That the vast majority of Republicans remain as committed as ever to a strong American military presence in Iraq has everything to do with the neoconservative ideology that dominates their party.
Unlike traditional conservatives, neoconservatives subordinate the contingencies of history and culture to such abstract universal “principles” as “human rights” and/or “Liberty”—principles in which they locate America’s unique, supra-historical origins. The latter, in turn, endows America with it special, indeed, messianic, mission to protect “Liberty”—to promote what neoconservatives call, “liberal democracy”—for peoples everywhere.
It is this ideological creed of theirs that accounts for why neoconservatives have always favored an American presence in Iraq.
And it is this creed that explains why neoconservatives favor the presence of the American military, not just in those places where “liberal democracy” is absent; but even in those places—like Japan, Germany, and South Korea—where it has been present for decades but is, presumably, insufficiently stable and in dire need of American soldiers to prop it up.
Let’s see how this ideology plays out in the current discussion over the disaster that is Iraq.
When President Obama declared that the war in Iraq was “over” in 2011, his neoconservative critics blasted him. Obama, being as much of an ideologue as anyone, had his own reasons for making this declaration: it was a pretext that gave him cover for making the politically advantageous decision to begin withdrawing American soldiers. Neoconservatives opposed Obama’s call, contending that there wasn’t any basis for his claim.
But now, it is they who insist that the war really was over, even if neoconservatives instead choose to speak of the war as having been “won” prior to the troop withdrawal. This semantics trickery, though, is unconvincing, for if victory had been achieved in Iraq, as we are now being told, then Obama was correct and the war was over.
However, if the war in Iraq had been won, then what would be the point in continuing to deploy more American lives and treasure to that region? To this, the neoconservative can respond easily enough: We remain in Iraq for the same reason that we’ve remained in Germany, Japan, South Korea, etc.: To insure that our victory is not lost.
Let’s us now spell out the implications of the neoconservative ideology.
Jack Kerwick received his doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. His area of specialization is ethics and political philosophy. He is a professor of philosophy at several colleges and universities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Jack blogs at Beliefnet.com: At the Intersection of Faith & Culture. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend him on facebook. You can also follow him on twitter.