Sunday, September 24, 2006

End of the New American Century?

In America at present, a completely un-American debate is germinating: Is it time for neo-conservatism's obituary?

If political theories have an address, the address of neo-conservatism reads 1150 17th Street NW, Washington, DC. There on the fifth floor in rather ordinary-looking offices reside a half dozen right-wing intellectuals, who supply a steady stream of arguments for the propagation of democracy and a world dominated by America. The little club is called The Project for the New American Century . In 1997 nearly every important American neoconservative signed the club's founding charter. The thinking that evolved here then circulated amongst a group of friendly think tanks. With the election of George Bush to the presidency and especially after 9/11, the significance of the think tank increased, even if the staff size remained small. Neo-conservatism was a dominant force in American foreign policy, and the network of friends had become a network of power.

Now, nine years later, the Project for the New American Century is closing – due to a shortage of funds, it is said. Those that remain there are looking for work. Their ranks are thinning. The New American Century has taken too long to arrive. An ideology is packed up and in moving crates. One couldn’t have a sight more pregnant with symbolism.

One needn't look long for the crisis of neo-conservatism. The magic word is Iraq. The central project of this foreign policy school, the democratic transformation of Mesopotamia [Iraq], has not gone as hoped. Theory didn't withstand contact with reality, and that reality has now swept away some theoreticians. And at the same time, a harvest of new treatises is emerging.

The thinking of neo-conservatism, especially after 9/11, is based on an astute criticism of what had been the established foreign policy in America and Europe. The neo-cons rejected the usual left-liberal theory about the causes of the attacks, according to which the attackers were motivated by unfairness and a lack of modernization in the Middle East. Instead, the reason for the terror is a lack of democracy. But the terrorists recognized the hypocrisy of the West, which wants the Middle East's oil, and despite its pro-democracy rhetoric entered into an evil pact with the authoritarian rulers of the region. The terrorist attacked the hypocrite.

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