Was The Democratic Peace Killed—Part IV, Prs. Clinton’s Foreign Policy

September 4, 2009


To characterize Obama’s foreign policy, I must first examine those Clinton and G. W. Bush policies which he has discarded. Obama’s policy is new and revolutionary in philosophy and in details, best seen in comparison and contrast to what has gone before.

The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the demise of the Soviet Union (1991) during President George H. W. Bush’s Administration, made obsolete our half century old grand strategy of Containment (containing communism in its present borders). But what was to replace it? G.H.W. Bush provided no clear answer. Rather than articulating a new grand strategy of foreign policy, he preferred to follow several foreign policy principles. These were the traditional ones of collective security and defense, multilateralism (working with our friends and allies to achieve a common goal), opposing aggression, and protecting global oil sources from monopolization by an aggressive dictator. All these were involved in the 1992 Gulf War—the American led effort to defeat Iraq’s invasion and occupation of Kuwait and its oil fields. Another foreign policy principle was that of nonproliferation which, to this day, underlies American pressure on North Korea to open its nuclear facilities to international inspection.
But relevantly here, in the last years of this Bush Administration high officials were making comments clearly showing appreciation of the relationship between democracy, international cooperation, and peace. Promoting democracy was an operating principle. Thus, we saw a variety of American attempts to help democratization in Eastern Europe and especially, in reborn Russia as well as in Latin America. Bush clearly linked aid for Russia to democratic peace. Still, while fundamentally realist in policy, this Bush Administration articulated no overall strategy within which these ideas had more than an ad hoc life. Perhaps it is unfair to demand one, for this, after all, was the Administration that saw and was partially responsible for negotiating the end of the Cold War. Clearly, however, they were moving toward a general policy of democratic peace, and might have articulated one if they had won a second term. But it was left to Bush’s successor, President William Clinton, to finally conceptualize such a policy.

From day one, the Clinton Administration had a firm overall foreign policy goal of democratization—to help other nations become democratic and to help solidify the newly democratic ones. The reason was a belief in the democratic peace. Clinton himself was aware that democracies do not make war on each other. In one of his speeches during the 1992 election campaign he said, “Democratic countries do not go to war with one another. They don’t sponsor terrorism or threaten one another with weapons of mass destruction.” As President he expanded on this, as in his 1994 address to the UN General Assembly, “Democracies, after all, are more likely to be stable, less likely to wage war. They strengthen civil society. They can provide people with the economic and political opportunities to build their futures in their own homes, not to flee their borders.” The foreign policy consequence of this view was made plain in his 1994 State of the Union address: “the best strategy to ensure our security and to build a durable peace is to support the advance of democracy elsewhere.” It was the democratic peace.

This idea was a foreign policy principle shared by virtually all top officials in his administration. In foreign policy speech after speech, the basic understanding that democracies do not make war on each other was reiterated and the cooperative nature of democracies underlined. From this belief flowed a doctrine of democratization, called a guiding concept of (democratic) enlargement.

Moreover, this overall foreign policy goal was being implemented through a variety of organizations, many of which were specifically created during the Cold War to further democracy and some of which have changed their fundamental policies to put democratization front and center. Such have been the Agency for International Development (AID), the US Information Agency, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs, the Center for International Private Enterprise, and the Free Trade Union Institute.

To foster democracy, such agencies and organizations provided economic aid, helped to establish sound constitutions and the rule of law. They worked to improve civil-military relationships and especially the subordination of the military to elected civilian authorities; strengthen and democratize local governments, give decision and rule making and material aid (like computers) to elected legislatures. They furthered an independent and neutral judiciary and politically neutral police; improve the fairness, openness, credibility, and effectiveness of elections; and further civil and political rights and the rights of women and minorities, and much more.

As required by Section 603 of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, in July 1994 Clinton submitted his report elaborating A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement. This not only laid out his new national security strategy but also his foreign policy. In the signed preface the President defines the three goals of this strategy as

• To credibly sustain our security with military forces that are ready to fight.

• To bolster America’s economic revitalization.

• To promote democracy abroad.

He believed

that our goals of enhancing our security, bolstering our economic prosperity, and promoting democracy are mutually supportive. Secure nations are more likely to support free trade and maintain democratic structures. Nations with growing economies and strong trade ties are more likely to feel secure and to work toward freedom. And democratic states are less likely to threaten our interests and more likely to cooperate with the U.S. to meet security threats and promote sustainable development.

So, Clinton’s foreign policy did not give up a basic concern for power and attention to diplomacy. It departed from realism in foreign policy in recognizing the importance of whether a nation’s regime is democratic. The democratic peace, although one of three goals, was a major guide to the Clinton foreign policy.

Idealism vs. Realism

July 4, 2009

[First published January 24, 2005] Enough time has gone by since president Bush’s inauguration speech that called for fostering democracy everywhere to appreciate the major media’s reaction, including commentators and foreign policy experts. One of the most frequently used characterizations is that the speech was idealistic: John F. Harris writes in The Washington Post: “The immediate question, presidential scholars and foreign policy experts say, is the same in Washington as it is in other capitals around the world: What to make of such idealistic and uncompromising language from an incumbent president? (link here) As used currently, “idealistic” is what one says about an idea while rolling one’s eyes skyward. It means, in effect, that one has a good heart, good intentions, but is naïve or simplistic about the real world.

A little history. After World War I, there was a concerted effort among the nations to create a lasting peace such that another world war like that would never happen again. The best way of doing this was thought to be through international organizations like the League of Nations that would serve as a forum for negotiation of international differences, act to prevent the escalation of conflict to violence, and even sanction aggression. Democracies also thought that an emphasis on international law, and especially disarmament treaties would also serve the peace. It all failed, profoundly, with the outbreak of the SinoJapanese war in 1937, and Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939.

After World War II, nations created the United Nations in a way they believed avoided the mistakes of the League of Nations, and emphasized collective security. However, a new school of thought arose among students of international relations and specialists in foreign relations, which still dominates thinking today about national security and peace. And that is, peace is best assured by a balancing of power between actual and potential adversaries, and good diplomacy. This is called realpolitik. Practitioners of this art—called realists—emphasize real assessments of other nation’s capabilities and intentions, and what can be done in practical terms to improve the balance of power, and maintain stable international relations.

One of the fantastic applications of this was during the 1960s when the United States actually held back developing its nuclear capability, such as furthering the accuracy of its ICBMs, to let the Soviets catch up. Then, the idea was, we would have a balance of power (of terror), and better stability in Soviet-American relations. This was realism at work.

Now, the bete noir of the realist is the idealist. The idealist is a nice fellow, but unrealistic about the real world. The idealist has all these marvelous ideas and plans, these solutions to war, these beliefs about the natural good behavior of states, the belief in democracy, but you know, he hasn’t yet been mugged by reality.

Today, the major intellectual conflict is not between libertarians and Bushites, or what I will now call freedomists, on democracy and peace. The libertarians simply don’t count. Both realists and freedomists see them as irrelevant, a cult of isolationists. Nor are the leftists in the ring. They are seen as, you know . . . leftists. They will side with anyone they see as anti-American. The realists see the freedomist’s emphasis on democracy as unrealistic and dangerous, as creating an unstable world in which more war may be the outcome, and our national interests endangered. The freedomist see the realist as adhering to dogma that no longer applies to the new post-Cold War world, and that fostering freedom is the best way to protect the nation in the long run, and promote a peaceful world.

Most of the media people and commentators have been educated into realism—it is the dominant set of ideas in political science and international relations—and to be suspicious of any highflying proposals. They naturally see the call for ending tyranny as idealistic. Thus when you read that Bush is idealistic, understand that this is a complement with the back of the hand.

However, the most thorough research that any idea in international relations has ever received shows that the realistic one is Bush and his forward Strategy of Freedom, and that the realists if they have their way, will not free us for the historical cycle of war and peace. Realism, which has been practiced in Europe since 1648 and the creation of the modern state system and up until all Europe became democratic and unified, was in practice nothing but war by other means until the next round of war.

Realists much come to understand. The real realists are the so-called idealists, and the real idealists are the realists. You know, the realists have their heart in the right place, but . . . (eyes rolling skyward). In other words, get real.

Link of Note

”Debate on the ‘Democratic Peace’—A Review” (3/3/04) By Steven Geoffrey Gieseler

Introduction by AmericanDeplomacy.org: “Democracies do not make war on each other, and the more democratic, the less violent nations are in general.’ This theory of war avoidance is the subject of much peace literature published in recent years. The author provides an overview of the field and addresses the question of its continued validity in light of the war in Iraq.”

Gieseler’s conclusion is that, “There will always be honest and well-meaning scholars, indifferent moral relativists, and self-interested tyrants who will for different reasons dismiss the idea that democracy is inherently just and peaceful. Adherents to the ‘Democratic Peace’ in whatever future incarnation it might take must not give the floor, so to speak, but dictate the terms of the debate.”

So, this blog.

The Myth of “The Myth of Democratic Peace”

January 20, 2009

[First published January 22, 2006]
They have become so predictable. Consider this bio: Dr. Leon Hadar is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, where he analyzes international politics and economics with a special focus on the Middle East and East Asia. A former United Nations bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post.

Now, what do you think Hadar’s take will be on the democratic peace? With the key words CATO and UN bureau chief, you’re right. He’ll be totally negative. And so he is in his recent article, “The Myth of Democratic Peace.”

What is it with these CATO libertarians? It’s not incompetence, not when there has to be a conscious avoidance of studies with which they disagree. It has to be a visceral prejudice. Well, my colleague Pro Forma lets rip on them, and he’s right. He says:

I think what really annoys me about these bozos are four things:

First, they rely on no actual social science (neither empirical nor theoretical) to make their points — the paleolibertarian case against the democratic peace is almost entirely rhetorical.

Second, they completely ignore the vast DP literature. It’s not that they say it is flawed and cite any examples…they just don’t even deal with it. The DP literature is incredibly rich in all sorts of empirical research, and abounds with theoretical explanations at many levels. Yet, they refuse to engage any of this. It’s like studying world geography, and despite Columbus and Magellan and Drake and modern cartography and trips into space and satellite photography, they are still using maps without the Americas, but instead a big vast emptiness between Europe and Asia. You can’t do science this way!

Third, they seem to dismiss any possibility of democratic peace by arguing that democracy has many definitions, so nobody really knows what it is…. yet they are quick to assert that this thing that no one can define is actually very non-peaceful. This not only is bad science, it denies the possibility of science.

Fourth, the implications — both philosophical and policy — of the anti-DP rhetoric by the paleolibertarians is profoundly disturbing for anyone who loves freedom and values liberty. Let’s think about this.

If democracy is so bad, then non-democracy should be pretty good. In fact, Leon Hadar concludes his article with a proposal to inquire if non-democracies are actually more peaceful than democracies (note to Hadar: it’s been done; they aren’t). If peace is a human value, and a good thing (since it favors life and well-being, and democracies were found to be actually less peaceful than non-democracies, we would not want democracy, and should work to establish and spread non-democracy.

Yet, I cannot think of any realistic non-democratic form of government that anyone would rather live under. The core difference between democracy and non-democracy is that you can change democratic governments with ballots (peaceful), while you can only change non-democratic governments with bullets (non-peaceful). This is philosophically very confusing: we want a peaceful government, so, according to the paleos, we want a non-democratic government so we’ll have peace. But we can only change this non-democratic government with non-peaceful means.

Does this mean we are doomed to renew and alter our government only with bloody means, and that the great experiment the American founders engaged in is a failure? If so, then all this writing about universal aspirations for democracy is false. And Fukuyama was wrong when he argued that over the past few thousand years, in the “marketplace” of history, democracy has been desired by people more than any other form of government.

If all this is wrong, then what form of government should we desire, and work and fight to put into place? On this, the paleos are strangely silent. Which is VERY worrisome. Since you cannot rely on government protecting rights and minimizing its incursions on liberty by either hoping the government will behave, or by putting power in the hands of a benign dictator who promises to keep government small, just how do the paleos think freedom will be protected? Thinking about this — and of the impossibility in history of establishing an anarchy-country, I’m beginning to think that the paleos, for now only on a theoretical level, are really enemies of freedom, and anti-liberty in their core.

Links of Note

“Diplomats Will Be Shifted to Hot Spots “:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that she will shift hundreds of Foreign Service positions from Europe and Washington to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere as part of a broad restructuring of the diplomatic corps that she has dubbed “transformational diplomacy.”
The State Department’s culture of deployment and ideas about career advancement must alter now that the Cold War is over and the United States is battling transnational threats of terrorism, drug smuggling and disease, Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University. “The greatest threats now emerge more within states than between them,” she said. “The fundamental character of regimes now matters more than the international distribution of power.”

The democratic peace oriented transformation (revolution?) of the Department of State continues. Now, think of what she would do if president.

“Public unrest increasing in China”:

The Public Security Ministry said it handled 87,000 public disturbances last year, a rise of more than 6% on 2004. . . . A ministry spokesman said the figure did not refer just to mass protests, but to all criminal cases linked to public disorder, including mob gatherings, obstruction of justice, fighting and trouble-making.

The greatest likelihood to the collapse of communist rule will come when a depression, or steep inflation, occurs, not with this mild unrest in the face of rapid economic growth.

“The Region: Moving apart “ By Barry Rubin:

The world is about to rethink its views of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict, due to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s past policy shift, his evident departure from politics, and Palestinian developments. The critical variable here is not what has happened to Sharon but a Palestinian political situation which makes any progress toward peace impossible for years to come. Sharon’s illness may be distracting attention from the Palestinian crisis, but it is ultimately much less important in shaping the region’s future.

Read Rubin. He is good and informative on this intractable ME conflict.

“The “Democratic Peace”: A Skeptic’s View “ By Mark Pietrzyk:

an alternative view is that the long peace between democratic states is the result of reverse causation. That is, the current peaceful international order (created by such factors as U.S. hegemony, the solidification of borders, economic growth, and the nuclear revolution) has made it possible for liberal democracy to flourish in many countries which have found it difficult or impossible to build and maintain free institutions in previous eras of international violence and instability.

Another book on the democratic peace. Note the logical problem. If (A) nations made war on each other before becoming democratic; and (B) did not make war on each other after becoming democratic, how is that B implies A. Does time reverse itself?

“A Lesson From Somalia”:

Somalia offers a sobering lesson of what can happen to American forces when our government blunders into the middle of a civil war. We dare not do it again. And we had better see the warning signs.

I must be the only one that sees the American intervention in Somalia as a victory. We saved about a million lives at the cost of 18 American marines. Have ever before so few given their lives to save so many?

The vast literature on the
Democratic Peace

But, Didn’t The U.S. Support Tin-Pot Dictators?

January 14, 2009

[First published February 9, 2006] Whenever I give a speech on the democratic peace to university audiences, questioners always shift the focus to the United States, and especially this kind of question:

Has not the U.S. intervened in many countries, some democracies such as Chile, Guatemala, and El Salvador, supported death squads murdering rebels, and behind the scenes helped mass murder, such as in Indonesia?

Even if true, none of these events was a war. No collection or list of international wars includes them. They are therefore irrelevant to the proposition that democracies do not make war on each other, and cannot be used as evidence to disprove it. As to democide, I have only counted those governments directly responsible. If one were to also count indirect responsibility, then this would have to be done not only for the U.S., but all regimes, including those of Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. I bet that if this were done, the proportional differences between democracies and nondemocracies would be even more weighed toward totalitarian regimes.

To understand why a democracy like the U.S. would be allying itself with dictators, one has to understand that in the late 1940s to the late 1980s, American foreign and defense policies were geared toward containing communism, and responding to the realistic fear of a Soviet Invasion of Europe or a nuclear first strike on the U.S. This Cold War was World War III, with hot battlefronts in Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Afghanistan; and with theaters of related guerrilla warfare, subversion, spying, and political action throughout Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Within this context, American alliances, and ties to “right wing” dictators, or interventions to prop them up, were meant to prevent their communist takeover or revolution, and/or to secure their support of our side in the Cold War by, for example, providing basis. There has been much criticism of this among academics, but strangely, there has been no similar criticism of the American alliance with Stalin to defeat Hitler in World War II. Yet, of all regimes, Stalin’s was worse than any military or authoritarian regime we supported after the war, and on par with Hitler’s.

One example always brought up is the 1973 military coup in Chile against an elected president that America presumably engineered. To many on the left it is the proof of American imperialism and true antidemocratic nature. But, the U.S. did not intervene against President Allende, or help overthrow him. See my “The Chilean Coup–Icon of the Anti-American Left.” The coup against him was an internally generated matter. The U.S. did favor it, however. Keep in mind that Allende was a communist, aided by Castro and the Soviet Union, and was attempting to convert Chile to a communist dictatorship, like that of his model, Castro. By the time of the coup, Allende had destroyed virtually all his pubic support, including the unions, business, the church, and, of course, the military.

World War III has been won, communism defeated as a competing and threatening world force, and there is no longer a perceived need to contain it. If people are stupid enough to elect communists, as they have done in Venezuela, and Bolivia, so be it. People who don’t learn from history, will have to repeat it.

In any case, in general, where the U.S. has intervened, and supported dictators under communist threat, these countries are now democracies. In two notable cases where we could have intervened and did not, the worst not only happened to these countries, but the horrible result continues to this day. Think of Cuba for one, where President Eisenhower refused to save the Fulgencio Batista regime from Castro, until it was too late. Then President Kennedy inherited Eisenhower’s plans to overthrow Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban expatriates, which was miserably prepared and handled. Of course, had we supported Batista, we would be hearing to this day about American imperialism and intervention to save right wing Batista, but had we done so we would have saved tens of thousands of lives, and the Cuban people from a miserable existence under communism. And by now, Cuba would probably be a democracy, as are El Salvador, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala.

Then there is Iran. At the time of the Ayatollah’s 1978-1979 revolution, Iran was led by a pro-American and secular modernizing dynasty, much to the rage of the Iran’s Ayatollahs and Islamic extremists. When the dynasty was on the verge of collapse, the Iranian military contacted President Carter asking for support for a military takeover — a protective coup. Typical of his softheaded worldview, Carter refused, and in effect gave a go ahead to the Ayatollah’s revolution. We now all know the result in the hundreds of thousands murdered, the infliction of totalitarian Islamic rule on a people, and the danger of its revolutionary regime producing nuclear weapons The irony of this is, as with Cuba, had we supported a coup this would have become another black mark against the United States.

Foreign and defense policy in wartime, which included the Cold War, and now the War on Terror, is messy and shot through with moral ambiguities and compromises. Thus, we dropped a-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; allied ourselves with the fascist Chiang Kai-shek regime of China, and the communist megamurderer Stalin; and agreed to turn over Eastern Europe to Stalin’s tender mercies after the war. Now we are allied with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, among other distasteful regimes, who are hardly models of democracy. It all boils down to the balance sheet of pluses and minuses in defending freedom and waging peace.

But, then those pure in heart, innocent in mind, and morally self-righteous, will always find something in such foreign and defense policies to attack, while assuming no responsibility for the inevitable consequences. Witness the Patriot Act, alleged torture of terrorists, and the Al Qaeda NSA surveillance (“Bush spying”) program.

A Realist (Scowcroft) Doesn’t Get It

December 26, 2008

[This Fictional discussion between Scowcroft, the realist, and me, the so-called idealist, is as relevant today as it was when first published in October 24, 2005. Now, in later 2008, there have been two democratic elections in Iraw, and a fair and open democratic vote for the constitution that now governs Iraq and under which there is a functioning democratic government. The anti American occupationo and Iraq government terrorism and rebellion has been largely defeated. It is fair, therefore, to say that Scowcroft was wrong.]

click me^–>

Brent Scowcroft, military assistant to President Nixon, and National Security Advisor to Presidents Ford and H.W. Bush, continues his attack on the bush foreign policy and Iraq War in an interview by Jeffrey Goldberg in The New Yorker (not available without subscription). In The Washington Note, Steven C. Clemons provides excerpts (here) from the interview:

A principal reason that the Bush Administration gave no thought to unseating Saddam was that Brent Scowcroft gave no thought to it. An American occupation of Iraq would be politically and militarily untenable, Scowcroft told Bush. And though the President had employed the rhetoric of moral necessity to make the case for war, Scowcroft said, he would not let his feelings about good and evil dictate the advice he gave the President.

It would have been no problem for America’s military to reach Baghdad, he said. The problems would have arisen when the Army entered the Iraqi capital. “At the minimum, we’d be an occupier in a hostile land,” he said. “Our forces would be sniped at by guerrillas, and, once we were there, how would we get out? What would be the rationale for leaving? I don’t like the term ‘exit strategy’ — but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?”

. . . . “This is exactly where we are now,” he said of Iraq, with no apparent satisfaction. “We own it. And we can’t let go. We’re getting sniped at. Now, will we win? I think there’s a fair chance we’ll win. But look at the cost.”

RJR: Yes, lets look at the cost. Nearly 2,000 American soldiers killed, not even the near 3,000 American civilians murdered in the 9/11 attacks by terrorists; and for Iraqi civilians it is a death toll of 26,690 to 30,051 (see here). Compare this to the million of his own people that Saddam Hussein probably murdered, the additional million killed in the war Saddam launched against Iran, and the probable 30,000 civilian and military killed in the Gulf War Saddam initiated with the invasion of Kuwait.

For an incredibly small cost, we have won a victory of vital importance to American security in our War on Terrorism (Saddam supported and encouraged terrorism), we have saved the Iraqi people from a murderous repressive dictator, we have removed the chains that bound them, we have helped put them on the road to democracy, and we have encouraged democracy elsewhere in the Middle East.

The first Gulf War was a success, Scowcroft said, because the President knew better than to set unachievable goals. “I’m not a pacifist,” he said. “I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force.” Scowcroft does not believe that the promotion of American-style democracy abroad is a sufficiently good reason to use force.

RJR: The Iraqi Constitution is hardly modeled on American-style democracy. True, we are promoting democracy, but this is another way of saying that we are freeing people from the chains that bind them so that they can enjoy the freedom that is rightfully theirs.

“I thought we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes,” he said. “You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it.”

RJR: Of course, this is a way to encourage democracy, unless you have an absolute and murderous dictator who, as all the intelligence agencies around the world said, was developing WMD, and in any case was supporting the terrorist enemies of the United States. Then, once you remove his threat, democracy follows. What should we have done otherwise? Take him down, and then leave the poor Iraqis to another dictator?

The neoconservatives — the Republicans who argued most fervently for the second Gulf war — believe in the export of democracy, by violence if that is required, Scowcroft said. “How do the neocons bring democracy to Iraq? You invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize.” And now, Scowcroft said, America is suffering from the consequences of that brand of revolutionary utopianism. “This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism,” he said.

RJR: Nonsense. The Iraqi War was not launched to spread democracy, but to deal with vital threat Saddam posed. Helping the Iraqi’s to establish democracy then came after — it was an answer to the question as to what we do with military victory, and Bush gave the same answer we applied to defeated Italy, Japan, and Germany after WWII.

Scowcroft on Iraq & Israel

In August of 2002, seven months before George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, Scowcroft upset the White House with an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. The headline read, “DON’T ATTACK SADDAM.” Scowcroft would have preferred something more nuanced, he told me, but the words accurately reflected his message.

RJR: More nuanced like what? Multilateral discussion with European no-sayers? More debate in the hopeless Security Council? Nuanced, indeed. How about unrealistic?

In the article, he argued that an invasion of Iraq would deflect American attention from the war on terrorism, and that it would do nothing to solve the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, which he has long believed is the primary source of unhappiness in the Middle East. Unlike the current Bush Administration, which is unambiguously pro-Israel, Scowcroft, James Baker, and others associated with the elder George Bush believe that Israel’s settlement policies arouse Arab anger, and that American foreign policy should reflect the fact that there are far more Arabs than Israelis in the world.

RJR: Rather than deflect attention from the War on Terrorism, the invasion was at the heart of this war, and has defeated a chief state supporter, put the terrorists on the defensive, and encouraged a democratic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The obsession of the region . . . is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Scowcroft wrote in the Journal. “If we were seen to be turning our back on that bitter conflict — which the region, rightly or wrongly, perceives to be clearly within our power to resolve — in order to go after Iraq, there would be an explosion of outrage against us.” Scowcroft went on to say that the United States was capable of defeating Saddam’s military. “But it would not be a cakewalk. On the contrary, it undoubtedly would be very expensive — with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy — and could as well be bloody. In fact, Saddam would be likely to conclude he had nothing left to lose, leading him to unleash whatever weapons of mass destruction he possesses.”

RJR: How wrong his predictions were is obvious, and yet he is unyielding in his criticism.

Scowcroft’s Frustration Communicating with Bush 43

Like nearly everyone else in Washington, Scowcroft believed that Saddam maintained stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, but he wrote that a strong inspections program would have kept him at bay. “There may have come a time when we would have needed to take Saddam out,” he told me. “But he wasn’t really a threat. His Army was weak, and the country hadn’t recovered from sanctions.” Scowcroft’s colleagues told me that he would have preferred to deliver his analysis privately to the White House. But Scowcroft, the apotheosis of a Washington insider, was by then definitively on the outside, and there was no one in the White House who would listen to him. On the face of it, this is remarkable: Scowcroft’s best friend’s son is the President; his friend Dick Cheney is the Vice-President; Condoleezza Rice, who was the national-security adviser, and is now the Secretary of State, was once a Scowcroft protege; and the current national-security adviser, Stephen Hadley, is another protege and a former principal at the Scowcroft Group. . . .

RJR: Why the Whitehouse doesn’t listen to him is obvious from the above. Also, note that he believed that Saddam had WMD, and yet he does not see the national interest in taking him out.

. . . . Scowcroft’s Deteriorating Relationship with Condoleeza Rice

The disintegrating relationship between Scowcroft and Condoleezza Rice has not escaped the notice of their colleagues from the first Bush Administration. She was a political-science professor at Stanford when, in 1989, Scowcroft hired her to serve as a Soviet expert on the National Security Council.

Scowcroft found her bright — “brighter than I was” — and personable, and he brought her all the way inside, to the Bush family circle. When Scowcroft published his Wall Street Journal article, Rice telephoned him, according to several people with knowledge of the call. “She said, ‘How could you do this to us?'” a Scowcroft friend recalled. “What bothered Brent more than Condi yelling at him was the fact that here she is, the national-security adviser, and she’s not interested in hearing what a former national-security adviser had to say.”

RJR: Typical of these people who have been on the inside. What bothers Scowcroft is not that he wasn’t listened to, but that his advice was not taken.

Scowcroft on Rice’s Foreign Policy Deficits & Israel Policy

. . . . They also argued about Iraq. “She says we’re going to democratize Iraq, and I said, ‘Condi, you’re not going to democratize Iraq,’ and she said, ‘You know, you’re just stuck in the old days,’ and she comes back to this thing that we’ve tolerated an autocratic Middle East for fifty years and so on and so forth,” he said. Then a barely perceptible note of satisfaction entered his voice, and he said, “But we’ve had fifty years of peace.”

RJR: Peace? Rather war by other means — genocidal murder bombing, killing ambushes, and assassination.

Scowcroft’s Realism on the Middle East

Scowcroft is unmoved by the stirrings of democracy movements in the Middle East. He does not believe, for instance, that the signs of a democratic awakening in Lebanon are related to the Iraq war. He sees the recent evacuation of the Syrian Army from Lebanon not as a victory for self-government but as a foreshadowing of civil war. “I think it’s something we have to worry about — the sectarian emotions that were there when the Syrians went in aren’t gone.”

Scowcroft and those who share his views believe that the reality of life in Iraq at the moment is undermining the neoconservative agenda. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who served as Colin Powell’s chief policy planner during the first Bush Administration (and who was Scowcroft’s Middle East expert on the National Security Council during the first Gulf War) said that the days of armed idealism are over. “We’ve seen the ideological high-water mark,” he said. “I mean wars of choice, and unilateralism, and by that I mean an emphasis, almost to the point of exclusion of everything else, on regime change as opposed to diplomacy aimed at policy change.”

RJR: Enough. What is clear is that the Scowcroft is an unreformed real politics guy, while Bush bases his foreign policy upon the democratic peace. The gulf between Rice and Scowcroft developed when Rice grew to accept this policy (as well she should, being a professional student of international relations, a field that now accepts the democratic peace as axiomatic). Those who share Scowcroft’s view, which is a good part of the Washington establishment, see the tools of foreign policy as diplomacy, (jaw-jaw, smile-smile) multilateralism, alliances, foreign aid, trade, and the UN, all aimed at developing or maintaining stability in critical regions, like the Middle East, and a stable balance of interests and power. They see the idea of a democratic peace as Wilsonian idealism, utopianism, and as an excuse for a missionary like crusade for democracy.

These “realistic” analysts and experts do not realize that if by realistic one means consistent with history and facts, then it is the democratic peace that is most realistic. Policies based on stability, which when they were applied to the Middle East meant stable dictatorships, have consistently failed. The democratic peace has passed hard empirical tests, such as those below. The policy of realism has not.

Democratic Peace Chart

Democratic Realism–An American Foreign Policy For A Unipolar World

December 17, 2008

Introductory comments
on Krauthammer’s lecture, below

[First published on January 27, 2005] This is an excellent overview of American foreign policy and the choices that confront the Bush Administration, and successors. Krauthammer points out that American foreign policy has been, what he calls, democratic globalism, “a foreign policy that defines the national interest not as power but as values, and that identifies one supreme value, what John Kennedy called “the success of liberty.” As President Bush put it in his speech at Whitehall last November: ‘The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings.'”

This correctly identifies American foreign policy, and Krauthammer does an excellent job of comparing it to the alternatives: isolationism, liberal internationalism, and realism. Democratic globalism is realism with a vision. The vision is of a democratic world which freedom has been universalized. Why them democracy? Because, Krauthammer points out: “Democracies are inherently more friendly to the United States, less belligerent to their neighbors, and generally more inclined to peace.”

I have to quibble with this. Not because he has it wrong, but because he does not state it as strongly as possible. It should be italicized, underlined, and put in bold that:

Democracies don’t make war on each other, have the least violence, commit no democide against their citizens; democracy is an engine of prosperity, secures people against famine, and is a method of nonviolence.
To create a prosperous world free of war, democide, and famine–now, that is a vision to fight for.

One more important point that Krauthammer makes. He appears subject to the criticism that democratic globalism puts us into the position of intervening all over the world to promote democracy, into a global war for global democracy. Not only is this beyond our resources, it would invoke wide-scale hostility to our foreign policy domestically and among our democratic friends. No such foreign policy could long survive, nor could a president who supported it win a second term.

Krauthammer therefore argues that we should only promote democracy where it counts. And this is where our security is at stake, as it was for Germany and Japan fifty years ago, and Afghanistan after 9/11. As Krauthammer puts it: “Where does it count today? Where the overthrow of radicalism and the beginnings of democracy can have a decisive effect in the war against the new global threat to freedom, the new existential enemy, the Arab-Islamic totalitarianism that has threatened us in both its secular and religious forms for the quarter-century since the Khomeini revolution of 1979.”

Well put.

R.J. Rummel

Democratic Realism
An American Foreign Policy
for a Unipolar World

By Charles Krauthammer

2004 Irving Kristol Lecture
AEI Annual Dinner (Washington)

A Unipolar World

Americans have healthy aversion to foreign policy. It stems from a sense of thrift: Who needs it? We’re protected by two great oceans. We have this continent practically to ourselves. And we share it with just two neighbors, both friendly, one so friendly that its people seem intent upon moving in with us.

It took three giants of the twentieth century to drag us into its great battles: Wilson into World War I, Roosevelt into World War II, Truman into the Cold War. And then it ended with one of the great anticlimaxes in history. Without a shot fired, without a revolution, without so much as a press release, the Soviet Union simply gave up and disappeared.

It was the end of everything–the end of communism, of socialism, of the Cold War, of the European wars. But the end of everything was also a beginning. On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union died and something new was born, something utterly new–a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe.

This is a staggering new development in history, not seen since the fall of Rome. It is so new, so strange, that we have no idea how to deal with it. Our first reaction–the 1990s–was utter confusion. The next reaction was awe. When Paul Kennedy, who had once popularized the idea of American decline, saw what America did in the Afghan war–a display of fully mobilized, furiously concentrated unipolar power at a distance of 8,000 miles–he not only recanted, he stood in wonder: “Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power;” he wrote, “nothing. . . . No other nation comes close. . . . Charlemagne’s empire was merely western European in its reach. The Roman empire stretched farther afield, but there was another great empire in Persia, and a larger one in China. There is, therefore, no comparison.”

Even Rome is no model for what America is today. First, because we do not have the imperial culture of Rome. We are an Athenian republic, even more republican and infinitely more democratic than Athens. And this American Republic has acquired the largest seeming empire in the history of the world–acquired it in a fit of absent-mindedness greater even than Britain’s. And it was not just absent-mindedness; it was sheer inadvertence. We got here because of Europe’s suicide in the world wars of the twentieth century, and then the death of its Eurasian successor, Soviet Russia, for having adopted a political and economic system so inhuman that, like a genetically defective organism, it simply expired in its sleep. Leaving us with global dominion.

Second, we are unlike Rome, unlike Britain and France and Spain and the other classical empires of modern times, in that we do not hunger for territory. The use of the word “empire” in the American context is ridiculous. It is absurd to apply the word to a people whose first instinct upon arriving on anyone’s soil is to demand an exit strategy. I can assure you that when the Romans went into Gaul and the British into India, they were not looking for exit strategies. They were looking for entry strategies.

In David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, King Faisal says to Lawrence: “I think you are another of these desert-loving English. . . . The English have a great hunger for desolate places.” Indeed, for five centuries, the Europeans did hunger for deserts and jungles and oceans and new continents.

Americans do not. We like it here. We like our McDonald’s. We like our football. We like our rock-and-roll. We’ve got the Grand Canyon and Graceland. We’ve got Silicon Valley and South Beach. We’ve got everything. And if that’s not enough, we’ve got Vegas–which is a facsimile of everything. What could we possibly need anywhere else? We don’t like exotic climates. We don’t like exotic languages–lots of declensions and moods. We don’t even know what a mood is. We like Iowa corn and New York hot dogs, and if we want Chinese or Indian or Italian, we go to the food court. We don’t send the Marines for takeout.

That’s because we are not an imperial power. We are a commercial republic. We don’t take food; we trade for it. Which makes us something unique in history, an anomaly, a hybrid: a commercial republic with overwhelming global power. A commercial republic that, by pure accident of history, has been designated custodian of the international system. The eyes of every supplicant from East Timor to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Liberia; Arab and Israeli, Irish and British, North and South Korean are upon us.

That is who we are. That is where we are.

Now the question is: What do we do? What is a unipolar power to do?


The oldest and most venerable answer is to hoard that power and retreat. This is known as isolationism. Of all the foreign policy schools in America, it has the oldest pedigree, not surprising in the only great power in history to be isolated by two vast oceans.

Isolationism originally sprang from a view of America as spiritually superior to the Old World. We were too good to be corrupted by its low intrigues, entangled by its cynical alliances.

Today, however, isolationism is an ideology of fear. Fear of trade. Fear of immigrants. Fear of the Other. Isolationists want to cut off trade and immigration, and withdraw from our military and strategic commitments around the world. Even isolationists, of course, did not oppose the war in Afghanistan, because it was so obviously an act of self-defense–only a fool or a knave or a Susan Sontag could oppose that. But anything beyond that, isolationists oppose. They are for a radical retrenchment of American power–for pulling up the drawbridge to Fortress America.

Isolationism is an important school of thought historically, but not today. Not just because of its brutal intellectual reductionism, but because it is so obviously inappropriate to the world of today–a world of export-driven economies, of massive population flows, and of 9/11, the definitive demonstration that the combination of modern technology and transnational primitivism has erased the barrier between “over there” and over here.

Classical isolationism is not just intellectually obsolete; it is politically bankrupt as well. Four years ago, its most public advocate, Pat Buchanan, ran for president of the United States, and carried Palm Beach. By accident.

Classic isolationism is moribund and marginalized. Who then rules America?

Liberal Internationalism

In the 1990s, it was liberal internationalism. Liberal internationalism is the foreign policy of the Democratic Party and the religion of the foreign policy elite. It has a peculiar history. It traces its pedigree to Woodrow Wilson’s utopianism, Harry Truman’s anticommunism, and John Kennedy’s militant universalism. But after the Vietnam War, it was transmuted into an ideology of passivity, acquiescence and almost reflexive anti-interventionism.

Liberals today proudly take credit for Truman’s and Kennedy’s roles in containing communism, but they prefer to forget that, for the last half of the Cold War, liberals used “cold warrior” as an epithet. In the early 1980s, they gave us the nuclear freeze movement, a form of unilateral disarmament in the face of Soviet nuclear advances. Today, John Kerry boasts of opposing, during the 1980s, what he calls Ronald Reagan’s “illegal war in Central America”–and oppose he did what was, in fact, an indigenous anticommunist rebellion that ultimately succeeded in bringing down Sandinista rule and ushering in democracy in all of Central America.

That boast reminds us how militant was liberal passivity in the last half of the Cold War. But that passivity outlived the Cold War. When Kuwait was invaded, the question was: Should the United States go to war to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into hostile hands? The Democratic Party joined the Buchananite isolationists in saying No. The Democrats voted No overwhelmingly–two to one in the House, more than four to one in the Senate.

And yet, quite astonishingly, when liberal internationalism came to power just two years later in the form of the Clinton administration, it turned almost hyperinterventionist. It involved us four times in military action: deepening intervention in Somalia, invading Haiti, bombing Bosnia, and finally going to war over Kosovo.

How to explain the amazing transmutation of Cold War and Gulf War doves into Haiti and Balkan hawks? The crucial and obvious difference is this: Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo were humanitarian ventures–fights for right and good, devoid of raw national interest. And only humanitarian interventionism–disinterested interventionism devoid of national interest–is morally pristine enough to justify the use of force. The history of the 1990s refutes the lazy notion that liberals have an aversion to the use of force. They do not. They have an aversion to using force for reasons of pure national interest.

And by national interest I do not mean simple self-defense. Everyone believes in self-defense, as in Afghanistan. I am talking about national interest as defined by a Great Power: shaping the international environment by projecting power abroad to secure economic, political, and strategic goods. Intervening militarily for that kind of national interest, liberal internationalism finds unholy and unsupportable. It sees that kind of national interest as merely self-interest writ large, in effect, a form of grand national selfishness. Hence Kuwait, no; Kosovo, yes.

The other defining feature of the Clinton foreign policy was multilateralism, which expressed itself in a mania for treaties. The Clinton administration negotiated a dizzying succession of parchment promises on bioweapons, chemical weapons, nuclear testing, carbon emissions, antiballistic missiles, etc.

Why? No sentient being could believe that, say, the chemical or biological weapons treaties were anything more than transparently useless. Senator Joseph Biden once defended the Chemical Weapons Convention, which even its proponents admitted was unenforceable, on the grounds that it would “provide us with a valuable tool”–the “moral suasion of the entire international community.”

Moral suasion? Was it moral suasion that made Qaddafi see the wisdom of giving up his weapons of mass destruction? Or Iran agree for the first time to spot nuclear inspections? It was the suasion of the bayonet. It was the ignominious fall of Saddam–and the desire of interested spectators not to be next on the list. The whole point of this treaty was to keep rogue states from developing chemical weapons. Rogue states are, by definition, impervious to moral suasion.

Moral suasion is a farce. Why then this obsession with conventions, protocols, legalisms? Their obvious net effect is to temper American power. Who, after all, was really going to be most constrained by these treaties? The ABM amendments were aimed squarely at American advances and strategic defenses, not at Russia, which lags hopelessly behind. The Kyoto Protocol exempted India and China. The nuclear test ban would have seriously degraded the American nuclear arsenal. And the land mine treaty (which the Clinton administration spent months negotiating but, in the end, met so much Pentagon resistance that even Clinton could not initial it) would have had a devastating impact on U.S. conventional forces, particularly at the DMZ in Korea.

But that, you see, is the whole point of the multilateral enterprise: To reduce American freedom of action by making it subservient to, dependent on, constricted by the will–and interests–of other nations. To tie down Gulliver with a thousand strings. To domesticate the most undomesticated, most outsized, national interest on the planet–ours.

Today, multilateralism remains the overriding theme of liberal internationalism. When in power in the 1990s, multilateralism expressed itself as a mania for treaties. When out of power in this decade, multilateralism manifests itself in the slavish pursuit of “international legitimacy”–and opposition to any American action undertaken without universal foreign blessing.

Which is why the Democratic critique of the war in Iraq is so peculiarly one of process and not of policy. The problem was that we did not have the permission of the UN; we did not have a large enough coalition; we did not have a second Security Council resolution. Kofi Annan was unhappy and the French were cross.

The Democratic presidential candidates all say that we should have internationalized the conflict, brought in the UN, enlisted the allies. Why? Two reasons: assistance and legitimacy. First, they say, we could have used these other countries to help us in the reconstruction.

This is rich. Everyone would like to have more help in reconstruction. It would be lovely to have the Germans and the French helping reconstruct Baghdad. But the question is moot, and the argument is cynical: France and Germany made absolutely clear that they would never support the overthrow of Saddam. So, accommodating them was not a way to get them into the reconstruction, it was a way to ensure that there would never be any reconstruction, because Saddam would still be in power.

Of course it would be nice if we had more allies rather than fewer. It would also be nice to be able to fly. But when some nations are not with you on your enterprise, including them in your coalition is not a way to broaden it; it’s a way to abolish it.

At which point, liberal internationalists switch gears and appeal to legitimacy–on the grounds that multilateral action has a higher moral standing. I have always found this line of argument incomprehensible. By what possible moral calculus does an American intervention to liberate 25 million people forfeit moral legitimacy because it lacks the blessing of the butchers of Tiananmen Square or the cynics of the Quai d’Orsay?

Which is why it is hard to take these arguments at face value. Look: We know why liberal internationalists demanded UN sanction for the war in Iraq. It was a way to stop the war. It was the Gulliver effect. Call a committee meeting of countries with hostile or contrary interests–i.e., the Security Council–and you have guaranteed yourself another twelve years of inaction.

Historically, multilateralism is a way for weak countries to multiply their power by attaching themselves to stronger ones. But multilateralism imposed on Great Powers, and particularly on a unipolar power, is intended to restrain that power. Which is precisely why France is an ardent multilateralist. But why should America be?

Why, in the end, does liberal internationalism want to tie down Gulliver, to blunt the pursuit of American national interests by making them subordinate to a myriad of other interests?

In the immediate post-Vietnam era, this aversion to national interest might have been attributed to self-doubt and self-loathing. I don’t know. What I do know is that today it is a mistake to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism or a late efflorescence of 1960s radicalism.

On the contrary. The liberal aversion to national interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition and nobility–the ideal of a true international community. And that is: To transform the international system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe. To turn the state of nature into a norm-driven community. To turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law–of treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system in the image of domestic civil society.

They dream of a new world, a world described in 1943 by Cordell Hull, FDR’s secretary of state–a world in which “there will no longer be need for spheres of influence, for alliances, for balance of power, or any other of the special arrangements by which, in the unhappy past, the nations strove to safeguard their security or promote their interests.”

And to create such a true international community, you have to temper, transcend, and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and American power. If you are going to break the international arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not only as an affront to fairness, but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet to a democratized international system where all live under self-governing international institutions and self-enforcing international norms.


This vision is all very nice. All very noble. And all very crazy. Which brings us to the third great foreign policy school: realism.

The realist looks at this great liberal project and sees a hopeless illusion. Because turning the Hobbesian world that has existed since long before the Peloponnesian Wars into a Lockean world, turning a jungle into a suburban subdivision, requires a revolution in human nature. Not just an erector set of new institutions, but a revolution in human nature. And realists do not believe in revolutions in human nature, much less stake their future, and the future of their nation, on them.

Realism recognizes the fundamental fallacy in the whole idea of the international system being modeled on domestic society.

First, what holds domestic society together is a supreme central authority wielding a monopoly of power and enforcing norms. In the international arena there is no such thing. Domestic society may look like a place of self-regulating norms, but if somebody breaks into your house, you call 911, and the police arrive with guns drawn. That’s not exactly self-enforcement. That’s law enforcement.

Second, domestic society rests on the shared goodwill, civility and common values of its individual members. What values are shared by, say, Britain, Cuba, Yemen and Zimbabwe–all nominal members of this fiction we call the “international community”?

Of course, you can have smaller communities of shared interests–NAFTA, ANZUS, or the European Union. But the European conceit that relations with all nations–regardless of ideology, regardless of culture, regardless even of open hostility–should be transacted on the EU model of suasion and norms and negotiations and solemn contractual agreements is an illusion. A fisheries treaty with Canada is something real. An Agreed Framework on plutonium processing with the likes of North Korea is not worth the paper it is written on.

The realist believes the definition of peace Ambrose Bierce offered in The Devil’s Dictionary: “Peace: noun, in international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.”

Hence the realist axiom: The “international community” is a fiction. It is not a community, it is a cacophony–of straining ambitions, disparate values and contending power.

What does hold the international system together? What keeps it from degenerating into total anarchy? Not the phony security of treaties, not the best of goodwill among the nicer nations. In the unipolar world we inhabit, what stability we do enjoy today is owed to the overwhelming power and deterrent threat of the United States.

If someone invades your house, you call the cops. Who do you call if someone invades your country? You dial Washington. In the unipolar world, the closest thing to a centralized authority, to an enforcer of norms, is America–American power. And ironically, American power is precisely what liberal internationalism wants to constrain and tie down and subsume in pursuit of some brave new Lockean world.

Realists do not live just in America. I found one in Finland. During the 1997 negotiations in Oslo over the land mine treaty, one of the rare holdouts, interestingly enough, was Finland. The Finnish prime minister stoutly opposed the land mine ban. And for that he was scolded by his Scandinavian neighbors. To which he responded tartly that this was a “very convenient” pose for the “other Nordic countries”–after all, Finland is their land mine.

Finland is the land mine between Russia and Scandinavia. America is the land mine between barbarism and civilization.

Where would South Korea be without America and its land mines along the DMZ? Where would Europe–with its cozy arrogant community–had America not saved it from the Soviet colossus? Where would the Middle East be had American power not stopped Saddam in 1991?

The land mine that protects civilization from barbarism is not parchment but power, and in a unipolar world, American power–wielded, if necessary, unilaterally. If necessary, preemptively,

Now, those uneasy with American power have made these two means of wielding it–preemption and unilateralism–the focus of unrelenting criticism. The doctrine of preemption, in particular, has been widely attacked for violating international norms.

What international norm? The one under which Israel was universally condemned–even the Reagan administration joined the condemnation at the Security Council–for preemptively destroying Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981? Does anyone today doubt that it was the right thing to do, both strategically and morally?

In a world of terrorists, terrorist states and weapons of mass destruction, the option of preemption is especially necessary. In the bipolar world of the Cold War, with a stable nonsuicidal adversary, deterrence could work. Deterrence does not work against people who ache for heaven. It does not work against undeterrables. And it does not work against undetectables: nonsuicidal enemy regimes that might attack through clandestine means–a suitcase nuke or anonymously delivered anthrax. Against both undeterrables and undetectables, preemption is the only possible strategy.

Moreover, the doctrine of preemption against openly hostile states pursuing weapons of mass destruction is an improvement on classical deterrence. Traditionally, we deterred the use of WMDs by the threat of retaliation after we’d been attacked–and that’s too late; the point of preemption is to deter the very acquisition of WMDs in the first place.

Whether or not Iraq had large stockpiles of WMDs, the very fact that the United States overthrew a hostile regime that repeatedly refused to come clean on its weapons has had precisely this deterrent effect. We are safer today not just because Saddam is gone, but because Libya and any others contemplating trafficking with WMDs, have–for the first time–seen that it carries a cost, a very high cost.

Yes, of course, imperfect intelligence makes preemption problematic. But that is not an objection on principle, it is an objection in practice. Indeed, the objection concedes the principle. We need good intelligence. But we remain defenseless if we abjure the option of preemption.

The other great objection to the way American unipolar power has been wielded is its unilateralism. I would dispute how unilateralist we have in fact been. Constructing ad hoc “coalitions of the willing” hardly qualifies as unilateralism just because they do not have a secretariat in Brussels or on the East River.

Moreover, unilateralism is often the very road to multilateralism. As we learned from the Gulf War, it is the leadership of the United States–indeed, its willingness to act unilaterally if necessary–that galvanized the Gulf War coalition into existence. Without the president of the United States declaring “This will not stand” about the invasion of Kuwait–and making it clear that America would go it alone if it had to–there never would have been the great wall-to-wall coalition that is now so retroactively applauded and held up as a model of multilateralism.

Of course one acts in concert with others if possible. It is nice when others join us in the breach. No one seeks to be unilateral. Unilateralism simply means that one does not allow oneself to be held hostage to the will of others.

Of course you build coalitions when possible. In 2003, we garnered a coalition of the willing for Iraq that included substantial allies like Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy and much of Eastern Europe. France and Germany made clear from the beginning that they would never join in the overthrow of Saddam. Therefore the choice was not a wide coalition versus a narrow one, but a narrow coalition versus none. There were serious arguments against war in Iraq–but the fact France did not approve was not one of them.

Irving Kristol once explained that he preferred the Organization of American States to the United Nations because in the OAS we can be voted down in only three languages, thereby saving translators’ fees. Realists choose not to be Gulliver. In an international system with no sovereign, no police, no protection–where power is the ultimate arbiter and history has bequeathed us unprecedented power–we should be vigilant in preserving that power. And our freedom of action to use it.

But here we come up against the limits of realism: You cannot live by power alone. Realism is a valuable antidote to the woolly internationalism of the 1990s. But realism can only take you so far.

Its basic problem lies in its definition of national interest as classically offered by its great theorist, Hans Morgenthau: interest defined as power. Morgenthau postulated that what drives nations, what motivates their foreign policy, is the will to power–to keep it and expand it.

For most Americans, will to power might be a correct description of the world–of what motivates other countries–but it cannot be a prescription for America. It cannot be our purpose. America cannot and will not live by realpolitik alone. Our foreign policy must be driven by something beyond power. Unless conservatives present ideals to challenge the liberal ideal of a domesticated international community, they will lose the debate.

Which is why among American conservatives, another, more idealistic, school has arisen that sees America’s national interest as an expression of values.

Democratic Globalism

It is this fourth school that has guided U.S. foreign policy in this decade. This conservative alternative to realism is often lazily and invidiously called neoconservatism, but that is a very odd name for a school whose major proponents in the world today are George W. Bush and Tony Blair–if they are neoconservatives, then Margaret Thatcher was a liberal. There’s nothing neo about Bush, and there’s nothing con about Blair.

Yet they are the principal proponents today of what might be called democratic globalism, a foreign policy that defines the national interest not as power but as values, and that identifies one supreme value, what John Kennedy called “the success of liberty.” As President Bush put it in his speech at Whitehall last November: “The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings.”

Beyond power. Beyond interest. Beyond interest defined as power. That is the credo of democratic globalism. Which explains its political appeal: America is a nation uniquely built not on blood, race or consanguinity, but on a proposition–to which its sacred honor has been pledged for two centuries. This American exceptionalism explains why non-Americans find this foreign policy so difficult to credit; why Blair has had more difficulty garnering support for it in his country; and why Europe, in particular, finds this kind of value-driven foreign policy hopelessly and irritatingly moralistic.

Democratic globalism sees as the engine of history not the will to power but the will to freedom. And while it has been attacked as a dreamy, idealistic innovation, its inspiration comes from the Truman Doctrine of 1947, the Kennedy inaugural of 1961, and Reagan’s “evil empire” speech of 1983. They all sought to recast a struggle for power between two geopolitical titans into a struggle between freedom and unfreedom, and yes, good and evil.

Which is why the Truman Doctrine was heavily criticized by realists like Hans Morgenthau and George Kennan–and Reagan was vilified by the entire foreign policy establishment: for the sin of ideologizing the Cold War by injecting a moral overlay.

That was then. Today, post-9/11, we find ourselves in a similar existential struggle but with a different enemy: not Soviet communism, but Arab-Islamic totalitarianism, both secular and religious. Bush and Blair are similarly attacked for na•vely and crudely casting this struggle as one of freedom versus unfreedom, good versus evil.

Now, given the way not just freedom but human decency were suppressed in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the two major battles of this new war, you would have to give Bush and Blair’s moral claims the decided advantage of being obviously true.

Nonetheless, something can be true and still be dangerous. Many people are deeply uneasy with the Bush-Blair doctrine–many conservatives in particular. When Blair declares in his address to Congress: “The spread of freedom is . . . our last line of defense and our first line of attack,” they see a dangerously expansive, aggressively utopian foreign policy. In short, they see Woodrow Wilson.

Now, to a conservative, Woodrow Wilson is fightin’ words. Yes, this vision is expansive and perhaps utopian. But it ain’t Wilsonian. Wilson envisioned the spread of democratic values through as-yet-to-be invented international institutions. He could be forgiven for that. In 1918, there was no way to know how utterly corrupt and useless those international institutions would turn out to be. Eight decades of bitter experience later–with Libya chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights–there is no way not to know.

Democratic globalism is not Wilsonian. Its attractiveness is precisely that it shares realism’s insights about the centrality of power. Its attractiveness is precisely that it has appropriate contempt for the fictional legalisms of liberal internationalism.

Moreover, democratic globalism is an improvement over realism. What it can teach realism is that the spread of democracy is not just an end but a means, an indispensable means for securing American interests. The reason is simple. Democracies are inherently more friendly to the United States, less belligerent to their neighbors, and generally more inclined to peace. Realists are right that to protect your interests you often have to go around the world bashing bad guys over the head. But that technique, no matter how satisfying, has its limits. At some point, you have to implant something, something organic and self-developing. And that something is democracy.

But where? The danger of democratic globalism is its universalism, its open-ended commitment to human freedom, its temptation to plant the flag of democracy everywhere. It must learn to say no. And indeed, it does say no. But when it says no to Liberia, or Congo, or Burma, or countenances alliances with authoritarian rulers in places like Pakistan or, for that matter, Russia, it stands accused of hypocrisy. Which is why we must articulate criteria for saying yes. Where to intervene? Where to bring democracy? Where to nation-build? I propose a single criterion: where it counts.

Call it democratic realism. And this is its axiom: 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.

Where does it count? Fifty years ago, Germany and Japan counted. Why? Because they were the seeds of the greatest global threat to freedom in midcentury–fascism–and then were turned, by nation building, into bulwarks against the next great threat to freedom, Soviet communism.

Where does it count today? Where the overthrow of radicalism and the beginnings of democracy can have a decisive effect in the war against the new global threat to freedom, the new existential enemy, the Arab-Islamic totalitarianism that has threatened us in both its secular and religious forms for the quarter-century since the Khomeini revolution of 1979.

Establishing civilized, decent, nonbelligerent, pro-Western polities in Afghanistan and Iraq and ultimately their key neighbors would, like the flipping of Germany and Japan in the 1940s, change the strategic balance in the fight against Arab-Islamic radicalism.

Yes, it may be a bridge too far. Realists have been warning against the hubris of thinking we can transform an alien culture because of some postulated natural and universal human will to freedom. And they may yet be right. But how do they know in advance? Half a century ago, we heard the same confident warnings about the imperviousness to democracy of Confucian culture. That proved stunningly wrong. Where is it written that Arabs are incapable of democracy?

Yes, as in Germany and Japan, the undertaking is enormous, ambitious and arrogant. It may yet fail. But we cannot afford not to try. There is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the monster behind 9/11. It’s not Osama bin Laden; it is the cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world–oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism. It’s not one man; it is a condition. It will be nice to find that man and hang him, but that’s the cops-and-robbers law-enforcement model of fighting terrorism that we tried for twenty years and that gave us 9/11. This is war, and in war arresting murderers is nice. But you win by taking territory-and leaving something behind.

September 11

We are the unipolar power and what do we do?

In August 1900, David Hilbert gave a speech to the International Congress of Mathematicians naming twenty-three still-unsolved mathematical problems bequeathed by the nineteenth century to the twentieth. Had he presented the great unsolved geopolitical problems bequeathed to the twentieth century, one would have stood out above all–the rise of Germany and its accommodation within the European state system.

Similarly today, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, we can see clearly the two great geopolitical challenges on the horizon: the inexorable rise of China and the coming demographic collapse of Europe, both of which will irrevocably disequilibrate the international system.

But those problems come later. They are for midcentury. They are for the next generation. And that generation will not even get to these problems unless we first deal with our problem.

And our problem is 9/11 and the roots of Arab-Islamic nihilism. September 11 felt like a new problem, but for all its shock and surprise, it is an old problem with a new face. September 11 felt like the initiation of a new history, but it was a return to history, the twentieth-century history of radical ideologies and existential enemies.

The anomaly is not the world of today. The anomaly was the 1990s, our holiday from history. It felt like peace, but it was an interval of dreaming between two periods of reality.

From which 9/11 awoke us. It startled us into thinking everything was new. It’s not. What is new is what happened not on 9/11 but ten years earlier on December 26, 1991: the emergence of the United States as the world’s unipolar power. What is unique is our advantage in this struggle, an advantage we did not have during the struggles of the twentieth century. The question for our time is how to press this advantage, how to exploit our unipolar power, how to deploy it to win the old/new war that exploded upon us on 9/11.

What is the unipolar power to do?

Four schools, four answers.

The isolationists want simply to ignore unipolarity, pull up the drawbridge, and defend Fortress America. Alas, the Fortress has no moat–not after the airplane, the submarine, the ballistic missile–and as for the drawbridge, it was blown up on 9/11.

Then there are the liberal internationalists. They like to dream, and to the extent they are aware of our unipolar power, they don’t like it. They see its use for anything other than humanitarianism or reflexive self-defense as an expression of national selfishness. And they don’t just want us to ignore our unique power, they want us to yield it piece by piece, by subsuming ourselves in a new global architecture in which America becomes not the arbiter of international events, but a good and tame international citizen.

Then there is realism, which has the clearest understanding of the new unipolarity and its uses–unilateral and preemptive if necessary. But in the end, it fails because it offers no vision. It is all means and no ends. It cannot adequately define our mission.

Hence, the fourth school: democratic globalism. It has, in this decade, rallied the American people to a struggle over values. It seeks to vindicate the American idea by making the spread of democracy, the success of liberty, the ends and means of American foreign policy.

I support that. I applaud that. But I believe it must be tempered in its universalistic aspirations and rhetoric from a democratic globalism to a democratic realism. It must be targeted, focused and limited. We are friends to all, but we come ashore only where it really counts. And where it counts today is that Islamic crescent stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan.

In October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we came to the edge of the abyss. Then, accompanied by our equally shaken adversary, we both deliberately drew back. On September 11, 2001, we saw the face of Armageddon again, but this time with an enemy that does not draw back. This time the enemy knows no reason.

Were that the only difference between now and then, our situation would be hopeless. But there is a second difference between now and then: the uniqueness of our power, unrivaled, not just today but ever. That evens the odds. The rationality of the enemy is something beyond our control. But the use of our power is within our control. And if that power is used wisely, constrained not by illusions and fictions but only by the limits of our mission–which is to bring a modicum of freedom as an antidote to nihilism–we can prevail.

The World’s Most Important Bibliography

December 16, 2008

[First published February 22, 2005] One of the problems that people have in writing about the democratic peace is understanding what it covers and the best sources for reading about it. Here are the five major empirical propositions of the democratic peace, which have been the basis of American foreign policy.

  • Democracies don’t make war on each other.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less its foreign violence.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less its internal violence.
  • The more democratic a nation, the less it murders its own citizens (democide).
  • Democracy is a method of nonviolence.

These are perhaps the most important proposition in contemporary social science, for they show that we have a solution to war and democide, and a way of minimizing political violence.

But, then, what are the sources? I just put on my website a comprehensive bibliography of pro and con papers, articles, and books on the first and second democratic peace propositions above (link here). [link also in sidebar] These propositions are usually considered the core ideas of the democratic peace, but narrowly define it. The other propositions generalize the democratic peace to domestic violence and have been much less investigated. Eventually, I hope to prepare a separate bibliography on them.

Following are among the most important books on the democratic peace.

Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace. 1795.

Moore, John Norton. Solving The War Puzzle: Beyond The Democratic Peace, Carolina Academic Press, 2004.

Ray, James Lee. Democracy and International Conflict: An Evaluation Of The Democratic Peace Proposition. Columbia, SC: University Of South Carolina Press, 1995.

Rummel, R. J. Power Kills: Democracy As A Method Of Nonviolence. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997.

Russett, Bruce, Grasping The Democratic Peace: Principles For A Post-Cold War World, Princeton U. Press, 2001.

Weart, Stewart, Never At War: Why Democracies Will Not Fight One Another. Yale U. Press, 1998.

Singer, Max, and Aaron Wildavsky. The Real World Order: Zones Of Peace/Zones Of Turmoil. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, 1993.

For an overview, which although outdated is useful for its coverage, see:

Ray, James Lee. “Does Democracy Cause Peace?” Annual Review Of Political Science, Edited By Nelson W. Polsby, 1998 (link here).

Anyone who wants to write an informed commentary on the democratic peace must at least be familiar with theses studies.

Link of Note

”Why Democracy” (2/11/05) By Victor Davis Hanson

“Yet for all its uncertainties and dangers in the Islamic Arab world, there remain some undeniable facts about democracy across time and space that suggest with effort and sacrifice it can both work in the Middle East and will be in the long-term security interests of the United States. So why exactly should we support the daunting task of democratizing the Middle East and how is it possible?”