Neocons Go To Work
I had forgotten about the modern-day equivalent of the Project for a New American Century, called the "Foreign Policy Initiative" (can you get more anodyne)? Their existence is solely to pressure Barack Obama on foreign policy from the neocon right, and to pat him on the forehead when he performs in ways aligned with their beliefs. They did a little of both of this with this letter asking for a "properly resourced" war effort in Afghanistan (that means a massive escalation):
The letter’s signatories write: “The situation in Afghanistan is grave and deteriorating…Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a growing sense of defeatism about the war. With General McChrystal expected to request additional troops later this month, we urge you to continue on the path you have taken thus far and give our commanders on the ground the forces they need to implement a successful counterinsurgency strategy. There is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat. We will not support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past.”
In addition to the usual suspects, the Kristols, Cliff Mays, Peter Wehners and Randy Scheunemanns of the world, Sarah Palin has signed on, clearly signaling her alignment with the neocons.
As Jeremy Scahill notes, this is exactly analogous to what the PNAC types did to Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
The neoconservative Project for a New American Century laid much of the groundwork for the foreign policy of the Bush administration. Its members received important postings in the White House, Department of Defense and other institutions. But what is seldom mentioned is that PNAC achieved its first great political victory during the Clinton administration when PNAC pushed Clinton to sign the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. In January 1998, the group wrote to Clinton: “[Y]ou have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.” The Iraq Liberation Act, backed overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans and signed by Clinton, made regime change in Iraq official US policy and set the course for the eventual invasion and occupation.
And surely we all remember the alibi for starting war in Iraq that "Democrats agreed to and Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998!"
This is exactly the pincer movement that FPI is attempting with Obama. His Afghanistan policy has shrinking support among liberals, and so the neocons are among his only supporters. And of course, those neocons will only be pleased with a full escalation of the kind we had in Vietnam. So if Obama continues with involvement in Afghanistan, his most vocal supporters are pushing the debate severely to the right.
Neocons always do this. Under a Republican President, they waltz into the White House and make a mess of things. Under a Democrat, they head underground, prod and push from the right, and support the President when he accedes to their views, aloowing that President to claim bipartisan support (along with partisan Obama defenders) and allowing the neocons to control policy even when out of power. As Steve Hynd notes, the FPI letter urges Obama to "reverse the errors of previous years," when they were responsible for those errors.
If you lay down with dogs, you'll get up with fleas. It's time to begin drawing bright lines in the Af/Pak debate. The Obama administration and its neoliberal interventionist supporters have aligned themselves with the neocons, the instigators of so much atrocious American foreign policy. That bipartisan consensus of hawks is opposed by another bipartisan consensus of progressives and realist conservatives who oppose escalation, and by the bulk of the American public.
Progressives need to start asking themselves if they're at all comfortable with Obama's allies.