Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Big Question: What is neo-conservatism, and how influential is it today?

By Rupert Cornwell
The Independent

"Have the neo-cons been discredited?

Not necessarily. Their credibility has been shredded by Iraq, but Kristol and others blame the failure not on the original grand design, but on the poor organisation of the occupation by Rumsfeld and his minions at the Pentagon. The original principles of PNAC are still very much the cornerstone of US foreign policy.

The crucial test case of neo-con influence is now Iran. In contrast with Iraq, Bush's instinct seems to be to let diplomacy run its course in the dispute over Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons programme. But neo-cons are urging him (and/or Israel) to take no chances and bomb Iran, just as Iraq was attacked three years ago.

Do the neo-cons have a British equivalent?

Most certainly, in the person of Tony Blair. The Labour leader is in many respects an identikit US neo-con. Obviously Britain, unlike America, doesn't have the power to reshape the world. Nor is Mr Blair as unabashedly pro-Israel as Mr Bush. But he is a left-of-centre politician who espouses a robust and ideals-driven foreign policy, despite being fully aware of the unpopularity of his chief ally, and of UK domestic opposition to the neo-cons' main policy, the invasion of Iraq. If that isn't neo-conservatism, what is?"

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