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PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
Condi Rice: Up. The neoconservatives: Down. That’s the
conventional wisdom inside the DC beltway these days. Neocon guru William
Kristol once bragged that Condi “swung over pretty decisively after 9/11” to
his view of the world—a tough world, where only the militarily strong survive.
But now, the pundits say, Condi and the neocons have gone their separate ways. For
proof, they point to the new version of the National Security Strategy of the
United States of America (NSS), the administration's updated official policy
The first version, back in 2002, boldly declared that the
would keep its military strength preeminent forever and pre-emptively (or, more
precisely, preventively) attack anyone, anywhere, anytime it pleased. This time
around, says ,
there is e. The conventional
wisdom credits this change to the ever-growing influence of Condi Rice.
But don’t rush
out to celebrate Condi’s divorce from the neocons quite yet. True, the 2006 NSS
puts less emphasis on brute military “teeth” and more on the gentler art of
diplomacy.The Bushies have
that you can’t build an empire with alone.
However, they haven’t given up on the neocon vision of turning the world into a
permanent American empire. Condi hasn’t given it up, either. Instead, she has
transformed herself from an ordinary neocon into something new: a neoCondi. And
the Bush administration is now pursuing a new kind of diplomacy. Rice calls it “.” I call it neoCondism.
candidly In other words, overridinguseful
The new version of the NSS spells out the theory clearly
enough, if you read between the lines. Here’s how the argument goes. “ So everyone should
live under a democratic .
To prove that they are free, governmenthave to
do more than hold elections. They must ,” “,and
“” In short,
they have to“”
Who gets to decide when
a state is “responsibly governed” and “behaves well”? The Bush administration,
naturally. In the NSS, the Bushies solemnly take upon themselves the burden of
neoCondism means that the U.S.,
like any good parent, makes the rules: fair but firm, with consequences for
those who disobey. And the neoCondites are ready for disobedience. In fact,
they expect it. NSS
All of the seemingly banalabout
that “behave well”. They
The two prongs of this war are, according to Bush,
behavior” doesn’t mean genuine democracy. It means behaving the way the
administration wants. assures us U.S. as long
as they are “friendly” andour national
As Kaplan says, .Again, neoCondi herself puts it more
NSS candidly admits it, too: “We seek to shape the world.”Using
familiar code, the document says that “ Translation:
The global system the U.S. has created since World War II will run smoothly and
protect U.S. interests as long as governments everywhere are “well behaved” and
don’t rock the boat of U.S. global interests.
If they do rock the boat, they’d better watch out. The new NSS
badly behaved nations to from American
admits, But military
The NSS relies on the common argument that democracy
keeps the U.S.
secure because .” Apparently, though, it’s OK to attack
unfree -- i.e., irresponsible, poorly-behaved -- nations. In fact, it’s America’s
solemn obligation. a U.S. perhaps
“Transformational diplomacy” may mean, as athinks, usu
Yet neoCondi’s was right on
target when he sspirit
justifies it all with the same neocon vision of post-9/11 grandeur. at Stateis, . “The international
system has been in flux since the collapse of Soviet power,” she said not long
after 9/11. “Now it is possible—indeed probable—that the transition is coming
to an end…a period akin to 1945 to 1947, when American leadership…[created] a
new balance of power that favored freedom. …That has started shifting the
tectonic plates in international politics. And it's important to try to seize
on that and position American interests and institutions and all of that before
they harden again." That was indeed Acheson’s view after World War II.
approach to foreign policy is vastly different from Acheson’s. He and the other
early cold warriors hardly cared about the internal workings of the Soviet Union. They clearly implied that Stalin could
murder whomever he wanted inside his own borders, as long as his power was contained
behind the Iron Curtain. They had learned that lesson from Franklin D.
Roosevelt. In the mid-1930s, when he told Hitler what the United States
wanted from the Third Reich, he never said anything about the fundamental
character of Hitler’s regime. Nothing about how the Nazis treated Jews or
gypsies or gays or socialists. FDR warned Hitler only to stop throwing Germany’s
economic and military weight beyond its own borders. Sure, all U.S. leaders
have talked plenty about the evils of totalitarianism. But it was mostly for
propaganda. Real policy was all about international relations: stopping the
enemy from getting more power in the global arena.
The neoCondites of the Bush administration seem intent
on changing all that. ty
That’s a tall order. But neoCondi thinks she knows how
to do it. It she told one audiencethata“” she added, “
NeoCondi recently confessed thatof
But the first
heads of that Office made it clear that they wouldn’t wait for a destructive U.S.
attack before they swing into action. They claimed that their mandate is to “help
stabilize and reconstruct [any] societies in transition from conflict or civil
strife, so they can reach a sustainable path toward peace, democracy, and a
And now will be
They’ve been busy preparing for those contingencies,
too. Though it escaped the notice of the mainstream press, from February 27 to
March 17 the U.S.
military joined with forces from seven other countries in Multinational
Experiment 4, a simulation exercise for creating “stable governments.” And
neoCondi’s was right in the middle of it. Col.
George Bowers spoke for the Pentagon: “It's a holistic approach. The idea is
that instead of going in with a big hammer, it's looking at all the aspects of
national power and their effect." A Canadian officer agreed that “the
response has to be a whole-government approach, not just a military approach,
when the effect you want to create is a stable government."
The military people call it using “the DIME elements
-- diplomatic, information, military and economic.” Notice that they give
“diplomatic” top billing. Barbara Stephenson, speaking for Reconstruction and
Stabilization, was delighted: “It's not just the military that's going to be
delivering the effect anymore. … It's driving real-world change in a way that's
very unusual for a military experiment."
The “effect” -- the “real-world change” the
neoCondists want -- is clear enough. s NeoCondism is that would gladden anyheart.
The rise of neoCondism marks the st
bid yet for total . As Fred Kaplan puts it (with delicate
neocons and the new breed of dites agree on one crucial
all-outthey still commit U.S. ingtactics enemy They can only go oningsinkingU.S. enduringnational
The greatest danger of neoCondism is that its wily
charms may seduce the liberals. Thomas
Friedman once called Iraq
“the 51st state.” “America
Friedman explained. “Now America owns Iraq, and it owns the primary
responsibility for normalizing it.” Of course, Iraq has hardly been normalized. As
liberals like Friedman endlessly point out, that’s because the neocons assumed
that all you need is military might. The new NSS seems proof that the Bushies
have finally learned their lesson: After you break it, you gotta fix it. Liberals
like Friedman want the U.S.
to be fixing, normalizing, and controlling nations all over the world.
Now they think they seeBush
headed in that direction. , the NSS “———So most liberals glanced at the new NSS, breathed a sigh of
relief, and forgot about it.
For liberals who greeted the neoCondist NSS with a sigh
of relief, it may look like merely a better chance to achieve the same kind
of hegemony that the neocons want. It’s the same kind of hegemony that FDR
and Dean Acheson wanted, too. The debate in the foreign policy elite has always
been about means, never about ends. The great danger is that neoCondism may
strike the elite as the perfect compromise, the one train to hegemony that
all of them can jump aboard. It’s the same train that wrecked in Vietnam and Iraq. The only question is where it’s