Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sunday Reads

Francis Fukayama, he of the "End of History" and an influential thinker in the neo-cons, reassesses neo-conservatism - and quits the club - in the shadow of the Iraq War in this article in today's NYT magazine. The concluding two paragraphs:

The Bush administration has been walking — indeed, sprinting — away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Condoleezza Rice gave a serious speech in January about "transformational diplomacy" and has begun an effort to reorganize the nonmilitary side of the foreign-policy establishment, and the National Security Strategy document is being rewritten. All of these are welcome changes, but the legacy of the Bush first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarizing that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance American ideals and interests in the coming years. The reaction against a flawed policy can be as damaging as the policy itself, and such a reaction is an indulgence we cannot afford, given the critical moment we have arrived at in global politics.

Neoconservatism, whatever its complex roots, has become indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony. What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world — ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about.

It's astonishing the disconnect neo-cons refuse to see: you cannot proclaim that your cause is the "univerality of human rights" while simultaneously introducing overwhelming military force to those whose rights you're claiming to serve, regardless of whether a despot is deservedly removed or not, and you cannot devise interrogation tactics specifically designed to offend and humiliate and subordinate those very peoples whom you claim to bring a promise of human rights. Fukayama says of the failure of "benevolent hegemony":

"it is the idealistic effort to use American power to promote democracy and human rights abroad that may suffer the greatest setback. Perceived failure in Iraq has restored the authority of foreign policy "realists" in the tradition of Henry Kissinger. Already there is a host of books and articles decrying America's naïve Wilsonianism and attacking the notion of trying to democratize the world."

These foreign policy "realists" have never been out of authority. They have been more than happy to allow the neo-cons to present America's motives as wondrous and generous and generated by nothing more than a idealistic wish for all peoples on the planet to be as good and as happy and as unoppressed as they view the lives of Americans. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, benevolent hegemonists? General Electric, Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, the Saudi monarchy, benevolent hegemonists?

There are two ways of looking at a belief that the world would welcome American hegemony, benevolent or otherwise: that's right, boys and girls, we're back to tool or fool. Fukayama lays out his claim to fooldom. Don't expect Krauthammer or Kristol or Kagan to be joining him soon.

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Dana Milbank, in today's Washington Post, lays out a challenge for Democrats: who will we blame when we fail to take advantage of Bushco and Republican vulnerabilities in the November election: Hillary, Bill, Lieberman, Reid, Kerry, Gore, Dean, Murtha, Pelosi, Biden, or Rove? Of Rove, he says, "Nah, that's to obvious."

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And a listen:

Marquee Moon, Television's best of many great songs.


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