NEOCONSERVATISM: DEMOCRACY OR HEGEMONY? Reading Shadi Hamid new article reminds me that I really think liberals ought to stop saying that the Bush administration's foreign policy -- or that of the neoconservative faction within the Republican Party -- has ever really had anything to do with democracy. In particular, framing the foreign policy debate as one in which liberals and neoconservatives agree about democracy, but disagree about methods, while realists disagree with liberals and neocons alike on this topic is, I think, highly misleading.
Neoconservatism is an ideology about American hegemony and the need to defend, entrench, and expand it through constant forceful action. Somewhat ironically, all this used to be better undertood. In the waning days of the first Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz, working for then-SecDef Dick Cheney wrote a controversial Defense Planning Guidance. As Patrick Tyler reported at the time for The New York Times ("U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop," March 8, 1992), the noteworthy thing about the document was that "With its focus on this concept of benevolent domination by one power, the Pentagon document articulates the clearest rejection to date of collective internationalism, the strategy that emerged from World War II when the five victorious powers sought to form a United Nations that could mediate disputes and police outbreaks of violence."
Democracy and related notions about liberalism and so forth play very little functional role in this. If you look at various regimes or political movements in the Middle East, neoconservative attitudes toward them are formed entirely by their attitudes toward American regional hegemony rather than their attitudes toward democracy. The circle is squared simply because neoconservatives believe that American hegemony is necessary for the preservation of freedom around the world.