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The Right’s AI


Upon opening up the September issue of Harper’s, I came across a full-page ad for AI – Amnesty International, I assumed. Like Lewis H. Lapham’s stalwart left-liberal magazine, the human rights group had in recent months ramped up its righteous indignation over the Bush administration’s many-sided attacks on civil liberties and other abuses justified in the name of the ‘war on terror.’ AI’s new Secretary General had, in fact, only recently raised the ire of the White House by comparing Guantanamo and other centres of illegal detention and torture with the Soviet gulag of an earlier era.

On closer inspection, however, I realized that the ad was for an AI of a different sort altogether. AI, you see, is the abbreviation for a new publication, The American Interest: Illuminating America’s Global Role, which premieres this September.

The editorial board of the new journal features a ‘who’s who’ of the most prominent advocates of U.S. hegemony in world affairs. With a board consisting of the likes of chair Francis Fukuyama (The End of History), Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Samuel Huntington (Clash of Civilizations), a more appropriate subtitle for The American Interest might be Justifying America’s Global Rule.

The publication’s ‘Global Advisory Council’ also provides a clear indication of its ideological bent, which indeed promises to be overtly pro-imperialist. Ana Palacio, one of the non-American advisors, was the foreign minister of Spain who signed up for the ‘coalition of the willing,’ and one of the Aznar government officials who clumsily tried to blame the March 2004 Madrid bombings on Basque terrorists. Days later she and her rightist allies were removed from office in a significant anti-war vote.

Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa is another advisor, and one further removed from the political sentiments of his own people than even Palacio. An acclaimed novelist, Vargas Llosa was defeated in the 1990 presidential race by the now disgraced Fujimori, and is today completely out of sync with the increasingly rebellious mood of Latin America. Upon receiving this year’s Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute – after introductory remarks by none other than Palacio’s former boss, Aznar – the novelist illustrated just how fictional is his take on politics south of Texas:

“In addition, U.S. foreign policy, rather than back dictatorships as it did in the past, now consistently supports democracies and rejects authoritarian tendencies. This has contributed to significantly reducing the distrust and hostility of Latin American democratic sectors toward the powerful neighbour to the north.” (2005 Irving Kristol Lecture)

The failed 2002 coup in Venezuela, which set up a 48 hour dictatorship, and the successful coup of February 29, 2004 against Aristide in Haiti are wilfully ignored in this account. Surely Vargas Llosa is aware that the exercise of genuine democracy by his continent’s popular classes continues to be in absolute contrast to U.S. interests, and is resisted as such by Washington.

Also noteworthy among international advisors is Niall Ferguson, a Scottish-born historian now teaching in the United States. His prolific writings have certainly pleased the powerful; Ferguson is a leading advocate for the American Empire, urging the U.S. to take up its world dominance more explicitly. He advocates for a “liberal Empire,” an intellectual rationalization – one that even evokes the British Empire as a model — for the spreading of ‘American values’ via cruise missiles. Ferguson’s open call for more U.S. Empire, not less, is likely to find an echo in the pages of AI, despite the stated aims of diversity of opinion found on its freshly minted website:

“The American Interest will not represent a single point of view. We mean to enliven and to enlighten the public debate, and so realists, neo-conservatives, isolationists, and liberal institutionalists will all join the fray. We want to provide the premier forum for a serious and civil discussion on the full spectrum of issues – domestic and international – that shape America’s role on the world stage.”

Above this sure to be diverse and eclectic fray will be Adam Garfinkle, AI’s editor. Garfinkle is the author of Telltale Hearts, a lament of the supposedly pernicious influence of the Vietnam Era anti-war movement on political life in the United States. Most recently, in a thematically related job, he has been a speech writer for U.S. Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice.

A writer of many of the platitudes, evasions and lies that were used to launch a war that has claimed tens of thousands of innocent lives, Adam Garfinkle would seem ideally suited to head up the team of apologists for war and Empire that are set to launch The American Interest.

-Derrick O’Keefe is a co-chair of the StopWar coalition in Vancouver, and a founding editor of Seven Oaks (www.SevenOaksMag.com).

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