If there were ever any doubt that the three-year-old Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) is a re-incarnation of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), that should be dispelled by the publication of today’s “Open Letter to House Republicans” in which the 38 (virtually exclusively neo-conservative) signatories declare that they are “gravely concerned …by news reports that Congress may consider reducing or cutting funding for U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military operations against the oppressive regime of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.” (I’ve reprinted the letter in full below.)
This really takes us back to PNAC’s origins 14 years ago when neo-conservatives, led by FPI co-founders Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, were primarily concerned about growing “isolationism” among Republican lawmakers, then led by Newt Gingrich, who opposed US involvement in the Balkan wars, in particular. I alluded to this in an article about the neo-cons losing control of the Republican Party just last week.
Of the 38 signatories, 16 signed early PNAC letters (1998-2002) — either the 1998 appeal for Congressional support for the Iraq Liberation Act, the Sep 20, 2001 open letter to George W. Bush that called for Washington to make Saddam Hussein’s removal from power a main goal of the forthcoming war on terror, and/or the April 3, 2002, open letter to Bush that urged him to cut all ties with the Palestinian Authority under Yassir Arafat and that asserted that “Israel’s fight against terrorism is our fight.” (Some signed all three.) Their names are so evocative of the good old days when reached its zenith: besides Kristol and Kagan, of course, there’s Elliott Abrams, Ellen Bork, Seth Cropsey, Tom Donnelly, Tod Lindberg, Randy Scheunemann, Gary Schmitt, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Bruce Jackson, Cliff May, Josh Muravchik, Marty Peretz, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woolsey. You can also add three other names, presumably stand-ins for their fathers who have become true believers in their own right: Liz Cheney falls into this category; as does Fred Kagan (taking the place of his father, Donald), and John Podhoretz (presumably substituting for Norman).
Two points to stress about this letter: 1) these are the same people who brought us the war in Iraq and who were completely taken in by Ahmad Chalabi; and 2) it is directed exclusively at Republicans, a fact that bolsters the notion that, for the first time since 9/11, the neo-cons feel they risk losing control of the party’s foreign policy.
The latter point was also underlined by Ross Douthat’s excellent column in the New York Times today in which he contrasted the worldviews of Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio and noted, correctly:
“Among conservatism’s foreign policy elite, Rubio’s worldview commands more support. But in the grass roots, it’s a different story.”
My only quibble with his point is his use of the word “conservative.” The foreign-policy elite naturally includes realists, who also tend to be “conservative” in their political views, but who — whether in the elite or in the grassroots — have pretty much repudiated the neo-conservative vision.
In any event, here’s the letter:
An Open Letter to House Republicans
We thank you for your leadership as Congress exercises its Constitutional responsibilities on the issue of America’s military actions in Libya. We are gravely concerned, however, by news reports that Congress may consider reducing or cutting funding for U.S. involvement in the NATO-led military operations against the oppressive regime of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. Such a decision would be an abdication of our responsibilities as an ally and as the leader of the Western alliance. It would result in the perpetuation in power of a ruthless dictator who has ordered terrorist attacks on the United States in the past, has pursued nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and who can be expected to return to these activities should he survive. To cut off funding for current efforts would, in short, be profoundly contrary to American interests.
We share the concerns of many in Congress about the way in which the Obama administration has conducted and justified this operation. The problem is not that the President has done too much, however, but that he has done too little to achieve the goal of removing Qaddafi from power. The United States should be leading in this effort, not trailing behind our allies. We should be doing more to help the Libyan opposition, which deserves our support. We should not be allowing ourselves to be held hostage to U.N. Security Council resolutions and irresolute allies.
What would be even worse, however, would be for the United States to become one of those irresolute allies. The United States must see this effort in Libya through to its conclusion. Success is profoundly in our interests and in keeping with our principles as a nation. The success of NATO’s operations will influence how other Middle Eastern regimes respond to the demands of their people for more political rights and freedoms. For the United States and NATO to be defeated by Muammar al-Qaddafi would suggest that American leadership and resolution were now gravely in doubt—a conclusion that would undermine American influence and embolden our nation’s enemies.
In Speaker Boehner’s June 14, 2011, letter to President Obama, he wrote that he believes “in the moral leadership our country can and should exhibit, especially during such a transformational time in the Middle East.” We share that belief, and feel that now is the time for Congress to exhibit that moral leadership despite political pressures to do otherwise.
Elliott Abrams Ash Jain John Podhoretz
Max Boot Frederick Kagan Stephen G. Rademaker
Ellen Bork Robert Kagan Karl Rove
Scott Carpenter Lawrence Kaplan Randy Scheunemann
Liz Cheney William Kristol Gary Schmitt
Seth Cropsey Robert Lieber Dan Senor
Thomas Donnelly Tod Lindberg Michael Singh
Eric Edelman Michael Makovsky Henry D. Sokolski
Jamie Fly Ann Marlowe Marc Thiessen
Reuel Marc Gerecht Clifford D. May Kenneth Weinstein
John Hannah Joshua Muravchik Paul Wolfowitz
William Inboden Martin Peretz R. James Woolsey
Bruce Pitcairn Jackson Danielle Pletka