Supporting autocracies or spread democracy? – Part I
In this research paper, the question „Supporting autocracies or spreading democracy?„, the crucial question in the debate between realism and neoconservatism, will be analyzed on the basis of the Syrian conflict. First, a comparison between the two social philosophies is ventured by means of five conflict dimensions, then the differences in their consultance for the civil war is coherently derived, in order to decipher (in an extra chapter in the annex) the real situation in Syria on the basis of leaked documents, the excesses of the information war between FSB and CIA as well as some satellite photographs and research papers. If Heisenberg solved the shadow play of the cave equation of physics with quanta, the intelligence agencies are probably the blind spot in the historiography of foreign policy. Often, one only recognizes the play of shadows, draws conclusions and ingeniously misses the mark. At this point, the Ukrainian application Liveuamap (based in: Virginia, USA) as well as the alternative Syriancivilwarmap should be mentioned in particular, in order to be able to follow the current course of barbarism seemingly in real time.
A methodological approach to this complex of topics was provided by Thomas Jäger and Kai Oppermann with their paper „Bürokratie- und organisationstheoretische Analysen der Sicherheitspolitik: Vom 11. September zum Irakkrieg“, which made a methodological contribution to the present work with their formalization of bureaucracy analysis:
Which actors are to be considered? What are the security policy interests of these actors? How strong is the influence of an actor in the decision-making process? What is the individual self-interest and socialization?
II. Supporting autocracies or spread democracy? – the crucial question in the debate between realism and neoconservatism analyzed on the basis of the Syrian conflict.
Writing a comparison of neoconservatism and realism is exceedingly difficult simply by virtue of the varying form of schooling. Realism, for example, is a classical, university-based theory of international relations, while neoconservatism, in contrast, developed out of a small circle of New York intellectuals (Irving Kristol, Irving Howe, Nathan Glazer, Daniel Bell, Norman Podhoretz), first in journals (Partisan Review, The Public Interest, Weekly Standard, etc.) and later in political consulting (Project for a New American Century, American Enterprise Institute, Defense Planning Guidance (Wolfowitz), etc.), to a respectable number of representatives. In this sense, there is no closed theory building and no institutionalized school. However, realism is split into various subcurrents, and in realpolitik there is much debate about what the realist strategy really looks like.
The aim of this paper is not to discuss this further, but it should be noted that the comparison developed here is an abstraction. Tendencies of the respective current are distilled, in order to compare them. Reality is not a conceptual ideal type in any worldly entity. Even within the diverse currents, neoconservative realists or realist or idealist neoconservatives can be named, which might even contradict the statements made here (Cf. “To think is to identify.“ Adorno – Negative Dialectic). Nevertheless, the thesis of this paper is that the two social philosophies can be well differentiated based on their recommendations for the Syria conflict.
First, however, the difference will be described on the basis of five conflict axis, which are partly borrowed from Patrick Keller, but have been further developed (Cf. Patrick Keller – Neokonservatismus und amerikanische Außenpolitik, p. 250). At the end of the comparison, there is an analysis of the real strategy in Syria, insofar as it can be described as such without using force, in order to compare it with what has been written so far (cf. T. W. Adorno – Negative Dialectics: Immanent Criticism).
II.I Common intellectual-historical horizon
Neoconservatism developed in the early 1950s out of a group of Trotskyist leftists who, as they matured politically, became increasingly estranged from Marxism and eventually developed a liberal conservatism in distinction from paleoconservatism, liberalism, and libertarianism.
The first generation of neoconservatism should be understood more as a process, with some never leaving their leftist roots at all and others unconsciously never getting rid of them. Literally their children (e.g. William Kristol) carried this process of cutting the cord from the left to its full extent, although the differences between the generations will be discussed marginally.
While the „neocons“ of the first hour were still involved in political-sectarian „glass bead games“ (Hermann Hesse) (Stalinism vs. Trotskyism; today: anti-imperialism vs. right-wing anti-Germanism), a struggle between the two poles of realism and idealism prevailed among professors of International Relations, in short, as the combination of which the old leftist were subsequently fated to develop.
Interestingly, Germany’s foreign policy can also be described as a mixture of idealism and realism – only exactly the other way round: Berlin likes to negotiate with dictators (Iran, etc.) and in the same breath affirms international organizations, the multipolar world, international law, etc., id est idealism. This can be explained by the fact that Germany, like Japan, has not had a representative army (cf. GDP) since the end of World War II and can therefore only use multilateral channels in security policy.
This melange of the neoconservatives naturally resulted in a common, intellectual-historical horizon, which manifested itself in the reception of and positive reference to traditional thinkers such as Thucydides, Plato, Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Carl Schmitt, and Leo Strauss. The U.S. in general has a strong affinity for the history of Rome. The classics of geostrategy and the founders of realism, Nicholas J. Spykman, Halford Mackinder, Alfred Thayer Mahan and Hans Morgenthau, who in turn influenced the policies of Zbigniew Brzeziński and Henry Kissinger, are probably partly conveyed to the neoconservatives via James Burnham. Kissinger himself rejected the term „realist,“ and in keeping with the spirit of dialectics, his biography by Niall Ferguson is also called „The Idealist.“ Nevertheless, Foucault also rejected the term post-structuralism. These are simply woodcut-like generic concepts.
The new conservatives conceived themselves in distinction from that nihilistic power politics of the Cold War, but remained strongly attached to it on an intellectual level. Be that as it may, they were anti-totalitarian neo-Marxists in the 1940s and 1950s, which explains their messianic impulse – their idealism in international relations. Thus already Max Stirner said about Karl Marx: „Unsere Atheisten sind fromme Leute“ (Max Stirner). Walter Benjamin, in contrast to Marx, did not allow himself to be drawn into a polemic, but rather conceived of this messianic impulse in a decidedly positive way in the concept of „messianic violence,“ which was probably influenced by Gershom Scholem. While mythical violence is paralleled by Benjamin with rights-preserving violence, divine violence is identified as revolutionary & associative abolition of all law: the seemingly eternal recurrence and dialectic of rights-setting and rights-preserving violence. Hence, among others, Herbert Marcuse, George Orwell as well as Hannah Arendt published in the Partisan Review (e.g. ‚Approaches to the „German“ Problem‘) and there was an examination of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (Cf. Partisan Review – Spring 1967, pp. 184 & 204). Even personal contacts existed between Norman Podhoretz and Hannah Arendt, until the day when he became more „right-wing“ than she, whereas he used to be „left-wing“ of her.
The intellectual-historical precursor of realism is – besides the ones listed so far – simply military strategy (Clausewitz, Sunzi, Mahan, Mackinder, etc.). It should be reminded, however, of Brzeziński’s tittytainment thesis, according to which, through increasing „automation“ (cf. Friedrich Pollock – Automation. Materialien zur Beurteilung der ökonomischen und sozialen Folgen), the mass of superfluous people must be kept quiet with transfer payments, such as the unconditional basic income or the everyday television program:
Panem et Circenses.
At first glance, this is socialism (cf. Die Linke), but Milton Friedman already called for an unconditional basic income at the end of his radical economic work Capitalism and Freedom. Those concepts are thus (for a council communist) etatist, Trojan horses.
The representatives of the first generation of neoconservatism played with these contradictions:
Irving Kristol once said that he had been called a neo-Marxist and a neocon, but that he was rather neo-x, ergo: politically „non-identical“ (cf. T. W. Adorno – Negative Dialectics).
Irving Howe criticized the one-dimensional left-right perspective and called himself a „socialist in economics, a liberal in politics and a conservative in culture.“ (Irving Howe in „Arguing the world“) Strictly speaking, there are still connections between, say, the ideology-critical/right-wing anti-German scene in Germany and the neoconservative scene in the U.S.:
For example, former Bahamas editor M. Küntzel has connections to the American Enterprise Institute and is involved at Stop the Bomb together with Stephan Grigat (sans phrase, ça ira-Verlag). And even in the question of the constitution of the subject within modernity, the role of religion and morality after Nietzsche, the contradiction between culture and economy, etc., the neoconservative writings sometimes hearken heavily back to Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, which in turn was influenced by German conservatism:
Sigmund Freud, Oswald Spengler, Max Weber, etc. (Cf. Friedman – The Political Philosophy of the Frankfurt School).
The comparison between neoconservatism and critical theory must be abandoned at this point, but in addition to what has been said so far, reference should be made to the writings of Irving Kristol on the role of religion as well as to the socialist neocon Irving Howe. Last, but not least: Bernd Volkert describes a debate which took place in the journal „The Public Interest“ about David Bosworth’s „The Spirit of Capitalism“, in which Michael Nowak and James Q. Wilson were involved. The argument was about the negation of Judeo-Christian values by the „materialistic“ (consumerism) constitution of the subject in capitalism (Cf. Bernd Volkert – Der amerikanische Neokonservatismus, pp. 108-115). This debate had its antecedent in that between Daniel Bell (The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism), Irving Kristol (Christianity, Judaism And Socialism; On the political stupidity of the jews) and Michael Novak on anti-social forms of behavior under the „Wertgesetz„. In their intellectual development, the neocon’s merely shifted the solution from the realm of economics to that of culture, and were thus able (in part) to take an economic-liberal turn. Irving Howe never forgave Irving Kristol for his economic radicalism, but was himself attacked by Maoist students as reactionary, reportedly countering, „You know priviliged dudes, you may call me the ’sell-out,‘ but in ten years I’ll still be a socialist, while you’re working public relations for IBM.“ (Irving Howe)
Nevertheless, Kristol later still called this phase „an excellent political education of a special kind“ (Irving Kristol after Patrick Keller, p. 49). Bernd Volkert speaks of a double neoconservatism, in the sense that the ideological (economic-liberalism) and ideology-critical moments (critical theory) stand side by side and claims: if „the critical part were to apply to the „positivist“ one, there would be little to salvage from it according to neoconservatism’s own standards.“ (Cf. Bernd Volkert – Der amerikanische Neokonservatismus., p. 115)
In the context of the unspeakable climate debate, neoconservative journalist Christopher Caldwell even auctioned himself off to the thought-provoking statement:
„It proposes not that we hesitate, or doubt ourselves and our present strucutre, but that we work through their contradictions to some new synthesis, as Karl Marx envisioned. Our overuse of carbon[…]calls for a new economic order[…]. The case does not lack for supporting evidence. With a world population headed toward 10 billion, many of them in places with precarious food supply, we might not have the luxury of a global economy subject to great fluctuation“ (Christopher Caldwell).
Strictly speaking, the structuralist reevaluation by neorealism is also influenced by left-constructivist² or dialectical currents, but the similarities soon cease to be effective, although the foreign policy analyses of radical realists and extreme leftists are in part astonishingly similar, even though, in contrast to neoconservatism, they have hardly anything in common.
In Carlo Masala’s work about Kenneth N. Waltz, the connection between „unit“ and „structure“ according to the latter seems to correspond to a Hegelian dialectic of subjective and objective spirit, even if he naturally does not refer to it in this way and Masala is probably not familiar with dialectics (cf. Carlo Masala – Kenneth N. Waltz, pp. 42-49), but Hegel always unconsciously catches up with one or the other because his theses (similar to Freud’s in this respect) were so powerful:
„The introduction of a structural model allows Waltz to distinguish analytically between the level of structure and the „level of interacting units.“ The aim of the distinction is „to show how the structure of a system affects the interacting units and how they in turn affect the structure.“ (Waltz)“ (Carlo Masala – Kenneth N. Waltz, p. 42)