THE BLOG
03/10/2006 08:47 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Neoconservatism and Repentance

In an article written by Rupert Cornwell, posted yesterday in the Independent Online, the author comments that the Neo-cons are finally starting to realize the errors of their ways. Of course, we should not hold our breath waiting for Bill Kristol to see the light, as this fellow is about as misguided as they come on these issues. One can only wish, however, that the "repentance" ran deeper. You may recall that I posted (on my blog) a "mea culpa" of sorts from Andrew Sullivan the other day. What seems to be the common thread throughout is not a genuine realization of the profound perversity of the neo-conservative ideology itself, but rather much more of a repudiation of this particular implementation of it. Underlying all of this, even in light of the alleged "repentance" of late, are two continuing errors that, if not rooted out, will only fuel future misadventures.

The first is the old idea that "might makes right." Just as there were those from the VietNam era who believed the biggest error was not military involvement, but a lack of willingness to "do what it takes," too often these penitent neo-cons communicate the belief that the real problem was too few soldiers, too few bombs, too little display of raw power. What they fail to see is the fundamental irresistibility of the cycle of escalating violence. One wonders how a man as obviously brilliant as Buckley could be so blinded by confidence in "superior firepower." But, we have a way of seeing history through a mirror, and there is that old saw that "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

The second is the belief in American exceptionalism, the idea that "we" really are morally superior to all the rest of the folks in the world, that we really can see more clearly what is good for everyone else, and that we are, indeed, the lone exception to the rule that power corrupts and the more the power, the deeper the corruption. One need not replay the history of our own fallibility on these matters, and the point is certainly not that "the US is worse than all the rest." This charge is often made to those of us who call into question American exceptionalism, but we are making no such claim. No, the claim is actually very different. We realize that Americans are humans and, as such, are subject to the same corruptions as any other human. As long as we fail to see the "myth of redemptive violence" and the errors of American exceptionalism, we are likely doomed to repeat the errors of Iraq, though, of course, in different forms. Let us pray for a genuine repentance, and, given my own commitments, particularly for those who claim to be followers of Jesus and, yet, have been beguiled by neoconservatism.

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