Will the unity of a reactionary old guard survive the current protests in Iran?

I am speaking of course of the Republicans and their various epigones in the colonies i.e. here.

With two candidates in the election who are both Islamists, both believers in the system by which the Guardian Council exists above the electoral process, neither of whom believe in a western style secular liberal-democracy, Barack Obama has chosen to take a realist position which — amazingly bizarre — puts real US interests (ie that the US have the least worst relationship with whoever ends up in power) over projecting its self-image.

This has exposed him to scorn from both the neo-con right, and the neo-con/cruise missile left, who want him to make some statement about what former Communist Party of Australia member (joined post Prague 68) David Burchell calls, without giggling apparently, “the universality of human rights”.

Quite aside from the fact that the protestors aren’t unequivocally campaigning for that — I don’t think everyone or indeed most out on the streets want gay marriage, and equal rights for women — they’re campaigning against being cheated in an election which is quite a different thing, the one thing that would hurt them is for America to come galumphing in, making a specific Iranian struggle a proxy war of east and west.

For the protestors — an urban student based crowd, not hugely popular with rural Iranians, who support Ahmadinejad — this would be the ultimate disaster. But people like John McCain — who said bizarrely “this is an American issue”(!) — don’t care about that -– their desperate desire is to project an American ideal outwards, so that the real task of government, reforming a sick and debilitated US society and economy, is endlessly deferred.

Now however, there is dissention at the heart of the neocon project. Paleoconservatives such as Pat Buchanan long since split from this narcissistic power-wank approach — now people like George Will and Peggy Noonan have been denouncing their fellow right-wingers for attacking Obama’s restrained approach.

Indeed, this seems to be a swing point — for a long time the neocon left (Hitchens, liberals like Michael Ignatieff, mad Melbourne Maoists like Albert Langer etc) were the sort of crazy ladies’ auxiliary to the right wing project. The right is now so split on realist vs. projective foreign policy that the numbers are about equal. Neocon foreign policy is driven as much from shallow, fantasising ex-leftists as it is from the right.

What unites the neocons is a desperate desire to give their own political project meaning by co-opting the struggles and problems of other places and peoples of which they know little. (Not for example how Greg Sheridan has gradually distanced himself from the remnant roundheads in his own paper).

The neocon project is nearly dead. This aged group of hermetic mad mullahs in their DC madrasa thinktanks can hear the beating of fists on the door.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey