by Daniel Greenfield
The false meme behind the attacks on John Bolton.
When archeologists dig through blue state landfills, and reach the strata of the Bush years, they’ll find copies of Dude, Where’s My Country, Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, and a million newspapers accusing the “neocons” of “beating the drums of war”.
Unlike Michael Moore and Radiohead, there’s still a drumbeat of drum beating headlines.
A Washington Post piece claims that the Trump administration is "beating the drums toward war" while blaming John Bolton and the "neo-cons". Alternet declares, "Neocons Won’t Stop Until They Get Their War With Iran". At The National, there's a headline, "Neocons of America Want War with Iran".
An ad from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, one of the three hundred Democrats in the 2020 clown car, released an ad claiming that "Neocons/Neolibs" are clamoring for war in Venezuela. And then another ad accusing them of wanting a war in Iran. Throw enough darts at a map and you're bound to hit something.
The Neocons are beating those metaphorical war drums. Against the war.
David Frum, the Never Trumper who invented the term, “Axis of Evil”, rolled out an Atlantic article titled, “Take It From an Iraq War Supporter—War With Iran Would Be a Disaster”.
The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin retweeted the article, declaring, “Agree with every word”.
Their new axis of evil isn’t Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea. It’s Trump, Trump and Trump.
A FOX News personality claimed that “MSNBC, CNN, Max Boot, Bill Kristol” were agitating for war.
Last year, Max Boot went on CNN to argue that, “The leadership of a country like Iran seems more stable and rational than the President of the United States.”
That’s agitating for war alright. Against Trump who had just threatened the Islamic Republic.
In a recent Washington Post column, Boot accused Bolton of trying to provoke a war with Iran. “I fear that Bolton is trying to instigate a costly conflict that could engulf the entire Middle East,” he warned.
That’s not agitating for war. It’s a false flag conspiracy theory you would expect from Michael Moore.
Instead of agitating for war, Never Trumper neocons are crowding into the overcrowded anti-war camp, alongside CNN and MSNBC, and accusing Trump and Bolton of plotting to start a war with Iran.
In a column last year, that same FOX News personality accused Bolton of being in the same camp as “Bill Kristol, Max Boot and Nancy Pelosi.”
But when Trump picked John Bolton as his national security adviser, he was attacked by Kristol and Boot.
“It would be a catastrophe if John Bolton replaces HR McMaster. It would lead to a significantly greater risk of Korean War II, this time with nukes,” Boot tweeted in response to Trump’s pick.
"John Bolton as national security advisor is a little nervous-making," Kristol complained, accusing him of not really being a neoconservative, but a “a national interest, America-First kind of guy."
That’s the equivalent of excommunication from the church of neoconservativism.
Bill Kristol’s current project, The Bulwark, is funded by leftist Persian billionaire Pierre Omidyar.
Defending Democracy Together, Kristol’s project with Omidyar, attacks Trump over Russia. That’s typical for a Never Trumper movement whose only remaining national security interest is Russian conspiracies.
Like Michael Moore, neoconservatism hasn’t weathered the Obama and Trump years all that well.
Their hoary old vision of finishing the work of WWI by leveraging American power to spread democracy around the world was dead a decade ago. Never Trumpism has become an ideology of last resort for pundits and experts whose entire worldview had become as implausible as it was irrelevant.
Neoconservatives had made a significant contribution during the Cold War by keeping alive the idea that the world was divided between democracies and dictatorships. The idea was intellectually flawed, but it provided a moral center for our struggle with Communism. Its revival after 9/11 glaringly revealed the flaws of applying a philosophy meant for Japan, Germany or Russia, to the Muslim world.
Trump’s America First approach used national interest as the test for intervention. Some neoconservatives reacted as if he had walked into church and asked how much money he could get for being a believer. Nation-building, like free trade, was supposed to be an innate good. Practicing it would help everyone. Asking for the details of how the magic worked was heretical blasphemy.
Never Trumper neoconservatives have formed an alliance with Democrats to fight a new imaginary Cold War. But the real target isn’t Russia. Like their Democrat allies, they have no serious plan to fight Putin. Instead they’re parading around a dead ideology to take cheap shots at Trump and elect Democrats.
The last remnant of their idea is naming Trump as an enemy of democracy who must be defeated. What was once a global map has been reduced to running attacks ads for Democrats in Alabama elections.
It’s a long way from Basra to Bama.
Why did Boot, Rubin and so many others flip on Iran? Because they never believed their own rhetoric.
The drums of war with Iran aren’t beating because no one is paying them to beat them. Instead they’re being paid by their new bosses to beat the anti-war drums. And they wouldn’t support a war with Iran unless the ayatollahs traded their black turbans for red MAGA caps.
Never Trumper foreign policy has been boiled down to supporting any country Trump is on bad terms with and opposing any country that he’s on good terms with.
Earlier this month, Max Boot accused Trump of being “a tool of foreign leaders who don’t have America’s best interests at heart” like… Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.
It was the kind of line you might have expected to hear from Pat Buchanan a decade ago.
Jennifer Rubin, once one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s biggest fans, tweeted out her support for an editorial titled, “Time for Netanyahu to Go”.
The problem with Netanyahu is that he’s on good terms with Trump.
In the new Axis of Evil, anyone who likes Trump is an authoritarian and anyone whom Trump hates must be a democrat. That’s how Boot could favorably compare Iran’s leaders to President Trump.
Iran is now part of the Axis of Resistance. Israel is part of the Axis of Evil.
North Korea shifts from one to the other depending on the current progress of negotiations.
The Never Trumper neocon worldview has narrowed down to hating Trump. The only drums of war they’re beating are against him because he’s become a convenient symbol of the world they lost.
A world of grand alliances, overarching philosophies and transnational struggles.
They adeptly switched from pro-war to anti-war because they were never warmongers. War is dirty and messy. They were theorists who believed that they knew what was best for the world. They did not prefer America to any other country. Only a particular set of ideas that America briefly embodied.
America is no longer fighting wars for ideas. If we do bomb Iran, it won’t be to spread democracy.
So they’re against it.
They never wanted to stop Iran’s nukes. Instead they wanted to spread their beliefs.
The Ayatollahs seem less of a threat to those beliefs these days than President Trump does.
It’s why Boot, Rubin and Frum wouldn’t consider bombing Tehran. They might bomb the White House.
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Photo by Gage Skidmore
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
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