Monday, April 02, 2007

Indian National Interest; Folly of Humanitarians

Two items of interest for this Monday:

First, the inaugural issue of Pragati: The Indian National Interest Review is now available. This new journal, as the editors note, will revolve around "themes that we care about dearly: economic freedom, realism in international relations, open society, a culture of tolerance and an emphasis on good governance. The environment, poverty eradication and rural development have long been appropriated by vested ideological and political interests, over which they have come to assert an exclusivity of sorts. We challenge these claims of intellectual monopoly: Pragati will deal with these issues with the seriousness they demand."

Second, something from our colleague and friend J. Peter Pham, which I think follows on nicely from Friday's discussion on Afghanistan.

In an essay, "The Limits of No-Limts", he calls into question the assumptions held by some on the Left for achieving grand transformations that are as utopian and over-ambitious as those held by some on the Right.

“I diverge from ... [the] faith that somehow ... ‘international humanitarians’ can bring about radical transformation that is both legitimate and self-sustaining. ...

"First, they presume there are no limits to our understanding of other peoples, cultures, and polities: we comprehend the obstacles and injustices which need to be removed, and the remedies which need to be prescribed… Second, they presume there are no limits to our discourse… Third, they presume there are no limits to our capabilities to affect transformation through interventions, military or otherwise, or the willingness of the objects of concern to absorb the changes brought to them.

"The United States and other countries with a liberal democratic tradition can and should support the efforts of men and women everywhere to secure for themselves the rights and freedoms we often take for granted. But we should also not be surprised that some societies will push back, sometimes even aggressively. Further, outside advocacy—to say nothing of external intervention—may lead to worsening conditions for those on whose behalf action was undertaken. In the end, the reality which must be recognized is that progress in human rights will be made not so much because outsiders, whether governmental or civil society actors, push it, but because individuals, cultures, and nations appropriate it for themselves. "


Didn't the conservative approach used to be, each country should be free to choose its own form of government without outside pressure? How did things change?
That was the sentiment Irving Kristol expressed in the first issue of TNI--and I think Nick posted about this a while back too.
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