by Kieran Healy on February 26, 2004

We continue to search for sources of insight into America’s geopolitical position in the Middle East. Following up on the “Pontius Pilate angle”: (which some people took “a little too seriously”:, we stick with the cinema. “PreReview”: reviews movies the reviewer hasn’t seen, usually because they’re not out yet. Here is a snippet of “a review”: of “Hidalgo”:, the forthcoming Viggo Mortensen disaster:

bq. Viggo Aragorn … goes to Arabia with Hidalgo, his horsey best buddy to race against a bunch of Arabs who are BOUND BY HONOR except when they are DOUBLE CROSSING

This summarizes the basic view of many neocons pretty well, especially the Huntingtonian ones.



Mac Thomason 02.26.04 at 9:28 pm

Okay, I admit I took it too seriously. But Pilate was legitimately awful… Just to clarify: my last line about the “well-meaning nebbish” picture of Pilate was only referring to Gibson and not to your post.


Dan Simon 02.26.04 at 11:13 pm

This summarizes the basic view of many neocons pretty well, especially the Huntingtonian ones.

Huh? “Huntingtonion neocons” is an oxymoron right up there with “neocon Crooked Timberites”.

Huntington’s ideas about a coming “clash of civilizations” were a direct rebuttal to Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis that liberal democracy would soon sweep the world, abolishing local cultural influences on international affairs. It’s not hard to see that the neocons are far closer to Fukuyama than to Huntington–the latter, for instance, would consider it absurd to try to establish democracy in Iraq.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’re just robotically inferring “Huntingtonian” = “ethnic determinist” = “racist” = “bad”/”right-wing” = “neocon” , without giving a moment’s thought to any of the terms.


MCMC 02.27.04 at 2:26 am


I think you’re wrong about Fukuyama and Huntington. Fukuyama’s basically an evangelist for neoliberal economics. Huntington’s thesis was a rebuttal to Fukuyama’s idea of the end of conflict, it’s plain geopolitical realism. Huntington can be considered a neo-con because he believed a certain civilization should exercise power in a way that keeps it competitors in check.


Dan Simon 02.27.04 at 5:03 am

No, Huntington cannot be considered a neocon. The balance-of-power realists had their say on Iraq in 1991, and kept Saddam in power as a counterweight to Iran. The neocons (of which, by the way, I do not count myself one) have made it clear that they place democratization ahead of realist equilibrium.

Once again, bleating, “‘Huntingtonian’ = ‘bad’/’right-wing’ = ‘neocon,'” is just ignorance in the service of partisanship. It is–or at least should be–beneath this blog.


Kieran Healy 02.27.04 at 5:46 am

Once again, bleating, “‘Huntingtonian’ = ‘bad’/’right-wing’ = ‘neocon,’” is just ignorance in the service of partisanship. It is—or at least should be—beneath this blog.

Dan, when I am serious about ignorantly bleating in the service of partisanship I can generally do it without quoting fake movie reviews containing phrases like “Viggo Aragorn goes to Arabia” and “Hidalgo, his horsey best buddy.” I know there are people in the world who don’t have this ability, and many of them have blogs, but ask any of my students and they will tell you that I rely on the “horsey best buddy” line of attack in serious argument only on rare occasions.


Sigivald 02.27.04 at 11:52 pm

I guess I’m not a real “neo-con” (regardless of what I’ve been told), since I don’t think Arabs are honor-bound and double-crossing. At least not in the same way at the same time.

(Honor-bound within the family/tribe, and willing to lie without compunction or moral qualm to outsiders? Well, there’s a lot more sociological evidence for that, no? This phenomenon is almost certainly not limited to Arabs, of course, but comparative ethno-sociology isn’t my field. But that’s too subtle and … accurate, to really support a gratuitous “neo-con” code-word slinging, right?)


Dan Simon 02.28.04 at 6:20 am

Of course, Kieran. That’s why I prefaced my comment in response to your posting with the disclaimer, “if I didn’t know better”.


jack 02.29.04 at 12:42 am

I am an undergraduate in political science, so you can probably gauge my mood regarding the United States and the Middle East. Such an assessment would be valid – if you had made it a year ago. But I have been thinking over the Arabs (NOT Muslims) a lot recently, and I’ve pretty much concluded that they’re making a whole world of difficulties for everybody for no good reason. Eg., religion. I don’t buy post-colonial theory. (Is there no statute of limitations for historical wrongs? When can we start expecting the Arabs to put their houses in order? 10, 20, 50 years from now?) Nor do I buy arguments of cultural specificity, as I believe no one really does anymore. And if Israel is all that stands in the way of an entire region and people calming down and accepting the world as it is, then the obstacle to peace is not very large, all things considered.

Rather, I believe these defenses of Arab belligerance and anti-modernism are simply covers for the almost pathological resistance of large segments of the Arab world to the Enlightenment. Ah! But that is a Western phenomenon, couched in Western paraphernalia. No, it is a human phenomenon, and most of the peoples of the world have accepted it to greater and lesser degrees, except for the Arabs. The clerics rail about the damaging effect modernism has on traditional Islam. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work. All the great religions and cultures have suffered, perhaps fatally, from the challenge of the Enlightenment. This DOES bring about pain; Europe had to endure two sets of world wars (the Napoleonic Wars, and World Wars I and II) before they reached a modern peace as stable as their premodern peace(for what it was). But this is the course of history; I simply do not believe you can offer an alternative to the Enlightenment.

I short, I believe the Arabs, or better said, the autarchic Arab powers-that-be, need to recognize “Westernization” for what it is: modernization. By attacking the Enlightenment as the fellow traveler of the Great Satan, the Arabs only prolong their backwardness and wreak senseless havoc throughout the world.

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