Wednesday, October 25, 2006
TNI, Liberal Organ?
I published yesterday in National Interest online a short essay ("Original Intent") on how the first issue of the magazine continues to serve as our "editorial lodestone." In it, I noted:
Re-reading the first three items that appear in the premiere issue shows to what extent the magazine throughout the years has remained loyal to its founding principles.
“A Note on The National Interest” proclaimed that the magazine would “be characterized as conservative. And so it is, though only in the sense that, these days, the assumptions from which it proceeds are more congenial to conservatives than to anyone else.” (emphasis mine).
One of those assumptions—“that the Soviet Union constitutes the single greatest threat to America’s interests”—was rendered moot six years later. Conservatives and moderates today continue to debate whether there has been a replacement (Islamic radicalism? China? Iran?). This is one of the areas where the magazine stays loyal to its founding injunction that the “foreign policy of this country can only benefit from such a sustained and open exchange, however sharp the disagreements that may emerge.”
But the other two remain very valid—that “the primary and overriding purpose of American foreign policy must be to defend and advance the national interests of the United States” and “for better or for worse, international politics remains essentially power politics.”
The second item—the first signed article to appear in TNI—was Irving Kristol’s “Foreign Policy in an Age of Ideology”—in which he warned that the “real trouble with American liberal-internationalism is not that it is hypocritical and disingenuous but, on the contrary, that it is naïve and utopian.” Two pages later, he identifies the principal task of U.S. foreign policy at that time as to defeat the Soviet Union’s messianic ideology “not so that the world can be made ‘safe for democracy’ but so that the nations of the world can have the opportunity to realize whatever potential for popular government and economic prosperity they may possess, or come to possess.”
Finally, the third item in the table of contents was Robert Tucker’s “Isolation and Intervention.” Tucker, one of the founding editors (who is now an editor emeritus), questioned—in 1985!—whether promoting freedom ought to be the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy. “The issue,” he wrote, “is not the value of freedom. Instead, it is what power can accomplish in spreading freedom. It is also whether universalizing freedom is a proper interest of foreign policy. … Conservatives, despite their deep attachment to liberty, should be the first to recognize this.”