Friday, October 13, 2006

Can Leftists Be Realists?

This was the underlying question at last night's forum co-sponsored by The National Interest, the Nation, New America and the World Affairs Council of Washington, DC, and debated and discussed by Dimitri Simes, Dov Zakheim, Kai Bird, Sherle Schwenniger and Anatol LIeven.

There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel--an excellent summary has already been posted at Stop the Spirit of Zossen.

New America should be posting video of the event and when it is available I'll notify readers of TWR.

Some initial thoughts:

--the phrase "unintended consequences" was interestingly enough used by representatives of both camps as something to be aware of in assessing policy;

--following a point made by Paul Starobin, FDR was invoked as a progressive icon who was also quite the realist in foreign policy

--the real question is while there might be points of convergence or even occasional agreement, does realism serve as a sufficient base for a new broad-based coalition in U.S. foreign policy? Can "balance of power" blend with "community of power"?

I'll post more on this question shortly.

Seems simple enough to me. Progessives who are pragmatic in their domestic policy would also presumably be pragmatic in their international policy as well, no?

I consider myself both a progressive and a realist (in the sense of power politics).

Attended last night's event and found it an interesting discussion, although as so often people want to fight old battles and stress their ideological purity rather than get things achieved.

I think that progressives have a real problem dealing with the reality of power and interests; that people are essentially selfish; that a state needs to be able to resort to force when reason is insufficient as a persuader. I think that progressives may like realist critiques but they still think that the ideal world is just "over the horizon." It was a progressive world view that led us into debacles in Somalia and Haiti.
"It was a progressive world view that led us into debacles in Somalia and Haiti."

Yeah, Bush I was such a progressive, sending troops to feed the Somalis. Probably got the idea channeling Lee Atwater.
Bush wanted to feed people and troops were to protect shipments; Clinton and his people wanted to transform Somalia and get involved in its political affairs.
one word: Hillary. I believe her refusal to renounce her vote on the war and her attempt to tack towards balance when talking about Iraq are sure signs of realism - and yet she is repudiated with
exteme prejudice by left wing
I remain entirely unconvinced that any such thing as “Realism” exists in the absence of a rival superpower. The term only seemed useful in the period after WWII and before the fall of the Berlin Wall when deciding to make nice with anti-Soviet dictators. If there were any such general definition of “Realism” we wouldn’t have needed the term “Appeasement” to describe what Chamberlain was doing to Hitler.

In order to retain any meaning, it has to go beyond a synonym for “practical”; it would be hard to find anyone that argues we should have an impractical policy as a matter of theory. A theory is largely defined by laying out preconditions that determine that practicality of various courses of action.
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