Friday, July 01, 2005

Realism, Liberal Internationalism, and Neoconservatism

Charles Krauthammer has a perceptive article in Commentary:

Then came another radical change. By a fluke or a miracle, depending on your point of view, because of the confusion of a few disoriented voters in Palm Beach, Florida, this has been the decade of neoconservatism. Bismarck once said that God looks after fools, drunkards, children, and the United States of America. Given the 2000 presidential election, it is clear that He works in very mysterious ways.

In place of realism or liberal internationalism, the last four-and-a-half years have seen an un-ashamed assertion and deployment of American power, a resort to unilateralism when necessary, and a willingness to preempt threats before they emerge. Most importantly, the second Bush administration has explicitly declared the spread of freedom to be the central principle of American foreign policy. Bush’s second inaugural address last January was the most dramatic and expansive expression of this principle. A few weeks later, at the National Defense University, the President offered its most succinct formulation: “The defense of freedom requires the advance of freedom.”

The remarkable fact that the Bush Doctrine is, essentially, a synonym for neoconservative foreign policy marks neoconservatism’s own transition from a position of dissidence, which it occupied during the first Bush administration and the Clinton years, to governance. Neoconservative foreign policy, one might say, has reached maturity. That is not only a portentous development, requiring some rethinking of principles and practice, but a rather unexpected one.

It is unexpected because, only a year ago, neoconservative foreign policy was being consigned to the ash heap of history. In the spring and summer of 2004, in the midst of increasing difficulties in Iraq, it was very widely believed that neoconservative policies had been run to the ground, that the administration that had purveyed them would soon be thrown out of office, and that internecine recriminations were about to begin over who lost the war on terror, the war in Iraq, and indeed the reins of American foreign policy. One prominent columnist, speaking for the conventional wisdom of the moment, called the Bush project in Iraq “a childish fantasy.” And this, from a friend of neoconservatism.

As for the liberals who had come on board the project of liberating Iraq, they took its perceived foundering as an opportunity to engage in a mass jumping of ship. Some justified their abandonment of the Bush Doctrine on the grounds that it was they who had been betrayed—by an administration whose incompetence, mendacity, political opportunism, and various other crimes had ruined a policy that would already have been crowned with success if only they had been in charge of postwar Iraq, calibrating brilliantly precise troop levels, calculating to three decimal places the required degree of de-Baathification, and overseeing just about every other operational detail according to the dictates of their own tactical genius.

That was just an excerpt--read it all. Krauthammer discusses the convergence of the three schools of American foreign policy over the last decade.

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