April 27, 2008


Mccain Vs. Mccain: He seems to think he can magically unite the two main strands in the foreign-policy establishment. He can't. (Fareed Zakaria, 4/26/08, NEWSWEEK)

On March 26, McCain gave a speech on foreign policy in Los Angeles that was billed as his most comprehensive statement on the subject. It contained within it the most radical idea put forward by a major candidate for the presidency in 25 years. Yet almost no one noticed.

In his speech McCain proposed that the United States expel Russia from the G8, the group of advanced industrial countries. Moscow was included in this body in the 1990s to recognize and reward it for peacefully ending the cold war on Western terms, dismantling the Soviet empire and withdrawing from large chunks of the old Russian Empire as well. McCain also proposed that the United States should expand the G8 by taking in India and Brazil—but pointedly excluded China from the councils of power.

We have spent months debating Barack Obama's suggestion that he might, under some circumstances, meet with Iranians and Venezuelans. It is a sign of what is wrong with the foreign-policy debate that this idea is treated as a revolution in U.S. policy while McCain's proposal has barely registered. What McCain has announced is momentous—that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war.

I write this with sadness because I greatly admire John McCain, a man of intelligence, honor and enormous personal and political courage. I also agree with much of what else he said in that speech in Los Angeles. But in recent years, McCain has turned into a foreign-policy schizophrenic, alternating between neoconservative posturing and realist common sense. His speech reads like it was written by two very different people, each one given an allotment of a few paragraphs on every topic.

The neoconservative vision within the speech is essentially an affirmation of ideology. Not only does it declare war on Russia and China, it places the United States in active opposition to all nondemocracies.

It may well seem radical to the striped-pants set, but ask the American people which is the radical idea: to consolidate the world's democracies in opposition to totalitarian/authoritarian thugs or to kiss up to the latter.

How Neo are the Neocons?: What is needed is a good dose of the neoconservatism of old. (Jonah Goldberg, 4/23/08, National Review)

From our earliest days, Americans have supported the promotion of democracy around the world, often by force and without undue heed to international institutions. William Henry Seward, a founder of the Republican Party and Lincoln’s secretary of state, argued that it was America’s mission to lead the way “to the universal restoration of power to the governed.” A generation earlier, statesman Henry Clay championed the idea that America had the “duty to share with the rest of mankind this most precious gift” of liberty. Both world wars, Korea and Vietnam would be inconceivable without accounting for America’s dedication to the promotion and defense of democracy.

Kagan traces such sentiments to the dawn of the republic. The Founders, he writes, saw the U.S. as a “‘Hercules in a cradle’ ... because its beliefs, which liberated human potential and made possible a transcendent greatness, would capture the imagination and the following of all humanity.”

Even amid the 15-month riot of Bush-bashing that has been the Democratic party’s fratricidal primary, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama conceded the core neoconservative principle of the Bush doctrine. “There’s absolutely a connection between a democratic regime and heightened security for the United States,” Clinton said, responding to events in Pakistan. Obama would not only unilaterally attack al-Qaida in Pakistan without Pakistan’s permission if necessary, but he also argues that anti-Americanism in the Middle East is a direct consequence of the lack of democracy.

Obviously, supporting the spread of democracy hardly requires you to support the Iraq war. But it works the other way around as well. Support for the Iraq war doesn’t automatically make you a neoconservative. Douglas J. Feith, a former undersecretary of defense after 9/11, argues in his new memoir, War and Decision, that democratization didn’t rank very high among the Bush administration’s early priorities. Moreover, the administration’s mistakes in Iraq — perhaps including the war itself — have less relationship to ideology than many think. “It is possible,” as Kagan notes, “to be prudent or imprudent, capable or clumsy, wise or foolish, hurried or cautious in pursuit of any doctrine.” (Just ask newly hired Hamas spokesman Jimmy Carter.)

America’s forcible promotion of democracy has been both successful (Germany, Japan) and unsuccessful (Vietnam). Where Iraq will fall in the win-loss columns is unknowable right now. But the idea that the “Iraq project” is some bizarre and otherworldly enterprise will seem laughable to historians a century from now, even if it is viewed as a disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 27, 2008 7:52 AM

Zakaria was in diapers when Reagan advocated his policy towards the Soviets - "we win, they lose".

I guess he still wears them. And he forgets that it was Nixon who put the entire military on alert status when the Soviets began unloading weapons in Alexandria in October 1973. And who mined Haiphong harbor.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 27, 2008 10:11 AM

Maybe the new Cold war is or will be with china

Posted by: rawdawgbuffalo at April 27, 2008 10:39 AM

We weren't successful in Nam???

it just took us a little longer.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 27, 2008 5:18 PM

Zakaria first came to light in a TNR piece where he argued there were too many ex military men (North, Poindexter, McFarlane) in policy making positions and they constituted a 'junta'. Now he'll argue the reverse, until President Petraeus
or Mattis comes along.

Posted by: narciso at April 27, 2008 8:22 PM