Thursday, June 04, 2015

Robert Kaplan promotes war and the alleged virtues of imperialism

Leading neoconservative Robert Kaplan has come up with a new rhetorical twist to justify the constant theme of neocon foreign policy: war, war and more war.

He gives one high-profile version of it in The Ruins of Empire in the Middle East Foreign Policy 05/25/2015. The original title Foreign Policy put on the article was, "It's Time to Bring Imperialism Back to the Middle East." In an addendum to the piece, Kaplan claims the earlier title "misrepresented what I wrote."

But Kaplan is pitching the same kind of frank imperialism that was so popular among neocons leading up to the Iraq War, 2003 edition: "The challenge now [in the Middle East] is less to establish democracy than to reestablish order. For without order, there is no freedom for anyone."

Ari Heistein discusses Kaplan's analysis in Kaplan’s Fantasies of Empire and the Myth of the Arab Strongman Informed Comment 05/30/2015. He points to problems in Kaplan's mini-sketch of history. Like this from Kaplan:

And it is not just imperial forces that have declined and left chaos in their wake. The fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, and the reduction of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria to that of an embattled statelet has ended the era of post-colonial strongmen, whose rule was organically connected to the legacy of imperialism. After all, those dictators ruled according to the borders erected by the Europeans. And because those imperial borders did not often configure with ethnic or sectarian ones, those dictatorial regimes required secular identities in order to span communal divides. All this has been brutally swept away.
Hestein replies:

While one of Kaplan’s key arguments was that “Totalitarianism was the only answer to the end of Western imperialism” in reality totalitarianism was the answer to imperialism. When looking at Egypt, a country ruled by Arab strongmen for nearly six decades and one of the most influential powers in the Arab Middle East, Kaplan’s claim immediately collapses. The Free Officers deposed King Farouk in 1952, which signaled the end of Egypt’s thirty year parliamentary era and Gamal Abdel Nasser’s rise to power. A short time after taking office, Nasser destroyed much of Egypt’s civil society and consolidated power through political violence and repression — he was the quintessential Arab strongman. Egypt’s history seems to corroborate Kaplan’s claim with only one problem: the British had up to 80,000 troops in Egypt until 1956.
I recently wrote about Kaplan's latest warmongering themes in Neocon bigwig Robert Kaplan on the virtues of war and chaos 01/13/2015,

See also my post of nearly eight years ago on Kaplan's war fantasies, Over the cliff with the neocons one more time? 09/03/2007.

Kaplan has been providing more of the same in places like this article in The Atlantic, In Defense of Empire April 2014 issue.

Neocons differed even in the 1990s and 2000s over their ideological cover. Some preferred the rhetoric of democratic imperialism while others talked more in the terms of allegedly benign order on which Kaplan relies here. Digby Parton writes in Restoring the awe Hullabaloo 06/02/82015:

[Zach Beauchamp] goes on to say that Bush administration believed after 9/11 that the middle east needed to be remade in order to stop jihadism and Iraq was the most logical place to start. But that's not the way it was. The policymakers in the Bush administration had been lobbying to go into Iraq long before there was any fear of jihadism. In fact, they barely acknowledged jihadism existed. Now it's true that they wanted to remake the middle east but it was for a host of reasons that had to do with maintaining American hegemony, oil, Israel etc. Jihadism wasn't even on their radar, hence the August 6th [2001] memorandum ["Bin Laden determined to strike in US"] to which Bush replied, "ok you've covered your ass..."

Beauchamp quotes a number of Bush officials from their various books and interviews saying they were motivated by 9/11. But if it was, it was only because it gave them the excuse to do what they had wanted to do for a decade [in particular, invading Iraq]. ...

Bush's freedom agenda held no answers to these problems because it wasn't a real agenda. It was a PR campaign designed to make Americans feel good about themselves for invading a country that hadn't attacked us. And, to be fair, there were neoconservatives who actually wanted to believe this drivel about the "birthing of democracy." I'm fairly sure that Bush was one of them. (I used to always refer to them as "starry-eyed neocons.") But you can bet Cheney and Rumsfeld didn't believe a bit of it --- they were part of a hardocre [sic], imperial clacque that went all the way back to the 70s. To the extent they signed on to the "lighter side" of neoconservatism it was purely for propaganda purposes. Their motives were about showcasing American power, period.

It's dreary having to talk about this again. But the results in Iraq are what they are. Many people predicted it would come to something like this and maybe it was inevitable at some point. But regardless of their "true motivations" Bush' neoconservative cronies had been pushing for this thing since the first gulf war and knew they'd never have a better opportunity.

9/11 was a gift not a motive.

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