January 25, 2005


-ESSAY: Closing the Neocon Circle: George W. Bush has unveiled a new vision for U.S. foreign policy. His inspiration: Israel’s Natan Sharansky (Michael Hirsh, Jan. 25, 2005, Newsweek)

In Bush’s speech, drafted by chief White House speechwriter Michael Gerson with input from an old Sharansky ally dating to the Reagan years, National Security Council official Elliott Abrams, Bush in effect declared an end to a three-decade-old debate in foreign-policy circles. Fittingly, it is a debate that dates back to the fights over détente versus confrontation with the Soviet Union—and, not coincidentally, to Sharansky’s earlier incarnation as a jailed Soviet dissident. In a single, eloquent line, Bush sought to declare a truce to the old ideological struggle between U.S. government “realists”—those who believe protecting vital national interests has little to do with spreading democracy and freedom—and the so-called neoconservatives, who crusaded for these values. “America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one,” he said. [...]

Why is Sharansky’s influence so deep? In part because he didn’t pop out of nowhere. Sharansky has been speaking out in neocon forums for years, stiffening the spines of his former allies from the Reagan era. Chief among them is Perle who, in an interview, identified Sharansky as one of his two “heroes,” together with his old mentor, Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson. Their relationship is decades old. Back in the 1970s, when the Israeli was still a Russian named Anatoly Sharansky, Perle was the notorious attack dog for Jackson, fighting for Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union by pushing through the famous 1974 Jackson-Vanik bill, the opening shot fired against Cold War détente.

That was the first big battle over human rights in American foreign policy. Until then, the Cold War had been about realpolitik and detente, mainly “managing” the Soviet Union. Both men had been irrevocably changed by the experience of taking on what their mutual hero, Ronald Reagan, called the “evil empire.” Now each is in the midst of a new incarnation, fighting against Arab terror, yet they are animated by the same ideas as in the old days. Sharansky’s personal suffering under tyranny—and triumph over it—has made him a zealous campaigner for democracy in the Arab world, to the right even of his fellow Likudnik hawks in Israel. Perle and a small group of fellow neoconservatives have made it their mission to drag along Washington’s remaining “realists.”

In his book, Sharansky makes a powerful case that there is a common thread tying together the anti-Western hostility of old regimes like the Soviet Union and that of new enemies like the Islamist terrorists and their sponsors, including the Iranian mullah state and the Palestinian Authority under the late Arafat. [...]

So Sharansky’s influence represents a closing of the circle for the neocons who began battling for their ideas in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Sharansky himself says it is all a continuum, including the cast of characters, among them Abrams, Perle, Defense Department senior officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith and Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby. “If you check their background, most of them were connected either to Senator Jackson or to the Reagan administration or to both,” says Sharansky. “And that’s why, by the way, many of them are my friends from those years. And in the last 15 years, we kept talking to one another.”

Strange not to acknowledge how much of the progress in Palestine is a result of the President adopting portions of Mr. Sharansky's views three years ago, particularly in the Rose Garden speech demanding democratic reform to replace Arafat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 25, 2005 11:09 PM

Bush's foreign-policy ideas are "new" like the ANWR is a "pristine wilderness" or Ted Kennedy is "the honorable senator from Massachusetts."

Yet more proof that the MSM is not paying attention. Conservatives, at least, know what's going on -- whether they agree or not (even Pat Buchanan clearly understands that Bush is promoting worldwide democracy and has been for years).

Those with ears, let them hear.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at January 26, 2005 2:34 AM

"Yet more proof that the MSM is not paying attention."

I think it is not so much that the legacy media is NOT paying attention - - it will diligently REFUSE to pay attention to a quite-different perspective. It's as if they honored an "off limits" policy.

The legacy perspective of the legacy media is security - - "the sole view of reasonableness."

Posted by: LarryH at January 26, 2005 8:20 AM