Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More Realistic than "Realism"

A good antidote to the Fukuyama piece that Jacob discusses below is Charles Krauthammer's recent defense of "neoconservative" foreign policy in Commentary.

According to Krauthammer, we have seen three distinct foreign policy approaches in the post-Cold War Era. The first was realism under the senior George Bush or "Kissingerism without Kissinger," as Krauthammer calls it. The elder Bush's great accomplishment was overseeing the reunification of Germany. However, he seemed to prefer Soviet stability in Eastern Europe to further revolution and liberalization. Bush's great failure was his Middle East policy. As Krauthammer notes, "Leaving Saddam in place, and declining to support the Kurdish and Shiite uprisings that followed the first Gulf war, begat more than a decade of Iraqi suffering, rancor among our war allies, diplomatic isolation for the U.S., and a crumbling regime of UN sanctions." Still, the Soviet Union dissolved peacefully, and Saddam never made it into Saudi Arabia.

The next approach -- Liberal Internationalism -- took the stage in the Clinton years. The one success of this approach -- saving the Muslims in the Balkans and integrating them into Europe -- came at the defiance of liberal internationalism's own principle of getting U.N. approval, according to Krauthammer. The rest of the Clinton years are marked by the failure of the Oslo Accords and the treatment of rising terrorism as a problem of law enforcement.

Finally, with the election of George W. Bush, the post-Cold War Era saw the re-emergence of "an un-ashamed assertion and deployment of American power, a resort to unilateralism when necessary, and a willingness to preempt threats before they emerge. Most importantly, the second Bush administration has explicitly declared the spread of freedom to be the central principle of American foreign policy."

Krauthammer notes that as recently as 2004, journalists were relegating neoconservatism to the ash-heap of history, and remarks that Fukuyama himself jumped ship by arguing that the aggressive approach's failure could have been predicted in advance (though Fukuyama himself remained silent before the war). Without sugar-coating the difficulties in Iraq, Krauthammer argues that neoconservatism has emerged as the only realistic response to the current global situation. Neoconservatism has displayed a realism of its own, despite the sweeping and cosmic rhetoric of Bush's Second Inaugural. It ranks crises and problems, making alliances with some distasteful leaders when necessary and pushing on others only gently in an effort to achieve its goals. Krauthammer notes that those pursuing the neoconservative policies these days -- Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, in particular -- did not have particularly notable neocon credentials before 9/11. According to Krauthammer, "[After 9/11], as neoconservatism seemed to offer the most plausible explanation of the new reality and the most compelling and active response to it, many realists were brought to acknowledge the poverty of realism -- not just the futility but the danger of a foreign policy centered on the illusion of stability and equilibrium."

This piece puts the burden on Fukuyama to explain why inaction is preferable or more realistic to the assertion of American power and the willingness of the United States to preempt and confront its enemies.


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