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It’s not realism, it’s capitulation

Posted by Richard on November 28, 2006

Last week, I said I was "displeased and disgusted" by signs that the Bush administration is preparing to abandon its visionary foreign policy and embrace the Kissingerian realpolitik of Bush 41 pragmatists like James Baker and Robert Gates, by the prospect of dumping Sharansky for Scowcroft. New hints and leaks and off-record remarks suggest that the Iraq Study Group will indeed push us in that direction. And a chorus of voices from Capitol Hill to the United Nations is muttering about the need to "engage" the Syrians and Iranians.

In the new (12/04) Weekly Standard, Robert Kagan and William Kristol looked at this so-called "realism" and found it wanting:

So let’s add up the "realist" proposals: We must retreat from Iraq, and thus abandon all those Iraqis–Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, and others–who have depended on the United States for safety and the promise of a better future. We must abandon our allies in Lebanon and the very idea of an independent Lebanon in order to win Syria’s support for our retreat from Iraq. We must abandon our opposition to Iran’s nuclear program in order to convince Iran to help us abandon Iraq. And we must pressure our ally, Israel, to accommodate a violent Hamas in order to gain radical Arab support for our retreat from Iraq.

This is what passes for realism these days. But of course this is not realism. It is capitulation. Were the United States to adopt this approach every time we faced a difficult set of problems, were we to attempt to satisfy our adversaries’ every whim in order to win their acquiescence, we would rapidly cease to play any significant role in the world. We would be neither feared nor respected–nor, of course, would we be any better liked. Our retreat would win us no friends and lose us no adversaries.

OK, let’s tally that up: Stature of U.S. decreased — check. U.S. neither feared, nor respected, nor liked — check. U.S. gains no friends and loses no adversaries — check.

Kagan and Kristol made these points as if they were devastating critiques of the new "realism" — and for some of us, they are indeed. But for the Democrats, the "moderate pragmatists" like Baker, the Foggy Bottom internationalists, legions of Europeans, and fans of the United Nations everywhere, these consequences are at least tolerable and perhaps desirable.

HT to Neo-neocon, who noted that the Washington Post editors seemed to grasp the problems inherent in trying to reason with Syria and Iran, but fumbled the solution — the power of UN sanctions, she argued, "more closely resembles a small toothpick than a big stick."

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