The rebirth of fascism in the United States.
What is American Neoconservatism?
Article written by Gatecreepers.
As of year 2000, a powerful, tightly knit movement of authoritarian hypernationalists has taken over various positions of leadership within the Bush administration, as well as the media and universities in the United States, and has promoted American military expansion and the curtailment of civil rights. In reason of the strong corporate power in the hands of the neoconservatives, its authoritarian tendencies and its hypernationalism, the question of the rebirth of fascism in the US is being raised. In this essay, the neoconservative movement will compared to three elements of fascism, namely hypernationalism, authoritarianism and corporatism. The structural-functional approach will be used to evaluate the authoritarian tendencies of neoconservatism, and how they relate with their motives.
The structural-functional approach, used to compare states and political systems, describes how different parts of a political system interact with each other in terms of roles, input and output (Jackson and Jackson, p.32).
The term 'neoconservative' used in this essay should not be confused with the term 'neo-conservative' used in this political science course, which refers to a rebirth of social conservatism with neoliberal economic policies. In the US, the term "neoconservative" often abbreviated "neocon", is used to identify an ideology perceived as extremist by its opponents, and it has in fact little in common with conservatism. For this reason, the term "paleoconservative"is used by old school isolationist conservatives such as Pat Buchanan to differentiate themselves from the proponents of interventionist foreign policy.
The prefix 'neo', in this context, refers not to the rebirth of a movement, but rather to the conversion of its proponents, most of whom are former liberals. Political philosopher and professor Leo Strauss, thought to have inspired the neoconservative movement, has taught to many eminent figures of the movement such as Irving Kristol, identified as the father of neoconservatism. Trotsky is also thought to have influenced neoconservative ideology. However, neoconservative apologist Joshua Muravchik, who takes exception to those claims, scoffs at the idea of a "neoconservative cabal", and denies that either Strauss or Trotsky have had any significant impact on the ideas of the movement, claiming that opponents of neoconservatism are less interested in Strauss' and Trotsky's common ideas than in their Jewish origins (Muravchik, 2003).
Perhaps the most controversial of think-tanks associated with the neoconservative movement is the Project for the New American Century (1997), which 'aim[s] to make the case and rally support for American global leadership'. Authored by members of the project in September 2000, the document 'Rebuilding America's Defenses' (PNAC, 2000) outlines a comprehensive programme of military expansion and aggressive foreign policy, including an agenda for the invasion of Iraq, with the rationale that "while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein' (ibid p.14).
Especially frightening is the involvement of members of the Bush administration, which could not be made more clear than by their signatures on the Statement of Principles of the PNAC, notably those of prominent figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz. But even more contentious than that glaring conflict of interest is the convenient timing of the World Trade Center attacks during their tenure, especially in the light of the aforementioned document's suggestion of the necessity of 'some catastrophic and catalysing event, like a new Pearl Harbor' (ibid, p.63).
The allusion to the event of the Second World War is ironically appropriate, as the analogy to the Reichstag Fire that resulted in Hitler's gain of unbridled powers is not lost on many readers who stumble on the passage. Indeed, numerous parallels can be drawn between the PNAC's programme and the rhetoric of imperial supremacy that was prevalent in Nazi doctrine. Aside obvious differences such as racial issues, the openly stated ambitions of the Neocon cabal are reminescent of the frank agenda of military expansion promoted by Hitler in his Mein Kampf, and later in his speeches. For example, Richard Perle presents a rhetoric of 'total war' which has much in common with the fascist tenet of 'total war'.
As a measure of how considerable an impact neoconservative ideology has had considerable on the policies of the Bush administration, it is interesting to note that that Bush's political platform was originally based on limited foreign intervention. In the light of that influence, it is worth examining the tendency towards authoritarianism that has taken off during the tenure of the Bush administration, especially since the 9/11 attacks.
Authoritarian regimes, as defined in the course manual, typically discourage free discourse and political activity, and concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a select few, who make policies mostly for their own interests. However, institutions are not necessarily overtly violent or oppressive, nor are they always totally controlled by the elite. Some regimes may have elements commonly found in democratic systems, such as elections and parliaments but they are merely be tools to deceive the world community and even the population; such regimes are labeled fa&ccdil;ade democracies. Tactics used to manipulate elections in authoritarian regimes include irregular registration procedures, attempts to violate vote secrecy, intimidation of voters and rigging the vote counting process. Authoritarian regimes also tend to limit and manipulate free discourse (Jackson and Jackson 2003, pp.92-93)
The United States, in reason of its solid reputation for its civil society and its democratic culture, is not a country that would commonly be considered a fa&ccdil;ade democracy, even less an authoritarian regime. However, close examination of the evolution of American politics under the tenure of the Bush administration will reveal an alarming decline of civil rights and democratic institutions.
The American electoral system is usually assumed to be mostly democratic. However, facts currently tell a different story: they actually fail in most major criteria of free and competitive elections. 30% of American votes are counted by electronic machines known for their lack of reliability, sold by Diebold and ES&S (Seife, 2004) The American electoral system violates the principle of ballot secrecy: while the ballots cast during the election are in theory secret, this is in practice defeated during the registrations, as Americans are expected to identify4 their affiliation to their political party to vote in the primaries on the same form as for their registration for the general election. This practice has led to many Democrat voters being unable to vote, as their registration forms were discarded after they were submitted to private firms hired by the Republican party (Drinkard and Kiely, 2004).
As the concentration of the media and its ownership by corporate power becomes more evident, independent reporting is being suppressed and overshadowed. However, during the tenure of the Bush administration, journalism has been even more seriously undermined. Even though the sexual antics of former president Bill Clinton caused a huge scandal, attracted wide media coverage and nearly caused him to be impeached, the US mainstream media has reacted comparatively little to the disproved WMD claims that led to the war in Iraq. This illustrates how the feedback loop of the US media is broken, as the output of the media does not answer to the demand for truth of the American public, but instead misleads them to satisfy the demands of a small elite.
Freedom of the press is also under attack: several journalists have been arrested for refusing to provide their sources. At least three journalists, namely Hunter S Thompson, Gary Webb and James Hatfield, author of 'Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President'have lost their lives under suspicious circumstances since the 2000 election, all their deaths having been reported by the police as 'suicides'. Blogs, which are rising as a new and thriving source of political commentary, are being ridiculed and dismissed as a fad; independent analysts are being routinely dismissed as 'conspiracy theorists'. Criticism of Bush's administration and their policies are often cast as 'unpatriotic', 'anti-American'or even 'anti-Semitic'.
While there is little ideological similarity between the concentration of corporate power in the hands of members of the executive branch of the US government and Mussolini's socialist-inspired corporative economic system, both models give similar outputs. Like the Neoliberals, the Neoconservatives embrace neoclassical capitalistic theories, especially when it is favourable to corporations. Bush's numerous tax cuts aimed mainly at the rich people are but one example of pandering to a small elite. One of the most prominent representatives of neoconservative corporatism is the American Enterprise Institute, which has for members many well-known neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Fascism and the brand of corporatism practiced by the neoconservatives are similar in that corporate power is used to control nominally private institutions, such as the media. As such, the feedback loop of the economic system is broken, as the outputs (tax cuts) are primarily targeted towards the rich class, rather than towards the public.
While the Straussian origins of neoconservatism may be disputed by its proponents, the authoritarian and hypernationalist tendencies of the movement are nonetheless evident. The strong influence of the neoconservatives on the policies of the Bush administration, as well as the unpopularity of their motivations, suggests that they had much to do with the rise of authoritarianism, without which it would have been difficult to control public opinion about issues such as the war in Iraq. In light of the widespread manipulations of the electoral process, the control of the media and the catering to the hypernationalist and corporatist interests of a fringe of the Republican Party, the label of the United States as a democratic system may no longer be sustainable.
Drinkard, J. and Kiely, K. (2004, October 15). Election protests already started. USA Today, p. 01a.
Seife, C. (2004, November 29). Gambling With Our Votes?. Science, 798-799. Retrieved April 19, 2005, from Ebsco Research Databases (Academic Search Premier): http://search.epnet.com/
Project for the New American Century (1997, June 3). Statement of Principles. Retrieved April 16, 2005. from http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm
Project for the New American Century (2000, September). Rebuilding America's Defenses. Retrieved April 16, 2005, from http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf
Jackson, R. J. and Jackson, D. (2003). An Introduction To Political Science. 4th ed. Toronto, ON: Prentice Hall.
Muravchik, J. (2003). The neoconservative cabal. Commentary, 116(2), 26-34.
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