Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Of course, my first reaction is to take issue with that--after all, what is TNI itself trying to do? Senator Hagel is a leading proponent of principled realism and in our summer issue discusses what that means; he used his realism to guide his thinking on Iran. Kissinger certainly is continuing to make the case (see our conversation with him in the summer issue). Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, two leading contributors, are about to release "Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World". And so on ...
But Rauch raises a much more fundamental point--that right now neither major political party really wants to embrace the label "realism" or formulate their foreign policy positions on a realist basis, even though its propositions resonate with the majority of Americans.
It speaks to the fact that realism has an "idealism gap"--a point I myself made several years ago when I wrote that "Lofty aims--however unrealistic--rather than practical objectives are what stir the blood of the citizenry, right?"
It also points to the extent the maximalist rhetoric has replaced analytical thinking. In theory and in the abstract, as I said at the Saltzman Forum last fall, no one disagrees with the proposition that, in the long run, people are better off living under democracies. From John Mearsheimer to David Rieff, one would find little dissent with the proposition. But, as Dov Zakheim wrote for us (and will speak this Friday at the magazine), strategy is moving from the aspiration to realization. And in the current climate of debate, it is far easier to be labeled an enemy of freedom than to be appreciated for providing cautionary advice.
If there is going to be a Democratic "foreign policy realism" it should be an organic outgrowth from the party's core positions and based on what the rank and file see as best for America, not something bought from DC consultants and from Republican circles.
In the interview he gave you for the summer issues, Henry Kissinger makes the point that the value of a policy depends on the period of time in which it is expected to apply. The corollary I think is that one must know the timeframe in order to solve the problem.
Happen to have just returned from Webb's primary victory party... You're right, I think he's going to have a lot to contribute to the debate within the Democratic Party on foreign policy... There are still a lot of people in the foreign policy elite within the Democratic party who blanche at the term realism, but Jim Webb's candidacy has shown that such a message has resonance with the party rank and file in the post-Iraq era. Democrats are tiring of the freedom crusade -- and want a foreign policy more focused on protecting our real interests, not trying to remake the world in our image.
How is Webb going to make the case against the freedom crusade when the DLC wants to intensify the crusade with all of their might?
I guess I'd just point out that the DLC idn't the whole party, and neither is it the case that the debate is solely between 'DLC centrists' and the 'Deaniac/MoveOn/pacifist' left (which certainly isn't Jim Webb).
But there is, I think, more of a realization among the party rank and file in the wake of Iraq that sometimes the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the Beinart/muscular Wilsonian/"Dems could have done the Iraq nation building project better" message has very little resonance with Dems outside the DC/NYC/Boston chattering classes. Every time I've seen Jim Webb use the line about America not having a mission to 'spread democracy at the point of a gun', it's been greeted by applause, something which would make a lot of 'progressive' think-tank types cringe... (if you're curious enough to look up Harris Miller's FEC donor data, you'll find a couple of them listed there...)
Didn't mean to imply that Webb's primary win was solely about, or even mainly about, his foreign policy views. I think it was largely, as you say, about having a chance against Allen. Having said that, though, I think his candidacy will help to start a much needed debate within the party, which was why I became highly interested in it early on.