Monday, November 13, 2006

It's not too early to start preparing for the next war the realists will set up for us
Tom Smith

Michael Rubin of AEI nails it:

Why then do so many progressives then celebrate the return of realism? The reasons are multifold. First, having allowed personal animosities to dominate their ideology, they embrace change, regardless of how it impacts stated principles. Hatred of Mr. Rumsfeld became a principle in itself. Likewise, the same progressives who disparage John Bolton seldom explain why they feel forcing the U.N. to account for its inefficiencies or stick to its founding principles is bad. They complain not of his performance, but rather of his pedigree.

Second is a tendency to conflate analysis with advocacy. Progressives find themselves in a situation where they both embrace realism but deny reality. An Oct. 13 Chronicle of Higher Education article regarding a Columbia University professor's attacks on Azar Nafisi, author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran," highlighted the issue: "The conundrum, say these \[Middle East studies\] scholars, is how to voice opposition to the actions of the Islamic Republic without being co-opted by those who seek external regime change in Iran through a military attack." By embracing a canard, intellectuals convinced themselves of the nobility of ignoring evidence. Thus, Western feminists march alongside Islamists who seek their subjection while progressive labor activists join with Republican realists to ignore Tehran's attacks on bus drivers seeking an independent union, even as a Gdansk-type movement offers the best hope for peaceful change in Iran.

Both realism and progressivism have become misnomers. Realists deny reality, and embrace an ideology where talk is productive and governments are sincere. While 9/11 showed the consequences of chardonnay diplomacy, deal-cutting with dictators and a band-aid approach to national security, realists continue to discount the importance of adversaries' ideologies and the need for long-term strategies. And by embracing such realism, progressives sacrifice their core liberalism. Both may celebrate Mr. Rumsfeld's departure and the Baker-Hamilton recommendations, but at some point, it is fair to ask what are the lessons of history and what is the cost of abandoning principle.

The only thing left out here is that if your principles are deluded (cough neo-conservative cough) then you're in bad shape as well.  It's possible to be realistic without being a "Realist".  We can acknowledge that democracy is not going to come to Iraq outside of unofficial Kurdistan anytime soon, without making nice with Amhadhitlernejad.  We did help create the Butcher of Baghdad, but at least we took him down before he finished his nuclear surprize.  And we also don't have to don our neo-conservative togas and bleat about how the end of history is coming to a Middle East near you, to reckon that supporting nutcases who dream of killing Jews with the latest technology is no way to teach the world to sing.  Been there, done that.  See Diary of Anne Frank.  Some days I miss the Gipper so much I could just cry.
* * *

AND then there's this on "oops" . . .
I thought we had to go into Iraq because of WMDs and I still think so.  I thought that's what we learned from all those dangerous documents the Pentagon put up on the web that the NY Times was complaining about.  I just thought the idea of hanging around and building Athens on the Tigris was a lot of nonsense, inspired by people whose training included too much political theory and not enough political science.  Just because you've read the Symposium in Greek doesn't mean you know how to cater a big party.  So yes, we should not have de-Baathified so much, should have kept more of the Iraqi army, should have sent in more troops, planned to get out earlier all along, and probably let the Iraqis split up, but just left with a little promise to the Sunni and Shiite stans that we would be watching them, and would be back at the first sign of uranium enrichment or thousands of mysteriously dead goats.  I put a lot of this down to an unwillingness to act like the hegemon we are.  If some benighted dictatorship in the armpit of the world is working on a nasty surprize for us, we shouldn't have to promise that life will be wonderful for them after we finish blowing up their army and bioweapons seminar rooms.  What's wrong with, it sucks to be the enemy of America?  Nobody expects the French to make Africa better;  we could learn something from them, as much as I hate to admit it.  I personally thought the whole nation building idea sounded stupid, suspected it would fail, and still thought we should have invaded, and I'm glad we did.  We are safer for it, not counting whatever stupidity we plan for the future.  If failure to acheive the impossible in Iraq turns into a reason for propping up those whirling dervishes in Iran, that will really be the worst combination of farce, tragedy and disaster.

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Tom Smith


"Realists deny reality, and embrace an ideology where talk is productive and governments are sincere," according to Mr. Rubin? What a crock. Realists just think that, often, talk can be more productive (and sometimes simply less destructive) than starting wars. Moreover, I can't accept that realists believe that "governments are sincere" -- again, realists just choose diplomacy (which sometimes means saying things you don't mean, and accepting similar conduct by other nations) when it makes sense to do so.

Posted by: Tillman Fan | Nov 13, 2006 6:27:21 PM

Of what value is talk and diplomacy when either or both sides are insincere and say things they don't mean? My answer: of no value. That's why talking with Islamic countries is a waste of time and resources that gives us an illusory hope for peace. Since the Quran commands all Muslims that Muhammed is "an excellent model of conduct", Muhammed's conduct in signing the Treaty of Hudaibiyya, where he signed a peace agreement with Mecca and broke it after only 2 years, should inform us that no agreement between a Muslim and an infidel is given in good faith by them (Muslims).

Posted by: randian | Nov 14, 2006 1:41:42 AM

aynrandgirl - I can't believe that you're serious. Would it be fair to say that the United States never signs an agreement in good faith because we broke certain treaties with the Indians in the 1800s (a time period much closer than your example)?

I also disagree that "insincere" talk and diplomacy is "of no value." Our 50-year Cold War with the Soviets was full of insincere talk and diplomacy. It wasn't perfect by any means, but those discussions helped prevent full hostilities, and ultimately came to a pretty good end.

Posted by: Tillman Fan | Nov 14, 2006 10:33:25 AM


Posted by: ma145zda | Apr 27, 2008 10:11:28 AM