Saturday, December 03, 2005


We are unabashed admirers of American neoconservatives. We are, like them, liberals mugged by reality -- strong idealists with a clear vision for the world.

Here we take stock of the progress of aggressive neoconservatism.

Unlike realists, who believe in deploying national power for self-sustenance, neoconservatives believe in deploying national power as a force for good. "Good" is not an abstract construct -- we believe in the absolute goodness of harmonized freedom and equality. Both must co-exist for the good of the world.

Thus, we reject, for example, unchecked freedom to clerics and despots for suppressing equality of those they lead. Likewise, we reject "equality-based" political tyrannies that suppress freedoms of their citizens (e.g., Marxism).

For realists, values and interests are independent things. For neoconservatives, values are a sub-set of national interests.

All this came together in America's post-9/11 attitude to the world. It saw itself an unrivalled power challenged by radical extremists who offered a vision sans freedom and equality. Both Osama and Saddam personified this challenge.

America decided to use its national power as a force for good by attacking those who threatened its values, hence its interests. This was a test of whether America had sufficient power to enforce standards of good conduct across the world. If America, with all its might, could not pull this off, then neoconservatism would have a problem -- not a conceptual problem, but a problem of means.

Regretfully, it must be said now, that things have not gone the neoconservative way -- our way. An impatient American public and a myopic global opinion have turned against the war. In other words, we neoconservatives have a problem.

We fervently hope Washington does not cut and run -- as some are arguing. That would be a horrendous mistake. We also hope people not see America's difficulties in implementing its neoconservative vision as the negation of neoconservatism itself.

Still, its clear that if America hasn't been able to enforce its noble will in small Iraq, India cannot expect to do the same, with similar tactics, in its massive neighborhood. This does not mean our advocacy for enforcing political modernity on our neighbors is mistaken; all it says is that we'll need coalitions of the willing to achieve our ends. We need a strong capability and experience in building such coalitions.

India's partnership with US and UK to isolate the Nepalese tyrant is a terrific case in point. We need to build similar coalitions for advancing our values in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Burma.

We hope Indians do not see the Iraq matter as a crutch to advocate "dealing with the devil" realism. The thing to remember here is that 9/11 was a clear consequence of historical American realism. Realism may be a short-term pacifier, but it's also a long-term landmine.

Bottom line, these may be trying times for neconservatives, but that only means we need to re-affirm our resolve and re-assess our tactics. This does not mean that we cut and run back to the darkness of political realism. We hope India becomes increasingly neo-conservative aligned, but having learnt from the Iraq experience, pushes forward with better tactics and greater success.


cynical nerd said...

PR: It was a good read until I came across this:
The thing to remember here is that 9/11 was a clear consequence of historical American realism.
Back during the Soviet-Afghan war, Willian Casey, the CIA director sent agents to train mujahideen in car bombing techniques and gave intel + hardware like Stinger. Casey himself was convinced by Perle, Wolfowitz, Ledeen, etc.

The fundamental problem with thi was the definition of "evil" changes. At that time, the neo-cons saw the Afghans as freedom fighters against the Evil Empire. The neo-cons had no problem when Middle Eastern regimes let lose the most virulent jihadis like Zawhari out of their prisons to fight there.

Primary Red said...

Actually, it was American realists who enagaged in the conduct you criticize. We are in agreement that such dealing with the devil is what causes long-term problems.

Best regards.

doubtinggaurav said...


While I can appreciate American Neo-conservatism, I do not think it will do any good in Indian situation.

In my opinion, if India is to have any standing in world, it should be able to exert influence through persuasion and other means, just like US does in "its backyard".
Building "Coalition of Willing" will ensure international presence and hamper our ability to intervene effectivily in our own neighbourhood.
What we need is our own version of
Monroe Doctrine

"Coalition of willing" has been able to achieve nothing in Nepal ,for all purposes King is leaning towards China, like his father did in 50's, however, unlike 50's China is much better placed to control Nepal.

All this rhetoric about democracy notwithstanding, Nepal is fed up with its corrupt politician and King, so it willingly succumb to Maoists who being true JNUites will establish "rule of proletariat" and launch class warfare in India.

While I am sure that reasons behind Iraq war were noble and Neo- Cons have a plan for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, by the time America is free from Iraq and possibly Iran, in all probability Neo- Cons would have lost war.

While I will always prefer to be mugged by reality to dead by delusion, I am not in favour of "One Size Fits All"

Jaffna said...

Primary Red,

Brilliant piece. You would do well today in the institution that I work for :-).

The neo-conservative position, in my mind, remains a "hard-nosed realism" despite the often cynical rhetoric of democracy and freedom. One can not otherwise explain the Bush administration's continued reliance on Pakistan. I tend to prefer a rhetoric-free "realism" premised on ideology/ethics as a means, not an end in itself. Power, economic affluence and civilizational identity are the sole ends of foreign policy to my mind.

I exclude domestic policy from this definition. The rule of law, social justice, public welfare and institutional checks are additional ends in the local arena. This dichotomy between foreign policy and domestic policy might well be the flaw in my reasoning.

Your compelling editorial forces me to rethink all this. I fly to Sri Lanka's palm-fringed (and land mine-infested) far north in the coming week which would provide me with the opportunity to pause and reflect in cyber-silence.


Primary Red said...

Thanks, Jaffna & keep safe!

doubtinggaurav said...


Well,What about readers of this blog !
I better start taking medication :-).

If I could be excused for being so bold, I suggest you to read Arun Shourie's latest

"Will the iron fence save a tree hollowed by termites?
Defence imperatives beyond the military"

And yes do keep safe.


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