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Sunday, April 03, 2011

The narcissism of small differences: neocons vs liberal interventionists, (Bushcons vs Obammunists, mainstream Gops vs mainstream Dems...)

Just Like Bush
What’s the difference between Obama’s Libyan war and neoconservatism?
(The New Republic) -- by David Rieff --

...In a sense, what some are hailing as the Obama Doctrine on so-called humanitarian intervention seems like nothing so much as fusion of the liberal interventionism of the 1990s, during the period that stretched from Bosnia through Kosovo to Sierra Leone, and the neoconservative interventionism of the Bush era. Indeed, despite what liberal interventionist supporters of President Obama and of the Libyan war have claimed, there was little in the president’s speech that, stripped of some of its religious cloaking, could not have come out of the mouth of George W. Bush, above all the Bush of the “democracy exporting/wars fought in the name of values” Second Inaugural in 2005. Liberal interventionists indignantly deny this of course, claiming that they believe in multilateralism whereas neoconservatives do not, and that they believe in soft power, or, in Secretary of State Clinton’s formulation, smart power, whereas neoconservatives are fixated on hard power.

The problem with this is that the liberal interventionists’ idea of multilateralism is one in which other nations join America’s efforts. “The world works best when America leads” is the way the late Richard Holbrooke liked to put it, which neatly encapsulates the liberal hawks’ view that they can have U.S. hegemony and multilateralism, which a more skeptical observer might be tempted to call hegemony without tears. But most of this is institutional sleight of hand. These interventions happen if the United States will provide the muscle and don’t if it will not. That is how defenders of the Libyan war—up to an including the president—can pretend that the fact that formally there is indeed a coalition, and that the United States has technically ceded the lead role in the operation to NATO (again, as if NATO was not a U.S.-dominated institution), makes such an intervention a horse of an entirely different color from those initiated by the horrid neocons, and never mind that, on this logic, in strictly institutional terms, the Soviets could have called the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 a Warsaw Pact operation.

In reality, what separates the liberal interventionist and neoconservative approaches to so-called humanitarian military interventions are perfect illustrations of Freud’s idea of the narcissism of small differences. Both sides think it is America’s duty to reshape the world into a more democratic place. And no matter which side’s narrative is in the ascendant, the results somehow always turn out to be war...MORE...LINK

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