Sunday, October 23, 2005

# Posted 1:58 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

DANIEL DREZNER IMPISHLY ASKS whether the convergence of left- and right-wing opponents of the war in Iraq under the banner of "realism" can possibly survive the vicissitudes of, well, reality.

Dan's case in point is Azerbaijan, where the Bush administration has so far been highly content to praise a regressive pro-American dictatorship flush with oil. Presumably, conservative realists have no qualms about this sort of behavior. But as Dan implies, liberal realists just don't have the stomach to get behind this such a ruthless pursuit of narrow, national self-interest. As Henry Farrell warned some time ago,
But leftwingers who rush too quickly to embrace their new friends on the right should meditate upon the malign example of Henry Kissinger, and the implications of Realpolitik for the causes and issues that they’re committed to.
Henry's right. (Farrell, I mean, not Kissinger.) All I can add to his point is a bit of historical perspective. Much of the incoherence at the heart of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy reflected an inability to reconcile realist anti-interventionism with an idealist commitment to human rights. Today we tend to think of Carter as exclusively a dove and an idealist, but his strongest supporters included liberal realists such as Harvard's Stanley Hoffmann.

When Reagan embarked on a crusade against communist Nicaragua, his liberal critics often invoked the realist principle of respecting state sovereignty as a justification for leaving the Nicaraguans alone. Yet the exact same liberals eviscerated Reagan for supporting a brutal right-wing dictatorship in nearby El Salvador.

What the Democrats have constantly been searching for is a synthesis of realism and idealism, a proverbial Third Way that would allow them to anchor their situational preferences in a coherent and consistent doctrine. My sense is that they are no closer to finding this golden mean than they were when Jimmy Carter was in the White House.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments: Post a Comment