There was an interesting piece in Salon last Thursday by Jordan Michael Smith in which he argued that there was a bit of battle going on between right-wing US conservatives and neoconservatives over how the ‘problem’ of the Muslim Brotherhood in the various Arab countries that have undergone or are currently undergoing revolutionary change, should be handled.
According to Smith, right-wing American conservatives would, at the risk of compromising the ideology of ‘democracy’ in the newly ‘liberated’ Arab nations, prefer not to allow the Muslim Brotherhood any opportunity at gaining power in these countries.
The neoconservatives, however, according to Smith, are willing to give the Muslim Brotherhood a chance and see how they scrub if and when they come to form or be a part of the governments of these newly ‘liberated’ nations.
In his argument, Smith lists those who he sees as right-wing conservatives who hold the view that the Muslim Brotherhood should be prevented from gaining power at any cost, and he similarly lists those who are neoconservative who advocate giving the Muslim Brotherhood a go as part of the democratic process.
Where Smith gets it wrong is in who he lists as right-wing conservatives and who he lists as neoconservatives.
As right-wing conservatives Smith lists Andrew McCarthy, a national security columnist with National Review; John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN under George W. Bush; Frank Gaffney, and Michelle Bachmann.
As neoconservatives Smith listed; Jamie Fly of the neocon think tank Foreign Policy Initiative; Robert Kagan, a strategist with the neocon think tank American Enterprise Institute; Dan Senor, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, and Paula Dobriansky, a well-known neocon advisor that also worked in the George W. bush administration.
The problem with Smith’s lists is that, with the possible exception of Michelle Bachmann, all of those listed as right-wing conservatives are actually neoconservatives as well – and even Bachmann has all the ideological characteristics required of being a neocon.
A difference of opinion within neoconservative ranks – especially over matters relating to who to support and not support in Islamic countries – does not create such a wide a rift as to alienate one group from the main neocon core group to the extent that they are no longer ‘neocons’. The fact is neoconservatives long before there was any hint of Arab revolution in the air, have as part of their rhetoric and propaganda supported the notion of ‘democracy’. Paula Dobriansky, for example, was Bush’s strongest advocate of the so-called ‘freedom agenda’. Indeed all those in the ‘democracy’ camp have been noisily advocating ‘democracy’ as part of the rhetoric calling for regime change in Iraq before the invasion, Iran, Syria, and even Saudi Arabia for years. Their motivation hasn’t been so much because they love democracy so much as all these countries were hostile to Israel – which, of course, is where the interests of all those listed really lay.
This difference of opinion within the neoconservative ranks is nothing new. During the Balkans conflict in the 1990’s there was a split in the neoconservative ranks as to how best to deal with the deadly situation there. Some advocated intervention in order to stop the killings of innocent civilians – most of who happened to be Muslims – while others advocated an isolationist arguing that intervention was not ‘in America’s interest’ inasmuch that there could evolve a Muslim-dominated state in Eastern Europe if the anti- Muslim Serbia were bombed into capitulation and intervention would only be supported by some neoconservatives if it were in the cause of ‘democratisation’ – which it wasn’t, it was for humanitarian reasons.
Those that shouted loudest in their rhetoric and propaganda about ‘democracy’ had no choice but to support the notion of the Muslim Brotherhood taking part in the process of ‘democracy’.
Chances are, however, that both the ‘neocons’ and the ‘right-wing conservatives’ will find a unified voice once again if and when the Muslim Brotherhood do come to power and begin to show that their idea of ‘democracy’ is far different from the neocons of the US view of democracy – especially when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood’s policies relating to Israel.
In January 2006 the Palestinians had an election which the neoconservatives supported – until, that is, the wrong side, Hamas, won.
The rest is history… It, no doubt, will repeat itself.