Republicans finally divide over neocon Rx of permanent war

The intraconservative squabble which erupted after GOP chairman Michael Steele’s criticism of the Afghan war bears watching. Steele is a loose cannon, and hardly known as a fount of foreign policy wisdom. But he is almost certainly right about the unwinnability of the American war Afghanistan. Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney’s call for his resignation was predictable enough: for the neocons, questioning of the war must be immediately stamped out—lest it spread to a questioning of other wars, particularly the one they are hoping for in Iran.

Iraq war opponents Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul defended the embattled Steele. More surprising was Ann Coulter, generally a hawkish, over the top, right wing performance artist highly popular in the GOP activist base. In her defense of Steele, she opened with a barrage of right wing boilerplate but eventually got to wondering where it was mandated that Republicans had to be for permanent war. By the end, she was calling Kristol and Liz Cheney to resign, from what it wasn’t clear. Coulter received some support from the blog of eclectic conservative New York Post columnist Robert A. George,  and had some (to me surprising) defenders on David Horowitz’s website. On the other side David Frum sought to purge Coulter from the ranks of acceptable conservatives.

Essentially the polemics reveal that that the neocons don’t have the Republican party and the conservative base sewed up. Coulter wouldn’t have spoken out unless she sensed she would have had some right wing support—she appears crazy in some ways (or at least markets herself that way) but has an excellent sense of what plays on the Right. Her dissent isn’t the only encouraging sign. In recent months, Glenn Beck has given platforms to realists like the Cato Institute’s Justin Logan and, frequently, to Ron Paul. It’s an old story, the neocons like to believe they had silenced all Republican opposition, but it keeps coming back, in different form.

The antiwar tendencies are too haphazard to have a name: to call them dissident or isolationist would be inexact, and realist would give them more credit then they have earned. But it is now beginning to emerge that not all Republicans concur with the neocon plan for permanent war. The Afghanistan debate has weighty implications for Iran –at the very least it is a foreshadowing of the Iran debate Liz Cheney and Kristol hope never takes place in the Republican party. And of course it relates to Israel/Palestine, as well, as the ignition of an American war on Iran is perhaps Netanyahu’s first diplomatic priority. Part of the background comes from the fact that GOP is less beholden financially to the Israel lobby than the Dems, and historically some Republican presidents have shown far more moxie in dealing with Israel than their Democratic counterparts. If they wanted to, Republicans could go their own way. You can see why Frum and Kristol are nervous.

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.
Posted in Iran, Israel Lobby, Neocons

{ 23 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Chu says:

    Republicans could go their own way, and hope they do. Don’t they have their hands full protecting banks, and can they continue to handle the Israeli portfolio?

  2. Oscar says:

    The neo-con nation, the Office of Special Plans, the Project for a New American Century, the Nigerian yellowcake scam, the WMD fraud, the Mission Accomplished banner, the constant state of fear (“they hate us for our freedoms”), the arrogant smirk of George W. Bush on a bullhorn days after 9/11 (“the people who did this are gonna hear from us soon”), shock and awe, the no-bid contracts for Halliburton . . .

    I was a lifelong Republican until my party was hijacked by Israel-first neo-cons who infiltrated the government and brought about the staggering death, destruction and debt of this country. Any Republican politician who ties his/her fate to permanent war in the Middle East as a good thing after 10 years of futility in Afghanistan, Iraq and — possibly Iran — is not simply a traitor to the Reupublican party, but also to the United States.

    Great to see Ann Coulter shooting from the hip. You’re right, she must sense her position has some support elsewhere in the party.

    • Mooser says:

      “I was a lifelong Republican until my party was hijacked by Israel-first neo-cons who infiltrated the government and brought about the staggering death, destruction and debt of this country”

      Gosh, why would you leave just when everything you worked for was just starting to reach fruition?

  3. I find both the neo-conservative and the various stains of paleo-consersative approaches to be horridly hypocritical.

    The issue remains about the supply chain for oil. And, so long as the conservatives do not pursue aggressive policies to conserve energy, they are still dependant on the international supply chain of oil.

    When I hear you and other conservatives seriously proposing savings in consumption of oil in transportation, building heating and lighting, electrical generation, and industrial uses, then I will take any points about foreign policy as not ultimately hypocritical.

    • Scott says:

      Richard, Take a look at the website of The American Conservative, the magazine I co-founded and edited. Look for articles on peak oil, and need for rail transport. (Key authors would be Jim Kunstler and William Lind. ) You’ll find quite a bit. If you go back to a 1996 National Review symposium for “young” conservative writers, you’ll find me going on about global warming for half my allotted space.

    • MarkF says:

      Why is it hypocritical? Why dismiss foreign policy discussion just because of disagreements in energy policy?

      I may have it wrong, but I believe the paleo viewpoint is that we have free trade to help develop the middle east oil fields and purchase it wthout invading and occupying those countries. I would think that eliminates much of the hatred most people in the middle east have for the U.S. and we can stop seeing these stupid ads on our Metro buses that show pictures of Ahmadinejad as a reason for sensible energy policy.

      The reason to conserve energy isn’t to perpetuate bad foreign policy. I honestly think we need to break the link. At least if we agree on one thing we can work together on it.

  4. potsherd says:

    Republicans will go several ways. The party displays a remarkable unity when it comes to congressional votes, but the base is badly split. The pro-business conservatives are alarmed and disgusted by the yahoo teabaggers and don’t like the neocon wing much either.

    Nobody really knows what “conservative” means anymore, but isolationism has always been a strong trend in whatever passes for conservative thought in various times.

    Now the Republicans are taking up the neocon side of Israel, bidding to out-Zionist the other party. This could backfire bigtime if someone ever decides to speak the truth and point at the naked emperor.

    The Israel issue scars shitless a lot of politicians. Afraid to be branded anti-Israel but also afraid to come out and openly declare congress Zionist-occupied territory. Look at Barney Frank, who couldn’t explicitly say, “We’ll keep giving money to warmonger Israel,” and had to talk in circles around it.

  5. I’m heartsick every day because Obama missed a perfect opportunity to re-align the country around liberal values–as opposed to the neo-con addiction of permanent war. The U.S. public, unified by outrage at Bush-Cheney mayhem, was ready in 2008 to create a new alliance for justice and peace, rather than bolstering either Israeli expansion or global profiteers. Instead Obama slunk into a perversely reactionary agenda, choosing neo-con “hawks” Biden, Clinton, and Emmanuel.

    How sad that the Democratic party now abandons moral and political progressivism to “hawkish, over the top, right wing performance artists” like Coulter.

    We in the U.S. need instant run-off voting, so that we can elect actually liberal Dems or form a new party. We need campaign finance reform so that our representatives will be loyal to the U.S. and require that the Israel lobby comply with the law by registering as agents of a foreign government.

  6. HPH says:

    Justin Raimondo has a “permanent war” article at link to He supports the viewpoints of Ann Coulter and Michael Steele with certain reservations based on their past behavior.

  7. hughsansom says:

    The Israel freaks (they are way past mere Israel Lobby idealogues) want war with Iran. This trumps all other considerations. If necessary, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be shut down immediately to enable the blitzkrieg against Iran. Then, when the right-wing can crow about a couple of million dead in Iran, it will be time to select another Enemy of Israel to dispatch — perhaps Turkey.

  8. Poor Michael Steele. He’s dumber than a crate full of rusty crowbars, but still you’ve gotta feel for this bozo and the tons of bricks which is going to come crashing down his shiny, pointy pate any moment now.

    How soon will creatures like Dershowitz, Foxman, morton klein and ed koch start the whispering campaign re ‘back anti-Semitism”?

  9. RE: “…historically some Republican presidents have shown far more moxie in dealing with Israel than their Democratic counterparts.” – McConnell
    MY COMMENT: That was before the Fundies took over the GOP. The Fundies want Iran bombed ASAP!

  10. Dan Crowther says:

    The writer makes a critical error when he underestimates the power of the Israel Lobby within Republican circles. If he were to mean a “Jewish Lobby” yes, he would be correct; Jews in large majorities vote for democrats. But to deny the influence of the Christian Right and its Israel-centric escatological fantasies– often peddled by elected Republicans at all levels of government–is to provide cover for its insidiousness. One of the critical points of Walt and Mearsheimer’s original paper was to make clear, that the Israel Lobby was not a Jewish or an Israeli Lobby- but a melting pot of disparate ideologies; evangelical christians, the largest of the non-Jewish “delegations.”

    • annie says:

      dan, had the writer denied the israel lobby didn’t have lots of power within the gop you might have a point but he didn’t so you don’t. he said they didn’t have it wrapped up, which anyone following the last prez primaries would know is completely true. ron paul soured and that was while he was denied the opportunity to join the debates. he virtually tied for second but wasn’t acknowledged for it by the msm who ignored him.

      i’ve mentioned before i think the neocons are a terrible fit w/the tea party. they’re trying to make headway but essentially it’s an all around bad fit. if they’re throwing in their chips w/palin it’s going to be a uphill battle imho.

      • Dan Crowther says:

        He said the Republicans could “go another way” as in away from Israel. No way the evangelicals let that happen- my point was valid.

        • Evangelics have the same fear of being called “anti semite”.They would lose their status if tomorrow they jump the ship.The way it will happen is again by the relentless media chorus .Rather than starting a discussion why Graham Sr. agreed with Nixon on the media power of the Jewish lobby, the media simply went into default mode of antisemitism with morbid fear of being caught and found out. The result came in seconds in the form of heartfelt apology from Graham Sr. Interestingly Evangelic’s views on Israel and Armageddon help Israel to piggyback to American soul in a pervert way not unlike the arrangement of Hitler and German Zionist party.

  11. Debonnaire says:

    Pat Buchanan and TAC in general has been righteous on the Israel Lobby and all other assorted issues from the start. I think the magazine can be a little stolid at times, but…