Thursday, August 10, 2006

Response to MD-man

Matthew's got some good questions for me.

Also see his comment to my last post.

He writes on American foreign policy:

Someone told me the other day, repeating a joke he'd heard, that "liberals have no ideas; conservatives bad ones". Whether it's funny or not, let's just assume that such is the most pessimistic view of both. That is, pessimistic, but true to some extent. If you cared about this "Long War", this "World War IV", this "Great Struggle of our Time" — between analyses within circles liberal and conservative, which would you pay more attention to — the one with no ideas, or the one with bad ones? Obviously, the latter.

Now, and this get to his point about asking me why the use of colors in my last post, if the choice is between no ideas and bad ideas (and it basically is at this point) , then I argue that the right approach is not to go to the bad ideas. At least not at first. I suggest instead creating good ideas. The use of colors was to say that all our thinking on this subject to date is firs-tier, to use a worn out phrase. It's not gonna work.

Call them yellow, integral, radical middle, post-conservative/liberal whatever, but the ideas are already out there, they just fit into the categories of conservative/liberal and don't get the face/blogosphere time of others.

I suggest someone like Thomas Barnett or see Robert Wright's article on a new foreign policy framework (for liberals!!!) here. He calls it progressive realism. It fits nicely with Barnett's notions of the Gap/Core and The New Map. Merges idealism/progressivism (humanitarianism) with realism (national security).

This combination is important because as Matthew writes:

to me an enormous issue for Americans is this: to what extent should our humanitarian concerns be secondary to our national interests? This is a moral question; perhaps the preeminent geopolitical one of our time.

To wit, the simple answer, I think, is the humanitarian/national interest question is a false dichtomy. Progressive realism, yellow, integral foreign policy, recognizes that humanitarianism, properly done is the single greatest promoter of our national interest.

In a globalized world instability abroad can (and does) have immediate impact at home. Gone is isolationism. The threat of British airliners today brings that point home again (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis it seems at this point).

Take the SE Asian tsunami. The US sent massive aid and relief to Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation on the planet, which generally had had negative views of the US/West. But our help there positively affected our standing immensely (no bombs, no guns needed). But we didn't follow it up with sustained development, and now sharia is being introduced in Banda Aceh.

Or again the Pakistani earthquake, same deal--cheers at the beginning but no sustaining.

Now of course the US can't be all over the world everywhere. Which is why both Bush's arrogance and Chirac/Schroeder's cowardice (the breaking of the traditional Atlantic alliance) has caused so many problems. The greeny Euros are all pacifist and the Bushies are all war-mongering. The Europeans, Aussies, Canadians, they are the ones needed for the future maintenance, reconstruction. Along with the Chinese if only we would make a military connection with them and force them to actually do something positive for the world's order instead of just taking from it.

So that is why I focus so heavily on economic connectivity, technological sharing, insitution building, cultural exchange. Interior change involves will and responsibility, which ultimately rests in the hands of those involved.

I'm not a right-hand determinist though. Clearly this isn't going to work in every and all situations. See North Korea. Sometimes military exercises are necessary. But those military incursions, as Iraq and Lebanon have shown are not prepared to deal with the enemy now faced.

And worse even in situations where we do knock out a military enemy (The Baath regime, The Taliban), we have no capacity to follow it up.

We are winning the war, losing the peace. And no talk of Clash of Civilizations, WWIV or whatever gets that. The idea of a lasting peace, instead of a total destruction of the enemy (as with the Nazis) is missed in that jargon.

As we see, terrorism is more like a virus then Islamo-fascism. And to use the analogy, viruses continually ex-ist with computers, but generally the system holds. But they will always be there it seems.

Which is why we need to start focusing on connection and building states insteading of just killing terrorists.

We have a Secretary of Defense (or Offense) that dominated the first administration and the Iraq War. The second term is controlled by Condi and the State Dept on Iran. But both policies are substantial failures. Because both are built on the assumption of just "national security", enforcing US will, either with an army or through vague "diplomatic pressure". It is a sad consequence of living in our victimhood around 9/11, and not seeing beyond that tragedy.

And this mental logjam, explains why the administration looks like the proverbial Dutch boy with his fingers in the dike just trying to plus leaks after they have already started. Our foreign policy is so reactive.

Until there is a Dept. of Reconstruction/Infrastructure there is no going forward in this, liberally or conservatively. Without this department and its linking--in a yellow governance--to a military wing, humanitarianism will be a "green" form of such work. And it will be easily manipulated by those with red/blue regimes, leaving the West further weakened. But minus such humanitarianism, the West offers no vision to the Muslim world. And then the Clash of Civilizations becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Minus that a humanitarian/national security issue will find some less than good balance, I guess, but frankly if we don't find that higher pitch, I think it won't matter too much.


At 10:00 AM, Blogger MD said...

Wa sup, Chris,

You write, re: my question:

To wit, the simple answer, I think, is the humanitarian/national interest question is a false dichtomy. Progressive realism, yellow, integral foreign policy, recognizes that humanitarianism, properly done is the single greatest promoter of our national interest.

I know you go on to raise many other points, but I'm sorry, I can't let what I see as a falsity pass. There is just no evidence that "humanitarianism, properly done is the single greatest promoter of our national interest." Do you have any? Sounds like sloganeering, to me.

Also, I should add that I see no argument why my question is a false dichotomy. I chose my words carefully -- "secondary" means that, at the very least, humanitariam concerns are important; just not first in line, as many people (apparently you) want it to be. The question gets right to the heart of why we fight, or not; what we must endure if we do; and, by extension, what our enemy is. Concentration on humanitarian concerns in lieu of national interest concerns (which may involves several countries with a common national interest in relation to Islamofascism) leads directly to complacency in the populace, and even the leaders. So, sorry, I think reducing the question to a false dichotomy is instead an evasion of dealing with its implications.

One last thing: The American foreign policy is "reactive"? Wow, that's a deusy. Didn't they get lambasted in liberal and anti-war circles for being the exact opposite? Namely, "preemptive war" and how morally wrong that is, and such and such. I don't think this is at all a fair point; and in even thinking about it, how does one not have sympathy for the 'effin difficult position people like Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. are in, when, quite literally, they are damned if they do, and damned if they don't?

difficult stuff, this WWIV,

At 10:19 AM, Blogger MD said...

p.s. I should have added that your suggestion of a "Dept. of Reconstruction/Infrastructure" is an inspired one. I don't know whether it is practical or not (what's your take?) but in any event, kudos on the idea.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

I should have said, that reconstruction is the single greatest promoter--in the long term. I stand by that, but you're right what I wrote wasn't clear enough.

I did cite our efforts with the Indonesia Tsunami and Pakistani Earthquakes as evidence of the two (security, humanit.) being mutually re-inforcing.

In the short/medium term, I think a strategic re-alignment with Iran is in order. For the Middle East. That takes pressure off China being worried about messing with their oil and could isolate Hezbollah/Hamas.

But until we get Iran right, I think all this other talk is chatter about everything other than the giant pink elephant in the room.

All of which denies that Iran will get a bomb, whether we attack them/pass resolutions or not.

They are outflanking us at every step. And no, though the comparison is made I don't think Ahmadinejad is a new Hitler and this plan I promote is a new Chamberlain-like Sudentenland. Although Newt (as today's editorial of his in the WPost states) would see otherwise.

I actually see Ahmad. as a populist who knows the Arab/Muslim street and would be a deal-maker. It's a risky gamble either way.

If Iran were "bought off", as it were (co-opted a la our policy with the Soviets), then that leaves the "Islamo-fascists" hanging out to dry and then proper debate about war-efforts really start to make sense.

Outside of that the war talk just eggs Iran on and then becomes a self-fulfilling World War III/IV/V whatever.

Because of course some groups have to be destroyed, but our/Israel's policies to date have been weakening states giving such groups platforms from which to operate.

Southern Lebanon I imagine will require a Kurdistan/Bosnia-like international presence for a deacde or so to create security so non-totaitarian forms of social participation and business can flourish.

I think states have to be reinforced/co-opted first before targeted, light infantry military ops on "terrorist" groups.

With the Shia that is.

With the Sunni States the problem is the continued alliance with autocratic regimes. There it is much trickier.

I think the immediate withdrawal of funds to Hamas at the moment where maybe, just maybe elements of the group would have started political movements (not towards Israel but themselves) forced them into the only game they know--violence. I'm willing to admit I might be wrong on that one, but there it is.

As I've said before, for better or worse (and probably more of the latter), the choice of a "secular" democracy arising in that part of the world is off the table. It's a choice between continued autocrats and Islamic governance. The former keeps creating more terrorists. The latter will not be pretty, but in the long run seems to me the only way forward. And there are definitely more "moderate" versus "fascist" forms of such thought.

In terms of Bush & Co. I label the policy, at this point (meaning the second administration primarily) as "reactive" because they are simply reacting to situations.

I don't really care what liberals said about Bush's pre-emption and so on.

The two are not necessarily opposed however. They held in the first term a neo-con belief that we would be greeted as liberators that democracy would flourish adn we would be outta there in 6 months at the most. Then onto Syria and Iran for more of the same.

That didn't happen, a bunch of s--t went wrong which was not supposed to happen according to their logic. The neo-cons all left town (except John Bolton who Condi has reigned in) and they didn't know what to do. I don't count Cheney and Rumsfield as neo-cons. I use that term strictly for Perle, Wolfowitz, Kristol. Cheney is only interested in American dominance (call him a unilateralist, unipolarist)--see the 1% Doctrine for that mode of thought. Rumsfield is more into the evolution of the military to a high-tech force, he's a bureaucrat (a highly skilled one), not necessarily strategic in thought: that was why Wolfowitz was his undersecretary and the real brains behind the Iraq War.

That's why Cheney and Rummy have been pretty much off the map lately and Condi is essentially running the show.

Anyway, the events didn't fit the pre-conceived program. Now they, as I said, are reacting mostly to Iran. Iran is dictating the terms. I think we should be.

Israel is making rumblings against our UN Resolution because I imagine Israel realizes we're stuck in Iraq, Bush doesn't have a plan, so they need to go it alone.

The thing that connects the first and second administrations is only being interested in US concerns and somehow thinking vague "pressure" or "force" or "standing" will get other nations behind us. They don't. They just realize we aren't interested in doing business and can't enforce our will as we would like, so it's time for them to start making their own regional alliances, play their own games.

China, Russia, Iran, especially.

So, I say that all this military-sanctions only emphasis has seriously weakened our national security. It's isolated us and if one thing is certain in this Long War, it is we need help. We need the British and French police to start training us on how to catch cells--they're the experts...they faced domestic terrorism for decades.

Some of what has occurred is beyond the pale and no one could have forseen, so I do sympathize, to a degree.

But come on, in the first days of the war, officers on the ground were sending frantic messages back to headquarters saying this insurgency is for real and they were ignored.

Rumsfield wanted to send 30,000-50,000 troops into Iraq. He was certainly right you could knock out Saddam with that number, but totally clueless about the aftermath.

Check out Fiasco where military brass finally let loose on their anger with the civilian leadership.

Bush on the campaign trail said that he was not going to get us involved in nation-state buildling. That was a shot at Clinton for the Bosnia-mission. Ok, so that's the policy. Then for God's sake don't actually get involved in nation-buildilng because you'll have no clue what the hell you're doing. Hence Iraq.

That I do blame him for. He had other voices to listen to--Powell, Scowcroft, Shinseki.

But even then, the initial things go wrong, it was the stubborness to refuse to change policy or direction that really peeved me.

Like I've said before he was right that our foreign policy in the Middle East had to fundamentally change. And he had the "cojones" to fundamentally shake things up--he still is doing that with the green light to Israel.

What he can't do is figure out what the hell to do once everything is shaken up.


btw, the Dept.Reconstruction is actually Barnett's idea not mine. He calls it the Dept. of Everything Else.


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