Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why are Pseudo-Conservatives Addicted to "Toughness"?

In reducing the large panoply of foreign policy tools to the threatened or actual use of military force (see my post entitled Why "Conservatives Can't Do Foreign Policy, pseudo-conservatives often seem addicted to appearing "tough" rather than "soft", "flaccid", "feckless", etc. (The latter three terms have all been taken from pseudo-con critiques of other administrations foreign policy.) What is this preoccupation with appearing "tough"? It is undoubtedly different for different pseudo-cons but interestingly George W. Bush has at least twice been seen as a "narcissistic personality disorder". I am a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist so I have some expertise in this matter and I believe both these analyses of Bush merit consideration. One, by middle east historian Juan Cole, appeared in his blog, Informed Comment, on August 22, 2006, and is pretty good for a non-mental health professional. The second that I have seen came from psychologist Stephen Soldz on ZNet.

Here is a relevant bit from Soldz: "psychoanalysts have learned that narcissism is intimately connected with fear of one's weakness and vulnerability, and with aggression toward the other whose individuality is obliterated by the narcissism. As the weakness and vulnerability needs to be kept out of awareness, narcissism contributes to another process that poses dangers for narcissistic leaders like President Bush in that their narcissism contributes to an ignoring of reality, of possibility of error or other indicators of potential weakness."

George W. Bush's need to appear "strong", "resolute", tough and unbending are widely recognized. Here are a couple of revealing examples. In Ron Suskind's book on Paul O'Neill's experience as the first of Bush's Secretaries of the Treasury, The Price of Loyalty, there is a report of the very first meeting of the National Security Council occurring just 10 days after Bush's first inauguration (pp. 70-75): the meeting was to be about "Mideast Policy" and there was a brief discussion of how to approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bush said his policy would be to disengage and let the combatants "work it out on their own." Secretary of State Powell said such a move "would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army. 'The consequences of that could be dire [said Powell]... especially for the Palestinians.' Bush shrugged. 'Maybe that's the best way to get things back in balance.' Powell seemed startled. 'Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things,' Bush said."

George W. Bush's belief in a "show of strength" may be further illuminated in another anecdote, again provided by Ron Suskind, this time in his The One Percent Doctrine (p. 215). A classmate of Bush's at Harvard Business School tells of playing basketball as captain of a team that played against another intramural team of which Bush was captain: "The game was tight. The other team's captain, Gary Engle... went up for a shot. Bush slugged him--an elbow to the mouth, knocking him to the parquet. 'What the hell are you doing?' Engle remembers saying.... Bush just smiled. Moments later, at the other end of the court, Engle went up for a rebound and felt someone chop his legs out from under him. Bush again." Later in his business career Engle ran into Jeb Bush in Florida and told him the story. "Jeb kind of laughed, Engle recalled. 'In Texas, they call guys like George 'a hard case'. It wasn't easy being his brother, either. He truly enjoys getting people to knuckle under'."

I would have to agree that these anecdotes support the view of Bush as someone whose "fear of one's weakness and vulnerability [results in] aggression toward the other whose individuality is obliterated by the narcissism." Bush's need for swagger and a big show of toughness--"Bring em on"--is not the expression of someone who is secure in his strength but one who secretly feels weak and vulnerable and covers it up with a show of bravado. In the case of George W. Bush at any rate, "toughness" in foreign policies seems built into a narcissistic personality.

Friday, September 29, 2006

"We don't do 'engagement'."

An excellent example of pseudo-conservative allergy to the tools of diplomacy was described in James Mann's book, Rise of the Vulcans. On p. 280 Mann describes the Bush II administration's abrupt change in policy toward North Korea: "On the day after Kim Dae Jung [president of South Korea and strong advocate of engagement with the North Koreans] visited the White House [March 2001], a senior official pointedly told a reporter that North Korea was not a democracy and that the new administration had doubts about the extent to which it should do business with its leaders. During the early months of the new administration one of America's leading military commanders came home from overseas for a visit to the Pentagon and was startled to be told, "We don't do 'engagement.'"

The idea that the US should not "do business" with leaders of non-democratic governments is a great example of the Bush II administration's partial blindness and disrespect for any need to be consistent. In the past as well as in the present there are plenty of non-democratic governments with whom we have been thoroughly willing to "do business". The former Soviet Union and the current regime in China are only two examples. Thus the fact that North Korea is not a democracy does not by itself require us to avoid "engagement" with it.

There are obviously many things we do not like about the North Korean leadership and justifiably so, but you do not avoid negotiations with opponents just because you disagree with them; it is precisely the fact of disagreements that makes negotiations, "talk", engagement, etc., necessary. Just because we talk to an opponent does not remove our ability to threaten or use military action to coerce them to come to an accomodation. Unless you are an immature, ignorant, insecure, person or nation, you do not need to fear talking with opponents. Teddy Roosevelt recommended we "Speak softly but carry a big stick." The US obviously has the world's biggest stick and we have an abundance of blandishments we can also offer our opponents. It is some kind of psychological disoreder that makes the pseudo-conservatives so allergic to talking with our opponents.

"Engagement", negotiations, "talk" or whatever term you wish is just one more basic tool of foreign policy that pseudo-conservatives don't believe in and this severely limits their ability to conduct foreign policy.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why Pseudo-Conservatives Can't Do Foreign Policy

In a widely read article in Washington Monthly (July/August 2006) political scientist Alan Wolfe tried to explain “Why Conservatives Can’t Govern”. Wolfe wrote: “Contemporary conservatism is first and foremost about shrinking the size and reach of the federal government” and cutting taxes. Ideologically, this is clearly true, even if their actions aren’t always consistent with their beliefs. Wolfe went on, claiming that “like all politicians, conservatives, once in office, find themselves under constant pressure from constituents to use government to improve their lives. This puts conservatives in the awkward position of managing government agencies whose missions—indeed, whose very existence—they believe to be illegitimate. Contemporary conservatism is a walking contradiction. Unable to shrink government but unwilling to improve it, conservatives attempt to split the difference, expanding government for political gain, but always in ways that validate their disregard for the very thing they are expanding…. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.”

This is an idea worth consideration. Perhaps pseudo-conservatives frequently govern badly because they do not really believe in many of the basic tools of modern government. Although Wolf’s best arguments were applied to domestic issues--like FEMA/Katrina mismanagement and prescription benefits for seniors that frequently seemed more attuned to benefits for drug companies--he tried to apply them to the mismanagement of the Iraq war as well. Here he placed emphasis upon Rumsfeld’s trying to prosecute war while “low-balling… troop estimates”; or, “relying on government but refusing to pay for it.” While Wolfe’s points about the Iraq war are interesting perhaps there are deeper reasons pseudo-conservatives frequently don’t “do” foreign policy well either; and these reasons run quite parallel with Wolfe’s analysis of domestic policy.

This "blook" (blog preparatory to a book) attempts to make the case that pseudo-conservatives don’t conduct foreign policy well because they don’t believe in most of it either; that is, they do not believe in the usefulness of most of the basic tools of foreign policy. Instead, pseudo-conservatives reduce foreign policy primarily to military policy; they support a big defense budget and buildup of military forces but they don’t trust most of the other crucial aspects of foreign policy. In the post-cold war world the US seems to be taking on ever greater world responsibilities. These responsibilities involve all of the crucial aspects of foreign policy: negotiation, engagement, nation-building, monitoring and verification to ensure negotiated agreements are being complied with, etc. (For an excellent discussion of what is necessary, and from a military leader rather than a civilian leader, see The Battle for Peace by General Anthony Zinni. Although Zinni supported Bush/Cheney in 2000 he became very disenchanted with them over their approach to Iraq [Ricks, 2006].)

The Case of the Iraq War

Since pseudo-conservatives “militarize” foreign policy, it becomes more understandable that they placed almost sole emphasis upon planning the military aspects of the Iraq war. Woodward (2004) describes in immense detail how Bush, Rumsfeld, and Franks spent about 15 months planning and re-planning for the military portion of their Iraq invasion. Rumsfeld obsessively went through iteration after iteration of the war plan, honing it, sharpening it, examining all of its assumptions, planning for every contingency—except one, what was the plan for after Saddam was gone? General Zinni, who was Tommy Franks’ predecessor as Commander-in-Chief of CENTCOM from 1997-2000, wrote (2006, p. 26), “I had been called before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [on February 11, 2003] to give my views on the coming [Iraq] war. As I waited…I listened to the testimony from… planners from the State and Defense Departments. ‘Planners?’ I thought with horror as I listened to them. ‘The planners have no plan. They’re not thinking about what comes after we’ve invaded Iraq and taken Baghdad.’”

While the Bush II administration had a well worked out plan for making war and toppling Saddam (the easier military portion of the war in Iraq given our immense military superiority), after they took Baghdad and Saddam fled it became clear they had no viable plan to assume power in the political vacuum they had created. They seemed to just stand around and wait for something good to happen. Thomas Ricks, in his careful study of the Iraq war, Fiasco, wrote the following (p. 136):

"During this period [of looting in Baghdad], the U.S. military was perceptibly losing its recent gains; it gave the sense that it really didn’t know what to do next and was waiting to pass the mission to someone else. ‘A finite supply of goodwill toward the Americans evaporated with the passing of each anarchic day,’ Lt. Nathaniel Flick, an elite force recon Marine officer, wrote of being in Baghdad during this time."

"‘There wasn’t any plan,’ recalled a Special Operations officer who was in Baghdad at the time. ‘Everyone was just kind of waiting around. Everybody thought they’d be going home soon.’ Looking back on the period, he recalled it as a slow loss of momentum. ‘It wasn’t like all hell broke loose. It was more like the situation eroded.’"

"Rumsfeld’s fundamental misunderstanding of the looting of Iraq, and the casual manner in which he expressed it [‘Stuff happens’], not only set back U.S. forces tactically, but also damaged the strategic standing of the United States, commented Fred Ikle…. ‘America lost most of its prestige and respect in that episode. To pacify a conquered country, the victor’s prestige and dignity is absolutely crucial.’ This criticism was leveled by a man who not only had impeccable credentials in conservative national security circles, but actually had brought Wolfowitz to Washington…."

The reason for lack of post-war planning was certainly not because responsibility for it was too widely dispersed. Donald Rumsfeld and his Pentagon, strongly supported by Vice President Cheney’s office, had successfully “marginalized” Colin Powell’s State Department and had centralized virtually all war power in its own hands (Woodward, 2004, pp. 79, 149). Even post-war planning was made the Pentagon’s responsibility on January 20, 2003 (Woodward, 2004, p. 283), even though the State Department had been planning for the post-war for some time (David L. Phillips, Losing Iraq, 2005 and Larry Diamond, Squandered Victory, 2005). But a measure of the relative importance of war and post-war can be seen by comparing the dates when each formally began; planning for war began on November 21, 2001 (Woodward, 2004, pp. 1-5), while effective planning for post-war did not begin until two months before the war on January 20, 2003 (Ibid. pp. 280-4). Effective planning for post-war did not start until January 2003 because the Pentagon ignored previous State Department planning (many accounts agree on this but just one is Phillips, 2005, p. 126) and even refused to work with most State Department personnel (Woodward, 2004, pp. 283-4).

Thomas Ricks (2006, p.184-5) tried to explain the failure to plan for post-war in Iraq as due to the Bush II administration’s lack of appreciation for the importance of strategy:

"Strategy was seen as something vague and intellectual, at best a secondary issue, when in fact it was the core of the task they faced. It was the same sort of limited thinking that had led the Bush team first to focus in 2002 and early 2003 almost exclusively on its plan of attack for Iraq, rather than on the more difficult but crucial consolidation of that victory, and that also led it to make wildly unrealistic assumptions about postinvasion Iraq, and then fail to develop operational plans as a fallback if its assumptions proved incorrect."

While Ricks is undoubtedly correct that these leaders failed in strategic thinking, he begs the question of why they failed to think about their ultimate strategic goal: what would they do once Saddam was gone? It’s worthwhile considering the possibility that the reason they failed to do so was because this is precisely the area where they are weakest. Foreign policy to pseudo-conservatives primarily consists of building up the military and using military power. They “don’t do engagement” (James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans, p. 280); they commonly condemn “negotiation” as “talking for the sake of talking” or as “appeasement”; they are so suspicious and mistrustful of adversaries that they are often found saying our adversaries won’t “negotiate in good faith” (Kristol, 2006, It’s Our War); they tend to denigrate “nation-building”. Recall that “nation-building” was something Bush pointedly campaigned against in the 2000 debates with Gore. If they in fact reduce foreign policy to the use of military power is it any wonder that the Bush II administration focused “in 2002 and early 2003 almost exclusively on its plan of attack for Iraq”, made “wildly unrealistic assumptions about postinvasion Iraq”, and failed “to develop operational plans as a fallback if its assumptions proved incorrect” (Ricks)? For pseudocons to focus almost entirely upon the military invasion but be unrealistic about complicated post-invasion nation-building is just what we should have expected. Pseudo-conservatives can’t do foreign policy for a similar reason that they can’t govern: they don’t believe in most of the primary tools of foreign policy.

What are the basic “tools” of foreign policy?

There are certainly some basic tools that any country uses to pursue its foreign policy goals. The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list but these are among the obvious tools of foreign policy.

A. Negotiating with opponents, whether one chooses to call this “talking”, “having dialogue”, “engagement”, or any other such term. Through such dialogue we are trying to assess and understand how our opponents see the world, as well as come to agreements, treaties, etc. (“Know thine enemy” is a maxim as important as “Know thyself”.)
B. Making public statements to inform our friends and opponents of our policy. (“Speak softly and carry a big stick” or engage in name-calling and public bluster.)
C. Collecting and analyzing intelligence to be used as the basis of U.S. foreign policy.
D. Providing aid to foreign governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to support activities we see as constructive. “Nation-building” would be included here.
E. Planning and cooperating with international institutions such as the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, NATO and the International Court of Justice.
F. Monitoring, inspecting and verifying to ensure that others are behaving as they have agreed to behave.
G. Planning and collaborating with allies (and potential allies) for joint cooperative actions.
H. Maintaining embassies and other foreign policy institutions overseas.
I. Cooperation with other countries in legal actions against international lawbreakers such as terrorists.
J. Building up our military power and keeping it effectively modernized; this power can then be used to either threaten military action or to actually use military force.

What do pseudo-conservatives think of such basic instruments of foreign policy? Later posts will address this question.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Recognition of the Need for the Term "Pseudo-Conservative"

There have been quite a few indications of the need for a term like "pseudo-conservative". In Robert Reich's recent book, Reason, he chose to call so-called "conservatives" or "neo-conservatives" "Radical Conservatives" or radcons. As I noted below Clinton Rossiter suggested "ultra-conservative". In his book, The Fateful Triangle (1983, South End, p. 13) Noam Chomsky places "conservatives" in quotation marks, suggesting his recognition that these people are not conservative.

These individuals are NOT conservative in any meaningful sense of the term. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines conservative as " PRESERVATIVE", and "tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : TRADITIONAL; marked by moderation or caution; marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners".

Contemporary so-called "conservatives" for the most part are not preservative or "tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions." They are certainly not "marked by moderation or caution". Of course, there are some genuine conservatives left in America but most of the well-known individuals using this label today are misusing it. They are radicals of the right or the Radical Right. Certainly William Kristol, Richard Perle, David Frum, Irving Kristol, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush, most people who are at think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, are not conservatives and should not be labelled so. [One individual at AEI who might qualify as conservative is Norman Ornstein, but at AEI Ornstein sticks out like a sore thumb.] George H. W. Bush has a more authentic claim to being a conservative than does George W.

Terms like radical conservative or ultra-conservative are misnomers because they yield the term "conservative" to individuals who certainly are radical and ultra, but in no way conservative in the majority of their views and positions. They are sham or spurious conservatives, not real conservatives but only pretending to be so. They are pseudo-conservatives.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Some Omissions in the First Post

I have cited books but have not always given titles, publishers, etc. If anyone would like the full citations just ask.

Why Pseudo-Conservatives are not "Conservative"

I'm working on a book concerning "Why 'Conservatives' Can't Do Foreign Policy". I'm going to post pieces of it here in the hope of getting useful feedback from folks on the Web. In this first post I'm including an introduction to some basic ideas. First, I have to explain why I believe so-called "conservatives" and "neo-conservatives" are NOT conservative; or, why I have Conservatives in quotation marks. Here's a draft explaining the latter issue.

Why Pseudo-Conservatives are not "Conservative"

Reading contemporary American commentary one hears again and again various members of the American right-wing referred to as “conservative” or as “neo-conservative”. I believe this is one of the most fundamental misnomers in the rhetoric of contemporary politics; it represents a very creative and thus far successful attempt to make individuals who advocate views that are radical and extremist sound like they are really simply wholesome proponents of preserving what is good in American society.

What is conservatism?

In his prize-winning book, Conservatism in America, Clinton Rossiter wrote (1962, p. 26): “At the center of the constellation of virtues which make up the good… Conservative… is prudence. ‘Prudence,’ Burke wrote, ‘is not only first in rank of the virtues political and moral, but she is the director’ of all the others…. [T]here is no doubt that [prudence] represents a cluster of urges—toward caution, deliberation, and discretion, toward moderation and calculation, toward old ways and good form….”

It is well to remember that Edmund Burke was the father of conservatism and thus an essential source for Rossiter. Burke’s emphasis was upon “old ways” because he believed that our current society has developed slowly and organically, keeping only those traditions and institutions which have served well and thus stood the test of time. Rossiter (p. 48) later continued, “Nothing is more foreign to the Conservative cast of mind than lawless violence. The Conservative’s whole nature revolts against the cruelty, unpredictability, and inadequacy of brute force as a solution to problems of human relations. He does not seek peace at all costs, but he seeks it with all his powers.”

Rossiter believed Dwight Eisenhower was a modern American representative of conservatism and I agree he is an excellent example in many ways. But let us not forget that the Radical Right of the 1950s, e.g., rabid anti-communists like Robert Welch of the John Birch Society and, to some degree, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, believed that President Eisenhower seemed to be carrying out the dictates of the “international communist conspiracy”. Rossiter (pp. 168-9) called these people “ultra-conservatives” and listed Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, Jr. as examples. Rossiter referred to Senator McCarthy as “their defunct and tarnished Galahad”.

What is Pseudo-Conservatism?

Although I heartily recommend Rossiter’s book I disagree that “ultra-conservatism” is a useful label. However, Rossiter (p. 168) does recognize and quote agreeably the term I believe most accurate, “pseudo-conservatism”. Indeed, if one looks in Rossiter’s index under “pseudo-conservatism” one is told to “See also Ultra-conservatism”. Given Rossiter’s very careful attempt to define the essence of “conservatism,” choosing any term suggesting that those he refers to as “the choleric Right” bear any resemblance to true conservatives debases his effort. They have wrongly appropriated the label for themselves and as such should be referred to as “pseudo-conservatives”.

Apparently, one of the first uses of “pseudo-conservative” appeared in The Authoritarian Personality, a popular book, which was widely read in the 1950s. (This work has been improved and brought up to date by Robert Altemeyer [Enemies of Freedom, 1988] and used extensively in John Dean’s Conservatives Without Conscience, 2006.) The term was elaborated by historian Richard Hofstadter in two essays published in 1955 and 1962. (These essays can be found in The Radical Right, edited by Daniel Bell, 1963.) Hofstadter (1955, p. 77) quoted what The Authoritarian Personality had to say: “The pseudo-conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions..., consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.”

Hofstadter went on to elaborate the concept (1955, pp. 76-7): “[T]he new dissent [of the radical right]not only has no respect for non-conformism, but is based upon a relentless demand for conformity. It can most accurately be called pseudo-conservative… because its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions and institutions. They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism….”

Returning to the subject in a follow-up essay, “Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited” (1962), Hofstadter continued (pp 102-3): “The right wing tolerates no compromises, accepts no half measures, understands no defeats. In this respect, it stands psychologically outside the frame of normal democratic politics, which is largely an affair of compromise. One of the most fundamental qualities, then, in the right wing mentality of our time is its implicit utopianism. I can think of no more economical way of expressing its fundamental difference from the spirit of genuine conservatism…. [T]here is one force in American life, hardly more than hinted at in my original formulation, that would now loom very large indeed, and that is fundamentalism…. To understand the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind, we need to understand the history of fundamentalism….”

Hofstadter was right to emphasize that pseudo-conservatives “show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions and institutions. They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism….” This is true of contemporary pseudo-conservatives like Richard Perle, William Kristol and many others. These are individuals who radically disagree with much of American foreign policy and wish to tear it down and replace it with their radical vision of “tough”, “hard-line”, hyper-military policy. (Pseudo-conservatives are equally radical regarding domestic policy as they wish to repeal the estate tax and weaken, if not eliminate, many achievements of the New Deal. George W. Bush’s proposed “reform” of Social Security bears some similarity to, the Clark amendment, a provision Republicans and pseudo-conservative Democrats wanted included in the original law. FDR, realizing it was an attempt to destroy Social Security, held firm and eventually prevailed [Hacker, 2002, p. 101].)

It is also interesting to note that Hofstadter recognized the kinship of “fundamentalism” to the views of the radical right; he must be considered very prescient as we now see that much of the radical right in the Republican party is claiming fundamentalism as well. Many on the Christian right also back a hyper-aggressive, militarized foreign policy. (It is certainly questionable whether the “Christian” right merits the label “Christian”. This calls to mind Ghandi’s comment: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”)

For example, President George W. Bush is referred to as conservative on a daily basis. Yet he is the author of a policy of “preemptive” war which is virtually universally acknowledged to be a radical departure from previous U.S. foreign policy. (In reality, as Stephen Walt (2005, pp. 59, 261) has pointed out, Bush’s policy is more accurately one of “preventive war”; one “preempts” when an enemy is about to attack; preventive war aims “to prevent an enemy from becoming stronger… even if there is no sign of an imminent attack.”) Whether or not one agrees with Bush is not the issue, whatever one thinks of the Bush Doctrine it is not a “conservative” policy.

One hears individuals like Richard Perle and William Kristol referred to regularly as “neo-conservatives”, yet Perle was one of the most aggressive proponents of a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and one of the most withering critics of attempts to maintain “stability” and continue to slowly pursue the continued “containment” of Saddam (see Perle, 2000, pp. 99-102). Attempting to maintain stability and continuing to contain Saddam would have been truly conservative policies. Advocating his military overthrow using U.S. troops was a radical departure from past policy which entailed great risks, as can be seen by what has happened since we invaded.

Not yet convinced that Perle is a radical? Here is his suggested policy for dealing with North Korea (Frum and Perle, 2004, p. 87): “Decisive action would begin with a comprehensive air and naval blockade of North Korea, cutting it off from all seaborne traffic, all international aviation, and all intercourse with the South. South Korea will object, but it needs to be made to understand that… a blockade is its best alternative to war…. Next, we must accelerate the redeployment of our ground troops on the Korean peninsula so they are beyond the range of North Korean artillery and short-range rockets…. But we hope—and this hope is, we think, well founded—that a credible buildup… will persuade the Chinese finally to… bring the North Koreans to heel.” Risking the possibility that North Korea would use the many military facilities it already has in place to shell Seoul, while also risking the possibility of a war with China, is the very antithesis of the term “conservative”. Recall that Seoul is one of the smallest and most densely populated major cities (Greater Seoul area population 23 million) and is only 30 miles from the demilitarized border with North Korea. The South Koreans may perhaps be forgiven their trepidation about a military confrontation engineered by Richard Perle, who would be able to witness all this from his second home in the south of France. (France? The home of “freedom fries”? Yes, that’s right. See Packer, 2005, p. 28: “For all of his French-baiting, Perle has a house in southern France and a living room in Chevy Chase full of French cookbooks.”)

How about well-known “neo-conservative” William Kristol? During the 2006 Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Hezbollah Mr. Kristol made an eminently “conservative” suggestion (Weekly Standard July 24, 2006). This war allegedly began when Hezbollah attacked Israeli soldiers just inside Israel and captured two alive. (I say “allegedly” for a reason. Seymour Hersh (The New Yorker, August 21, 2006 wrote: “The Pentagon consultant [Hersh’s source] noted that there had also been cross-border incidents involving Israel and Hezbollah, in both directions, for some time. “They’ve been sniping at each other,” he said. “Either side could have pointed to some incident and said ‘We have to go to war with these guys’….” Hersh’s sources claimed the Israelis had their bombing campaign in Lebanon planned months earlier, had shared the plans with the Bush administration and gained the administration’s support. The administration denied these claims but Hersh added: “The White House did not respond to a detailed list of questions.”)

Claiming that Hezbollah, a group supported by Iran but with its own extensive political and social base among the 40% Shia population in Lebanon, is identical with Iran, Kristol suggested that either the United States or Israel “consider countering this act of Iranian (sic) aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? ... Yes, there would be repercussions—and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.” This “modest proposal” ignores the fact that Iran is not a direct combatant in the conflict, ignores the clear distinction between a Hezbollah with Iranian support and Iran itself, and dismisses any worries about untoward “repercussions”. It implicitly suggests that, although the U.S. was successful in containing a nuclear Soviet Union for 40 years, it’s inconceivable we could also do so with a not yet nuclear Iran. Again, whether one agrees with Kristol or not, his proposal is thoroughly radical and bears no recognizable resemblance to any meaningful concept of conservatism. These examples could be multiplied filling many volumes.

OK, that's a partial intro to what conservative actually means and why pseudo-conservatives are NOT conservative. This draft will be further filled out in the future with more about what the label "conservative" really means.