The Moral Bankruptcy of NeoconservatismThe Moral Bankruptcy of Neoconservatism
On Feb. 11, 2011, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who had oppressed his nation for nearly 30 years, stepped down and ceded power to Egypt’s military. It’s hard to overstate the extent of the corruption, human rights abuses, media repression and outright murder presided over by Mubarak’s regime. An example, which is said to have sparked the sense of public outrage that culminated with the toppling of Mubarak’s rule, is the death of Khaled Mohamed Said. The 28 year-old was viciously beaten by Alexandria police, who blamed his subsequent death on a drug overdose. Pictures of the corpse leaked onto the internet and the people of Egypt were left wondering what sort of drug is capable of breaking a man’s jaw and covering his face in lacerations.
It has been under Mubarak’s “emergency law” that Egyptian security forces have operated with such impunity. The world is right to celebrate his political demise. In fact, if there’s anything regrettable about recent events there, it’s that the protesters in Tahrir Square were either unable or unwilling to storm the Presidential Palace and make a Romanov out of Mubarak, thereby saving the International Criminal Court years’ worth of ultimately futile time and effort, as the 82 year-old is very likely to die before receiving his just desserts.
Yet the unquestionably vile nature of Mubarak’s rule has not stopped several very prominent American pundits and politicians from rushing to his defense. Dick Cheney thinks he’s a “good man” who has been “a good friend and ally of the United States.” John Bolton has dismissed Egypt’s pro-democracy protests as just another outlet for “rising radicalism in the Middle East.” And Congressman and GOP Conference Chair Thaddeus McCotter has stated “America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform,” claiming “freedom’s radicalized enemies are subverting Egypt.”
Many of these people now grousing over the end of Mubarak’s rule have been the staunchest supporters of our war effort in Iraq. These are the types who uphold America as a shining beacon for the world, with not just a right but a duty to forcibly export our values to other countries. This was the case made not just for involvement in Iraq, but for countless other incursions throughout and since the end of the Cold War. Why the change of heart over Egypt? Perhaps because contrary to their rhetoric, democracy and freedom are not all that important to neoconservatives. Just as they once supported the tyrannical regimes of Augusto Pinochet, Ferdinand Marcos, and Francisco Franco, and just as they once supported the overthrow of democratic governments in Guatemala, Chile, and Iran, perhaps neoconservatives are once again willing to compromise their professed ideals in favor of some other interest, whose nature remains to be seen.
One thing remains unambiguous, and that is neoconservative policy prescriptions cannot be followed if America is to retain any credibility in the world. It was they who backed the 1953 coup in Iran, installing the Shah as autocratic ruler and paving the way for that country’s Islamist revolution in 1979. It was they who illegally funneled money to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, seeking to undermine the democratically elected Sandinista government. And it was they who backed the attempted 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, which backfired magnificently as the crowds surrounded the Miraflores Palace and demanded he be restored to power.
Not only have these actions been stains on our reputation, but they had the exact opposite of their intended effect. They ultimately diminished American standing in the world, and validated the views of those we sought to depose. The next target for neoconservative intervention, if the rhetoric of 2008 is any indication, may be Iran again. There will be talk of “national security” concerns, and accusations of not adequately “supporting the troops” or “loving America.” But under the shouts of the demagogues, the reality will remain. The best thing for this country, its troops, and its citizens is to ignore those who plainly lack any genuine commitment to freedom, and only seem to seek power for power’s sake. They are this country’s own worst enemy.