The September 12 Mindset

My take on the growing conservative debate over Iraq in yesterday's Sunday Times of London. Money quote:

[W]hat you have begun to see in America is a deep and deepening split on the right. The neocons, still steeped in ideological conformity, have responded to setbacks in Iraq and elsewhere with louder calls for upping the ante. The solution to the mess in Iraq is ... to bomb or invade Iran. The obvious next step in the battle between Hezbollah and Israel is ... for Israel to re-invade and occupy southern Lebanon. If that fails ... invade or bomb Syria.

Last week, two deans of neoconservatism issued clarion calls along these lines. The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer urged an Israeli ground invasion of Lebanon. The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol argued that the best response to the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah attack on Israel was the following: "We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?" You might say that the mindset of the neocons is very September 12. It has not altered one jot since that day. It is as if we have learnt nothing from the debacle in Iraq about the limits of military force in changing culture and politics in countries we do not fully understand and do not have the expertise or manpower to micro-manage.

It is as if the past five years had never happened — and in the rigid, theoretical worldview of the neocons, they haven't. But non-neoconservatives have actually observed the past few years and committed the cardinal sin of thinking about them.

I should add that I don't doubt, as I write in the column, that the neoconservative insight into the Middle East isn't, in many ways, a deep and important one. It just requires adaptation and adjustment under fast-changing circumstances.