Democrats Can Be Neocons, Too

The great hope among Americans opposed to the war in Iraq is that the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress will now bring the troops home. But anyone paying attention realizes that the Democratic leadership, however much it’s recently rejected, and even ridiculed, the Bush mantra “stay the course,” is as committed as its Republican rivals to somehow “winning” in Iraq. So the best hope is that the Congress will now conduct tough investigations into what the administration’s innumberable fabrications justifying the war and this will fan overall “bring ’em home” political pressure.

The neocon-led Bush administration has indeed been dealt a body blow. It will surely announce some changes in Iraq policy in the near future, designed to mollify critics. It may trade some concessions on policy for political opponents’ assurances that they won’t aggressively pursue investigations into the pre-war campaign of lies. Thus far Pelosi has been at pains to say that “impeachment is off the table.” Yesterday she denied ever calling Bush a liar. A mass movement could change her mind of course, and if John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat poised to take over chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee, wants them we could see impeachment hearings, though last May he specifically denied that as chair of the committee Judiciary Committee, he “would immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush. I will not do that,” he declared.

We must not underestimate the tenacity of those who feel that the post-9-11 environment still offers opportunities for the reconfiguration of the “Greater Middle East” in ways that could benefit U.S. imperialism in what the neocons boldly call the “New American Century.” We should not underrate the neocons’ ability to adjust to changing political circumstances. Many of them have been distancing themselves from Bush, including Richard Perle, himself a registered Democrat. Key neocons such as the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol have criticized the Bush administration for being too soft in its war to conquer and shape the Muslim world; Kristol rounded on Rumsfeld and heaped praise on Joe Lieberman for his many services to the neocon cause.

One Democrat to watch is Congressman Tom Lantos of California. He will probably succeed defeated Congressman James A. Leach of Iowa as chairman of the House International Relations Committee. In this instance, Lantos ­ probably the most virulent Zionist in the entire Congress — is by far the more dangerous of the two. In a detailed statement in November 2004, Leach opposed the use of military force against Iran. He voted against the “Iran Freedom and Support Act,” which allocates funding for “regime change” in Iran. Liberal Democrat Lantos on the other hand cosponsored the act, and is a leading advocate of sanctions. Lantos enthusiastically supported the first Gulf War, and voted to authorize the second one. He was a big supporter of Israel’s latest war on Lebanon, and has vowed to Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to block aid to Lebanon until the latter agrees to international troops on its border with Syria. He wants U.S. intervention in Sudan. The neocons could ask for no more solid ally than Tom Lantos. And he is by no means alone in this prospective role among the Democratic victors in the midterm elections.

At Princeton in January, Hillary Clinton criticized the Bush administration for being too soft on Iran. “I believe we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations,” she declared. “I don’t believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines.” Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana is another leading Democrat who wants a more hawkish stance towards Iran.

The Democrats could be pushed to accept some strategic retreats from the neocon game plan. [After all, neocons were mostly Democrats in the first place, beforfe they swerved into Reagan’s ranks in the late 1970s. Editors.] Certainly corporate America is divided about how to proceed, with some indeed counseling a “cut and run” strategy simply because it means cutting losses. But the Democrats could also, having inherited a war, decide to keep it and expand it in their own fashion, claiming to do so with greater wisdom and competence than bungling Bush was ever able to do. It could go either way. Those both antiwar and jubilant in the wake of the Democrats’ glorious victory should resolve to keep the victors’ feet to the fire.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu




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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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