While Americans and Australians wait to see what their respective stimulus packages end up containing, some foreign policy discussion is going on – Robert Farley and Matt Yglesias discuss the viability of the Human-Cylon Alliance.
Posts Tagged ‘Foreign policy’
Posted in Books & Literature, Policy analysis, Politics abroad, tagged Daydream Believers, Foreign policy, Fred Kaplan, George W Bush, United States of America on Wednesday, 7 January, 2009| 1 Comment »
“Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power“ by Fred Kaplan (Wiley, 2008).
I just finished reading this book last night and posted a review to my weRead app on Facebook; here’s a copy of what I had to say:
(4.5 out of 5)
An excellent examination of the foreign policy ideas that drove the Bush administration into the Iraq quagmire.
What I found most valuable in this book is that Kaplan distinguishes the different viewpoints that existed – pre-9/11 vs post-9/11 Bush; Rumsfeld and Cheney’s belief that displays of America’s military might would prompt a wave of democratic reform; the more “pure” neoconservatism of Wolfowitz and co.; Powell’s multilateralism and Rice’s evolving philosophy.
Yet at the same time, Kaplan argues – convincingly – that a flawed notion unified and motivated this group of people to move largely in the same direction. That notion was that in the post Cold War world, the United States had the capacity to use its power to impose change for the better; that they could do so anywhere and everywhere, and that the more they did so, the easier the task would become.
Kaplan concludes by evaluating the implications of this failed approach for the prospect of future interventions that could achieve genuine humanitarian good. In the context of the current crises in Gaza, Congo, etc. (not to mention Afghanistan and Iraq), and with the Obama administration about to take the reins, the issues he raises are of vital importance.
Hat-tip to Toaf for pointing me to this video, in which Pepe Escobar discusses the broader context of the South Ossetia conflict. He points to the United States’ foreign policy approach in Eurasia – which he sees continuing along the same lines under either McCain or Obama – as prompting Russia to push back against its growing encirclement by potential threats. It’s well worth watching the entire clip as Escobar traces the development of the situation from the fall of the USSR to the emergence of the “new Cold War”:
Andrew Bolt continues to ramp up the argument that teh Left is made up of communist sympathisers with love in their hearts for (non-communist) Mother Russia. It’s more straw men and caricatures, and really does nothing more than give his commenters another chance to agree that anyone not organising a march today against Vlad Putin must obviously hate America.
Except that the Right conservatives moderates appear to be exempt from having to act to demonstrate their convictions. Here’s a question – where is the Right on Georgia? If this is, as Bolt and the Boltheads assert, the start of “the new Cold War”; if the current renegade military actions of Russia pose a grave threat to the stability of Europe and the security of democratic states; if the free nations of the world need to send a clear signal to Russia that its ambition to bring down a new Iron Curtain will be resisted forcefully, then why aren’t they out there pressing their government to stand up to Russia?
The fact is, the brand of conservatives who espouse this kind of philosophy see grave threats at every turn. The end result is that:
Perpetually exaggerating threats leads to, well, perpetual exaggerations, whether about a bad guy’s wickedness or a good guy’s virtue. On such faulty edifices are constructed unnecessary wars, those most murderous of foreign policy mistakes.
In a world of black hats and white hats, it’s easy to appear serious and stern – but it is much harder to act that way. So Bolt and his ilk content themselves with sitting back and condemning others for inaction. They don’t even need to worry about whether the actions they propose are going to be effective, practical or even possible.
So where is the Left on Georgia? Well, I’m here. And other people are around, too. We’re trying to take a realistic perspective on the situation and on what can be done, rather than just pontificating about what might be done. What is the Right doing?
ELSEWHERE: Glenn Greenwald points out another factor that contributes to the fact that people have more to say about the United States’ actions:
Whatever one’s views are on the justifiability of each isolated instance, it’s simply a fact that the U.S. invades, bombs, occupies, and interferes in the internal affairs of other countries far more than any other country on the planet. It’s not even a close competition.
UPDATE: Matt Yglesias discusses Welch’s commentary about the hysteria-based foreign policy.
Upon reflection, the issue that I think stands out from the McCain campaign’s apparent Wikipedia copy-and-paste doesn’t relate to plagiarism and attribution. Copying others’ words has a lengthy tradition in political speechwriting, as evidenced by radio and press coverage of a claim made against Obama by Hillary Clinton.
What strikes me is this – during a major international crisis that has military, diplomatic and humanitarian ramifications, the McCain campaign consulted Wikipedia in developing their response. Why did they need to look anything up on Wikipedia? Did they not have a foreign policy advisor who could tell them about the relationship between Georgia and Russia? In short, where was the foreign policy expertise?
The more I try to picture it, the more I imagine that the communications staff had a conversation along the lines of this (NB: In my imagination, all of the staff working for the McCain campaign are old guys with white hair – even the interns):
STAFFER A (let’s call him Toby): Hey, the Senator will need to show that he understands the history behind this current situation. Do we have someone in the campaign who knows about Georgia?
STAFFER B (and let’s call him Sam): Well, there was that guy with the giant tufts of hair growing out of his ears. Didn’t he say he was from Savannah? And that mailboy over there is wearing a Braves cap.
TOBY: No, I think that’s the wrong Georgia. This one is over near Czechoslovakia.
SAM: Then I’m out of options. Is there anyone in the Bush administration who might know?
TOBY: Boy, you’re funny.
SAM: Why don’t we just look it up on the Wiki? The Senator will never know about anything we get from the Internet.
TOBY: Great idea, little buddy. We’re like the Batman and Robin of speechwriting.
SAM: Okay, now how do we spell Georgia?
A common criticism of Obama seems to be that he has too many, or relies too much on, advisors. But if it keeps him from going to the wisdom of the crowds in an area as complex as foreign policy, I think the world might be all the better for it.