Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Kerry's Foreign Policy

This was first posted on on August 2, 2004:

Here is my look at foreign policy. I am no expert, never studied this or read much about it, so correct me if I am wrong. This is a classification of foreign policy ideologies:

Isolationism - Conservative version (various militiamen):
Goal: Defending the US territory, period.
Ideological source: We are so superior, we'll lock ourselves in our safe castle and to hell with the savages around the world. Let them kill each other if they want. That is all they deserve. It is not worth a life of a single US citizen to intervene in foreign countries and protect the heathens.
Pros: We do not go around waging stupid wars.
Cons: This is based on the sentiment of moral superiority (strict father morality towards foreigners) and ignores the positive role we can have in the world. Case in point: Very late and reluctant entry into the WWII.

Isolationism - Liberal version (Kucinich, Greens):
Goal: Defending the US territory, period.
Ideological source: We are just one out of 177 countries (plus a bunch of colonies, territories and protectorates) in the world, not better or worse than anyone else. We should have a small military to protect us if we are attacked on our territory, but diplomacy is the only method abroad and military intervention is off the table.
Pros: This is based on the notion of equality and the ability of smart people to make smart decisions.
Cons: Makes us vulnerable when reality trumps idealism. Also ignores the positive role we can have in the world. We watch people suffer abroad becuase we did not intervene. Case in point: WWII (Pearl Harbor), Sudan right now.

Realpolitics (Henry Kissinger's version, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr.)
Goal: Defending US interests at home and abroad.
Ideological source: Might makes right.
Pros: In some cases it is a valid defense of the US territory or US citizens living abroad or our allies. As such, it is an easy sell to the electorate. Cases in point: WWI, WWII, Afghanistan. It also prevents us from waging stupid wars.
Cons: In some cases the "American" interests are really interestes of the US big business, defending oil etc., or defending US global geopolitical interests at the expense of people living in those countries we attack. Cases in point: Vietnam. Various Reagan's interventions against little countries just because we did not like the people they elected. Balkans (a complicated story). In such cases, the official version is either painting it as defense, or as military humanism.

Military Humanism (Clinton)
Goal: Spreading US-style political, economic and ideoligical system around the world.
Ideological source: American superiority (and self-love), bright-eyed idealism that US system is the best, and inability to comprehend how other people may disagree with it. Misunderstanding that every country's system is a result of its history, is contigent on various events through history, and is the best current adaptation to the local political conditions. Misunderstanding that every nation evolves its system at its own pace and cannot be rushed. Misunderstanding that democracy cannot be brought at the point of the gun.
Pros: Every now and then a people get saddled with a dictator. The people hate the dictator and want to get rid of him. They ASK for help and the US cavalry gladly obliges. Everyone is happy in the end. Case in point: Never happenned so far.
Cons: Foments US-hatred around the world. Makes a bigger mess after the war than it was before the start of the intervention. Suffers from misunderstanding who is 'good', who is 'bad' on the ground. Case in point: Balkans, especially Kosovo (which was defense of geopolitical strategic interests only cloaked in the rhetoric of humanism anyway).

Neo-conservatism (G.W.Bush)
Goal: Opening new markets for US mega-business; taking care of oil; defending the dollar by invading counties that have switched to EURO as international currency; using Israel as a springboard for cleansing the Middle East fo Jews and Moslems in preparation for Rapture and Armageddon.
Ideological source: a mix of super-American superiority, big-money greed and fanatic Christianity. While Powell doctine (overwhelming force plus exit strategy) fits all the other ideologies, neoconservatives are so self-loving and self-righteous, they believe that a minimal force can do the job, because it is on the "right" side of history.
Cons: Look at the disaster in Iraq! Of course, as is conservatism in general, it cannot sell itself at face value, thus it invents new language. Initial "official" reasons for Iraq war were Realpolitical: imminent threat, WMDs. When this did not work, Bush switched to the rhetoric of military humanism: spreading democracy. Both types of rhetoric were designed to hide the real reasons for the war.

Reality is that the USA is the most powerful country in the world and IS the world policeman. Now, I like my local cops, because their presence makes me feel safer. But, more often than not, people of the world feel like Rodney King - afraid of being beaten by a rogue cop, for any reason: color of one's skin, or giving an "ugly look".

As a world cop, we have a duty to intervene, but we have to be very careful to know when, where and how to do so. We have to understand that we are not any better or worse than anybody else, and that our system is not perfect or even applicable to all the countries in the world. Every country evolves at its own pace, in its own direction, driven by its own concerns, as well as its own social traditions. Interfering with this evolution almost always makes a big mess out of that country. We are very impatient. While most, or even all countries, will in the end evolve some sort of democracy, equality, fairness and market, each needs to be left alone to decide how, and how fast to go there. If it takes another 100 years, so be it. The process has speeded up considerably with every technological advance in communications: telephone, radio, TV, satellites, Internet, and is likely to proceed even faster in the future. We should provide a helping hand morally, financially, techonologically, logistically, and legally, but resort to the military ONLY if the people ASK us to do so.
John Edwards, IMHO, used to be a military humanist, but Iraq has moved him towards realpolitics, and he is quite open about it.

John Kerry, due to his Vietnam experience, is at the bottom of his heart a liberal isolationist, but is smart enough to know that some elements of realpolitics and some elements of military humanism have to be a part of the US foreign policy, to be very carefully judged on a case-by-case basis. He also knows that realpolitics is the easist sell to the electorate so he over-stresses that part of his foreign policy views in his speeches, although I doubt that as President he will be a pure realpolitics kind of guy. His stand on Bosnia, for instance, against Clinton, makes me think hat this guy can be trusted.

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