Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Neo-Cons Won

The fundament of neo-conservative foreign policy has always been American exceptionalism. The rules don't apply to us because we're simply BETTER. What's good for the goose is not good for the gander, and he who dishes it out is by no means compelled to take it. We do unto others...period.

After the boondoggle in Iraq showed their lofty aspirations of utopia-building nobless oblige to be flatly delusional, I figured the neo-cons had been solidly discredited. Indeed, Republicans have lurched sharply away from neo-conservatism and toward the Tea Party, a drastically different ideology.

But then came the Bin Laden operation. Several commentators have noted that we Americans would likely not cotton to foreign troops zooming into our sovereign territory to assassinate individuals (and their families) with whom they have grievances. The point has failed to gain traction, however.

Why? Because, to my surprise, the neo-cons appear to have won. American exceptionalism has not only been accepted by both sides of the American political divide, it's now so baked into our culture that we can't recognize it even when it's pointed out.


Steve said...

Jim, do you at least acknowledge the nature of the choice Obama was faced with in receiving the information that OBL was hiding out (and quite possibly being harbored by) Pakistan? Presumably, the strictly correct thing to do under international law would be to present Pakistan with the evidence on where he is and ask them to turn over the criminal. If you're Obama at this point, you have to assume there's a good chance that OBL gets tipped off and escapes in that scenario, in which case you're facing almost certain electoral defeat at best and an attempt at impeachment at worst, with resignation looking like a good option.

Let's imagine a scenario where a terrorist blows up the Eiffel Tower, killing thousands, and the CIA harbors him on American soil. The French find out and send a commando team to get the guy. Sure, a lot of Americans would be outraged, but could you really say the French would be unjustified in their actions? I think the discussion changes depending on whether or not Pakistan was knowingly harboring OBL.

I hate to bring Nazis into it, but was the Mossad justified in going into Argentina to get Eichmann? If they'd killed him rather than capturing him, would the answer be different? At what point do other considerations trump sovereignty?

Jim Leff said...

Totally agreed that if we'd notified Pakistan, he might have been tipped off. Totally agreed that he's a very bad, dangerous man...a worst case scenario. And I'm personally content - though not exultant - with his being dead (his family, not so much). So that's that.

"Let's imagine a scenario where a terrorist blows up the Eiffel Tower, killing thousands, and the CIA harbors him on American soil"

If you have proof of that, you declare war on America and go in, yup. But we don't have proof the ISI harbored him. It seems possible or even likely that the more assholey elements of ISI knew or even aided. But it's not at all likely that the gov of Pakistan at large knew/helped.

If in your scenario a rogue element of the CIA may have aided/abetted the Eiffel Tower guy (no conclusive proof), no, I wouldn't be happy with French troops blasting in. Would you?

I don't mean to just pick away at your example. If you want to present another, I'll ponder open-mindedly.

Nazis are actually a good example. The overwhelming majority of them were extradited, not grabbed. And they were dangerous criminals against humanity. Re: Argentina, yah, I disapprove. I was a philosophy major in college, so I have a deep aversion to slippery slopes. The phrase ".....yeah, but this guy was really extra egregiously bad" won't move me past my moral stops (for the same reason I didn't think 9/11 justified curtailment of civil liberties e.g. the Patriot Act).

But, look, this is all somewhat off-point for me. What I've been trying to express in my 3 or 4 OBL postings isn't that we did clear wrong. What I'm saying is that reaction has been, IMO, unthoughtful. The fist pumping and chants in the streets was savage and distasteful (and brought us down to the lowest level). The use of the word "justice" - even by Obama! - in reference to a summary execution was troubling. And the inability of Americans to recognize the complicated and dangerous precedent we increasingly set with our blithe incursions into other people's territory, just because we (including me!!) happen to have an important goal....well, that can only be explained by feelings of American Exceptionalism, I think (though I'm open to other interpretations!).

Thanks for posting!

wfrostphoto said...

Glenn Greenwald tells us how a Nuremberg prosecutor views our current climate:

I think this really puts things in perspective.

Jim Leff said...

Good one. Thanks, Wayne!

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