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Neoconservatism and Foreign Policy

Old 10-27-04, 02:35 PM
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Neoconservatism and Foreign Policy

I just finished reading the full article of this over lunch. It was quite fascinating, so I thought I would post this 'condensation'. I don't think it belongs in the Election Forum, but if a mod thinks it does, go ahead and move it.

Neoconservatism and Foreign Policy

Charles Krauthammer

Fukuyama entitles his critique “The Neoconservative Moment”, a play on my first exposition of this theory, “The Unipolar Moment”, published in the Winter 1990/91 issue of Foreign Affairs. His intent is to take down the entire neoconservative edifice. His method is to offer a “careful analysis” of “Krauthammer’s writings, particularly his aei speech”, because “his strategic thinking has become emblematic of a school of thought”, that is, neoconservatism.

What Fukuyama fails to understand is that there are two major strains of neoconservative thinking on foreign policy, not one. There is the democratic globalism advocated by Blair and Bush and elaborated by such thinkers as Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol. And there is the democratic realism I have long advocated. Both are “democratic” because they advocate the spread of democracy as both an ends and a means of American foreign policy. But one is “realism” because it rejects the universalistic scope and high idealism of democratic “globalism” and always requires geopolitical strategic necessity as a condition for intervention. This is hardly just a theoretical debate. It has very practical consequences that were on stark display just half a decade ago when there was a fundamental split among conservatives on the question of intervention in the Balkans. At the time, Kagan and Kristol (among many others) were strong advocates of intervention in the Balkans and of the war over Kosovo. I was not. I argued then, as I argue now, that while humanitarian considerations are necessary for any American intervention, they are not sufficient. American intervention must always be strategically grounded. And that in the absence of a strategic imperative, it is better to keep one’s powder dry, precisely because that powder might be necessary to meet some coming strategic threat. On 9/11, that strategic threat revealed itself.

At the time of Kosovo, many realists took the same position I did, while many democratic globalists (lazily just called “neoconservatives”) took the opposite view and criticized my reservations about intervention as a betrayal of democratic principles.

Fukuyama’s essay does not just conflate these two distinct foreign policy schools. He repeatedly characterizes me as a champion of democratic globalism, the school with which I explicitly take issue. (Thus: “his [Krauthammer’s] own position that he defines as ‘democratic globalism’, a kind of muscular Wilsonianism—minus international institutions.”) It is odd in the extreme to write a long critique of a speech and monograph entitled Democratic Realism and then precise that critique thus: “Krauthammer’s democratic globalism fails as a guiding principle of foreign policy and creates more questions than answers” [emphasis added]. Perhaps Fukuyama believes that he alone has a proprietary right to the word realism. Perhaps he believes that by misrepresenting me as a globalist he can then identify me with every twist and turn of the Blair and Bush foreign policies.

One of the reasons I gave this speech is that I thought the universalist bear-any-burden language of both Blair and Bush to advance the global spread of democracy is too open-ended and ambitious. The alternative I proposed tries to restrain the idealistic universalism with the realist consideration of strategic necessity. Hence the central axiom of democratic realism:

We will support democracy everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity—meaning, places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom.

Fukuyama finds this central axiom “less than helpful as a guideline for U.S. intervention” because “it masks a number of ambiguities.” He asks the following questions.

Does “global” here mean threats that transcend specific regions, like radical Islamism or communism? Yes.

If the enemy’s reach has to be global, then North Korea would be excluded from the definition of a “strategic” threat.

Yes. North Korea is a discrete problem. The War on Terror is not our only problem, no more than the Cold War was our only problem in the second half of the 20th century. There can be others, though they are of a lesser order. North Korea is a remnant of an old worldwide struggle that we have already won. North Korea is not on a deliberate mission to spread Juche communism around the globe or to destroy the United States. Its mission is regime survival, with intimations of threat to South Korea. Its ambitions do not extend beyond that. Which is why it is a very different kind of threat from the existential Arab/Islamist one we face, and falls outside the central imperative. It needs to be contained. But there is no imperative for its invasion, overthrow and reconstruction—unless we find that, for commercial and regime-sustaining reasons, it is selling wmd to our real existential enemy. Under these circumstances it would be joining the global war on the other side.

Or does “global” instead mean any mortal threat to freedom around the globe?

Any serious threat to what was once known as the “free world” as a whole is “global.” In the 1930s and 1940s, that meant fascism. In the second half of the 20th century, that meant communism. Today it means Arab/Islamic radicalism.

Does the fact that an “enemy” poses a mortal threat to another free country but not to us qualify it as our “enemy?”

No.

Is Hamas, an Islamist group which clearly poses an existential threat to Israel, our enemy as well?

As it defines itself today, as an enemy of Israel, no. Were it to join the war on the United States, then the answer would be yes.

Is Syria?

Because of its hostility to Israel? No. To the extent, however, that it allies itself with and supports the jihadists in Iraq, it risks joining the enemy camp.

And if these are our enemies, why should we choose to fight them in preference to threats to free countries closer to home like the farc or eln, which threaten democracy in Colombia, or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela?

We do not. See above.

What makes something “central” in this global war?

Whether a change in the political direction of a state or territory will have an important, perhaps decisive, effect in defeating Arab/Islamic radicalism. Afghanistan meets that test. So does Iraq.

This piece has been excerpted from the Fall 2004 issue of The National Interest.
Old 10-27-04, 03:07 PM
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Afghanistan meets that test. So does Iraq.
So does Iraq? This contradicts what he states above.

He stated that the purpose of a dictator is to stay in power, survive and intimidate it's neighbors. Saddam's regime was secular. He had no more of a grand plan to spread Islamic fundamentalism than Kim Jong Il has of spreading communism. We also know that Saddam was supporting "local" terrorist groups (so-called liberation movements) like Hamas and Islamic Jihad and that the links to international terrorism were tenuous at best. And he stated that Hamas wasn't a threat unless it became a direct threat to the US.

I fail to see how Iraq fits his criteria for intervention.

Last edited by eXcentris; 10-27-04 at 03:48 PM.
Old 10-27-04, 03:44 PM
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As probably the only member here who considers themselves to be neoconservative in my political philosophy, I applaud Mr. Krauthammer. Neoconservatism is not some simple ideology, or a bad word that can be attributed to the foreign policy of the current administration. It is not a "one size fits all" movement, nor is it a philosophy limited to foreign policy. In fact, I probably fall in the middle of the Kagan-Krauthammer scale. The movement truly is a big tent.
Old 10-27-04, 03:52 PM
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Originally posted by Pharoh
As probably the only member here who considers themselves to be neoconservative in my political philosophy, I applaud Mr. Krauthammer. Neoconservatism is not some simple ideology, or a bad word that can be attributed to the foreign policy of the current administration. It is not a "one size fits all" movement, nor is it a philosophy limited to foreign policy. In fact, I probably fall in the middle of the Kagan-Krauthammer scale. The movement truly is a big tent.
I'd have to say that, in my foreign policy beliefs, I lean towards a 'neocon' position more often than not. The full Krauthammer article presents the best explanation why, if I may quote:
Realism has the virtue of most clearly understanding how the new unipolarity and its uses, including the unilateral and pre-emptive use of power if necessary. But in the end, pure realism in any American context fails because it offers no vision beyond power. It is all means and no ends. It will not play in a country that was built on a proposition and that sees itself as the carrier of the democratic idea.
(Italics mine)

Clearly I do not see myself as holding neoconservative views on many domestic issues.
Old 10-27-04, 03:57 PM
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Originally posted by wendersfan
I'd have to say that, in my foreign policy beliefs, I lean towards a 'neocon' position more often than not. The full Krauthammer article presents the best explanation why, if I may quoteItalics mine)

Clearly I do not see myself as holding neoconservative views on many domestic issues.

Yes, that is a stance that I can agree completely with. But I've railed often here about such things.


I also think you might be a bit surprised on the domestic front. You would not be a neonconservative on these issues, but on many of them you would not be that far off.

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