It's not that morality plays no role for neoliberals: it's an input, a variable, a side issue--it can take on any number of forms... except that of an actual moral imperative.
And Mark added:
The whole point was neoliberals use a different decision making process than progressives. That is true regardless if they end up agreeing with your final conclusion or not.
However, as I argued in an earlier diary focused on economic policy, "The sensible center outraged by the 'sensible center'", there's a further difference between neoliberals who have a firm grasp on certain significant historical facts--such as Brad DeLong and Matt Miller in that case--and those that do not--such as President Obama--those who are ultimately creatures of whatever political process they find themselves embedded within. For Obama, all facts are eventually fungible, as a too-small stimulus becomes "just right", a cowardly, mean-spirited, obstructionist senator (Democratic or Republicans) becomes a great statesman (or woman) aand whatever war needs fighting next automatically becomes a "smart war" even though all the evidence of history tells us that it is as dumb as eternity is long.
The neoliberal way is one that "goes meta" by treating everything as a process to be analyzed considering all the variables (including moral considerations), tweaking them here and there, and then coming up with a supposedly "optimum" solution. At least that's the aspiration. This contrasts sharply with leftist traditions that "go meta" by adopting religious, philosophical or scientific frameworks that are inherently skeptical of and stand apart from the everyday discourse used to discuss a given subject.
I had meant to write a diary about all that today or tomorrow. But then came this segment on The Racel Maddow Show yesteday, and I think it's sufficient to simply state the above as a framework for viewing this segment, and in particular, the section that I've quoted below. It demonstrates in tragic specificity how this double difference between left/progressive analysis and Obama's entirely relativist form of neoliberalism:
MADDOW: A week before Congress passed the joint resolution authorizing war against Iraq in 2003, an Illinois state senator stood up before an anti-war rally in Chicago. He described Saddam Hussein as a bad guy who the world and the Iraqi people would be better off without. But then, State Senator Obama said this, quote, "I also know that Saddam poses no direct threat, no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military is a fraction of its former strength and that in concert with the international community, he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dust bin of history." "I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require an occupation a U.S. occupation of undetermined length at undetermined costs with undetermined consequences." "I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst better than the best impulses of Arab world and strengthen the recruitment of al-Qaeda." "I`m not opposed to all wars," he said, "I`m opposed to dumb wars."
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq since that young state senator became president of the United States has dropped by 90,000 and will apparently drop to zero by this time next year. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, however, since that young state senator became president has tripled. Joining us now is Andrew Bacevich. He is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. He retired at the rank of colonel after 23 years in the United States Army. And he`s author of the new book, " Washington Rules: America`s Path to Permanent War." Professor Bacevich, thanks very much for being here.
ANDREW BACEVICH, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Thanks for having me on the program.
MADDOW: Do you think there`s really no difference between Democrats and Republicans on the biggest most important issues in national security?
BACEVICH: The differences are far smaller than one would conclude from all of the rhetoric and the hype. I`ve long believed that if you`re looking for the big truths about American politics, about the way Washington works, you don`t look at the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. You look for the continuities. And I think when it comes to the national security policy, going all the way back to the beginning of the Cold War, the continuities are quite evident and very strong and continue down to the present day with the president who promised he was going to change the way Washington works.
MADDOW: And that, to you, boils down to Washington rules, this credo that America has to determine sort of the means by which the rest of the world is allowed to run and that we need to enforce that by global military dominance. That means having troops everywhere all over the world, being able to project force all over everywhere in the world and being repeatedly almost in a recidivist way, being interventionist all the time?
BACEVICH: Exactly right. I mean, I was really struck by that quotation from State Senator Obama who, at that point, is not a creature of Washington and who, in that quotation, reflected, I think, a real skepticism about the way we do our national security policy. That skepticism today with President Obama has long since vanished. I mean, you have to be struck by the fact that President Obama has followed a path in Afghanistan that is probably identical to the path that Sen. McCain would have followed had we elected Sen. McCain president. There is no real change when it comes to national security policy. And as someone who voted for the president and admires the president, I have to say that that absence of change is not only disappointing. I think it may even qualify as tragic.
That's what happens when your highest principles are just variables in an equation--or rather, when your highest principle is to adjust the variables in all your equations to fit the political environment of the moment.