neo-conservatives on foreign policy since entering the national political scene. And if Rand Paul, an isolationist with not much affinity for the state of Israel, wins the Republican nomination I think you’ll see the neo-conservative establishment flock to her as the better alternative. And from their perspective, they’d be right.

Comments

  1. Childermass says

    While I am sure they will try to get back into her good graces if it appears that she will win the White House. But they got a problem is that they been systematically badmouthing her for quite some time now. It become a matter of how willing Mrs. Clinton is willing to forgive them. And even if she can forgive them, I doubt she can forget.

  2. dingojack says

    Is anyone seriously surprised?
    It’s not about left or right, it’s about power. Naked power.
    And the neo-cons will suck at any teat on offer, just as long as they think will further their agenda…
    Dingo

  3. Michael Heath says

    Jacob Heilbrunn writes:

    . . . these neocons have a point. Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war; supported sending arms to Syrian rebels; likened Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Adolf Hitler; wholeheartedly backs Israel; and stresses the importance of promoting democracy. [Heath bolded]

    Mr. Heilbrunn is an expert critic of neoconservatism, an ideology that typically provides nuanced descriptions of democracy rather than broad sloppy references like we encounter here. Perhaps a NYTs editor obliviously removed such not realizing it’s the descriptors that matter and not so much the reference to democracy.

    Most American policy makers promote democracy; so how does this claim distinguish Ms. Clinton? During the Bush fiasco in Iraq, both VP Cheney and President Bush frequently described what they were doing in Iraq as the implementation of a liberal democracy. Their rhetoric in no way matched efforts on the ground where Iraq’s government is instead structured to promote majoritarian sectarianism favoring the Shias. But ‘liberal democracy’ was the buzzword they picked up; a phrase anathema when referring to the U.S. in spite of the fact that is our form of government (liberal now being a dirty word in U.S. politics). I doubt Mr. Bush even understands the implications of throwing liberal in front of democracy.

    In addition, we’ve predominately observed failures in the Arab Spring countries as they attempt to implement democracies. There are multiple reasons, but one common thread is their rejection of liberal democracy, which requires a separation of church and state and equal protection of individuals – including those of the minority sects when the country is predominately religious.

    It’s important to note the use of democracy when describing the neocons because the overriding failure of their most favored non-U.S. state, Israel, is one that rejects the practice of liberal democracy. That’s the to promote Zionism at the expense of non-Jews, particularly Palestinians (Muslims, Christians, and others). Neocons rival conservative Christians when it comes to hypocrisy.

  4. colnago80 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #4

    There are multiple reasons, but one common thread is their rejection of liberal democracy, which requires a separation of church and state and equal protection of individuals – including those of the minority sects when the country is predominately religious.

    Well gee, I guess that Great Britain is not a liberal democracy.

  5. colnago80 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #4

    I guess that Norway and Sweden also aren’t liberal democracies.

  6. colnago80 says

    And if Rand Paul, an isolationist with not much affinity for the state of Israel, wins the Republican nomination I think you’ll see the neo-conservative establishment flock to her as the better alternative.

    Apparently Randy boy isn’t immune to the lure of Sheldon Adelson’s billions.

  7. dingojack says

    SLC – And you are, of course, going to provide a plethora of citations to back your bald assertions, right?
    Nah, didn’t think so. *Yaaawnnn*.
    Dingo

  8. D. C. Sessions says

    Just because the USA is obsessed with our absolutist Constitution (which still has lots of balancing and exceptions, just not in the text) doesn’t mean that countries have to have explicit damn-near-impossible-to-alter written separation of church and state to have effectively the same (or nearly so) protection for minorities that the USA does.

    Readers here, of all places, should know better than to believe that ours is as absolute as we would like to pretend.

  9. matty1 says

    I don’t think liberal democracy is a binary variable. Britain certainly has many features of one but it would be even better if the remaining links between church and state were severed. In many ways it would even be better for the church, let me give you an example. The legalization of same sex marriage contains, alongside the section allowing religious bodies to choose to take part a provision that the Church of England is banned by law from conducting such marriages. This was lobbied for by conservatives in the church but it now means that if in future the leaders of the church want to change their position and carry out weddings for same sex couples they need to ask permission from a parliament containing many members who don’t even share their beliefs. That is not the best position for a religious organisation to be in.

  10. says

    This is all very silly. The evidence for Heilbrunn’s position boils down to:

    1. Robert Kagan wrote an article in even-the-liberal New Republic and has/had a fellowship at Brookings.

    2. Hilliary Clinton voted for authorization of the Iraq War.

    It’s all irrelevancies or six-degrees-of-separation type attempts to connect things that otherwise have no connection. (Neo-conservatism –> Kagan –> Brookings –> Talbott –> ? –> Clinton)

    As for Clinton’s vote for authorization of the Iraq War, you can see that as either a sign that she thought it was a good idea, or that she was acting like a cautious, establishment politician who didn’t want to be on the wrong side of a war that was going to happen anyway and whose opponents were being wrongly smeared as unpatriotic. I think the latter is far more likely. She won’t be winning any awards for courage, but to assume that her vote was tantamount to having started the war herself is stupid.

  11. says

    The neocons think Hillary Clinton has a chance of getting elected? Given how consistently wrong they’ve been about everything else, that doesn’t look good for Ms. Clinton.

    I also think this posturing has a rather manipulative purpose, whether or not the neocons really believe she has a chance: this allows the right to: a) position themselves as the most “mature” and “realistic” liberals now that liberalism is finding a voice again; and b) drive a wedge between the presumptive Democratic front-runner and the liberal/progressive base.

    …Mr. Kagan and others have insisted on maintaining the link between modern neoconservatism and its roots in muscular Cold War liberalism. …“It was not Eisenhower or Kennedy or Nixon but Reagan whose policies most resembled those of Acheson and Truman.”

    Yeah, Reagan sounded pretty muscular and liberal when he told that loony-right nutjob to “shut up.”

    And if Rand Paul, an isolationist with not much affinity for the state of Israel, wins the Republican nomination I think you’ll see the neo-conservative establishment flock to her as the better alternative. And from their perspective, they’d be right.

    They’d be right from nearly everyone else’s perspective too. The least I can say for Ms. Clinton is that she understands that the rest of the world matters. That’s more than Rand Paul and the isolationist-escapist teatards can say.

  12. abb3w says

    I still think “jingocon” is a more descriptive term than “neocon”.

    That said, yes, her record at State suggests she isn’t deontologically opposed to military intervention overseas, which might well leave her more palatable than RAND PAUL!!11! among Jingocon voters. The number of republicans who are primarily Jingocon seems likely smaller than those who are Moneycon, Theocon, or Xenocon, but the GOP would already be facing an uphill fight, even without losing some small fraction of their home base.

    Time will tell, I suppose.

  13. slavdude says

    And isn’t Kagan married to Victoria Nuland, the State Department flack who said, “Fsck the EU”? Ah, sad that she and I are fellow alums and former students of the same professor of Russian history.

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