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Parry writes: "You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again."

Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. (photo: EPA)
Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. (photo: EPA)

Neocons Have Weathered the Storm

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

15 March 14


y the middle of last decade, the storm clouds were building over the neocons: their “regime change” in Iraq was a disaster; President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech was a running joke; news articles were appearing about their “dark side” behavior in the “war on terror”; and the public was tired of the blood and treasure being wasted.

You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again. However, instead of disappearing, the neocons have proved their staying power, now reemerging as the architects of the U.S. strategy toward Ukraine.

Neocons played key behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Feb. 22 coup that overthrew a democratically elected president with the help of neo-Nazi militias; the neocons have since whipped Official Washington into a frenzy of bipartisan support for the coup regime; and they are pushing for a new Cold War if the people of Crimea vote to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

A few weeks ago, most Americans probably had never heard of Ukraine and had no idea that Crimea was part of it. But, all of a sudden, the deficit-obsessed U.S. Congress is rushing to send billions of dollars to the coup regime in Kiev, as if the future of Ukraine were the most important issue facing the American people.

Even opinion writers who have resisted other neocon-driven stampedes have joined this one, apparently out of fear of being labeled “an apologist” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Indeed, it is almost impossible to find any mainstream U.S. politician or pundit who has not fallen into line with the belligerent neocon position on Ukraine.

And the skies ahead are even brighter. The neocons can expect to assert more power as President Barack Obama fades into “lame-duck” status, as his diplomatic initiatives on Syria and Iran struggle (in part because the Ukraine crisis has driven a deep wedge between Obama and Putin), as neocon-leaning Democrat Hillary Clinton scares off any serious opposition for the 2016 presidential nomination, and as her most likely Republican presidential rivals also grovel for the neocons’ blessings.

But this stunning turn of fate would have been hard to predict after the neocons had steered the United States into the catastrophic Iraq War and its ugly bloodletting, including the death and maiming of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and the squandering of perhaps $1 trillion in U.S. taxpayers’ money.

In Election 2006, GOP congressional candidates took a pounding because Bush and the Republicans were most associated with the neocons. In Election 2008, Sen. Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite who had voted for the Iraq War, lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Sen. Barack Obama, who had opposed invading Iraq. Then, in the general election, Obama defeated neocon standard-bearer John McCain to win the White House.

At that moment, it looked like the neocons were in serious trouble. Indeed, many of them did have to pack up their personal belongings and depart government, seeking new jobs at think tanks or other neocon-friendly non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

More significantly, their grand strategy seemed discredited. Many Americans considered the neocons’ dream of more “regime change” across the Middle East — in countries opposed to Israel, especially Syria and Iran – to be an unending nightmare of death and destruction.

After taking office, President Obama called for winding down Bush’s wars and doing some “nation-building at home.” The broad American public seemed to agree. Even some right-wing Republicans were having second thoughts about the neocons’ advocacy of an American Empire, recognizing its devastating impact on the American Republic.

The Comeback

But the neocons were anything but finished. They had positioned themselves wisely.

They still controlled government-funded operations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED); they held prominent positions inside think tanks, from the American Enterprise Institute to the Council on Foreign Relations to the Brookings Institution; they had powerful allies in Congress, such as Senators McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman; and they dominated TV chat shows and opinion pages, particularly at the Washington Post, the capital’s hometown newspaper.

Since the late 1970s and early 1980s when they first emerged as a noticeable force in Washington, the neocons had become “insiders.” They were both admired and feared for their intellectual ferocity, but — most important for their long-term survival – they had secured access to government money, including the slush fund at NED whose budget grew to over $100 million during the Bush-43 years.

NED, which was founded in 1983, is best known for investing in other countries’ “democracy building” (or CIA-style “destabilization” campaigns, depending on your point of view), but much of NED’s money actually goes to NGOs in Washington, meaning that it became a lifeline for neocon operatives who found themselves out of work because of the arrival of Obama.

While ideological advocates for other failed movements might have had to move back home or take up new professions, the neocons had their financial ballast (from NED and many other sources) so their ideological ship could ride out the rough weather.

And, despite Obama’s opposition to the neocons’ obsession with endless warfare, he didn’t purge them from his administration. Neocons, who had burrowed deep inside the U.S. government as “civil servants” or “career foreign service officers,” remained as a “stay-behind” force, looking for new allies and biding their time.

Obama compounded this “stay-behind” problem with his fateful decision in November 2008 to adopt the trendy idea of “a team of rivals,” including keeping Republican operative (and neocon ally) Robert Gates at the Defense Department and putting hawkish Democrat Hillary Clinton, another neocon ally, at State. The neocons probably couldn’t believe their luck.

Back in Good Graces

Rather than being ostracized and marginalized – as they surely deserved for the Iraq War fiasco – key neocons were still held in the highest regard. According to his memoir Duty, Gates let neocon military theorist Frederick Kagan persuade him to support a “surge” of 30,000 U.S. soldiers into the Afghan War in 2009.

Gates wrote that “an important way station in my ‘pilgrim’s progress’ from skepticism to support of more troops [in Afghanistan] was an essay by the historian Fred Kagan, who sent me a prepublication draft.”

Defense Secretary Gates then collaborated with holdovers from Bush’s high command, including neocon favorite Gen. David Petraeus, and Secretary of State Clinton to maneuver Obama into a political corner from which he felt he had no choice but to accede to their recommendation for the “surge.”

Obama reportedly regretted the decision almost immediately after he made it. The Afghan “surge,” like the earlier neocon-driven Iraq War “surge,” cost another 1,000 or so dead U.S. soldiers but ultimately didn’t change the war’s strategic direction.

At Clinton’s State Department, other neocons were given influential posts. Frederick Kagan’s brother Robert, a neocon from the Reagan administration and co-founder of the neocon Project for the New American Century, was named to an advisory position on the Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Secretary Clinton also elevated Robert Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, to be State Department spokesperson.

Though Obama’s original “team of rivals” eventually left the scene (Gates in mid-2011, Petraeus in a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013), those three provided the neocons a crucial respite, time to regroup and reorganize. So, when Sen. John Kerry replaced Clinton as Secretary of State (with the considerable help of his neocon friend John McCain), the State Department’s neocons were poised for a powerful comeback.

Nuland was promoted to Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and took personal aim at the elected government of Ukraine, which had become a choice neocon target because it maintained close ties to Russia, whose President Putin was undercutting the neocons’ “regime change” strategies in their most valued area, the Middle East. Most egregiously, Putin was helping Obama avert wars in Syria and Iran.

So, as neocon NED president Carl Gershman wrote in the Washington Post in September 2013, Ukraine became “the biggest prize,” but he added that the even juicier target beyond Ukraine was Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

In other words, the ultimate goal of the Ukraine gambit is not just “regime change” in Kiev but “regime change” in Moscow. By eliminating the independent-minded and strong-willed Putin, the neocons presumably fantasize about slipping one of their ciphers (perhaps a Russian version of Ahmed Chalabi) into the Kremlin.

Then, the neocons could press ahead, unencumbered, toward their original “regime change” scheme in the Middle East, with wars against Syria and Iran.

As dangerous – and even crazy – as this neocon vision is (raising the specter of a possible nuclear confrontation between the United States and Russia), the neocons clearly appear back in control of U.S. foreign policy. And, they almost can’t lose in terms of their own self-interest, whichever way the Ukraine crisis breaks.

If Putin backs down in the face of U.S. ultimatums on Ukraine and Crimea, the neocons can beat their chests and argue that similar ultimatums should be presented to other neocon targets, i.e. Syria and Iran. And, if those countries don’t submit to the ultimatums, then there will be no choice but to let the U.S. bombings begin, more “shock and awe.”

On the other hand, if Putin refuses to back down and Crimea votes to abandon Ukraine and reattach itself to Russia (which has ties to Crimea dating back to Catherine the Great in the 1700s), then the neocons can ride the wave of Official Washington’s outrage, demanding that Obama renounce any future cooperation with Putin and thus clear the way for heightened confrontations with Syria and Iran.

Even if Obama can somehow continue to weave his way around the neocon war demands for the next two-plus years, his quiet strategy of collaborating with Putin to resolve difficult disputes with Syria and Iran will be dead in the water. The neocons can then wait for their own sails to fill when either President Hillary Clinton or a Republican (likely to need neocon support) moves into the White House in 2017.

But the neocons don’t need to wait that long to start celebrating. They have weathered the storm. your social media marketing partner


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+25 # MidwesTom 2014-03-15 09:18
Where do neocons come from and why are they so influential? First you must realize that AIPAC is the 900 pound gorilla on the Hill. Their money has placed hundreds of dual citizenship individuals in powerful positions in our government. In order for Israel to grow and expand it must maintain a condition of war throughout the Middle East. Neoconism is the one true philosophy on the wealthy NYC Jewish banker community.

They truly want to rule the world, and they have figured out that with their money they can in effect 'hire' or sons and daughters to do their fighting bib controlling our military and foreign policy.

I think that Obama may have been somewhat of a disappointment to them, but we will never now the truth; maybe they thought they needed someone to temporarily divert attention from their control of our government.

We need to find and support any candidate who will introduce legislation to outlaw dual citizenship holders from high office in our government. Don't kid yourself they are in both parties. Find a candidate who will take that stand, and www should all donate to him or her.
+10 # wantrealdemocracy 2014-03-15 10:24
For us to take a stand against Representatives who have Israeli connections will not work. AIPAC will just pile more money in the campaign funds of their favorites and those people with Israel connections will win. We need to get the money out of politics but the power of the SCOTUS has us beat. I suggest another way. We insist on having direct democracy in this nation where the elected Representatives HAVE to vote as directed by their constituents. With today's technology this would not be hard. Each Representative must be required to post on their web site the votes coming up in the near future. There must be statements both for and against the bill. In the last week before the Representative votes a secure site must be set up for the constituents to instruct their representative how to vote. That vote is binding on the Representative. If he or she does not follow the directions of the constituents that person is impeached and a special election is set for another person to finish that term of office. In this way our 'representative s' will see that voting to please their generous 'donors' will be the death knell of their term as an 'honored member of Congress'. Our votes will trump their bucks.
+17 # Anonymot 2014-03-15 11:12
Nice idea, but the reply would be that the Congressman is privy to SECRET information that affects the correct way to vote and that cannot be shared with the voters.

Unfortunately, the public is, really is too dumb, uninformed, and disinterested to deal with most issues. When the world was simpler and the room for error greater, maybe, but we're beyond that today. We may be beyond saving, but the idiots in the wheelhouse are not extending our lifespan, either.
+5 # Seadog 2014-03-15 12:30
"wealthy NYC Jewish banker community." 1st off, most of the wealthy NYC banking community is not Jewish. What's next, quoting from the infamous "Protocols of the Elders of Zion in here." a forgery created and circulated by the Russian Okharan ( Czarist Secret Police.) Still popular among the rabid antisemitic community on the right and left.
+8 # Farafalla 2014-03-15 13:38
Once I saw midwestom's reference to Jewish bankers in NYC I knew this thread was lost. AIPAC notwithstanding , the imperialist right wing of US foreign policy has its own raison d'être. The US concerns regarding countries in the Middle East and former Eastern Europe cannot be separated from our oil and gas interests. Even Afghanistan is crisscrossed with gas pipelines. Who can forget the visit by the Taliban to Houston, four months before 9/11, to negotiate pipelines? The only thing worse than neoconservative wars are the ultra right wing conspiracy theorists that insult RSN readers.
+1 # karenvista 2014-03-18 19:04
Seadog - Who quoted from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion?" How did I miss that?
+1 # jsluka 2014-03-15 18:07
Dear MidwesTom,

Please pardon my ignorance if I am uninformed here, but at least on the surface of it this looks like pure anti-semitism. If it isn't, perhaps you could explain why it isn't, and the evidential or factual basis of what you are saying. Finally, is the "Jewish" banking community any different from the "general" banking community - the "banksters"? Why single out Jewish banksters from the others? Please explain why this is not antisemitic?
Respectfully yours,
+3 # John Mortl 2014-03-16 09:56
I will mimic the play book of those who have a reputation for asking a question in answer to a question. Why is it that any time anyone makes a comment on Jews or of Jewish concerns like Israel or the Oligarch's without what is considered by some self appointed gate keeper as deferential enough the Anti-Semitic card is played?
+43 # reiverpacific 2014-03-15 09:29
And the American People, led like sheep to the slaughterhouse by their appalling owner-media lapdogs for all things neocon, sit and suck on their super-sized sugar pops and hormone burgers, gluey pizza and tasteless fizzy lite non-beer, watch their sitcoms, game shows and the shopping channels, awaiting the next "Shock and awe" spectacle of flashing lights-shows broadcast at a safe distance from places they've never heard of in the manner of "Panem et Circences", -until the inevitable resultant economic collapse -especially if Iran is attacked- brings them down to what approximates for their atrophied senses and another depression brings their houses of cards tumbling around their complacently deaf ears again.
Sorry to use such a broad brush -I've criticized others for doing this simplistically to cover a complex situation before now- but I can't see any other reason that these "Project for a new American Century" bastards get away with such long-planned global evil, their declared original target being seven Middle Eastern countries to be subdued, looted and wrecked.
American and other nation's lives mean nothing to these spawn of Satanic, totalitarian cowards.
+8 # Salus Populi 2014-03-15 16:37
The problem is that the rich and powerful and their faithfuls manumits never have to answer for their crimes. If Cheney had been indicted, tried, convicted and needled for serial mass murder, and the top neo-cons had not only been fired but put in prison for life, and their faithful stenographers in the press had been Streichered, they would not have "weathered the storm," nor come back.

When the Greek junta lost the war with Turkey, the junta was ousted and imprisoned for thier crimes against the Greek state. When Argentina lost to Thatcher's remnant of an imperium on the Malvinas, the hitherto immune fascist cabal suddenly were called to account and disappeared from the political scene.

But when Mandela decided to let the architects, white upper class, and enforcers of the Apartheid state get away with merely appearing before the Truth and Reconciliation commission -- far more even than Obama was willing to do for his predecessors, whose war crimes he praised and whose panopticon and tyrannical state he adopted and expanded -- South Africa failed to deliver to its majority, and the economy was cemented firmly into the realm of those who had profited from the misery of the outcasts.

Of course, "our" fascist class is also aided by the fact that the moneymen and institutional capital are the beneficiaries of the expansionist USan empire, and threatened by any whiff of redistribution, so in practice, the chances of the neo-cons facing any consequences were nil.
+9 # jsluka 2014-03-15 18:03
And, of course, Reiverpacific, don't forget to add watch their sports to the "panem et circences." There's a saying to the effect of "Can you imagine what the US ("America") would be like if men cared and new about politics as much as they do about sports?"
+19 # Rich Austin 2014-03-15 09:34
Turn over a neocon rock and you'll find a neolib clinging to its underside.

How many people can remember Gore taking a contrary position when Clinton was dismantling the economy? Ditto Kerry on the war, and on health care and other human rights? Couldn't slip a piece of onion skin between them and Bush! Gun-totting good 'ol boys cashed their welfare checks and then proceeded to vote against their own interests, although in all fairness the choices were Heckle or Jeckle.

Legislation, politicians or parties are not our salvation. We are our salvation! But unless we silence the wheels of commerce and take to the streets in peaceful protest until we win justice, lube up. More screwing is on the way.
+31 # Failed Republican 2014-03-15 10:35
Most of the neocon scum belong in prison, starting with that turd with a face Dick Cheney.
+9 # curmudgeon 2014-03-15 11:07
This effort is all about payback to Putin for helping thwart their efforts against Iran and Syria.
+7 # Activista 2014-03-15 11:30
Quoting curmudgeon:
This effort is all about payback to Putin for helping thwart their efforts against Iran and Syria.

except the popularity of Putin in Russia is close to 70% - seems that Cold War mentality - distrust is on both side.
"While Vladimir Putin has faced condemnation from the west for his troops' takeover of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, at home the Russian president is enjoying his highest approval ratings in the past two years. Research also appears to confirm solid support for Russian intervention in Ukraine."
One small note - how USA is censoring Paralympic Games in Sochi - anything positive about Russia is blocked by US corporate media ..
+7 # lorenbliss 2014-03-15 15:05
The Russians, who unlike USians are encouraged to study history, have long memories -- one of which is of the USian invasion of Russia c. 1918-1920, for which Google , and

Thus the Russians' distrust of the USian Empire and their concurrent support for Putin is based on reality -- not the least of which is the renewed and escalating threat of thermonuclear war.

That said, the endurance of the neocons -- whose Nazi-like foreign-policy is emphatically favored by the One Percent -- is a classic example of why, in the USian Empire, there is no such thing as "change we can believe in."

The ultimate truth is that "change" under capitalism is not only a Big Lie, it is patently impossible. The proof is not only in the omnipotence of the neocons, but in the methodical extermination of the New Deal and, following that, the death of the entire American Dream.

In this context, though Parry's analysis of the Ukrainian Crisis is obviously accurate, his persistent belief in a non-neocon Obama is either deluded or deliberately deceptive.
+10 # Activista 2014-03-15 11:14
Perry objective and brave (in present political situation) is very valuable.
"69% of Americans say they see Russia as threat to the U.S." CNN poll
It is scary how many Americans see war/military as solution.
Obama is a person who wants to build consensus - and NEO-CONS-LIB took advantage.
Look at reality - Afghans area asking Americans to leave. Strategic Crimea will be part of Russia. NATO is obsolete/impote nt. Put Perry article on the Facebook ... we need information, not old cold war propaganda. Do not vote for neo - cons - libs. Hillary is the most dangerous politician to vote for.
+8 # margpark 2014-03-15 11:29
Neocons have a hold on our government similar to a bone crushing pit bull bite. And I must declare here that pit bulls are nice dogs. The comment above is about their strong jaws. I would truly like to see the Neocon's hold broken.
+2 # anarchteacher 2014-03-15 14:32
In order to understand the nefarious neocons and their Wilsonian roots, one must begin at the beginning:

War Collectivism in World War I, by Murray N. Rothbard

Keynesian Myths, Monetary Central Planning and The Triumph of The Warfare State, by David Stockman

Stockman’s powerful speech detailing how Woodrow Wilson and the Fed enabled the creation (and sustaining) of the warfare state is one of the most important items I have ever read.

Its breadth and depth of scholarly research integrating Austrian economics and political history is truly phenomenal.

Together with such volumes as Robert Higgs’ Crisis and Leviathan, Murray N. Rothbard’s America’s Great Depression, Gurudas’ Treason: The New World Order, and Michael Swanson’s The War State: The Cold War Origins of the Military-Indust rial Complex and the Power Elite, 1945-1963, attentive and engaged readers can begin to gain a full understanding of how this satanic incubus arose within the fetid bowels of the American body politic, and how to challenge and abolish it.
+2 # walt 2014-03-15 15:53
Once again, Robert Parry nails it all quite well.

I just wish he, or someone else, would clearly define who the "neocons" are and what is their goal.

That might help any further use of the term.
0 # Activista 2014-03-15 16:24
I just wish he, or someone else, would clearly define who the "neocons" are and what is their goal. "
neocons wikipedia and New World Order
??? who advocate the assertive promotion of democracy and United States national interest in international affairs including through military means ...
This term is evolving ... I would include Hillary Clinton in the group ...
+3 # walt 2014-03-15 16:31
Activista: Yes, the standard definition. However, why are they so linked to Israel's goals (e.g, Syria and Iran)rather than those of the USA? That's what needs clarification.
+1 # Activista 2014-03-15 17:02
Quoting walt:
Activista: Yes, the why are they so linked to Israel's goals (e.g, Syria and Iran)rather than those of the USA? That's what needs clarification.

because NEOCONS are controlled by Israel and money of AIPAC ... US politics is controlled by money and Americans are brainwashed by Mass (money) Media.
Check how the cost of being elected (selected?) is going up
The Money Behind the Elections | OpenSecrets
+2 # walt 2014-03-16 09:07
Activista: Yes, I agree but would like writers like Parry to state this clearly. Using the term "neocon" has long disguised the real culprits and it's time to out them.
Right about AIPAC. 2/3 of our Congress attended their conference last week. Speakers were Sec. of the Treasury Jack Lew, Sens. Chris Coons, John McCain, Chuck Schumer,Bob Menendez, Former Sen. Joe Liebermann, Reps. Eric Cantor and Stenny Hoyer. That's a pretty good showing. When those Pakistani drone victims visited Congress with Alan Grayson, only about three reps even attended. A message, maybe?
+3 # anarchteacher 2014-03-15 17:43
Resources on Neoconservatism:
+3 # jsluka 2014-03-15 17:57
Apologies for the repeat posting of this; I wanted it to appear below MidwestTom's posting as a reply, not down here, and got the double-post instead. I'm a bit of a "technopeasant, " and prone to such errors.

Dear MidwesTom,

Please pardon my ignorance if I am uninformed here, but at least on the surface of it this looks like pure anti-semitism. If it isn't, perhaps you could explain why it isn't, and the evidential or factual basis of what you are saying. Finally, is the "Jewish" banking community any different from the "general" banking community - the "banksters"? Why single out Jewish banksters from the others? Please explain why this is not antisemitic?
Respectfully yours,
0 # jsluka 2014-03-15 18:49
Seadog gets "thumbs up," but I'm getting "thumbs down." I don't understand this at all.
+5 # NYGranny 2014-03-16 09:18
The neocons must please their fundamental christian base which believes that the rapture will not happen until Israel is completely restored to the Jews. Therefore, they must put Israel's interests before everything to keep that voting base on board. I doubt the Israelis will be reptured up, though. They aren't christians.
+4 # NYGranny 2014-03-16 09:28
By the way, it would be great if ethnicity was left out of this. Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, and probably the Koch brothers, are not Jewish.
0 # angelfish 2014-03-18 19:53
It would be nice to think it's a case of "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer". but I fear there is little difference between the regimes. Americans are at the mercy of BIG Everything. Party is of little consequence. It's the MONEY that talks, in fact, it is Money that's their ideology. So sad for ALL of us who had hoped for a BETTER World.

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