After The Neocons: America at the crossroads
Yale University Press/Profile Books, $35 hb, 226 pp,
Ethical Realism: A vision for America’s role in the world
by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman
Pantheon Books, $47.95 hb, 199 pp
Beyond American failure in Iraq lies a second, deeper failure. America’s Iraq project was always intended by its proponents not just to fix Iraq and transform the Middle East, but also to demonstrate a new grand policy concept for the twenty-first century. This was the Bush Doctrine, enshrining the now-familiar ideas of the neo-conservatives: America’s power, especially its military power, is omnipotent; its values and institutions are universally desired and universally applicable; hence America’s destiny – and after 9/11 even its very survival – requires it to use this immense power, pre-emptively and unilaterally if necessary, to reshape the world in America’s image. The neo-cons themselves called it a vision for a New American Century.
For a time, to many people, this radical new vision seemed right. Not anymore. When things first went wrong in Iraq, its supporters said that the Bush Doctrine’s good ideas had been let down by bad implementation. Now it is clear that the problems in Iraq are not ones of implementation but of conception. The Bush Doctrine has failed its test, and only those whose careers require it still cling to the wreckage. The rest, including much of America’s formidable foreign policy intelligentsia, is already hurrying back to their drawing boards to design a replacement. The race is on to create the next grand plan for America’s role in the World.