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When Neoconservatives Attack

FT.com / Home UK / UK - The intellectuals have taken over the asylum: By Jurek Martin: I began to realise that the American neo-conservative movement had become truly unhinged when a columnist I normally respect equated an ideologue I do not with Winston Churchill. The writer was David Brooks in the New York Times and his Churchillian doppelgänger was William Kristol, who sees existential threats to America everywhere and now believes bombing Iran is perfectly all right.... If Kristol was Churchill, he wrote, George Will, the prim columnist who now doubts regions of the world can be transformed on an American whim, had to be Burke....

The arrogance that makes these comparisons possible is actually quite disturbing.... It is not clear to me that Kristol, living in his salon bubble and TV studios, has ever seen the world other than as he thinks it should be.... Others of his ilk, Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer et al, and those not of the neo-con persuasion, like the sainted Thomas Friedman, have also taken refuge in blaming incompetent execution by the Bush administration rather than questioning the advice they so freely gave it. But their predictions deserve to be thrown back at them; such as that democracy in Iraq would cause countries like Syria to fall like “ripe fruit from low hanging branches” into the democratic camp and that the “Arab street” would soon be singing “The Star Spangled Banner”. Neither has actually happened. Nor have umpteen “historic moments” in Iraq turned it into the freely forecast democratic land of milk and honey. Afghanistan is not going very well, either.

I have some knowledge of intellectuals because I am married to the genuine article. She sees things – concepts, ideas, policies etc – long before I do and can. But she remains rooted in the real world. And she is eternally ready to admit that she might have got something wrong. I do think authentic intellectuals have an important advisory role to play in government but, as a general rule, should not be allowed within a country mile of actual policymaking, especially in matters of war and peace....

Meanwhile, I think I will emulate Churchill in the only way I can – with a fat cigar and a large slug of brandy. Then I’ll read a James Lee Burke. They may not be intellectual but they can hurt only my lungs, liver and mind.