OxBlog

Sunday, November 20, 2005

# Posted 7:44 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FROM THE ARSENAL: Democracy Arsenal is one of the best foreign policy blogs on the web. If you're liberal, this is where you'll find your best arguments. If you're conservative, this is where you go to find your best opposition, most often unencumbered by partisan blather.

Of course, any liberal site so willing to buck the conventional wisdom is occasionally going to say things that antagonize its friends and vindicate its critics. For example, Suzanne Nossel recently pointed out one of the most implausible but least noticed things that Jack Murtha has been saying: Leave Iraq now, but "go back in, in case there's more terrorist activity." Hmmm...

Of course, the price conservatives have to pay for such pleasant heresies is the obligation to take Suzanne and her colleagues more seriously when they say things conservatives don't want to hear. For example, Suzanne has been watching carefully for any signs that the Bush administration wants to follow the Nixon/Kissinger precedent in South Vietnam by building up our proteges in Iraq just enough to ensure that they don't crumble too soon after we withdraw.

Am I persuaded? No, I am not. But it is an important argument to have with a talented counterpart. Nixon and Kissinger were self-avowed realists who rejected the importance of moral considerations to the making of foreign policy. Bush is a relentless idealist, regardless of what you think of his ideals. Naturally, liberals suspect that all of his idealistic rhetoric is nothing more than a front for a self-interested agenda. And before accepting that Bush is sincere, one must hear that argument out.

Of course, DA is still a blog and not a chemistry textbook, so sometimes it can be quite snarky and that snark is quite partisan. (Who knows, maybe chemistry textbooks are snarky too. I haven't read one since high school.)

The bottom line here is that I don't think you'll find a liberal foreign policy blog with a lower ratio of rhetoric to substance. If you do, tell me about it.
(10) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments:
David,
I think Nixon did have his idealistic moments. It has been revealed recently that he was instrumental in keeping Israel from losing to the Arabs in 1973. On the other hand, there is no evidence Kissinger ever had an idealistic bone in his body.
I'll have to check that blog out, though.. it sounds interesting.
 
The "Marines on the Horizon" deal that is a part of Murtha's strategy is nothing new. In fact, it is the same strategy we've had in place for the last 14 years in the Middle East. It has its origins with another realist duo (Bush pere/Scowcroft) and has its beginnings when we pushed Saddam out of Kuwait and has remained in place to this day. This is simply another name for the realist vision of the US as "offshore balancers." Some would argue, however, (and I think quite convincingly), that the consequences of this strategy can be seen in the absence of two very large buildings in lower Manhattan. The simplistic argument as to why this is is that we were in Saudi Arabia and that pissed bin laden off. When you get further beneath the surface, however, I think the better explanation is the Neo-conservative argument (read Kristol and Kagan's intro in "Present Dangers") - that by remaining to the side and going in when someone tries to change the status quo and only to restore the situation to the previous staus quo, we set ourselves up for situations where what at the time seems to be a simply troublesome issue explodes into disastrous crises.

That's why I think this withdrawal and return to offshore balancing/marines on the horizon/or whatever you want to call it is a bad idea.
 
"go back in, in case there's more terrorist activity."

Yes, I caught that. It was kind of silly. Actually, I wasn't paying much attention to the substance of Murtha's proposal or to the substance of the Republican proposal. In neither case did it really matter.

The crazy lady thing just made sure it was etched into everyone's memory.

What actually happened was that a high profile Democratic hawk forced the issue of American withdrawal into the debate. And it will stay there through the midterms.

Commenting to Anon, yes, Nixon did have his idealistic moments. He was probably more liberal than Kerry! From the record, Kennedy and Johnson got us into Vietnam, and Nixon got us out. Ironic.
 
David:

Love the blog.

I think anyone who casts Bush as a devout idealist must square this conception with his 2000 election platform, which was decidedly focused on a foreign policy governed by American interest. I remain unconvinced that 9/11 sparked a change in his beliefs. I think that the Mission Accomplished moment occured not as a cynical political move, but because the Bush administration actually thought the war was essentially over. The democracy rhetoric only entered Bush's speeches once he saw something had to be done about the new situation emerging.

My favorite liberal foreign policy blogger: Hands down, Thomas PM Barnett. One point he makes regularly that is germane to Bush foreign policy:
it's fine to have an idealistic foreign policy that involves nation-building, but we don't have the tools at present to nation-build effectively. If we are going to build democracies in failed states, we need to to build an operating system to do so. And that isn't occuring at present.
 
Nate,

Didn't realize Barnett had a blog, thanks for bringing it to my attention. I read his Pentagon's New Map and was generally impressed, although he does have Friedman's somewhat irksome habit of coming up with snazzy-sounding words to spice up his argument (new-core was one of them but he had a lot of others, and Friedman's "straitjacket" and "herd," etc.) Once you get past that, however, the ideas are pretty solid. I'll read his new one when it comes out in paperback or someone gives it to me as a gift.
 
Belarus:

I haven't actually read any of Barnett's books, but I caught him on C-Span and he was very impressive. And yes, he can be very Friedman-like, but where Friedman lapses into lazy metaphors, Barnett is good about staying in reality. In fact, what makes him so good is his ability to peel back the surface layer of current events and show what he really thinks is at work. His take on Iran, North Korea, and China made me rethink my own views about how to deal with these countries.
 
Anon,
I always thought that Nixon saved Israel in 1973 because Meir let it known that she would be using the "Samson Option" of mass nuclear attacks.
 
That did help, yes.
 
It is nice to see real debate about our foreign policy objectives. The ad hominem attacks today are deafening. I'm blogging myself and working overtime not to insult people, even those with indefensible positions.

You will find on my blog a defense of the war effort so far, despite many problems.
 
The "Mission Accomplished" moment, according to Gen. Franks' book, was done at his (Franks) request. He said certain commercial interests were waiting for something of the kind before investing in Iraq--so he arranged it for them with the president and then they reneged!

The people who want a force ready to "come back in" are not thinking of a door-to-door cleanup in my estimation, so much as a base from which to turn the whole place into an oil slick, if necessary, and to threaten that result, if necessary.
 
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