David Cameron has sought to keep his opponents on their toes once again. He began his tenure in December 2005 as a radical reformer, then returned to the Conservative comfort zone, only to now revert back to the role of reformer. Yesterday Cameron inisted that he is ‘no neo con’ and stated his belief that you can’t impose democracy ‘at 10,000 feet’ or ‘down the barrel of a gun’. Whilst I myself would classify myself as a neo-con, or at least leaning in that direction, I understand why Cameron is attempting to present a more moderate approach to foreign policy. I disagree, but I understand.
The prevailing consensus is that neo-cons are irrational, aggressive war mongers who seek not to convince but impose their world view on others. This is not the case. Neo-cons understand that the world is filled with people who would do us harm. Talking to them, patiently trying to convince them of the worthiness of our cause or values gives them ample time to persue policies and other activities intended to hasten our decline and their rise. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were arguably one of the first neo-cons, yet they ended the Cold War without firing a shot negating the need for war. Thatcher’s speeches in particular often contained references to rogue states, pre-emptive strikes and the need for the “English-speaking peoples of the west” to unite. She took on and faced off with agressors and refused to give an inch because she believed that freedom was right and dictatorship was wrong.
To be a neo-con does not mean you have a lust for war, it just means you would be prepared to use force in the face of agression or in direct response to a threat to your national interest. Neoconservative thought is persuasive precisely because it presents itself not as ideology but as morality and, moreover, morality charged with optimism. You can slag off the Bush agenda all you like but let me ask you something: which is better democracy or dictatorship? Iraq was a dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, of that you can have no doubt. Now it is a democracy, its people vote freely in elections and they are experiencing freedom and access to the things we in the west take for granted but the very things they were denied for decades. Women can vote, girls can be educated, political participation is encouraged and not oppressed, these are just a few of the reforms that a neoconservative agenda has brought to Iraq. Of course there are teething problems which give us headaches but one day we will prevail in Iraq and the neoconservative legacy of freedom will be a permanent feature of Iraqi life.
As far as I am concerned you policy should be determined almost entirely by your enemy. If, like Saddam Hussein or the Taleban, your enemy is proven to be irrational, uncompromising, brutal and calculating then yes force is the only viable option. However if like Mikhail Gorbachev your opponent is willing to engage in dialogue then of course diplomacy and persuasion is the preffered option. Talking to terrorists is a no go. Libya after decades of resistance has been persuaded to reform its regime negating the need for war, North Korea is making positive steps toward reform as is Cuba. I sincerely hope that should Cameron become Prime Minister he will realise that neoconservatism is by far the best approach to foreign policy.
Neo-cons only talk to those who a) can be talked to and b) are willing to talk. Talking to those who have no interest in reform, compromise or co-operation cannot and should not be contemplated. If we believe in our values, if we believe democracy is prefferable to dictatorship, if we believe in freedom of expression and oppourtunity and other such liberal values then we have to be prepared to fight for them against those who deny them. So my only warning to Cameron would be ‘an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile in the hope it will eat him last’.