This was an interesting BloggingHeads exchange for me because neoconservative thinker and FrumForum blogger David Frum and I largely agree that the “hit Iran hard” track in America’s current diplomacy could be counterproductive.
Frum supports sanctions on gasoline, so-called “crippling sanctions”, whereas I see them more designed to be about the West’s emotional and political needs rather than a strategy that would really move Iran to a new course.
I have always been intrigued by the neoconservative network and how it so successfully commandeered the helm of America’s national security establishment after having been for many decades mostly a small boutique shop of high octane intellectuals hanging out in Irving Kristol & Gertrude Himmelfarb’s apartment.
Frum is someone to watch. Yes, he coined the “axis of evil” line for a key George W. Bush speech and secured as his prize jealousy from a few other Bush speechwriters. But to focus on that and not see more of what he is trying to do today is a mistake.
Frum is a neoconservative but one who is pretty far from the current imperial line — sort of a cousin among many cousins and grandkids descending from the some of the original conceptualizers of neoconservatism — Irving Kristol, Albert Wohlstetter, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Norman Podhoretz, Midge Decter, Seymour Martin Lipset, and a few others.
My hunch is that Frum is watching various others of the more heir apparent royal cousins including Bill Kristol, John Podhoretz, a few of the Kagans perhaps (though I note an exception via Robert Kagan, who is a genuine intellectual rather than an apparatchik), eventually flame out in misguided attempts to surf Tea Party populism and to stay powerful by associating with a growing pugnacious, anti-intellectual movement in American politics.
Frum may be the only neocon with a serious policy shop and Irving Kristol-salon around him after the 2012 presidential race and may have an opportunity to replace the know-nothing brain of a Republican Party whose blustery, intolerant celebration of an anachronistic “whites dominate” nativism with a new set of principled policy positions that could define Republicanism by 2016.
Obviously, a lot can happen between now and then — and who knows, maybe the Tea Party crowd and someone anointed by Sarah Palin could win in 2012. But at this point, of leading, disaffected neoconservatives — like Frum, Francis Fukuyama, and I’d add Kenneth Adelman — Frum is building the most interesting franchise of forward-looking next gen conservatives who reject what they see from their own party. Fukuyama could play this role as well but like Robert Kagan is mostly a writing intellectual rather than one who organizes.
More soon. Greetings to readers at the International Studies Association meeting in New Orleans. I’ll be floating around some of the events today at the Hilton. Pittsburgh tomorrow.
— Steve Clemons