Sunday, March 12, 2006

Matt McCarten: Neo-cons forced to admit they were wrong

It's as if Karl Marx came back and published a book entitled I Was Wrong About Communism. This week it was widely reported that the ideological architects of what George Bush called the "New World Order" have admitted their doctrine is wrong.

Of course, the rest of the world has realised this for a while, but the neo-conservatives couldn't fudge it any longer and had to finally come clean.

The neo-conservative world-view goes something like this: after the defeat of the evil communist empire, they had to finish the job and transform the world by removing hostile regimes and giving "freedom and democracy" to the people everywhere. The goal stated in their "Project for the New American Century" was to create "an international order friendly to our security, prosperity and values". This ideology drove the decision to invade Iraq and topple its regime. Once that was done, the theory went, they could move on to all the other countries that needed transforming.

One of the high priests of this new religion, Francis Fukuyama, declared a few years ago in his ground-breaking book, The End of History, that the ideological arguments of right and left were now obsolete: it was inevitable that the whole world would adopt the American way of liberal democracy based on capitalist free-market economies.

It was always simplistic nonsense and the only ones who bought into it were Republicans in the US and the Act Party here. The cynics claimed it was always public relations spin to justify America's hegemony in the world and to create new markets safe for corporate capitalism.

Now Fukuyama has formally admitted it was silly and naive. Some of the hardliners are calling Fukuyama a sell-out, but it seems all the other neo-conservative high priests are jumping ship too. As the New Zealand Herald said on Friday, the big test of this new doctrine of removing hostile regimes was Afghanistan and Iraq. And look what a mess that adventure has turned into.

Andrew Sullivan, Time magazine's resident apologist for the Iraq occupation, says that it was a mistake and it's been a tough lesson for the neo-conservatives to learn. Obviously it is an expensive lesson too for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have been killed and maimed and the untold thousands yet to be killed to disprove the neo-conservatives' theory.

The irony is that if Saddam Hussein had had weapons of mass destruction, he'd still be there. North Korea and Iran, the other two members of the "Axis of Evil", have armed themselves to the teeth with nuclear weapons. It's extraordinary that the neo-conservatives believed that ordinary Afghanis and Iraqis would see them as liberators rather than occupiers. The Americans must now regret their talk about democracy; wherever they have elections, it gets even worse for them.

What's also unravelling for the neo-conservatives is that, as the Americans bog themselves in the Middle East, democratic elections in their own backyard have produced left-wing governments in Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia - all of which have for decades been client states of the US. Venezuela also has all the oil to protect itself and its neighbours from US threats. So much for Fukuyama's claims that the left is no more. The neo-conservatives are in disarray.

What most Americans are now starting to realise is that right-wing ideologues have pulled their country into a quagmire that they can't get out of. Even the neo-conservatives are accepting they have - through their arrogance and conceit - squandered the goodwill America had after 9/11. Can you imagine anything more provocative to Muslims thanGeorge Bush calling the invasion a crusade? Do any of his speechwriters read history?

It won't be long before the Bush administration leaves Iraq and Afghanistan to fight civil wars that American adventurism started. It's Vietnam all over again.

The American people and the rest of the world have been conned by this American administration. The ideological arguments for the invasion of Iraq have been admitted by its advocates as a mistake. Helen Clark's government should not be part of this immoral occupation. We need to bring our troops home.

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