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Neoconservatives Gain Strength in New Bush Team

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2004 2:46 pm    Post subject: Neoconservatives Gain Strength in New Bush Team Reply with quote

Neoconservatives Gain Strength in New Bush Team

Reuters - World News
Nov 17, 2004

WASHINGTON - Neoconservatives, seen as the ideological architects of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, appear to be gaining strength in President Bush's second administration, foreign policy analysts said on Wednesday.

The "neocons," as they are known in Washington seemed in ideological retreat a year ago after the U.S. occupation of Iraq was shaken by a bloody insurrection.

Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, they argued that U.S. interests and values in the Middle East were best pursued through "regime change" in Baghdad. They predicted that U.S. troops would be welcomed as liberators and that a democratic Iraq would quickly emerge and lead to the spread of democracy throughout the region.

Although these rosy scenarios have not played out, at least not yet, Bush seems more than ever committed to them and to those who advocated them.

"The neocons are feeling quite confident right now. Things are breaking their way. A group of people who in any rational culture should be looking for other jobs are being promoted," said Jonathan Clarke of the conservative Cato Institute, co-author of a book on the neoconservative movement.

Many key appointments in Bush's second term remain to be made. But analysts believe the replacement of Colin Powell as secretary of state by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has already strengthened the neocons' hand.

Many are watching to see whether undersecretary of state John Bolton, a hard-liner on confronting Iran and North Korea, is promoted to the number two position at the State Department. Meanwhile at the Pentagon, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and undersecretary Douglas Feith, both key neocons, remain firmly in place.

"Bush has made it clear he wants to fight and win the war against various radical Islamic terrorist movements and he wants to expand the boundaries of the free world. He will use all available tools but diplomacy is always more effective when backed by the credible threat of force," said Clifford May, a former communications director for the Republican Party, now with the Center for Defense of Democracies.

Gary Schmitt of the Project for a New American Century, a neoconservative think-tank, said it did not matter much who in the administration took which position. What mattered was what Bush himself believed and said.


"Bush has never moved away from his policy agenda and since winning reelection has asserted it again. He thinks success is possible in Iraq and he has no intention of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons," he said.

Iraq was a key issue in the U.S. presidential campaign with the defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry arguing that decision to invade was based on false premises and that the U.S. occupation had been badly mismanaged.

"Bush regards the election as a vindication of his Iraq policy. All the nay-sayers, the doubters, the defeatists have emerged as losers," said Clarke.

Some argue that the Iraqi experience has made it virtually impossible for Bush to contemplate another such war. With its troops badly overstretched and the costs of the occupation mounting, it is hard to imagine he would enjoy much domestic support, let alone international backing.

"Whatever some hawks might like to do, the reality is that the Bush administration will face a series of constraints -- military, diplomatic, political and economic -- that will curb its ability to launch new preventive wars," said James Mann, of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in an online article for Foreign Policy Magazine.

In the case of Iran, Bush might have little appetite and little ability to launch a full-scale invasion. However, he could still order lesser military action, such as massive air strikes to destroy the Iranian nuclear program.

"That could happen. It's absolutely feasible," said Foreign Policy editor Moises Naim.

Naim noted that U.S. administrations for decades had employed air strikes as an instrument of policy. Former President Bill Clinton used air power against Serbia and launched missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan.

"There's nothing new about using air strikes. That would be the continuation of a traditional tool of U.S. foreign policy," he said.
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