February 28, 2009

JUST BECAUSE THE UR HAS EMBRACED EVIL DOESN'T MAKE THE NEOCONS WRONG:

Obama's Intelligence Blunder (Jon Chait, February 28, 2009, Washington Post)

Most of President Obama's "missteps" to date have been Washington peccadilloes of the "let's find something to complain about" sort. But Obama has made one major mistake that has attracted little public attention: his appointment of Charles Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was attacked by pro-Israel activists, but the contretemps over Freeman's view of Israel misses the broader problem, which is that he's an ideological fanatic.

That may sound like an odd description for a respectable bureaucrat and impeccable establishmentarian such as Freeman. What's more, he's not an ideologue of the sort who draws most of the attention. When most people think of foreign policy ideology, they mean neoconservatism, which dominated the Bush administration. Broadly speaking, neoconservatism is obsessed with the moral differences between democracies and non-democracies. At its most simplistic (which, alas, it nearly always is) neoconservatism means supporting the "good guys" and fighting the "bad guys." As most of us have seen, neoconservatism has trouble recognizing that the good guys aren't perfectly good and that the bad guys aren't comic book villains.

Freeman belongs to the camp that's the mortal enemy of the neoconservatives: the realists. Realist ideology pays no attention to moral differences between states.


While it's accurate to say that Realism is geopolitics for the amoral, Mr. Chait's specific complaint -- there are many better ones -- about neoconservatism is quite backwards. Idealistic foreign policy doesn't require the good guys be perfect. It is opponents who insist that our allies can't be the good guys because they aren't perfect. Or that Hitler, for example, wasn't completely bad because he was a vegetarian.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 28, 2009 9:51 AM
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