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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Reagan was a neoconservative 

[The yes view. The no view.]

From Bloggers for America:

But what does it mean to be called a "neocon?" Should "neocons" get offended by the reference, should they accept it as trivial with indifference, or should they beam with an intellectual pride for being characterized as a practicioner of realpolitik. For those wondering what makes one a "neocon" look no further than these tenets: 1) characterized by an aggressive stance on foreign policy 2) less emphasis on social conservatism 3) less concern about minimal government. Latter day as well as well known neocons of today include: Teddy Roosevelt, FDR (yes even the democrat's godfather was neoconservative), Ronald Reagan, Jim Kelly & T-Bone (of Lexington, KY), Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Clay Wolford (right-wing student leader at Princeton U), Cheney, "Big City" Gavlik, H.W. Bush and Dubya.

From The American Spectator:

There are several major deficiencies -- even logical gaps -- in the Halper-Clarke thesis that Ronald Reagan would not have invaded Iraq....

[T]he authors then lapse into a wholly hypothetical discussion of whether Ronald Reagan was a neoconservative -- an effort that would have been worth undertaking if they had made any effort to define neoconservatism. Instead, what we get is a description of a worldview that seems to bear no coherent relationship to neoconservatism, which the authors portray as an ideology of compulsive militarism and interventionism....

However, it's not very difficult to find a coherent description of neoconservatism if the authors had wanted one. One of the best and most lucid was given by Charles Krauthammer in his Irving Kristol lecture at the annual dinner of the American Enterprise Institute in February 2004. There, Krauthammer described neoconservatism (renaming it Democratic Globalism)....

"[D]emocratic globalism [is] a foreign policy that defines the national interest not as power but as values, and that identifies one supreme value, what John Kennedy called 'the success of liberty.' As President Bush put it in his speech at Whitehall last November: 'The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings.'"...

What they describe as neoconservatism is a fictitious straw man, developed apparently to deny neoconservatives the right to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan. The syllogism is as follows: Some people who identify themselves as neoconservatives (William Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Richard Perle) have called their view Neo-Reaganism; these neoconservatives are militaristic interventionists; following their counsel caused George W. Bush to invade Iraq; Reagan was not a militaristic interventionist; therefore, Reagan was not a neoconservative and would not have invaded Iraq....

The first question we should ask about Reagan in [a post 9/11] context is whether it seems reasonable to conclude that he would have attacked Afghanistan. Looking at his options -- the same as Bush's options -- it seems virtually certain that he would have done so. Once it was established that Afghanistan was the haven and training ground for al Qaeda, and that al Qaeda was the sponsor of the attack, could any president have stood idly by? It would be hard to imagine even a Dukakis or McGovern doing this, let alone Reagan.

Assuming then that Reagan had attacked Afghanistan, and defeated the Taliban but not al Qaeda, would Reagan have continued on to attack Iraq? Here we require a more complicated analysis....

TO BE SURE, PRESIDENTS Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt had used the preservation of freedom as a way of justifying U.S. participation in World Wars I and II, but in these cases American values were used defensively. We went to war to make the world safe for democracy in World War I and to prevent the snuffing out of freedom and democracy in Europe in World War II. Bush, however, in developing a strategy to combat Islamic terrorism, has attempted to use American values offensively, to establish democracy in a place it hasn't existed before -- Iraq -- as a beachhead for bringing democracy to the failed societies of the Arab world. In Bush's view, changing the governance of Arab societies, making them more democratic and open, will eventually weaken the wellsprings of al Qaeda and other terrorist movements.

This offensive use of American values was previously employed by only one other American president -- Ronald Reagan -- and Bush reached back to Reagan in outlining his approach in a speech to the annual dinner of the American Enterprise Institute in February 2003 -- just prior to the invasion of Iraq -- and again in a November 2003 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy....

What all this demonstrates is that Reagan was a neoconservative (or in Krauthammer's terms, a democratic globalist) before that worldview had been given a name in a foreign policy context. If we go back to Charles Krauthammer's AEI lecture, we can see in his discussion of the "success of liberty" -- more than simply the defense of liberty -- the same belief in the power of American values and ideals that can be traced through Ronald Reagan at Westminster to George W. Bush addressing the National Endowment for Democracy.

None of this proves, of course, that Reagan would have invaded Iraq. But it shows very clearly that he shared with George W. Bush the same deep faith in the power of freedom and democracy -- as an ideological weapon -- that is a major tenet of neoconservatism and seemed to be a key motivating factor in Bush's actions with respect to Iraq.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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