Are neocons driving U.S. foreign policy conversations once again?

Council on Foreign Relations president emeritus Les Gelb writes at The Daily Beast that there is cause for concern that neoconservatives are driving the conversation on a number of key foreign policy issues--withdrawal from Iraq, the Pentagon budget and, perhaps most dangerously, talk of a strike against Iran.

How do they do it? They keep the language and argument simple and slowly escalate their rhetoric in an unwinnable game for their opponents, says Gelb.

Here’s a standard technique for the neoconservatives: One of America’s many nasty enemies does something provocative, as they inevitably do. The neocons say the president has to get tougher. Then the enemy does another nasty thing, and the neocons say the president wasn’t tough enough. And so on until they’re off to the races and suggesting that the only effective means to stop the devils is a bombing attack, or a hundred thousand troops, in and out quickly, of course. If some poor Democratic president doesn’t follow their advice, he’s labeled a wimp who is endangering U.S. security. If the wimp starts a war, the game continues with charges that the president isn’t really trying to “win” the war and should be adding more troops. We’ve heard this routine so many times, you’d think that the wimpy Democrats would have built up some immunity, and that the media would stop providing the bullhorns. Alas, it goes on and on.

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He blogs and hosts a podcast at governmentality.net and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.

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