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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Neocon idealism v realism

There is a very interesting article in the October 31, 2005 issue of the New Yorker ("Breaking Ranks") It describes the disconnect between Brent Scowcroft, long-time friend of the Bush family and in particular Bush, the father. Scowcroft pushed very hard for Bush to respond to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, but he was also adamant about not going into Baghdad to get Saddam. His reasoning was that once there, leaving would be very difficult. "What would be the rationale for leaving? I don't like the term 'exit strategy' -- but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?"

His philosophical foreign policy basis could be described as realistic as opposed to the neocons, who take a moralistic view of the world. The realists value stability and require a rationale for the use of force. "I'm not a pacifist. I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force." Realists believe you have to deal with the world as it is; the utopian moralists believe you have to remake the world in our image, much as Wilson's "making the world safe for democracy." J. Q. Adams would represent to opposing view that believes America stands for freedom and independence, but "she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy."

Cheney et al have adopted the position of Bernard Lewis who has argued that the Arabs only respect force and you have to hit them "between the eyes with a big stick." Once democracy has been imposed on the renegade nation, however, the dilemma, according to Scowcroft, becomes support for elections that might not go our way. He cites Egypt as the classic case. If Mubarak were to go away and free elections held, "the bad guys are going to win that election. The bad guys are always better organized. Always." Then we find ourselves in the position of having to overturn the results of a free election -- not that that has ever stopped us before.

One of the big differences Scowcroft has observed between the administration of the first Bush and the son's is that the son does not want to hear alternative consequences of actions, whereas the first sought out discussion and multiple viewpoints. That he suggests may lead to destruction. Ours.
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