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September 12, 2006

David Cameron and Neoconservatism: Douglas Murray - author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It - finds a Conservative Party leader who has been mugged by reality, but who refuses to press charges

Posted by Douglas Murray

Yesterday David Cameron made his first major speech on foreign policy as leader of the Conservative Party. Douglas Murray - the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It - finds a Party leader who has been mugged by reality, but who refuses to press charges. Mr Cameron must decide whether he wants to lead a Party of permanent opposition, or a nation state which stands up for what is right, argues Douglas Murray. The views expressed in this article are those of Douglas Murray, not those of the Social Affairs Unit, its Trustees, Advisors or Director.

Yesterday - in his first fulsome speech on foreign policy - David Cameron claimed:

I am a liberal conservative, rather than a neo-conservative.
From what he went on to say, he better fits the old joke about neo-liberals: if a neoconservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality, then a neo-liberal is a liberal who's been mugged by reality but refuses to press charges.

In a spectacularly ill-timed speech on the anniversary of 9/11, the new leader of the Tory Party did at least state that terrorism is:
the most consuming concern for modern government.
He realizes there's a problem, and that the kind of terror threat we face today is unprecedented. In other words - he's been mugged. But from this no good thing emerges.

To begin with, he misrepresents the neocons, and sets them up as straw-men.

Even the most hard-core neocon doesn't - contra Cameron - regard force as being a first option. It took more than a decade to get Saddam Hussein's regime out by force: I don't call that a rush to war.

Mr Cameron says he supports the notion of democratic change, but offers no viable new solutions. I much look forward to him explaining in detail how Iraq could have lost the Hussein dynasty without military intervention. And I look forward to hearing how he is going to help - in or out of government - the pro-democracy movements in Iran and Syria beyond what the US government is already doing.

Mr Cameron may have been mugged, but it has apparently had no effect on him. He still believes terrorism is caused by reacting to terrorism, and thus he may as well have remained with the peaceniks and loons who believe terrorism is the invention of the CIA or Mossad. It's all very well being mugged by reality, but at some point you have to press charges. Mr Cameron is very far from doing so.

To begin with there is the worrying fact that David Cameron has now joined the legions of politicians who have decided to speak about Islamic theology and get it fanatically wrong. Mr Cameron said yesterday that Muslim terrorists:

Are driven by a wholly incorrect interpretation - an extreme distortion - of the Islamic faith.
Aside from the distastefulness of a Tory leader feeling the need to interpret Islamic scripture, this statement is simply untrue. Muslim terrorists are driven chapter and verse by justifications in the Koran. They may be debatable interpretations, or interpretations which may be argued away from, but to pretend that their Koranic impetus is "wholly incorrect" or an "extreme distortion" is itself wholly incorrect and an extreme distortion.

Perhaps the leader of the opposition would like to read the Ayat al-Sayf (the Verse of the Sword: 9:5):
Slay the idolators wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush.
It's no good debating Islam by telling porkies.

And as one of the idolators which the Verse of the Sword says should be slain, I'm not keen that responsible Party Leaders effectively cover for this and other verses. As more and more terrorists carry out their work in the name of Allah and jihad, and as the publics of the West are waking up to the threat of Islam in our midst, Mr Cameron has unwisely jumped onto an increasingly discredited raft.

Neither I, nor any other neoconservative ever expected David Cameron to proclaim himself a neocon. But we certainly never expected him to use the anniversary of America's most devastating experience of mass-murder to lambaste America and the conduct of the war on terror.

Cameron claimed that Britain needs to be critical of the US administration when it does something we disagree with. But nobody disagrees with that, and the Blair administration has on numerous occasions (albeit usually behind closed doors) differed with - and influenced - Washington.

Lamentably, as examples of situations in which the UK government should apparently criticise her allies, Mr Cameron highlighted Guantanamo and Lebanon. In the former case, like everything else in his speech, Cameron made no reference as to how else we should deal with criminal warriors like KSM (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). And in the latter case of Lebanon it is hard not to see this speech as a deliberate attempt to cause offence to friends of Israel.

On this one Cameron must have known what he was doing. He knows that using the "D" word - disproportionate - is the easiest and most common way of criticising Israel's response to the threat of Hezbollah. He knows that it plays well to the anti-Israel lobby, and rubs friends of Israel up exactly the wrong way. But he used it. This specific and planned deployment of a contentious word will have made Mr Cameron some enemies, but will have won him no friends. The people who believe Israel used maximum and unwarranted force against the terrorists of Hezbollah are not - I suspect - now going to vote Tory.

Which brings me to the crux of the problem which Cameron has now displayed. His 9/11 speech has proved big on criticisms and small on all but the most general answers. This is disastrous for the Conservative Party.

The Labour Party are rather conspicuously pulling themselves apart at the moment, and the possibility of a Tory government is now genuinely within sight. But if Mr Cameron is going to take the reins of government he is going to have to look like he can run a country, and - most importantly - the country's foreign policy. He must prove himself worthy of the task. Monday's speech gives me less hope on this front than I had previously thought possible. Although he offered no specific answers to the problems of resurgent Islamo-fascism, and though he spent a deal of time attacking our friends for wholly justified policies of containment, the only answer Mr Cameron gave was that we should introduce a new style into our foreign policy. It should always raise alarm-bells when politicians talk style and not specifics. Style does not save lives. Cameron said:
I believe that in the last five years we have suffered from the absence of two crucial qualities which should always condition foreign policy-making. Humility, and patience.
This is not just disagreeable stuff - and un-statesman-like stuff. It is dangerously misguided stuff - the result of a man who appears to see foreign policy through the eyes of domestic habit.

What we need to demonstrate least of all with Iran at the moment is "patience". Patience on the part of the international community has all but given Tehran a nuclear bomb. An increase in our level of "patience" now will produce a permanent existential threat to Israel and the West, and ensure the whole Middle East goes nuclear within a few years.

And as for "humility". It is simply embarrassing that a candidate hoping to lead one of the world's foremost military powers should hope to win votes by speaking like this. This is domestic posing - deeply trivial and irrelevant. What will an onslaught of "humility" directed at Syria and Iran achieve at the moment? Anything? Of course not. And what Cameron worryingly fails to realise is that it is our weakness - our humility - which makes the Ahmadinejads, Assads and Nasrallahs of this era hate us even more. Our weakness is a provocation to them (witness the upsurge in Hezbollah-sponsoring defiance in the last year). Mr Cameron's deeply misguided message is that we need an increase of weakness when he should realize that our weakness - perceived or otherwise - is the problem, not the solution.

What an age away we are from a time when Conservative politicians stood tall before ignominious and unworthy opponents. You don't have to go back very far. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Dick Cheney on the White House lawn on the same fifth anniversary of 9/11 was Margaret Thatcher. She used the day to pronounce:
This heinous attack upon America was an attack upon us all. With America, Britain stands in the front line against Islamist fanatics who hate our beliefs, our liberties and our citizens. We must not falter. We must not fail.
It is a desperate sign of the times that David Cameron - in a bid to look refreshing and new - is signing up to policies which have been tried, and failed, before. The desire to be liked is unattractive in an individual, but fatal in a state. Mr Cameron must decide whether he wants to lead a Party of permanent opposition, or a nation state which stands up for what is right.

Douglas Murray is the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It.

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As Mr Murray points out, the timing of Cameron's remarks on September 11th was egregious. It added treachery to the weakness inherent in what he said. Moreover he was aided and abetted by an erstwhile (failed) leader of the party William Hague who made simultaneous, similar and orchestrated utterances.

As a lapsed Tory voter, I despair at the failure of Cameron and his meretricious crew to grasp the moment and exploit New Labour's current disarray. I desperately want to vote Tory again. I cannot vote for the Cameroons, their campaign is both plastic and oleaginous. They are preaching the Gramscian ethos, which I fear they were injected with during their academic inculcation. What they are proposing is Camunism.

The blatant implication in the whole Cameron campaign is that they have to recruit new voters from the arty farty liberati-literati that brought New Labour to power and that only then can they revert to conservatism once the mugs have changed sides. That insults the intelligence of both erstwhile New Labour voters and, more importantly, the true Tory sector of the electorate who want the prospect of a Tory government that will bolster the transatlantic alliance at one of the most dangerous crossroads in our joint history. Most voters want (a) leadership and (b) honesty. If the Tories were to offer both and bolster their message with a show of cojones, they would get a landslide - mainly as a result of votes from lapsed Tories, like me.

I only hope UKIP gets its act together before the next GE. Otherwise my vote will go to "none of the above". I simply cannot understand the stupidity of what Cameron is doing.

Posted by: Frank Pulley at September 13, 2006 01:42 PM

Unfortunately Mr. Cameron and Mr. Murray are confused about the language they use to describe the different US foreign policy schools of thought, perhaps understandably.

The “Realist” school believes that a nation should only act in its own clear and unequivocal national interest, such as self-defence, rather than lofty liberal ideals. This is “conservative” and its default position is “isolationist”. It could have justified the Afgan but not the Iraqi war. Whatever the dodgy dossier said, Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda.

The “Idealist” school believes that a nation should pursue progressive liberal foreign policy objectives, which usually means spreading democracy and capirtalism – whether the people upon whom it is spread like it or not. Those poor benighted countries who haven’t yet discovered the delights of crack cocaine, gangsta rap, fast food, 24-hour TV news, shopping malls or born-again Christianity are sometimes suspicious that it is a front for US economic and cultural imperialism.

This is liberal and "interventionist" or "activist" or “neo-conservative,” in the contorted political terminology invented to justify an idealist war by a Republican Party which traditionally opposed it. In fact, Iraq was a dynastic rather than a liberal idealist war: but the rhetoric used to justify it was neoconservative.

The greatest representative of the Idealist school was of course Woodrow Wilson. He set up the inter-war international system and the League of Nations on the basis of these ideals: self-determination aka democracy being the principal one. That of course led to the Holocaust, which one might have hoped would have led to interventionist liberal idealist types learning their lesson and staying home.

Cameron is thought in some right-thinking circles to be a bit of a lefty, because he understands that in order to exercise power you first have to win it. In fact, it is Cameron who is the true conservative, not the Blairite liberal warmongers. The conservative/ realist position is to act only in one’s own clear and unequivocal national interest.

It is not to act in an idealist/ liberal way to further the cause of liberal ideals, such as democracy: whether that means invading other countries or supporting international institutions such as the UN and League of Nations. And no-one could argue that the Iraq War was in the clear and unequivocal national interest of the US or UK.

Working more closely with the great regional power and old friend on Al Qaeda’s doorstep is the smart move. That’s why Dave’s been in India.

Posted by: "Flashman" at September 13, 2006 05:54 PM


The reasons that 'Dave' has been to India are (a) for a couple of photo opportunities and (b) a period of subsidised foreign travel at the party's expense.

Your foregoing polemical justification for this boondoggle is merely a cobbled together raft of historical chestnuts, some ripe, some already decayed, some just plain bullshit and all of them ignore the bleeding obvious: that we are under attack from a sustained physical and propaganda attack by well organised murderous religio fanatics, including one who has massive resources and is building a nuclear weapon with the full backing of the Mullahs. Unless we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the USA (regardlesss of who happens to be the President of the day) we shall lose the freedoms that have been bought in blood for centuries. It is no good relying on our pusillanimous 'Europartners'. Apart from all that, nobody is representing the disenchanted potential Tory electorate. There are a number of egotistical misfits who want to be Prime Minister of the UK at the moment. I'm afraid that Cameron is just another one of those. Come the election you will experience the wrath of those who like me are appalled at the way our heritage is being squandered by the generation that has benefited most from it. Ingrates all! What Cameron and Hague did on Sep 11th this year was disgraceful. Cameron is effete and stupid, Hague can't make up his mind about whether he want s to be a politician or a TV pundit. At one stage I had high hopes for Cameron; they were obviously misplaced. I have spoken to many who feel as I do. That may not matter to you, but it is a fact. So factor it in. With Sky News becoming Gordon Brown's PR service, vide the whole morning today devoted to his benefit - obviously St Rupe has already chosen the next PM. The BBC are now not the only ones on Gordie's side. Get your heads out of the sand, for God's sake. We need a Tory goivernment not a new-New (liberal) Labour Party. and tell 'Dave' that putting a blob of tomato juice on his forehead, during a sub-Continental jolly, will not help his 'cause'.

Posted by: Frank Pulley at September 14, 2006 12:14 PM

David Cameron is a weak leader who was chosen by his party because he is young and reminded them of Tony Blair, a leader the Conservatives have always coveted and have long thought was in the wrong party.

As for Cameron's nonsense:

"I believe that in the last five years we have suffered from the absence of two crucial qualities which should always condition foreign policy-making. Humility, and patience."

As stated in the Douglas Murray article, the man is talking for a domestic policy audience in order to grab the attention of the UK voters in Blair's weakest hour. Cameron hasn't said anything of any depth or political importance at home up to now, so he's looking to Blair's achilles heel - his perceived lack of humility - to stamp his (Cameron's) difference on the electorate's mind. What a lily-livered something or other he is.

Cameron is vacuous of policy and wouldn't recognize an original idea or thought if it jumped up and hit him. He has no understanding of "real politik" and is scrambling about looking to cash in on Blair's perceived weakness - his close relationship with President Bush.

A true statesman/woman stands firm for what he/she believes regardless of criticism. Cameron is so empty of thought or policy that he is looking for words or names to encapsulate something .... ANYTHING! That won't wash. Here in the UK we have 3 main parties - the Conservative party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, as well as Scottish and Welsh Naional Parties and some odd-balls on the wings (either almost-nazi parties or anti-European parties), oh, and the Greens. Which reminds me. Cameron has been telling us here recently that he is really blue/green. What does THAT mean? The man's a political juvenile, and his youngish looks and marketing man's wordiness will not win the Tories the next election.

Although who knows? Without Blair who appealed to voters right across the spectrum, the Labour Party has little chance anyway, but I doubt they realise it yet. Tony Blair has been unceremoniously bundled out of office. He's still hanging on in there, but it won't be long. Gordon Brown, the expected next Prime Minister, has his fingerprints all over Blair's going.

The British public are not happy about the ongoing military situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them are disturbed by the Israel / Palestinian situation. However, many of them did not want or expect to see the back of Blair yet, as he had said on being elected last year that he would serve "a full third term", which is 4 - 5 years. He's going to be out in less than one year, and Brown is going to try to take over smoothly without rocking the boat. Presumably, since Blair was following the foreign policies he was elected on a year or so ago, Brown on taking over without a new election, should continue Blair's mandate and policy agreements with Bush. We will see.

So, there is dwindling support for keeping the troops in the unpopular theatres of Iraq and Aghanistan "until the job is done" and pressure is mounting to exit. Let's hope that the end-game is sooner rather than later. I don't see Cameron being a lot of help to the USA, and as for Brown - well - he's already stabbed one friend in the back.

I don't belong to either of their parties, but have deep sympathy for Blair. Just 16 months ago the electorate here in the UK voted Tony Blair's party back in for an uprecedented 3rd time. Now his party have "thanked" him for that in a disgraceful manner. He was head and shoulders above the other leaders of any UK party in political courage, evidenced by his willingness to back Bush unreservedly on Iraq. This is NOT a natural instinct for a leader who is not on the right. That support seems now to have been his downfall. Even so, he has refused to renege on that commitment. He has too much honour for that. In just over a week he will speak at his last party conference. Perhaps we will see some change in foreign policy for his remaining several months in office, but somehow I doubt it. I hope his members realise, even if belatedly, what they have done.

Posted by: Neither Labour or Conservative Voter at September 14, 2006 10:38 PM

A question for "Flashman":

Woodrow Wilson ... set up the inter-war international system and the League of Nations ... That of course led to the Holocaust

Could you please fill in the gaps? I don't see how the one led to the other.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at September 15, 2006 09:23 AM

The sense of injustice in Germany, because the liberal idealist principles were not applied to them, enabled the rise of a party who wanted to
smash the international system. If the ideals had not been espoused there would have been no sense of injustice to build on.

Posted by: "Flashman" at September 15, 2006 07:28 PM

Btw see Melanie Phillip's diary article on 14th September:

>Britain’s jihadi-cons

If anyone doubts just what David Cameron has allied himself to in his anti-neocon speech, they should read the latest entry on the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK website. The MPACUK is a profoundly anti-Jew, anti-Israel, jihadi website whose utterances are simply vile and terrifyingly extreme. Yet here it is positively purring over Cameron’s speech:

"Now for the surprise, while Labour has squandered its loyal Muslim voting base, the Tories have performed a massive turnaround. While Tony Blair angered Muslim opinion by expediting weapons to Israel and the Liberal Democrats sat on their hands, William Hague, the shadow Foreign Minister criticised Israel’s disproportionate force during the summer invasion of Lebanon and now David Cameron’s masterful distancing himself from the Neo-Con rhetoric. He has rejected a “clash of civilisations” and accepts the role of the United Nations. While he makes political capital from a divided Labour leadership and myopic foreign policy, the Muslim community has started to take notice.These public statements in themselves do not mean that the Tories are the “good guys”, but it does mean they are no longer the “bad guys”. The Tories will be the next Government whether at the next general election or the one after. The more progressive and politically astute Muslims must be part of that transition. The Tories are reaching out to us and we must reach out to them."

The Tory position on the US and Israel now has the support of anti-western, anti-Jewish jihadis. What an accolade. What a commentary on the moral and intellectual decline of the Conservatives, and the degraded nature of British politics.


If 'Dave' can't get Melanie Phillips on his side, he's doomed. There must be a grown-up potential leader in the Tory party somewhere... surely?? Is David Davis going along wiith all this PR nonsense? He has been very quiet recently, perhaps he realises that he may be needed yet. Conservatism made a big mistake last year, no question. They chose the smooth from the rough when they needed the rough to get some traction going. This oily ad man will slither the party into the abyss. As for the new logo: well, I suppose it will be handy for the dogs that will no doubt queuing up to leave their mark!
And they paid £40,000 to the con-man that devised it. Small beer I guess, if you put it beside what the Indian trip cost.

Posted by: Frank Pulley at September 16, 2006 02:41 PM

It seems David Cameron is trying to turn the Conservative Party into another woolly liberal party!

So it now seems we now don't have a lot of choice at the next election, between:

New liberal Guardian readers R US, more green than the rest, hug a thug today, Conservatives.

New Labour politically correct, we are watching you, elite liberals, tax everything, champagne charlies, new fat cat party.

Lastly, the not so new, Liberal Democrats 'mad as a hatter' make your policy up on the day, stand for everything and nothing party........

So who do we vote for if you are not a woolly liberal at the next general election?

liberals are only liberal when you agree with them!

Posted by: Simon Icke at December 7, 2006 06:57 PM
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