Monday, April 09, 2007

RCP: Why We Fight Over Foreign Policy

This is absolutely a must-read. It is a bit on the long side, so it may do to break up your reading with short or long breaks as you see fit.


There are a few great points that I want to highlight--
Thus, all leaders, analysts and citizens simplify when they debate foreign affairs. And therein lies our problem. We forget that we are simplifying and claim veracity and truth for our insights. Our opponents must be depraved or incompetent if they do not agree with us. How many people say today they hate George Bush or, in the 1990s, Bill Clinton? Emotions take over for common sense. Since we have to simplify to make any sense of world affairs, why not go all the way? Make the world really simple and divide it into two groups, those who are good and agree with us and those who are evil and disagree with us. We’re all guilty of this. Bush oversimplified when he said after 9/11, “those who are not with us are against us.” But Democrats, who deplore Bush’s comment, oversimplify when they say Bush is evil and lied to us about the Iraq War.

We all have the tendency to simplify because it is the path of least interneal resistance, eliminates cognitive dissonance. There is nothing wrong, contrary to what many including the President believe, with questioning ourselves. You can be resolute without having blinders on.
The liberal perspective sees the world in terms of institutional cooperation and world order, not material struggle and balancing. It asks why international life cannot be similar to domestic life in which a single authority does exist and enforces common rules and law...The world is becoming smaller through the interdependence of communications (diplomacy), transportation (trade), professional societies (epistemic communities), urbanization and industrialization (bureaucracies), common problem solving (law), and environmental protection (planet earth). The habit of cooperation slowly diminishes the significance of power and ideological differences.

From this perspective, states don’t just seek power to survive. They also seek to form more perfect unions.

I would say a fair treatment, by a former Ford and Reagan staffer, of the general liberal philosophy of foreign policy.
If the United States was suspect in its desire for diplomacy — just a way station toward war, as critics contended — un officials and war opponents were suspect in their willingness to use force — not a last but a past resort (no longer applicable in modern-day international affairs). Critics of the war never acknowledged that an invasion force was necessary to retrieve the diplomatic option of un inspectors. But, equally, supporters of the war never made clear what evidence from inspections would ultimately satisfy them that Iraq had fully disarmed. The reluctance of both opponents and supporters of war to come clean reflects their relative preference for the use of diplomacy and force. It is a matter of emphasis and perspective, not of bad faith and politics.

Interesting point on the subject of mutual mistrust which must, and can, be overcome.
One of the great mysteries of the Iraq war is why Saddam Hussein gave up everything, including eventually his life, for nothing, since he had no wmd... Perhaps he did not know whether he had wmd, which then suggests he was disconnected from his own regime as well as the international community. Or perhaps he just didn’t believe the U.S. and its allies would attack, or that...[d]iplomacy would save his regime. But all of these speculations suggest that he was out of touch; that, as identity perspectives argue, there was no significant shared discourse or knowledge between Saddam Hussein and other players that might have led to a peaceful resolution of the dispute through common understandings. Liberal and realist factors — diplomacy and even rational deterrence by force — never had a chance to work because identity factors overrode them.

The same identity perspective, of course, can be used to explain U.S. behavior. The neocons were out of touch and never seriously considered how big the threat was and how many troops would be needed to contend with it...They were driven all along by an ideological view of the world that distrusted other states and international negotiators unless they were similarly ideologically oriented. This identity perspective, it might be argued, also drives the Bush doctrine of democratizing Iraq and the Middle East region.

In the Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card a central character proposes the Hierarchy of Alienness. The most alien form of sentience, Varelse seems to be the way extremists of all stripes view their opponents, and by implication they want seek to be varelse from others. But even forgetting that according to the definitions of this fanciful framework we are all Utlännings at the very most alien, there is no way that we cannot find some common ground with even our most estranged enemies, because after all, hyperbole aside, we are all human.


Post a Comment

<< Home