Monday, March 06, 2006


Realism vs. Neo-Conservativism in Foreign Policy

In much, especially in the media, discussion of foreign policy tends to include some sort of "if the Democrats reject neo-Conservative foreign policy, they must have some heretofore undiscovered realist streak" claim. Unlike, though, the claims that we liberals are becoming isolationists, this claim does not necessarily reflect merely a false dichotomy between neo-Conservative interventionism and isolationism, but rather it reflects a deep misunderstanding of neo-Conservative foreign policy indicating a degree of shallow lack of appreciation for what neo-Conservativism has meant, from well before 9/11 during the Reagan years to GW Bush today, in terms of foreign policy -- in particular, in spite of its own rhetoric, neo-Conservativism does not represent a much of a break with realism as both are fundamentally based on the same principles (1) there is an "enemy", (2) there are no true friends, only stooges (Britain and Israel -- in spite of the rhetoric, neo-Conservatives really do not support Israel except in a role as the patsy for the US -- it is no mere coincidence that major Israeli spying on us has occurred only during the Reagan and Bush II admins: these admins have pointedly refused to actually give Israel information necessary for Israeli security) and enemies of enemies, and (3) no matter how bad a dictator is, if he is the enemy of my enemy, he is my friend.

The Neo-Conservatives may do a good job at dressing their foreign policy ideas in terms of "spreading democracy" but in reality, they still operate from the same principles as the Realists. The liberal rejection of Bush & CO neo-conservatism or even the more authentic McCain backing brand does not mean we are crypto-realists but quite the opposite: we continue to reject the principles of "realism" in foreign policy -- or at least most of us do.

OTOH -- while there is no movement toward realist foreign policy on the left, since the Vietnam war even, foreign policy realists have been trickling left-ward. Neo-Conservativism and its precursors on the right may not have rejected realist principles of foreign policy, but from the realist point of view, the neo-cons are making quite a mess of things ... because they are delusional about what they really are after. And it doesn't make me a "realist" to say, delusions don't make for good foreign policy, does it?

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