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Beinart Pronounces Neoconservatism Dead

It’s hard to keep track of how many times neoconservatism has been pronounced dead by critics. At the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart pens the latest eulogy:

And not only is al-Qaeda sliding into irrelevance, its demise is being hastened by exactly the narrowly targeted policies that neoconservatives derided.

The Obama administration is destroying al-Qaeda not by remaking Afghanistan—a project that looks increasingly far-fetched—but through intelligence cooperation and drone strikes. And while political change—and maybe even democracy—is indeed coming to the Middle East, it is coming because younger Muslims are fed up with corruption and dictatorship, not because of anything done by the Fourth Infantry Division.

Throughout his essay, Beinart seems to falsely conflate neoconservatism with endless military action and the idea democracy can only be instituted by military force. These are both strawman arguments. In fact, the neocon position – that promoting democracy is both an American value and a national security interest – has become so widely accepted during the past decade it barely needs defending.

Beinart’s praise for Obama’s counterterrorism policies (really a continuation of the Bush policies) highlights how mainstream neoconservative ideas have become. His assertion that the Arab Spring was a result of young Muslims “fed up with corruption and dictatorship” stems from the notion dictatorships are not sustainable U.S. partners — a fact that’s barely even up for debate anymore.

And it’s because during the past few years, even progressives have become more open to neoconservative ideas. Obama came into office on promises to sit down with tyrants like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He ended up sending American troops to Libya to oust Qaddafi. Now, critics like Beinart have been reduced to claiming neocons oppose drone strikes or organic pro-democracy uprisings in the Arab world – blatantly ridiculous allegations. From that standpoint, Beinart’s article pretty much refutes itself.


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