Friday, May 30, 2014

Vampire foreign policy

"I never drink... wine."
Shorter David Brooks, "The Autocracy Challenge", May 30 2014:
Obama's proposal to make U.S. foreign policy less violent is all very well, but autocrats. It has been scientifically proven that autocrats need to be cockslapped every 17 months or so. And there's an autocrat under my bed, Daddy, I'm scared.
Big Dick Cheney was visible on the TV complaining about Obama, and specifically his approach to Iraq and Afghanistan, and I was so shocked by this public display of um, [jump]
adult-onset learning disability as if it were something to boast about that instead of screaming I said something sweetly reasonable: "You had seven years to do it your way, Big Dick."

David Brooks thinks he can change the terms of the argument by introducing the word "autocrat" (Russian samoderzhets), for reasons I can't even begin to imagine, in the concept of autocrats vs. democrats as the New Cold War. He gets it from Robert Kagan's long read, "The Allure of Normalcy", of which Brooks's column may be said to be the not very coherent Readers' Digest version, an ambitious piece that seems to aim at presenting a kind of neo-neoconservative doctrine. Kagan, in turn, thinks he can change the terms of the argument by being somewhat more polite to his wife's employer and withdrawing the word "isolationist".

Which makes some sense, I suppose, as some of us think it's very odd to refer to Obama's program as isolationist when it is built entirely on mulilateralism, takes as a principle aim to
"rebuild and construct the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges and confront common threats"
and insists in former Secretary of State Clinton's words that
"We must use what has been called "smart power", the full range of tools at our disposal – diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural – picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy."
Unfortunately Kagan kind of spoils his generous gesture by adding that the Harding and Coolidge administrations (which left the management of foreign affairs pretty much to private business) weren't in his view isolationist either and tagging the Obama foreign policy with Harding's bastard coinage "normalcy".

The every 17 months thing is from Kagan's description of a responsible system of deploying U.S. power as represented in bipartisan fashion by the G.H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations and their interventions
in Panama (1989), Iraq (1991), Somalia (1992), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1995), Iraq again (1998), and Kosovo (1999).
That's a pretty funny bag of examples. There was no good reason for Panama or Iraq 1998 (if you want to be charitable to Clinton you can blame it on bad intelligence), Iraq 1991 was brought on by incompetent US foreign policy, Somalia was a colossal disaster, and the actual emergencies in Haiti and former Yugoslavia weren't happening because of somebody's 17-month schedule. And isn't it OK, if you want to commit troops who may get killed to some operation, to at least try to make a case that vital national interests are involved? It's not as if the Obama administration hasn't conducted any military interventions, either.

It's the same old blood in fairly old bottles, that's all (neoconservatives never drink... wine).

No comments:

Post a Comment