Gringo Lost

Words about things and stuff

What’s the difference between a neo-con and a neo-liberal?

with 5 comments

This brief statement from Ibn Muqawama at the CNAS Muqawama blog compares the Bush and Obama administrations in war: (while the post is more about drones than anything else, I think this statement is more revealing of the “COINdinistas” propensity for active interventionism)

I don’t think there should be any mistaking that Obama’s campaign in Afghanistan is somehow less ambitious than Bush’s: Bush talked the talk about building a stable, democratic Afghanistan, but it’s the Obama administration that is trying to walk the walk by devoting more resources and promising a “civilian surge” to improve Afghan governance.  […] Afghanistan in and of itself is probably not that important to us, certainly not in the way that Iraq is, and there’s something troublesome about spending a lot of national resources to stabilize and reconstruct a country that never had much stability or construction in the first place. (emphasis added)

I find it disheartening that a blogger at the most influential think-tank in Washington admits “Afghanistan is probably not that important” but that we should still expend significant resources to pursue an idealistic dream of re-building a country that was never really concerned with us.  To me, it borders on irresponsibility with the national interest and is a high-stakes gamble financed with borrowed money.

So, now to my other point: after 9/11 and March 2003, neo-conservative interventionism sought an agenda of promoting democracy and freedom from tyranny in Iraq and Afghanistan.  (At least this was the agenda after the fall of the Taliban and failure to wrap up al Qaida’s top leadership.)

Now, neo-liberal interventionists propose nation-building in these same places as a remedy to unpopular neo-conservative policies of the Bush administration.

But is there really any difference between the two?


Written by gringolost

July 7, 2009 at 12:07 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I think the difference that Ibn Muqawama is highlighting in this post is that the Obama administration is managing these interventions better than the previous administration. I think the assumed premise is: population-centric COIN = better than what was done before.

    Like you, I was also surprised/disheartened that Afghanistan was described as being “not that important.” This is a very odd and self-defeating comment coming from CNAS.

    I always thought the rationale for stabilizing “failed states (however you want to define that loaded term) was to decrease the amount of ungoverned regions where terrorists/militants can threaten global/regional/national security…

    Todd MacDonald

    July 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    • Yeah, it appears Ibn is saying pop-centric COIN is better than what we did before.

      But, that doesn’t change the point that it might not be our best option given the amount of resources it will require.

      Maybe we what we need instead is COIN-Light.


      July 7, 2009 at 7:03 pm

  2. I agree. I noticed this during Obama’s speech in Cairo. Obama said something like (and im paraphrasing):
    Democracy in particular wasnt his aim but that governments responsive to their people and “all minorities” was essential and that America would “fight for it the world over”.
    This is the Reagan doctrine, without the Communist connotations. And there is a pretty fine line between a government responsive to all peoples and a democracy… the difference is academic., while arguably not the Bush II doctrine… he devoted a lot of energy to it. I guess it the same thing…just leaves the door wider open for interpretation and freedom of movement politically.


    July 7, 2009 at 6:34 pm

  3. PS: I guess the difference is tactical. It seems that militarily, i don’t see much of a difference, but i am no expert. but as far as grand strategy to achieve the same goals (as i stated above), I still need more time to see if this Public Diplomacy thing works.


    July 7, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    • Yeah, I think Obama’s “grand strategy” appears to be talk-to-the-world, while engaging on the ground in places like Afghanistan, keeping to agreements and easing towards withdrawal in Iraq, and then trying outreach with Iran… but other than that it looks the same as was done before, at least on the actionable and cost level.


      July 7, 2009 at 7:09 pm

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