Monday, June 12, 2006
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Rauch, realpolitik, and realism
Rauch argues that current policymakers should pay more attention to realism -- which requires him to define the term and then explain why it's been neglected:
[T]he United States would do well to recall and learn from President Kennedy. But which President Kennedy? The idealist who made the speeches, or the realist who made the decisions?Much as I admire Rauch's writings, there are a few problems with this column, and at the risk of stepping into some paradigm wars, I think it's worth pointing them out:
1) The far left and right aren't the only ones to embrac realism. Rauch overlooks a gaggle of sober, respectable policymakers and public intellectuals who would be considered realists. Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger certainly fit this mold.The Bush administration may not be pursuing a strictly realist foreign policy, but its behavior suggests they're well aware of the concept that Rauch is trying to promote. posted by Dan on 06.12.06 at 09:03 PM
Remind me again, about the virtues of realism, Kissinger's 'brilliant' outreach to China, did
Remind me again why we care? There are a billion Chinese. If they don't want to run their country, why should we care who does?
Prof. D., thanks for that. I remember reading that post on Volokh and thinking that Rauch's article was neither interesting nor thoughtful, but I do law now, not IR, so didn't much care :-)posted by: John Jenkins on 06.12.06 at 09:03 PM [permalink]
If you sift through the blog-upon-blog nature of this posting, you find that the original comment – supposedly connecting Bush’s ideas to Kennedy’s – is Pete Wehner, a “White House strategist”, who “sent journalists an e-mail”. Does no one else whiff spin?
No surprise a WH strategist should attempt to hook up ideals of the tongue-tied Bush to the eloquent Kennedy. But there is no straight line connecting Kennedy’s ’61 address to Bush’s ’04 speech. There isn’t even a dotted one. Wehner may be selling Bush's "Freedom Agenda" now that the Bush Doctrine is dead, but it is nothing more than a return to the use of diplomacy.
Kennedy’s speech doesn’t include a single reference to “democracy”; its focus is on liberty. Bush’s speech focuses on selling democracy to the world. This is an important distinction: we’ve all read how giving a country political democracy (i.e., free elections) is meaningless unless you have the institutions to support it. Iraq was the latest example and showed that the neocon ideals of promoting democracy by force were doomed to fail.
Kennedy, on the other hand, was referring to constitutional liberalism: seeking to protect an individual’s autonomy and dignity against coercion – from the state, church or society. In this case it was from the Soviet's imposition of communism.
So I find myself in the awkward position of being in agreement with a lawyer (John Jenkins, above): the piece is neither interesting nor thoughtful.
What unfortunately shapes this debate is the notion that all theories of international relations must be synchronic in order to be taken seriously. Policies might be "realistic" in a short timeframe but unrealistic in a longer one. The key is to know what timeframe a given problem occupies, and that will not be gained from any set of general assumptions that aspire to timeless relevance.posted by: David Billington on 06.12.06 at 09:03 PM [permalink]
The Bush Doctrine as described in the Rauch article seems little different from the Lake Doctrine of the Clinton years. And there is a reason for that. America has developed somewhat of a consensus that the promotion of democracy is in our national interest, and that we are willing to use our unparalleled power to promote democracy.
To a large degree, the foreigh policy establishment seems to agree that promotion of democracy is part of our national interest. The dispute Rauch seems to be trying to get at is really a means discussion, which should not properly involve the Realist school, as Dr. Drezner notes. Even most of the pacifist/anti-war folks probably agree that promotion of democracy is in our national interest - they just reject the use of force to achieve that interest. It is the achievement of our agreed upon ends, and the balancing of those ends in our choice of means, that we suffer much disagreement about.posted by: Sisyphus on 06.12.06 at 09:03 PM [permalink]
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