Tuesday, June 14, 2005

This reflection, by princeton's John Ikenberry, seems to me to be pretty typical of the stuff Democratic-leaning intellectuals produce when considering Bush foreign policy. Click through at your own risk to read a comparison of Bush's efforts with those of Wilson, FDR, Kennedy, Truman, Clinton; Ikeberry pinpoints the difference to Bush's belief that democracy promotion is sufficient without the need to build a "liberal international order" (i.e. Wilson's League of Nations, Truman's UN, and the efforts of others on the list to build institutions that cement ties across democracies).

The problem with this is that Bush does not have a coherent foreign policy, and its wrong to analyze it as such. In particular, Bush's policy encompasses two somewhat contradictory strands.

The first is simple isolationism. This is the stance taken by Bush when he ran for president, repeatedly criticizing Clinton's nation-building efforts and arguing that America's forces are overdeployed, and need to be committed only with the intent to win military (not political) conflicts. Remember Condoleeza Rice's big statement at the Republican convention that "America's armed forces are not a global police force; they are not the world's 911."

The second is an interventionalist ethic that Bush discovered after 9/11. This completely negated what Bush ran on in 2000. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Iraq war, when it was discovered that Iraqi WMDs did not exist, and Iraqi connections to Al-Qaeda were tenuous, democracy promotion became the primary rationale used to justify the Iraqi intervention. In time, it acquired a life of its own - and why shouldn't it? Every president in recent times has engaged in a mix of democracy promotion and realism.

And so US foreign policy is a curious mix of factors, some left over from Bush's 2000 campaign, and some adopted after 9/11: an allergy to international treaties, a distrust of international institutions, an indifference to the decline of American influence ("soft power") in most places around the world, and enthusiastic efforts to commit hundreds of thousands of troops in an effort at democracy promotion. There is no reason to treat these trends as part of an organic whole. While I appreciate the efforts of Ikenberry to show the underlying contradictions within this belief system, I think any analysis of this sort must be primarily informed by how exactly these strands came to coexist in the first place.

1 Comments:

At 2:16 AM, Blogger angela said...

"The problem with this is that Bush does not have a coherent foreign policy, and its wrong to analyze it as such. In particular, Bush's policy encompasses two somewhat contradictory strands."

its so coherent even though you cant pinpoint it as either purely realist or liberal. its rally around the flag. pseudo-kantian rhetoric for motives found in the chapters of machiavellis the prince. he goes on and on about how its nice to seem like a peacemaker without actually having to be one.

 

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