Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Problem with Paleocons

Seriously, the discussion hosted by the Robert Taft Club (and cosponsored by American Cause) was lively and provocative. So perhaps not as much as a problem as a challenge. And not just for paleocons but for the various disparate groups that comprise the pragmatic-based wing of the American foreign policy debate--the libertarians, the conservative and centrist realists, some of the communitarians, and so on.

The first is that realism--broadly defined--has no easy and neat bumper stickers to present on foreign policy. We don't have easy soundbites to deliver, we have paragraphs of nuance to present. We have to clarify and explain. Against that, the simplicity of being able to say, "I support freedom" is hard to match.

Second, what we have to offer--the need for the country to make choices and set priorities--runs up against both a popular and political culture that says, "You can have it all" (and adds that there won't be any costs). As an American realist, I say that what I am aiming to achieve in the world is a balance of power that favors American leadership and creates conditions for the eventual spread of peace, liberty and prosperity--but that this requires management and skill. It's hard to argue against someone who believes that freedom is inevitable and that the body blows the U.S. is currently absorbing are nothing to worry about because "our cause is just."

Third, we tend to be honest about the world we live in and the flaws of the partners we have to work with. But it is far easier to say why we can't work with country X followed by a long list of that country's flaws, or to insist that country Y should just follow our lead because we are right (but of course, NOT to suggest that the U.S. might then have to bear a much greater burden).

So when faced with a supposed choice between a "cost free liberation" (even if it doesn't turn out that way and there was no reason for it to turn out that way) or someone saying "we have to make choices" the first is always going to prevail, at least for now.

Nick, read this post and then was over at Steve Clemon's blog--and he takes real aim at Clinton's call to boycott the Olympics.

Just to excerpt:

Hillary Clinton's call for boycotting the opening ceremonies is an example of a simple-minded, binary approach to US-China relations.

Apparently, she has been led to believe that if Bush is absent at the ceremonies that China will help us on Sudan or allow Tibet a track to political autonomy or independence. This is wrong and naive. China will do neither - and if anything, we will embarrass those in the China establishment who are advocates of deal-making with America and proponents of responsible global stakeholding, which has been the course we have seen China on.

There is no doubt that China's positive role in the troubled Six Party Talks moved our affairs with North Korea forward - even though this process proves to have predictably unpredictable swings up and down. China also proffered some counsel to Iran behind the scenes in advocating release of several intellectuals that Iran had arrested last year as China was not eager to see a substantially tightened third round of economic sanctions out of the UN at that time, and China helped give Iran an important nudge when we needed it.

America and the world have a serious brewing problem with Iran and an ongoing challenge with North Korea. China has secured strategic footholds in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and is spreading its influence in the Caucuses. China is not a natural ally of Russia - in fact, quite the reverse - and yet bumbling American policy seems to be throwing them together in common circumstances in ways that should not be happening. ...

This kind of posturing makes America look incredibly immature -- as if it has lost touch with the realities of statecraft and with its own important role as a global stabilizer.

Another useless pander. Can't actually boycott the Olympics because the sponsors and networks don't want to take a bath like they did in 1980. Want to feel good that we are "doing something." Pathetic.
Nik, this HRC thing proves your point about why realists can't run on their platform in today's environment. Your anti-democratic, pro-tyrant, hater of freedom.
Why offend the Chinese - this is a slight at the Chinese people as well and not just that government.

And why drag the Olympics into (National) politics again?

Western arrogance - no doubt.
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