Review of Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


Review of Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement

By Stephen J. Sniegoski

The mainstream media acclaim Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement as the best book on neoconservatism—the definitive account—and portray its author, Justin Vaïsse, a French specialist on American foreign policy and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, as a veritable Alexis de Tocqueville for his masterly insights. The mainstream’s high praise of this book, however, would seem to be due in large part to its minimization of two taboo issues—neoconservatism’s Jewish nature and its focus on Israel. Where the book breaks through what was heretofore largely blacked-out in the mainstream media is its discussion of the major role played by the neoconservatives in bringing about the war on Iraq.

The black-out had essentially placed the entire idea that the neoconservatives played a central role in bringing about the US attack on Iraq in 2003 beyond the pale of public discussion. In its most extreme form, this approach denied the very existence of neoconservatives. More moderate variants accepted the neocons’ existence but denied their influence on US policy. Instead the war on Iraq was alleged to have been essentially planned by President George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney; or, for the anti-war Left, the war was brought on by the greedy oil interests or by unnamed nebulous corporatists (presumably gentile). Even to dwell on the neoconservatives could be taken as a sign of being “anti-Semitic.”

Vaïsse, however, candidly writes “that neoconservatism played an important role in launching the war in Iraq,” pointing out that the “neoconservatives had been advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, though not necessarily through direct American intervention, since 1997.” (p. 13) He goes on to show how the neocons, both inside and outside the Bush administration, promoted the bogus intelligence that was able to generate public support for the war.

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