Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The New Realism

Realism as our foreign policy began dying in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was pulled down by the inmates. The heart of realism was always that the huge threat of the Soviet Union justified allying with horrible regimes that agreed to help us fight Soviet communism. We might have hoped that we could change authoritarian regimes into democracies (and Taiwan and South Korea, to name two, managed that), but the bottom line was that promoting freedom overseas was subordinate to surviving the Soviet threat.

When the Soviet Union itself died in 1991, realism should have died with it.

September 11 should have killed the still warm corpse of realism by making it apparent that the stability we sought in the Third World during the Cold War just incubated jihadi hatred and a dysfunctional Islamic world that spawned jihadis.

Fouad Ajami writes:

It was not naive idealism, it should be recalled, that gave birth to Bush's diplomacy of freedom. That diplomacy issued out of a reading of the Arab-Muslim political condition and of America's vulnerability to the disorder of Arab politics. The ruling regimes in the region had displaced their troubles onto America; their stability had come at America's expense, as the scapegoating and the anti-Americanism had poisoned Arab political life. Iraq and the struggle for a decent polity in it had been America's way of trying to extirpate these Arab troubles. The American project in Iraq has been unimaginably difficult, its heartbreak a grim daily affair. But the impulse that gave rise to the war was shrewd and justified.

Remember, our current problems were not caused by our rejection of Realism as a policy. Our current problems caused us to reject Realism as a policy to solve our problems.

Just because we still fight to cure our problems with the Moslem world is no reason to go back to Realism. The world that spawned that ugly but necessary policy is long gone and isn't coming back.

How realistic is it to try and shoehorn a policy made for the Cold War era into today's world?