ashthomas//blog: Neocon Donkeys


Friday, June 02, 2006

Neocon Donkeys

For someone who refers to himself as a neoconservative and wears a Democratic Party donkey pin on his lapel at the same time, Jacob Heilbrun's op-ed in the LA Times earlier this week was a welcome sign that I am not, as I have sometimes feared, a lone liberal hawk who believes that many of the ideals of the ideology that has come to be called neoconservatism truly belong within the Democratic Party.

Citing the work and ideas of writers Peter Beinart and Will Marshall and politicians such as Joseph Lieberman, Mark Warner and Tom Vilsack, Heilbrun identifies what he sees as a new phenomenon of neocon ideas being espoused by Democrats:

This new crop of liberal hawks calls for expanding the existing war against terrorism, beefing up the military and promoting democracy around the globe while avoiding the anti-civil liberties excesses of the Bush administration. They support a U.S. government that would seek multilateral consensus before acting abroad, but one that is not scared to use force when necessary.

These Democrats want to be seen as anything but the squishes who have led the party to defeat in the past. Interestingly, that's how the early neocons saw themselves too: as liberals fighting to reclaim their party's true heritage — before they decamped to the GOP in the 1980s.


They lamented the fact that their party had been taken over by the forces backing McGovern's run for the presidency in 1972 and wanted to purge the party of the McGovernites. They didn't want self-abasement about U.S. sins abroad but a vigorous fighting faith that promoted the American creed of liberty and human rights abroad and at home.


They want, in essence, to return to the beliefs that originally brought the neocons to prominence, the beliefs that motivated old-fashioned Cold War liberals such as Democratic Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson.

All of this is nothing new to those who follow the currents of political thought in the U.S. and the world, but it is good to see that these ideas are being expressed in a mass media forum beyond therarefiedd world of the ivory tower and think tanks.

Heilbrun goes on to note that if the centrists or neocons or conservative Democrats or DLCers or whatever one calls them want to take back control of the party, they will find themselves in a party civil war similar to the one that the GOP has been going through in the last few years. As Heilbrun says,

The new Democratic hawks, like the old neoconservatives of the 1970s, represent an insurgency, a direct challenge to the establishment. And if they are to revamp the party, they will have to do a lot more than simply evoke the ghost of Truman and Co.


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