Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Neoconservatism and Paleoliberalism

Manuel L. Quezon III tackled this atypical subject tonight on ANC's The Explainer TV show with fellow Inquirer columnist Ms. Patricia Evangelista. He does a good job introducing a topic that is not exactly commonplace in Philippine television. I'm glad MLQ3 brought up the case of Paul Wolfowitz who, as a young foreign policy adviser on East Asian Affairs under then President Ronald Reagan in 1986, was one of the early neoconservative policy thinkers within the US government who effectively questioned US support for fascist dictators, monarchs and autocrats during the Cold War. It was reportedly Mr. Wolfowitz who convinced Pres. Ronald Reagan to tell Ferdinand Marcos in 1986: "Mr. President, it's time to cut and cut cleanly."

Neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz is arguably an unsung hero of the Edsa 1 People Power Revolution, perhaps as much responsible for the its bloodless outcome as Cardinal Sin! For what if he had not prevailed and Reagan told Marcos in Feburary 1986 that the US would support him no matter what? There might've been a massacre instead of a miracle! I have some reflections on that historic event in The Paradox of People Power and the role of Paul Wolfowitz. By the way, I supported the decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein because I saw it as a belated but welcome revocation of the long-standing US policy during the Cold War of supporting fascist dictatorships like that of Ferdinand Marcos. (I always knew that America was better than that!)

The core of neoconservative thinking espoused by Paul Wolfowitz is surprisingly simple and direct and "fundamentalist" in the best sense of the word: Democracy is the solution to the problems of most nations, most of the time. Supporting dictatorships, monarchies and other repressive regimes has not in the long run guaranteed US national security. (Consider that most of the Sept. 11 attackers were Saudis.) Indeed, during the Cold War and in that respect, there was little difference between America and the USSR who both "support the son-of-a-bitch as long as it's OUR son-of-a-bitch".

Francis Fukuyama (The End of History)
and Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations) make cameo appearances in MLQ3's discussion, successively on the idea that the trend towards democratization will transform the world but that a clash of civilizations will be engendered by cultural and religious differences.

THE CALIPHATE AND ISLAMOFASCISM I think that Ms. Patricia Evangelista's own considerable talents at speaking and writing, once recognized in the British Isles, may have been underutilized on the Explainer tonight since her role in this segment was basically to read some choice screeds from Osama bin Laden. But MLQ3 seemed quite the neocon himself pronouncing and broadcasting an original neoconservative neologism that I personally dislike but can no longer be avoided in present lexicon: Islamofascism. Ugly but accurate, like Nazi Fascism or Baathist Dictatorship. I'm not sure MLQ3 was endeared to jihadist-lovers tonight as he put OBL's words through Ms. Evangelista, whose fair speech could not disguise the venom of their content, and justifies the term Islamofascism. Al Qaeda's radical version of "Islam" seeks to reunite all the disparate "Muslim lands" under the old theocratic caliphate, (last seen as the Ottoman Empire in the 1920s). And definitely no Separation of Mosque and State!

However less in stature he happens to be in the liberal academic or book publishing world, I guess I still like George W. Bush's formulation yesterday on the Fifth Anniversary of 9/11 during a televised address: "It's not so much a clash of civilizations, as much as a clash FOR civilization."

Unlike paleoliberals (my antonym for neoconservative) Bush rhetorically denies that there is any cultural or moral equivalence between Islamic theocracy and Western democracy. For the US President and neoconservatives in general, it is not a competition among equal cultures that are only different in superficial aspects. It is a struggle between two radically disparate views about how human societies ought to be organized and what freedoms every individual must be guaranteed. Only democracy -- with it guaranteed freedom of expression and religion -- has proven capable of creating the conditions for peoples of different religions to live together in peace and prosperity and religious toleration. By contrast Al Qaeda and the radical Islamists are out to exterminate all the kuffar, claiming it's Allah's orders, and are dreaming of a Global Islamic Fundamentalist Republic, where even the paleoliberals, (especially the paleoliberals) could not possibly be happy.


postigo luna said...


heard you were invited to the COMELEC to hear some people talk about automation. are you going?

Rizalist said...

HI Postigo. When is that? I don't think I got the info or maybe it was a long time a go...

john marzan said...

I did not see the show, so I don't know if MLQ3's already a new convert to neo-neoconism. But he thought the Iraq war was wrong back then, and Blair's foreign policy was the reason Britain became a target of extremist terrorism.

Jego said...

To term OBL ideology Islamofascism is an insult to fascism.

The Manifesto of the Fascist Struggle in this link (cut and paste to the address bar): http://dictators.blogspot.com/2004/07/manifesto-of-fascist-struggle.html


Rizalist said...

oh, i'm sure that hasn't happend...i was just kidding.

manuelbuencamino said...

Paul Wolfowitz, that lover of democracy, is in Singapore, that beacon of democracy, for WB-IMF meeting.

You can do better than singing praises for Wolfowitz.

Rizalist said...

he seems to have done the right thing with Marcos and Saddam. good enough for me.

Without Borders said...

about a hundred iraqis die each day because wolfowitz thought invading iraq and forcibly installing "democracy" solves the world's problems. but it's democracy that has installed hamas to power in the palestinian authority, hezbollah in lebanon, and ahmadinejad in iran. it's the american invasion that empowered iran in the middle east, that empowered hezbollah to start a war with israel in southern lebanon. and surely, the american invasion of iraq has set the stage for the future iran-israel confrontation and possibly an armed one. do you still support the american invasion of iraq? surely, you are also aching for america to invade burma and why not? burma has good petroleum and gas potentials.

john marzan said...

Aren't Paleoliberals (classic liberals) hawkish, DJB? people like FDR, Kennedy, Scoop Jackson? Hindi ba pro-democracy ang mga ito at pro-freedom compared to the new P.C. liberals?

Rizalist said...

the argument that the US invaded Iraq for its oil is ludicrous. Even at the height of Saddam's power it was worth maybe $5 billion annually and it is estimated that when it is fully rehabilitated, the Iraqi oil industry will be worth at most $10B a year. Yet America spent already what 350 billion dollars in Iraq? You may not consider Iraq, Lebanon and Iran as victories now, but then again you probably wouldn't have agreed with the democratization of Japan and Germany either. I don't think one can judge the benefits of democratization in 3 to 4 years. In the long run the Middle East will be a largely democratic region, like Asia and Europe. When that day comes, they will remember Wolfowitz and Bush, not these silly, short sighted arguments. Btw, those hundred or so Iraqis aren't being killed by Americans and their killers don't care if they kill innocent Iraqis. I don't see how you can defend their rights to take over Iraq by demanding we leave.

Rizalist said...


I don't think there is any generally accepted meaning to "paleoliberal." Now it it is true most of the major wars of the 20th century were fought by Democratic Presidents (not the ones that are supposed to ENJOY making war!)

But I use the term to refer to many people, including myself during the Cold War, when we took the literally "liberal" attitude that whether we believed in democracy or communism, capitalism or command economy, was just a matter of ideology, of what we "believed" in. In part we COULD be liberal in that era, from an intellectual point of view, because the Soviet Union and world communist movement had embarked on a great social experiment in competition with the West, setting up a social and political system that was at least outwardly just as idealistic, just as altruistic and just as amibitious for humanity as democracy. There were two competing social systems in the world, and it had not been demonstrated in history just exactly which was better. That debate was largely settled in the late 80s.

A corollary to such political liberalism (in which we accepted the equivalence of the two polar opposites of communism and democracy, of freedom and totalitarianism, was an equivalently liberal attitude to religions, cultures, and even ideologies.

Let me give a clear example. All of us on this thread probably subscribe to and would defend religious liberty, ie the separation of Church and State. Is a simple fact that the radical Islam proclaims theocracy as ideal, that there should be a Union of Church and State.

Is this difference of opinion or tenet between modern Christianity and radical Islam ignorable? Are they still morally equivalent as religious systems that also inform or shape politics?

I don't think so. But if one believes that all religious sects and all cultures are morally and in some fundamental sense "equivalent" then in my book you are a paleoliberal.

One is a paleoliberal if one believes there can be peace in the world between those who believe in Separation of Church and State and those who don't AND are willing to blow up buildings in faraway lands to make it so.

As for neoconservative there is another important aspect of their consciousness. The whole wide world has shrunk for neoconservatives to a single jetliner bearing every nation on earth, with America and Britain as its flight crew and their nations in First Class. WE are in Baggage Hold. But in the Middle East are a lot of nations and peoples with ancient enmities, and the threats by one or more to obliterate one or the other have been palpable, frequent and dead-serious. Yet that region represents the fuel tanks of this one jetliner on which the whole world economy is flying. As the flight crew, what are we to do when people start playing with weapons near the fuel tanks of the world? What in the long run is the duty and wisest course of those in control of the craft when they are not in full control of the passengers? Leave everybody alone?

Rizalist said...

Let me not engender a misconception. It is not liberalism that neoconservatism was a reaction too, but the old style conservatism found in:

"He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but that's okay, if he's OUR son-of-a-bitch."

So if someone hated that old Ugly America of the Cold War, you would think he would be thankful for the neocons, who are more apt to oppose dictators and autocrats as support them. Just ask Saddam. Neocons don't respect the rights of sovereign dictators.

manuelbuencamino said...

"I don't think one can judge.....When that day comes...."

Well, if you put it that way then Saddam would probably be dead by then, naturally or unnaturally, and whatever the situation will be at that time would probably be no worse than it is now, if not better. If at all, the Americans would have postponed or even avoided the loss of lives and spending $350 billion with no end in sight.

And since democracy is supposed to be the goal of Wolfowitz and company why did they start with Iraq? Why not Saudi Arabia or Iran or Syria or Libya or North Korea or Vietnam or Myanmar or Laos or Cambodia or China or Malaysia or Singapore or some African country or Balkan state?

Rizalist said...

We are talking about America, not the Creator and Lord of the Universe. America of Washington and Lincoln and Bush and Jerry Lewis and Homer Simpson. America, a nation of people just like any other, and like no other. But America was not BORN the world's lone superpower. It took over 200 years for that to happen. She EVOLVED into what she is today. As you well know, the America you hate also coexists with the the America you love. The worst of America is all wrapped up with the best of her too!

I guess as human beings, we cannot appreciate the timescales of history very well, without short, nasty, brutish lives.

But I would hold that the world is better off today because America exists and is the evolutionary miracle that she is. She gave imperialism its first shove into the grave. Her own exercise of Empire hardly resembles those of her European antecedents.

You cast awful aspersions at the intentons of the US leadership, and I grant, you can find many thick, dusty books to perhaps justify the attitude.

But why do these Americans keep fooling the world by talking and doing democracy instead of what you seem to think is their true and evil purpose. Why do they allow these charades of democracy in places like Lebanon, Palestine and Israel and ahem Iraq. To you it seems they are just being hypocrites promoting elections of Arabs, by Arabs for Arabs, even if the outcomes may be unforeseeable. As in the case of Hamas.

And why in the world would they start democratizing the Middle East in Iraq?
Perhaps because the objective fact is, Iraq was the baddest boy in the Middle East, on the record. Remember, Iraq had just invaded Kuwait, and the United Nations was having problems with it ever since.

But I wonder, would your basic position be different if Germany and France had gone along with the US and the UK on Iraq, just as the entire Security Council NOW seems to be doing with IRAN?

Under what conditions would you do to Iran what was done to Iraq?

Without Borders said...

Here's a clip from an article of this title by Tom Engelhardt, courtesy of blogger and historian Brian Griffith:

• Five years after the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, according to Emily Gosden and David Randall of the British newspaper The Independent, the Bush administration's "global war on terror" has resulted in, at a minimum, 20 times the deaths of September 11; at a maximum, 60 times. It has "directly killed a minimum of 62,006 people, created 4.5 million refugees and cost the US more than the sum needed to pay off the debts of every poor nation on Earth. If estimates of other, unquantified, deaths - of insurgents, the Iraqi military during the 2003 invasion, those not recorded individually by Western media, and those dying from wounds - are included, the toll could reach as high as 180,000."

According to Australian journalist Paul McGeough, Iraqi officials (and others) estimate that that country's death toll since 2003 "stands at 50,000 or more - the proportional equivalent of about 570,000 Americans".

• Last week, the US Senate agreed to appropriate another US$63 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose costs have been averaging $10 billion a month so far this year. This brings the (taxpayer) cost for Bush's wars so far to about $469 billion and climbing. That's the equivalent of 469 Ground Zero (as the site of the destroyed World Trade Center is called) memorials at full cost-overrun estimates, double that if the memorial comes in at the recently revised budget of $500 million.

if indeed democratization is the wave of the future, and that it is universally desired, then the invasion and the loss of lives, and the undemocratic way by it is being imposed in the middle east, is not necessary. if indeed you believe the wolfowitz thesis, why dont you openly tell us in this blog that america should also invade north korea (it has wmd for sure), iran, burma. and you may also want to tell bush to overthrow putin, the communists in china, the royals in saudi? oh my, reason, when it approaches dogmatism becomes the new fanaticism.

Jego said...

Rizalist, the Iraq war was foolish from the logistical standpoint. I believe if the US and its allies brought enough force to bear, Osama wouldve been killed or captured by now. And dont forget the Afghan war was backed by a UN resolution, while the Iraq war was not. That was Clinton and Gore's objection to the Iraq war. They were saying, There's no evidence for WMD, so let's get Osama first since he's the immediate threat.

The fact is Wolfowitz and the others involved in the Project for the New American Century were gunning for Iraq since the mid-90's. Even before 9-11.

manuelbuencamino said...

"You asl awful aspersions..." No.Those unanswered questions are what leads to awful aspersions. Jumping to Gloria, awful aspersions are cast upon her because she refuses to answer questions based on proof. Where are the WMDs, wwhere is the "link"? What about Wolfowitz and his famous statement that they were just a cover for the real reason, democratize, which was politically unsellable?

"Under what conditions..?"
1. If Iraq attacked he US
2. If Iraq was killing US citizens
3. If Iraq was harming real US national security interests like preventing the safe passage if oil and other vital gods to the US
4. If an ally asked for help but only to the extent that the first George Bush. Throw them out but not invade.
5. Finally, I will go preemptive if there is true intent, real capability and imminence of an attack on US soil and properties or civilians anywhere in the world.

I will never countenance the invasion and occupation of another country because I believe my way of life is superior because I am not a fanatic like Bin Laden or Wolfowitz.

I like the amercian democracy. I think they have the best form of democracy because their's emphasizes the process towards the ideal. In short, they recognize that democracy is development, a participatory type of evolution towards an ideal. But America should serve as an example not a preacher because the book is still being written. It is too early and too presumptious for any country to go around "bible" thunping and converting. Besides this business of exporting democracy as if it were a finished product destroys the very essence of what American democracy is all about - a participatory movement.

So as someone who loves and values democracy and freedom, I say fuck you to Bush, Wolfowitz, Bin Laden and all those fuckers who think they have the answer and they have the right to force it on me.

john marzan said...

Let me not engender a misconception. It is not liberalism that neoconservatism was a reaction too, but the old style conservatism found in:

"He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but that's okay, if he's OUR son-of-a-bitch."

So if someone hated that old Ugly America of the Cold War, you would think he would be thankful for the neocons, who are more apt to oppose dictators and autocrats as support them. Just ask Saddam. Neocons don't respect the rights of sovereign dictators.

I support what the Neocons are doing. It's too bad, konti na lang ang natitira sa kanila sa bush admin.

maybe that's the reason why the US has chosen a more "realist" policy towards the philippines lately.

Abe N. Margallo said...

I have this old entry in my blog (5/29/06) which I hope will help in understanding some of the terms under discussion here:

x x x

Early (or classical) liberalism is the philosophy which promotes the view that the individual should be free (liber) from the coercion of the sovereign power (or other individuals or groups) to realize his full potential whether in the political, social or economic realms. Adam Smith first articulated this thinking in the Wealth of Nations in which he advocated for economic pursuits free from government interference. The twin brother of liberalism is democracy which allows the people a certain degree of control over their chosen leaders through enumeration and separation of powers and the acknowledgement of certain fundamental rights as further limitation of those powers; thus, the coined words liberal democracy. Unbridled economic freedom has unfortunately resulted in the concentration of economic powers in the hands of only the few, a development that has been perceived as a threat to those individual rights and liberties which are essential in a democracy. This realization has given birth to modern liberalism (somehow the opposite of classical liberalism) which calls for government intervention in the economic sphere for the general welfare. Modern liberals have now appropriated liberalism whereas classical liberals have acquired the appellation of conservatives.

x x x

“Terrorism” is still defined by Webster’s New International Dictionary as “a mode of governing . . . by intimidation” or “any policy of intimidation,” implying clearly that states are capable of committing terrorist acts. However, CIA’s Counterterrorist Center defines a terrorist act pursuant to Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d) as a “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience,” thus potentially excluding state actors from the definition. The current pejorative meaning of terrorism directly linking it to Islamism or to extremist contrarian tactic against the advance of liberal ideology is therefore of recent concoction.

By some broad strokes, there could be three political conceptions of terrorism: 1) insurrection against a legitimate government; 2) a policy of violence or acts of intimidation by a government in violation of human rights; and 3) warfare in contravention of universally accepted rules of engagement.

On the first conception, is a government that has cheated its way to power in a rigged election a fair game to a Lockean right of revolution? On the second, is the recent spate of violence (murders and assassinations) in the Philippines involving for the most part journalists critical of the Arroyo government and left-leaning activists considered terrorism by a state actor? When the justifications for waging a war are based on “sexed up” intelligence, is the resulting violence within the acceptation of the third sense?

In The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown has given a parallel discourse in etymology. The root word of “pagan” according to Brown “actually reached back to the Latin paganus, meaning country-dwellers. ‘Pagans’ were literally unindoctrinated country-folk who clung to the old, rural religions of Nature worship. In fact so strong was the Church’s fear of those who live in the rural villes that the once innocuous word for ‘villager’ -villain- came to mean wicked soul.”

Today, “America paganism” is less related to lack of religiosity than to evangelical faith in market sovereignty, which hearkens back to classical liberalism.

x x x

Now, Neo-liberalism, I believe, refers to the WB and IMF economic policy of stable currencies, balanced budget and cutbacks in social services spending (for Third World countries the sacrifice is for the purpose of conserving funds to be able to pay creditors).

On the other hand, Neo-conservatives are in a nutshell romanticists who believe in the “civilizing mission” of exporting US-style market democracy, violently if necessary. They are to be distinguished from the Realist (of the Kissinger mold).

Realism is basically a geopolitical theory, heretofore the dominant one unfortunately, according to which states (democratic or undemocratic, fundamentalist Christian or Islamofascist) are selfish actors and will seek domination for security and survival.

US Rrealists are in a sense amoral (yes DJB, they say “he may be a son-of-a-bitch, but that’s okay, if he’s OUR son-of-a-bitch); for them, it’s ok to cuddle dictators like Marcos and King Saud because realists are concerned with the power (or hegemony) of the US and righting wrongs like extra-judicial killings or even genocide is not their duty.

Dubya is a Realist if he invaded Iraq because of threat of WMD from Saddam. He is a Neocon if his mission is to civilize an ancient civilization, which had preceded Christianity. My problem with the latter stance is that because of such grandiose self-righteousness pursued as a political project, Bush, as Christianofascist, takes himself down to the level of Bin Laden.

Amadeo said...

Just to muddy up the already muddied waters, if one studies the short history of neo-conservatism, which in it current form is an American political ideology, its origins point to a group of liberals or Democrats who bolted from their core to become the original neo-conservatives.


Btw, Dean, Pakistani chief has just revealed that Bush threatened to bomb Pakistan into Stone Age.

Hardly surprising that he could actually threaten any foreign president with that (Gloria too must have been threatened!)

You see, talks, rumours have been rife in Brussels (in NATO & EU corridors) that Bush threatened Blair with withholding the replacement for UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent technology if he didn’t toe Bush’s line and join him in invading Iraq on a lie that Saddam had links with Osama bin Laden and/or Saddam was stockpiling WMDs.

Poor Blair couldn’t very well say that to the British public - that Bush had got him by the balls. If this is true, I will be a bit more sympathetic to Blair.