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Barack Obama: merited nemesis of the "neocons".

They were not conservatives at all, but a mixed group of idealists, former Trotskyists, social engineers and beneficent imperialists, with no particular attachment to tradition, who wished to remake the world in America's image. Their project had a kind of blind virtue to it, and loads of faith. The Arab world, given a chance, would embrace liberal democracy. It would work in Iraq, and then, by force of example, it would catch on, like a happy contagion, throughout the region.

It is true that there are free elections in Iraq. But there is not, and never will be, a liberal democracy in that country. Iraqi politics is the politics of group identity. The majority Shia rule. They will always be friendly with their brothers-in-faith in Iran. Hence the neocons have dramatically increased the sphere of influence of the government in Tehran. After much resistance on the American side, the Iraqi government won an agreement that all coalition forces would be out of Iraq in 2011. "Thank you for overthrowing the hated Saddam Hussein and his friends from Tikrit, and enabling majority rule here. Now, please leave as soon as possible. Our Sadrist brothers-in-faith want you out right away, but we've got them contained for the time being, so be grateful we're giving you till 2011. And thank you again."

A trillion dollars, some say two, have been thrown at Iraq, at a time when the motto among traditional conservatives in the United States was fast becoming "Rebuild America first". It was a motto of those on the paleo-conservative right. Merle Haggard is the country-and-western singer who most epitomises this genuinely conservative tradition, and he recorded a song called "Rebuild America first": "Our highways and bridges are falling apart. Who's blest, and who has been cursed? There's things to be done all over the world, but let's rebuild America first."

True conservatives are not idealists or blind optimists. If anything, they tend to be pessimists, with a somewhat cynical view of human nature--the more things change, the more they remain the same. Conservatives value tradition and respect the traditional order in other, vastly different, cultures. They do not go abroad trying to liberalise traditionally illiberal cultures. They value the hearth and home, they tend not to travel much, they believe in frugality, and they are not flashy, not full of new, bright ideas. The neo-conservative advisers around President Bush in his first term (for he woke up to them at last, and sent them packing) have left America more friendless than it's ever been before, and poorer, but the worst thing they did was to call themselves any kind of conservatives.

The "Obamacons" are American conservatives who voted for Barack Obama because they wanted to punish the neo-conservatives, and the impulse is at least understandable. Unfortunately it worked to the cost of John McCain, who if not a traditional conservative is at least half-way there, a good man with too much sense of honour to dissociate himself totally from the disastrous Bush legacy. Even the Presidency he would not win dishonourably. He is the last and perhaps the finest victim of the neo-conservatives, who have now crawled into a hole somewhere, thank God.

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Title Annotation:Editorial comment
Author:Ayres, Philip
Publication:National Observer - Australia and World Affairs
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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