Sunday, March 02, 2003

The Perverse Moralism of Realism

Josh Marshall has quoted this transcript of the CNN show, Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer in which Blitzer interviewed Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Brzezinski made the rather silly comment that we have treated our allies as if they were the Warsaw Pact by demanding that they fall in line with our wishes on Iraq. Warsaw Pact? When was the last time we occupied one of our NATO allies? This analysis of moral equivalence between the old Soviet Union, which occupied its satellites and brutally crushed dissent in them, and the United States, which seeks support to protect not only itself but Europe as well from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, is the kind of obtuseness and lack of nuance one must expect from a devotee of "realism."

Yes, it is true that the U.S. will begin military action soon against Iraq. But realists apparently see all aggression as equivalent, whether it is initiated by tyrannical empires occupying unwilling countries (as was the case with the Warsaw Pact) or by liberal democracies seeking to defend themselves (and others too, for that matter) against brutal dictators amassing weapons of mass destruction (as is the case now).

Realism coldly argues that countries will amass as much power as they can -- as did the Soviet Union. But, oddly, it also reverts to a kind of moralism in condemning the US for its aggressiveness on Iraq. How consistent is that? Realism (at least the varieties espoused by Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger) appears to be cold and dispassionate about everything -- except the American use of force for which it reserves all its moral bluster.


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