Lieven on neo-cons

by Henry Farrell on November 20, 2006

There’s lots that I don’t agree with in Anatol Lieven’s reformulation of realism, but this quote from his LRB “review”: of books on the Cold War (behind the subscriber wall) really has the number of the “more rubble less trouble mob”:

One important aspect of Westad’s book is the complex connection he makes between the US and Soviet modernising projects and racism. While both regimes insisted on their right to dictate values and solutions to the benighted peoples of the Third World, both also claimed that those peoples were capable of adopting them, doing so rapidly, and thereby joining the ‘socialist community’ or the ‘free world’. But because, in classic missionary style, both sides saw their truths as self-evident, their programmes as beneficial, and their own benevolence as beyond question, they often had no rational explanation to offer when their projects failed and their clients turned against them. In these cases, there was often an astonishingly rapid swing towards racist explanations. Currently, the neo-cons in America alternate between arguing that all Arab societies are capable of making rapid progress towards democracy (and that anyone who denies this is racist) and asserting that ‘Arabs understand only force.’