To channel Colbert. Many readers have written that the notion that the 1990s were not a veiled period of war is factually untrue - as al Qaeda prepared in the first WTC attack, the USS Cole and other outrages. Their point is well taken, except that it does seem, all these years later, that our sudden embrace of the war metaphor (and I include myself) may have been over-reach.
It's worth recalling that the US government had the means, information and warning to prevent 9/11 and failed (forgivably) to envisage an attack of that ambition and drama and vileness. And that the attack contained no actual weapons, apart from our own technology, and amounted to 19 nut-job Jihadists. Yes this was a new and potent threat and it came out of the blue for most of us. But one wonders if we took the bait too quickly, if understandably, and would have been better advised not to have junked the 9/10 mindset entirely.
It's also worth recalling that the main neoconservative concern before 9/11 was China, whence the military threat was supposed to emanate. They were itching for a fight and found the 1990s caesura somewhat disorienting. Another reader writes:
Ironically, it is conservatives, more than anybody else, who should be celebrating the triumph of liberalism. They seem far too committed to waging ideological warfare to have noticed it, but on the large questions they have won, and rather decisively so.
There are compromises to be made, of course. One could not realistically suggest that the welfare state is going anywhere, but where are the grand ideological projects which attempt to radically reorder or improve the nature of men and societies? Where is the threat of social revolution? The overwhelming majority of the Left now accepts capitalism (!), albeit in a more regulated form, with certain redistributive measures and so on.
So yes, it could be said that the raison d'être of Neoconservatism is to fight. More precisely, it is to continue to fight the twentieth century. And who can blame them? They are ideologues, and there was never a better time to be so...
And this is why I find Obama a perfectly acceptable pragmatic trimmer to the center-left. His concessions to the conservative era are profound; but he seeks to move on and forward. Conservatives, sadly, want to go back - to the techniques that Gingrich pioneered and Rove finessed. They don't seem to realize that this is what led them into the incoherent wilderness they now angrily occupy.