Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rice Admits Volte-Face on Foreign Policy

First Things notes that Condi Rice admits that the Administration made a change in US foreign policy. It went all Wilsonian (over the serious and repeated objections of folks like PJ Buchanan, for example.)

“We recognize that democratic state building is now an urgent component of our national interest,” writes Rice. “And in the broader Middle East, we recognize that freedom and democracy are the only ideas that can, over time, lead to just and lasting stability, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

As is well known, the Bush doctrine represents a remarkable about-face for an administration that initially swore off “nation-building.” Its repudiation of decades of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East—stability at the cost of freedom—has been no less astonishing

Yah. And the objections voiced in the essay is the best-known of them:

...the document leaves probing questions about America’s democracy agenda unanswered. Can a self-declared Islamic state, for example, support the political doctrines of equality, pluralism, and individual freedom? How can the United States promote democratic reform in societies that have little or no experience with these ideals?

Rice admits that "democratizing" is a challenge.

She admits that democratic development is “never fast or easy” and that “few nations begin the democratic journey with a democratic culture.” Instead, they must create and sustain it over time “through the hard, daily struggle to make good laws, build democratic institutions, tolerate differences, resolve them peacefully, and share power justly.”

OK. It's difficult even where it is established.

Of course, Rice was not exactly.....comprehensive.

What she doesn’t say, what the Bush administration has mostly failed to explain to the American people, is the fearsome difficulty—and the terrible frailty—of this task in states ravaged by despotic governments and religious extremism

"Bad habits are hard to break," like your Mom said, but writ large, I guess.

The essayist then reminds us of certain Machiavellian principles about leadership--that is, that the postulate is not 'whether' a leader should act morally, but 'WHEN' he should. Well....

The nut of the New Policy's dilemma is here:

“Our current course is certainly difficult, but let us not romanticize the old bargains of the Middle East—for they yielded neither justice nor stability.” True enough. But what sacrifices ought to be required from the American people to sustain these partnerships?

A question which has not been asked of Obama, by the way--but which McCain has (more or less) answered with his "100 years" remark.

Jos. Loconte, the essay's author, won't answer the question either. He does think that "Christian Realism" may provide some guidance.

Are we faced, then, with a choice between Machiavellian cynicism and democratic idealism? Perhaps what’s needed is a revival of “Christian realism”—a hopefulness about the influence of American democratic values on the world stage, tempered by a severe realism about the moral ambiguity of human nature and human societies. Christian realism came of age in the 1930s, as American theologians such as Reinhold Niebuhr rejected liberal schemes of appeasement in the face of fascist aggression. “Some of the greatest perils to democracy arise from the fanaticism of moral idealists who are not conscious of the corruption of self-interest in their professed ideals,” warned Niebuhr

Heh. Leaving aside facile snarks about 'Congressmen meeting their morning mirrors', what Niebuhr was endorsing was action to take out one A. Hitler. Not a bad thing, you understand, but are we talking about Perpetual War here? Eastasia?


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