It’s Friday, and payday, because Monday is the Halloween Bank Holiday here in Ireland. Yes, you read that right – Halloween is a big thing here, probably because it’s in opposition to the Guy Fawkes Day celebrations in England. A day off for some, but not for me. I’m working, but I get a day credit that I will use later in the year.
Earlier this week I saw the first part of a new BBC documentary, The Power Of Nightmares, which has some very interesting things to say about the origins of the Neo-Conservative movement in the USA (the NeoCons), and Al-Qaeda, even how their respective ideas may have evolved from the apparent “moral vacuity” in 1960’s America. The Guardian preview and Times Online review have more detail on the ideas presented here, but the most interesting aspect for me was the apparent influence of NeoCons at the highest levels of the US government.
What are Neo-Conservatives? The term is used today to denote those who studied under Leo Strauss, a professor at Chicago University, or who were influenced by Strauss’ writings. The best resource I have found so far is a detailed article on Wikipedia.
A new name to me was the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) which, in its own words, is “dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle; and that too few political leaders today are making the case for global leadership.” Three names are cause for concern in particular: Dick Cheney (US Vice-President), Donald Rumsfeld (US Secretary of Defense), and Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld’s Deputy Secretary). All are signatories to the PNAC Statement Of Principles (1998), and Wikipedia even names Cheney and Rumsfeld as PNAC co-founders.
PNAC is only a recent development, but Rumsfeld was actually in the Nixon administration, and held the posts of Chief Of Staff and Secretary Of Defense under Ford (1973-76). The documentary alleges that Rumsfeld, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and others strongly influenced Reagan into starting the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, a.k.a. “Star Wars”) as a means of keeping the Soviet Union in the spotlight as a threat to the USA, when its economy was collapsing and was actually no real threat. The reasons were based on a theory that the best or only way of unifying the American people behind their leaders was the presence of a threat to their national security, and if one did not actually exist, then it had to be created.
Why all does this bother me? Because it goes a long way towards explaining US policy of the last 24 years as founded on ideology, and not pragmatism, an experiment that may have gone horribly wrong. Or has it? The attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in September 2001 may have been just the unifying factor the Neo-Conservatives looked for, and played out to their advantage. I clearly have to do a lot more reading on this topic before it will make much sense to me.