Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Realism ... Defining Terms

Foreign policy realism has a bad name in Washington. The "realists" are the ones blamed for the carnage of the Yugoslav wars and the sorry state of the Middle East--after all, doesn't Walter Lippman's famous maxim ("Without the controlling principle that the nation must maintain its objectives and its power in equilibrium, its purposes within its means and its means equal to its purposes, its commitments related to its resources and its resources adequate to its commitments, it is impossible to think at all about foreign affairs") caution against crusades and interventions, preventing the rapid deployment of American power to do good in the world?

We all know the drill--the realists idolize "stability" above all else, and really they must be "un-American" because they dislike freedom and democracy, preferring the company of autocrats and dictators. Every time the neo-Wilsonians want to castigate any realist concerns about policy, they trot out good old Prince Metternich as their straw man.

[For a slice of this ongoing debate, see the piece I co-authored with Dimitri Simes, "John F. Kennedy Equivocated" ]

This ignores the emergence of American streams of realism that do understand the importance of values and aspirations as a component in shaping foreign policy--a point even Henry Kissinger, the "uber-realist" lightning rod for both the left and the neo-conservative right in the United States--acknowledges. "Ethical Realism"--the viewpoint propounded by Hans Morgenthau and Rienhold Niebuhr--is well described by John Hulsman and Anatol Lieven in the Summer 2005 issue of The National Interest. [For a more in-depth discussion of all of this, visit a past discussion at Steve Clemon's "The Washington Note", at http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/000813.html]

There is a great deal of diversity among those who call themselves realists, as I noted in a piece for the Winter/Spring 2005 issue of SAIS Review . But realists of all camps--liberal, ethical, democratic, hard, communitarian, etc--adhere to two "organizing principles": The first is a skepticism about utopian projects, no matter how noble in inspiration. The second is an appreciation for the limits as well as the uses of power; that lacking unlimited energy or resources, power must be used selectively. In keeping with this realization, a country's interests must be prioritized--with the greatest effort reserved for averting threats that first and foremost affect a country's very survival.

Welcome to the blogosphere! I'm looking forward to your posts -- now you won't have to just leave comments at Justin's.
Many do not associate the name Al-Jazeera with what is known as journalistic integrity. However, does being a bad journalist, or a biased reporter, justify the wrath of a whole country? This is the question Al-Jazeera representatives are floating out there. Many in America believe the Al-Jazeera network was a propaganda tool utilized by individuals with a vested interest in keeping the Middle East at a status quo, others think they are an extension of the anti-Semitism and hatred of America and Israel. Most in either Israel or America would probably not have a problem if a missile or two went wide right and accidentally took out a few Al-Jazeera reporters and assets. However, the question is not whether you approve of Al-Jazeera or their tactics, the question is whether the American government targeted for destruction a foreign reporting service that was in opposition to the current U.S. administrations Middle East policies. The United States is denying the accusation that they ever considered the potential targeting of Al-Jazeera but Al-Jazeera believes the rumor to be fact and they are seeking confirmation from government officials in Great Britain. If the accusations end up being true and contrary to American denials then America suffers a great loss of face in the Arab world, on the other hand if the accusations are false Al-Jazeera most likely loses nothing, and this is the frustration most people have with this journalistic association, Al-Jazeera. The Al-Jazeera network is known for embellishing facts and figures in regards to certain stories that reflect a negative spin towards Western Civilization. They have countless times been caught broadcasting stories with erroneous facts and figures and that when later proved inaccurate are never corrected. I understand the administrations frustration at dealing with this type of organization and the sense of aggravation they apparently have at being called to the carpet by such a nefarious journalistic corporation. However, if the facts are true then there will be no problem proving them wrong if only to prove their point to legitimate news reporting agencies. I have always been told to take the high road when at all possible so I hope the current administration does this and properly clears the air on this very nefarious accusation.
Raymond B
What did the previous comment have to do with the substance of the article?
Your life is theirs to share.
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Raymond B
As the holiday season officially kicks off today we at Voteswagon would like to wish you and your family a very happy holiday season. We are currently working on some new programs and features to our site that we hope you will enjoy. Our site is dedicated to letting individuals know that their one opinion, one vote, can make a difference. Happy holidays, we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Take time to remember family and friends as well as the brave soldiers protecting our freedom around the world.
Raymond B
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