May 18, 2007


Striking a new realism (Dimitri K. Simes, May 17, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

Neither the Democratic takeover of Congress nor the beginning of the presidential campaign has yet started a meaningful foreign policy debate in the United States. In fact, setting aside Iraq, neither presidential candidates, Congress, nor the media have shown much interest in a serious conversation about the direction of U.S. foreign policy. And a majority of legislators and opinion leaders act as if Iraq were an isolated mistake resulting from the peculiar incompetence of the Bush administration rather than a logical consequence of the country's flawed post-Cold War foreign policy approach.

The problem is not new. When the United States became the only superpower, quite a few in the foreign policy elite could not withstand the temptation of triumphalism and a sense of unlimited possibilities. Near unanimity emerged between liberal interventionist Democrats and neoconservative Republicans, who together were able to dominate discourse on world affairs.

The next Realist president will be the first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 18, 2007 11:17 AM

The next Realist president will be the first.

I disagree. Nixon and Kissinger were Realists (sticking it to South Vietnam, detente, cuddling up to Mao Zedong), as was Jimmy Peanut (albiet one with an anti-Semitic streak a mile wide), and it's arguable Clinton was as well e.g., the North Korea deal).

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 18, 2007 11:50 AM

Nixon sacrificed his presidency to stay in Vietnam his entire term of office. He saved Chile from the Communists. He sided with Israel over the Arabs. Etc., etc., etc. It's only because Realism is so antithetical to America that we consider him even a mild Realist.

Posted by: oj at May 18, 2007 12:23 PM

Clinton tried decapitating the regime in Iraq, went into the Balkans, etc.

Posted by: oj at May 18, 2007 12:25 PM

A disappointing article, explaining little, proposing nothing.

The writer does corrrectly observe that appeasement, of necessity, requires throwing Israel to the wolves. His recognition that this is not happening is part of the inconclusiveness of the entire piece.

Now I hold that the world consensus, the "permission slip" case, in not possible. It is not possible because of the psychopathology of Boxerism. Parts of the world languish in vulgar xenophobia, and will require the continued ministrations of the world government.

The plan must be to convict those outside the law of their incompetence and failure. This is the easy part, for communication technology does this for us. Let them then reach for competence for their own motives. As they do so, they will bring about their own reformation. Are we really afraid of a reformed China?

For those too deranged to work through their reformation, let them dance their ghost dance, let them charge the Maxims: they only prove the point.

Posted by: Lou Gots at May 18, 2007 1:00 PM

The thing I don't get about recent discussions of 'realism' is that they don't seem to acknowledge that realism is essentially the amoral pursuit of the national interest (i.e. using economic and military levers to influence over the actions of other nations towards the goal of optimizing the wealth and security of the nation practicing 'realism').

The Lefties who now call themselves realists seem to have the amoral part down pat but are unwilling to apply that amorality in pursuit of national interest. 'Crusaders' like OJ apply moral principles yet also seem to take into account the national interest.

Posted by: JAB at May 18, 2007 1:47 PM