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Neocons never go away–Marco Rubio hires Jamie Fly, ultra-hawk on Iran

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Jamie Fly Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative (Photo:

Despite the neoconservative movement’s ideas being thoroughly out of the mainstream, the noecons remain with us, shaping the U.S. foreign policy debate. The latest example of their staying power: the decision by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to hire neoconservative operative Jamie Fly as his “counselor for foreign and national security affairs,” as the Tampa Bay Times reports today.

Rubio, a star in the Republican Party who has been lavished with lots of attention, is a likely candidate for president in 2016. He praised Fly in a statement. “Our nation is facing serious challenges around the globe, and it’s critical that we do everything we can this Congress to ensure that America remains a leader in the world,” said Rubio. “Jamie’s experience in both the government and private sector will make him an asset to the foreign policy challenges and initiatives we look forward to working on this year.”

The experience Rubio refers to is Fly’s stints in the Bush administration. Fly worked in the National Security Council and the Defense Department during the Bush years.

After Fly left the Bush administration, he went on to head the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), another neoconservative organization in Washington similar to the famous Project for a New American Century (PNAC). In fact, prominent FPI members like William Kristol and Robert Kagan were also members of PNAC.

FPI strongly supported the Obama administration’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. And the organization pushes a pro-empire line on U.S. military operations around the world, laughably claiming that “the United States remains the world’s indispensable nation — indispensable to international peace, security, and stability, and indispensable to safe-guarding and advancing the ideals and principles we hold dear.” (This line is an article of faith in American politics generally, of course–the Democrats routinely invoke similar ideals to justify American empire.)

On the issue of Iran, FPI and Fly push a predictably hawkish line. In a piece for Foreign Affairs, Fly (and co-author Gary Schmitt) argued that

“if the United States seriously considers military action, it would be better to plan an operation that not only strikes the nuclear program but aims to destabilize the regime, potentially resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all…[Matthew] Kroenig is correct then to argue that a military strike should be in the cards. But he is wrong to suggest that a limited strike is the one option that should be on the table. If strikes are chosen, it would be far better to put the regime at risk than to leave it wounded but still nuclear capable and ready to fight another day.”

These ideas are thoroughly out of step with what the American people want. In the midst of the raging debate over Defense Secretary-nominee Chuck Hagel, Jim Lobe pointed out that, contrary to the neoconservative claims, Hagel is decidedly in step with public opinion:

The fact is this: Hagel’s views on the Middle East — favoring a “lighter footprint” in the region; taking a more even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; strong skepticism about any U.S. military intervention in Syria, and military intervention in general; opposition to an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear program — very much reflect those of a significant majority of the U.S. public. We know that because poll after poll of U.S. public opinion during the last year and more shows it.

Fly and his organization argue for the exact opposite: they are for a large footprint in the Middle East; favor the U.S.’s one-sided deference to Israeli wishes; and push military intervention in Syria and Iran.

Despite all this, the neoconservative movement is the main player in Republican foreign policy circles, as Rubio’s hiring of Fly indicates. There’s no other game in town for them; the Republican realists have been marginalized and driven out. And it’s also important to note that the neoconservatives’ advocacy for what is essentially economic warfare on Iran has been adopted by the Obama administration.

Of course, this should come as no surprise to those watching Rubio as he prepares for a potential 2016 presidential run. I wrote on Rubio’s big foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution last year:

The speech is an indication that the neoconservative wing of the party still commands immense influence.

Rubio’s speech made no mention of Palestine, but he did train his focus on Syria and Iran–ground zero for the current neoconservative agenda. Rubio called for a policy of US intervention in the Syrian crisis that would bring “an end to the bloodshed and the Assad tyranny in Syria…”

While he expressed tepid support for negotiations with Iran, he also said that “they should not be deemed a success when they only lead to further negotiations.” But he also repeatedly raised the specter of a US or Israeli strike on Iran.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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17 Responses

  1. American on January 18, 2013, 1:18 pm

    ‘“the United States remains the world’s indispensable nation — indispensable to international peace, security, and stability, and indispensable to safe-guarding and advancing the ideals and principles we hold dear.” ‘

    Oh yea, we’re about as indispensable as cancer or the plague. Most of our congress and Us agenices have Munchausen-by-Proxy Syndrome where they make other countries sick with their meddling and then bask in the world attention they get for flying to the rescue in their taxpayer provided drones and superman capes.
    Sick sobs.

  2. Mndwss on January 18, 2013, 1:54 pm

    My first thougt when i looked at the picture of Mr. Fly was:

    I want see him to shake his face!

    Just to see if he can be the next Alan Dershowitz.

    Shake it baby!

  3. Chespirito on January 18, 2013, 2:12 pm

    One thing to look forward to in 2016 is the Republican puzzlement when Rubio flops. As one paleoconservative friend of mine quipped (and it is a bona fide quip), the inability to say “war with Iran!” in Spanish is really not what ails the GOP. That and the fact that Rubio’s vaunted pan-Latino appeal will have no traction to speak of outside his home state. “Latino” itself is a granfalloon, a borderline nonsense category as the different blocs of American hispanics and Spanish-speaking immigrants don’t have a whole lot in common. Second or third-generation Mexican-American voters in Colorado are likely to take one look at Rubio then stay away in droves. Rubio will be every bit as successful with Latino voters as Alan Keyes has been with Black voters. ¡Buena suerte, imbéciles!

    • Citizen on January 18, 2013, 5:34 pm

      Rubio’s hairline is receding–I hope it speeds up. Who besides Ike has been a bald or severely balding POTUS?

  4. pabelmont on January 18, 2013, 2:26 pm

    What’s wrong with this picture: despite “being thoroughly out of the mainstream, the noecons remain with us, shaping the U.S. foreign policy”?

    If neocons are out of the mainstream, then they are not shaping the policy that the mainstream adopts. What have the views and desires of the American people got to do with governance, anyhow?

    Maybe all this slight-of-hand-with-words means is that some folks are saying the neocons are out and their ideology is passé, but, in reality, the mainstream (the oligarchs: the BIG ARMS, BIG-WAR, BIG-OIL, etc.) are pursuing policies which LOOK as if they are in-line-with or based-upon the neocon ideology. (“We don’t admit to sharing their reasoning, yuck!, but we sure do like the conclusions they come to!).

  5. HarryLaw on January 18, 2013, 2:50 pm

    Fly says “If strikes are chosen, it would be far better to put the regime at risk than to leave it wounded but still nuclear capable and ready to fight another day”. This is all wishful thinking, all political parties in Iran are of the opinion that the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes is a National imperative, so “Bombs away” far from causing regime change, would unite all sections of the Iranian people and result in economic chaos in the west, when the Strait of Hormuz is closed, clever these neocons.

  6. James Canning on January 18, 2013, 2:59 pm

    Is it possible Jamie Fly does not know that the “Greens” in Iran want Iran to have a nuclear power programme, and that the Greens opposed the nuclear exchange that could have done a great deal to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran?

  7. James Canning on January 18, 2013, 3:00 pm

    And yes, the neocon warmongers remain in power within the Republican Party.

  8. James Canning on January 18, 2013, 3:03 pm

    Do I assume correctly that Jamie Fly thinks Elliott Abrams acted correctly, when he conspired with Israel to subvert the result of the Palestinian elections? This is how neocons “promote American ideals”?

  9. Leper Colonialist on January 18, 2013, 3:04 pm

    Well, some things never change. Rubio was junketing to Israel even before he was sworn in, so this ought not to surprise.

    BUT, I smile when I realize that somewhere along the line there is going to be a masssive difference of opinion on some issue of great importance between Rubio’s right-wing Cuban-American ethnic kinsmen and his newly-minted playmates in The Israel Lobby. Then this repulsive, jumped-up little creature will really sweat.

    Who will he betray [less emotionally phrased, which group of supporters will Rubio choose to disappoint]? I’m betting that he will side with The Israel Lobby, as they brook no opposition and suffer no difference of opinion. As well, he could be calculatingthat the cuban-american community can forgive the occassional transgression.

  10. Krauss on January 18, 2013, 3:11 pm

    Yes but this isn’t a surprise. Rubio has been the protogé of the Bush clan for years now. If you want to know how he will govern, look at G.W. Bush. He might appear a bit smarter than Dubya, but the basic program is the same. Massive tax cuts to the top 1%, be a whore to AIPAC, allow yourself to be controlled by the neocon aides that are favoured by the right-wing Zionists who fund you and make some noises, mostly tactical, about hispanics and diversity while gutting the very social classes where that group is overrepresented.

  11. MRW on January 18, 2013, 11:33 pm

    So, this sez that Rubio is one RJC Latino pick for 2016. Duly noted.

  12. Taxi on January 19, 2013, 12:31 am

    President Fry?

    I think not.

  13. Sin Nombre on January 19, 2013, 2:43 am

    One could almost feel this coming and happening in a tectonic manner beneath one’s feet: Romney loses, and the big, highly activist money behind the Republicans (such as Adelson) turns off the money firehose causing a tremblor and sits back waiting for bids. Rubio puts his hand up and indicates he’s in the running for ’16 and doesn’t think Republican sucking up to Israel and advocating constant war in the ME hurt them, and the rumbling felt is big money turning to him and opening up the tap a bit saying “okay provisionally, but you gotta take one of our guys on the payroll so we can keep an eye on things and keep you in line,” and, shazaam, like a mushroom sprouting from nowhere in the middle of the night, suddenly there’s another neo-con presence right in the middle of yet another candidacy.

    The mob used to work exactly like this in places. Except that instead of donations to whomever it was backing it would refrain from wrecking its business(es) (perhaps via giving union trouble), or it would back it via giving its competitors trouble and etc. And, not infrequently, whoever it was backing was forced to accept people on its payroll, some to watch over it, some to just get paid for make-believe jobs.

    Might be called … the Sicilian/modern American governmental theory of how to do business.

  14. chinese box on January 19, 2013, 8:55 am

    Is he a hawk, or a fly?

  15. Citizen on January 19, 2013, 11:08 am

    Here’s why Chuck Hagel is the worst nightmare of the neocons/zi0cons: In ’02, Chuck #Hagel lays out the smart US foreign policy in the Middle East–A real American speaks out: via @youtube

    Wish he were POTUS. But, for now, I will settle for Sec Of Defense. Hope he puts a stake through the heart of ilk like Fly & Bill Krystol.

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