Peaceful, enlightened southerners like myself are often blindsided by macho neocon rhetoric. Neocon arguments seem to have descended from their grandiose pax Americana ideals of spreading freedom all over the world to simple appeals for US foreign policy to be “aggressive”, “assertive”, or “decisive”. To anyone thinking critically, this begs the questions – Assertive towards what? Aggressive towards whom? And exactly what decisions should we be so decisive about? And for what purpose?
To someone who thinks things through, their arguments fall flat. Why then, are the great minds behind the neoconservative philosophy such as Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, etc. using such weak, illogical arguments? These are the people who have written brilliant pieces in the past for Foreign Affairs, and various academic journals. They have written great books, have wielded great influence on policy makers, and are certainly capable of developing a more constructive foreign policy than “be aggressive”. But we need to remember, the neocons may be intelligent, but they are also very politically expedient. They know their audience.
When I see them on FOX news, and I see their GOP candidates from Jeb Bush (the establishment moderate) to Scott Walker (the supposed conservative challenger) using such rhetoric as “be aggressive”, or “be decisive”, I see how it affects the average blue collar southerner, especially men. When the neocons criticize Obama for being weak or indecisive, this appeals to a certain primal instinct that has long dominated the white male southerner. Southerners have a long history of such masculine insecurity masked by projections of machismo, and this is exactly why we keep hearing these clever rhetorical appeals by neocons that to anyone else seem illogical.
However, they underestimate the intelligence of the South, as Yankee intellectuals often do. Yes, appeals to manliness may stir something in the male southern heart, but we are a very pragmatic people with a long memory. (Why do you think you still see those Confederate Battle flags all over the place down south?) The white southern man remembers the Bush era. We remember the lies. We remember the lack of WMDs. Yes, some of us fell for the more recent half-truth that WMDs were found, and then “hidden” by those “liberals” in the media, even though those WMDs were nothing more than decommissioned weapons left over from the Iraq-Iran wars of the late 1980s. Truth ultimately prevails, and the neocons will likely find that they can only mildly stir the “aggression”, “assertiveness” and “decisiveness” of the white south when there is a Democrat in the White House. After all, we are the same people who elected Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Walter Jones, and more recently Dave Brat. Neocon rhetoric and deception relies on Cold War era partisanship and tired sentiments held by an aging demographic of boomer southerners. Even they are not so easily manipulated, despite 24/7 FOX. After all, FOX knows too well that the neocons’ days are numbered, as they are branching out with the likes of John Stossel, Judge Napolitano, and even Hannity frequently interviews Rand Paul. The neocons can maybe stir a little aggression by manipulating the machismo insecurities of an aging demographic in the south, but it grows weaker by the day.
Be aggressive? Sure. If the neocons won’t even attempt to give us a good reason for their wars. If they continue to accuse those who point out their past mistakes of “blaming America”, then let’s aggressively point out the lack of purpose of today’s neocon foreign policy. Let’s aggressively speak the truth. And let’s aggressively vote out every neocon remaining in Congress. How’s that for decisiveness?
Combating this neocon rhetoric in the South
Scott Walker has recently argued that we should be more “aggressive” in Syria. But he never says towards whom we are supposed to be aggressive, or for what purpose? Does he want us to be aggressive towards the Assad regime? If so, why? Is it because of those beheading we keep seeing? But that’s ISIS! Assad is fighting against ISIS. So are we aggressive towards ISIS? Do we ally with Assad? If that is the case, then it’s a good thing Obama was indecisive a few years ago, because the neocons nearly had us at war with Assad. Ooooppps! So much for decisiveness.
Unlike the neocons, we must respect the intelligence of the blue collar southern man. Reason with him, be patient, and know that you can’t win them all over. We didn’t turn against the Iraq War overnight. It happened little by little, year by year, as the facts presented themselves. Don’t let the neocons get away with empty appeals to manliness anymore. Be aggressive, be decisive about foreign policy.