- - Thursday, September 4, 2014

Neoconservative gospel maintains that “moderate” disciples of the Founding Fathers can be discovered in trouble spots throughout the world and that they will pioneer peaceful democratic dispensations if the United States would only jump-start the process with military or economic support.

That delusion qualifies neoconservatives for honorary membership in the Flat Earth Society. Further, the endless U.S. interventions championed by neoconservatives under the banner of boosting “moderates” create power vacuums and monsters like the Islamic State that diminish the prospects for peace and heighten danger to the American people.

We can no longer afford their dangerous foreign-policy delusions.

Samuel Shenton, the Flat Earth Society’s organizing secretary, refuted satellite pictures of a spherical Earth by harrumphing: “It’s easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye.”

Neoconservatives similarly resist accepting that there are no “moderate” celebrants of the U.S. Declaration of Independence or Constitution in strife-torn countries. Their arguments urging U.S. interventions in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq are exemplary.

They shriek for President Obama to provide military assistance to alleged “moderate” alter egos of George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad. They insinuate that these imaginary Syrian democrats deserve U.S. support because they will erect a new dispensation featuring the rule of law, checks and balances, a separation of mosque and state, due process, and a peace treaty with Israel. They further hint that if Mr. Obama had earlier armed these alleged disciples of America’s Founding Fathers, 200,000 Syrian deaths would have been avoided, the Islamic State would have been stillborn, and the disciples would have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

These assertions are predictable neocon delusions. Syria was carved from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire with artificial boundaries inviting sectarian animosities to accommodate the French desire for a puppet king. Neither Syria nor its political culture has ever paid homage to the liberty enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence or Constitution.

Great Britain needed six centuries after the Magna Carta in 1215 to attain fully representative government and the rule of law. Syria is not yet composed its Magna Carta. It will need at least 1,000 years to develop anything resembling democracy.

Neocon delusions about “moderates” fueled Mr. Obama’s war against Libya to overthrow Col. Moammar Gadhafi in the expectation of installing Libyan disciples of the Founding Fathers. Gadhafi was ousted and killed, but no moderates appeared, and none could be summoned into being. Instead, violence spiraled, tribal and sectarian militias multiplied, our ambassador was killed in Benghazi, all U.S. Embassy personnel departed, and Gadhafi’s weapons were scattered throughout the Middle East.

Neocon gospel also insisted that “moderate” disciples of the Founding Fathers could be discovered in post-September 11 Afghanistan to establish popular self-government, emancipate women, and defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda. However, Afghanistan’s culture is barely a notch above a state of nature. It features ethnic, tribal and religious animosities, the subjugation of women, and rigid hierarchies. Equality under the law, due process and a separation of powers are alien concepts. After 13 years of U.S. occupation and tutelage, Afghanistan remains a failed state vulnerable to imminent takeover by the Taliban as soon as U.S. troops exit.

The neocons confidently asserted that “moderates” were present in Iraq to pioneer democracy and human rights throughout the Middle East after the U.S. invasion in 2003. As with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, though, there were no George Washingtons, James Madisons or adherents of the Enlightenment. There never have been. Indeed, the neocon-engineered war occasioned a grisly mix of religious, tribal and ethnic conflict in Iraq that resembles Libya’s inferno.

The Islamic State is the child of the havoc wreaked by neocons throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that has destroyed governments and convulsed cultures. The worst of the worst thrive in a power vacuum. When the Shah of Iran abdicated, Ayatollah Khomeini raced into the vacuum. The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan coincided with the power vacuum created by the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989.

Having created the Islamic State monster, the neocons are now clamoring for war to kill their offspring. They wave the delusional prospect of a caliphate in the United States to justify endless conflict with no strategic objective. However, the Islamic State is far less a threat to Americans than the risk of death from a domestic homicide. The Islamic State threat will diminish if we cease seeking to manipulate every Muslim nation in the region through military means, employ covert action to foment internecine Muslim enmities, and collect intelligence abroad to avoid surprises at home.

Clear-headed thinking in foreign policy is too important to be left to neocons qualified for honorary membership in the Flat Earth Society.

Bruce Fein is a former associate deputy attorney general and general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan. He is author of “American Empire Before the Fall and Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for Our Constitution and Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).