McCain-Lieberman Still Would Have Aggravated Republican Realists

-

lieberman-mccain-md.jpgJohn McCain is said to be extremely “eaten up” that he allowed party advisers to push him to appeal to the base of the Republican Party and choose Sarah Palin over his preferred choice, Joseph Lieberman.
But that would not have helped him in the worst decision of his campaign — to abandon realist principles in foreign policy — and embrace the kind of neoconservative thinking that had already had a tragic run in the Bush administration.
Edward Luce of the Financial Times gets at this in a piece on McCain’s temperament and the divide he’s aggravated inside Republican circles. Even my former boss at the Nixon Center, Dimitri Simes, joins the chorus:

Then there are the “realist” Republicans who worry that Mr McCain has been captured by neoconservative advisers, such as Randy Schuenemann, his chief foreign policy guru, who has helped shape the candidate’s relatively hardline stance on Russia, Iran and other issues.
This has combined with Mr McCain’s tendency to view foreign policy as a kind of “morality play” in which there are people who oppose America and people who do not, they say. Foreign policy was a key reason why Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, chose to endorse Mr Obama on Sunday.
“I don’t know of anybody, anywhere other than John McCain who thinks Mikheil Saakashvili is a ‘great leader’ of Georgia – it is an absurd evaluation,” said Dimitri Simes, head of the Nixon Centre in Washington. “John tends to see the world emotionally through characters he knows. And once he has decided who the good guys are and the bad guys are, then facts and context won’t affect him.”
Few, if any, of these doubts are in evidence at the boisterous McCain-Palin rallies, which are filled with Republicans who also disdain Washington and who respond well to Mr McCain’s rallying cry: “Stand up! Stand up! And fight for America!”
Completing Oliver Holmes’s dictum – that FDR had a “second-class intellect” – Mr Buckley said: “Obama not only has a first-class temperament but he also has a first-class intellect. There is no doubt that John is very bright but you know Obama writes his own books. John gets his books written for him [by Mark Salter, his closest aide].”
Detractors accuse Mr McCain of dividing America. But the most acute cultural divide his campaign is exposing is within the Republican party itself.

More soon.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

57 comments on “McCain-Lieberman Still Would Have Aggravated Republican Realists

  1. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    will…there are “no extra-constitutional” affairs in the governing of this nation….and you would hope to hold each public official to the law of the land????
    I consider the Office of Special Plans, exrta-constitutional, and are you saying you favor impeaching and/or prosecuting Bush/Cheney, et al?

    Reply

  2. ... says:

    dons – we’re on the same page here… thanks for your comments..
    annjell – the racial divide has apparently not be resolved.. that is what one comes away with from this election… either that or politicians will do whatever it takes to win.. it is probably a bit of both.. sad testimony on the present state of usa today…it suggests the usa has to continue to relive its past until it fully understands it..

    Reply

  3. annjell says:

    I am so blue this election. I was red, that is until I saw how the campaign was going.
    First, I am black. To hear all the mean-spirited things said about blacks at the campaign rallies.
    Second, over the weekend, Nancy Pfontenhaur, one of McCains supporters, was on a black talk-radio show. When the host asked her, what are McCains plans for minorities, Nancy hung-up on him.
    Third, the campaign screams division between black and white.
    If I had my way, I’d let Mr. McCain know, American blacks are not the enemy. We have assimilated into society. While you are so busy hating blacks, just because of their skin color, you’re losing sight of the real enemies. Example, the foreigners coming to this country, man from China, selling defense secrets to China; 9-11 bombers trained at flight schools here in U.S.; I could go on and on, but why?
    If you look at other countries, particularly Belize, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, immigrants can reside there, yet, they cannot get jobs considered sensitive-government, in addition, they cannot take jobs from its citizens. In fact, if you look at Belize, you can open a business, but you cannot sell your items to Belizeans.
    Now, the question I have for anyone, name a black person guilty of trading national security secrets, or trading arms with a foreign country, or something this serious?

    Reply

  4. DonS says:

    . . . oh, you mean like Nicaragua, School of the Americas, that kind of “realist” thinking? Or was that “Wilsonian”, not that it matters. Maybe proto-neocon? Oh, never mind.

    Reply

  5. ... says:

    sk the folks in latin america what they think of the usa’s foreign policy.. of course the usa was for al qaeda before it was against it… the list of bullshit actions coming out of the usa the past 50 years is long.. anyone who is unwilling to acknowledge this is either not paying attention or they have been brainwashed into thinking otherwise.

    Reply

  6. DonS says:

    I applaud the apparent concensus here that following the Constitution, whether seen as generally covering all actions of the Federal government, or more specifically as related to separation of powers.
    Will says “The United States sought only to defend itself outside of what it considered its territory. These have, for the most part, been carried through America’s history. Compared to other nations, we have a sterling record. If I were you I wouldn’t forget that.”
    I have to go with JohnH’s less optimistic reading of the exercise of US power: “there is a fundamental conflict between militarism/empire and fundamental civil liberties.”
    Also, as the poster ” . . .” reminds us “the atrocities and horrific pain they [we/USA] have caused others with their financial/military/oil empire building agenda”.
    At the very least, calling the US record in foreign affairs “sterling” , especially when measured against the “exceptionalist” standard, begs to be seen as honored largely in the breach.
    While the notion of only defending in the name of sovereignty is the historical theoretical frame, the execution has been far from that, albeit those justifications for militarism are usually framed in some twisted way to fit into the “defensive” frame. It reminds me of the Libertarian view, to bring in another slant; sounds fine, even unassailable, in theory, but is less than workable in a complex society, at least in domestic affairs, and definitely for those who are not already well established.
    As for Snowcroft, supposedly the realist with the ear of senior Bush, but clearly not an elected official, we can see exactly how much traction his views got. The same could be said of the whole Baker-Hamilton Commission.

    Reply

  7. will says:

    John,
    There are no “extra-constitutional” affairs in the governing of
    this nation. As to your point about realism going beyond the
    Constitution, I would hope that we would hold each public
    official to the law of the land.
    Realism, at least as practiced in this country, should never
    divorce itself from the Constitution…and that includes not only
    a protection of civil liberties, but a recognition that no treaty can
    supercede the Constitution. Therefore the President does not
    have “free reign,” because he swears to uphold the Constitution
    before he assumes office. While this may not work as planned in
    practice, that says more about the people that we have allowed
    to become President than it does about the principles that
    created this Republic.
    With respect to our values, I don’t think that you’re thinking
    through the principles that guided the construction of the
    Constitution. It was believed at the time that the United States
    was unique and that it could not be replicated anywhere else.
    Sovereignty was respected. The United States sought only to
    defend itself outside of what it considered its territory. These
    have, for the most part, been carried through America’s history.
    Compared to other nations, we have a sterling record. If I were
    you I wouldn’t forget that.
    As to Iraq, Brent Scowcroft was a prominent realist against the
    war. There were others but you are correct that many fell into
    line, until they found out about the intel.
    Finally on Iran. Read Lieven and Hulsman’s Ethical Realism. I can
    tell you for a fact that there were many realists that lined up to
    support a deal with Iran. You’re incorrect to describe it as a
    grand bargain though. A grand bargain would have included a
    recognition of Israel’s right to exist and cessation of Iran’s ties to
    terrorist groups (Hezbollah in particular). What we supported (I
    worked on a Track II proposal with the German government) was
    exactly what you described, in exchange for the nuclear
    program.
    Unfortunately, it is too late for such a deal. But that’s a
    conversation for another time.

    Reply

  8. ... says:

    usa foreign policy for the last 50 odd years is something most americans are ignorant about… it isn’t fun for the general population to know the cia isn’t a pretty law abiding organization.. it would help if the general public in the usa knew of all the atrocities and horrific pain they have caused others with their financial/military/oil empire building agenda.. it isn’t too late to pull your head out of the sand, but you might have to stop listening to fox news and the like, as they are essentially propaganda tools no different then what communist countries used to, or still use.. the usa is running a fine line as to whether they can pull their ass out of the head collectively in here or not.. i hope they can, but with 43% still thinking of voting mccain, i can’t say things are all that promising..

    Reply

  9. JohnH says:

    Will–I’m sorry, but I don’t see the link between realists and the constitution. Realists work primarily in foreign affairs, and foreign policy has always been a largely extra-constitutional affair. Apart from getting approval for diplomatic positions and treaties, the President has free reign.
    I also fail to see how the values embodied in the Constitution get carried into practice abroad. Yes, there is a fundamental conflict between militarism/empire and fundamental civil liberties, but US policy has always tried to draw a distinction between behavior abroad (militaristic/imperial) and behavior at home (constitutional). It has been that way ever since the young US government began its expansion into Indian territory in the early 1800’s and has continued to this day in the ME. American behavior abroad has never reflected values embodied in the Constitution, despite all the noble rhetoric designed to convince Americans otherwise.
    As for Iraq, it was hard to discern any concerted groundswell of realist opposition to the invasion or to the ongoing occupation. As for Iran, there do seem to be opponents in the realist camp. Their opposition seems to be rooted in the judgement that military intervention would be disastrous, not because subjugating Iran is an unworthy goal.
    In fact, I don’t know of any realists who would propose a grand bargain that would include recognition of Iran’s sovereignty and independence. To do so the bargain would have to include giving Iran security guarantees against US attack and acknowledge their right to dispose of their massive energy assets according to their own national interests. Despite all the noble rhetoric about freedom, democracy, and human rights, the US wants veto power over decisions of any future Iranian regime–and that’s about as undemocratic and anti-freedom as you can get.

    Reply

  10. will says:

    John,
    Most realists don’t believe in the intervention in Iraq or the
    underlying bellicosity towards Iran. You’ve got us confused with
    neoconservatives and Wilsonians.
    And while we don’t have a manifesto, I wouldn’t imply that our
    principles are simply might makes right. Realists recognize that
    power is an important variable in the equation. Rather than
    running away from it, we accept it as reality. But there are other
    variables to consider, not the least of which, as an American, is
    our Constitution and the history of our nation. These two
    variables are the most important guides to our foreign policy in
    that they define its limits. We cannot on the one hand create an
    empire and on the other protect the civil liberties that are
    guaranteed to us under the Constitution.
    I don’t think you’re prepared to argue that countries in Europe
    are more respecting of their citizens (in law) than we are…are
    you? Provided that we get back to the core principles that led to
    the founding of the Republic, I don’t think that either the world,
    or the citizens of the United States will have anything significant
    to worry about.

    Reply

  11. JohnH says:

    Will–I agreee with you that the US should “stop trying to socially engineer the world and start being a more humble and honest broker.”
    Unfortunately, that is not what realists seem to believe. Since they have no manifesto, like PNAC, they seem to believe only that might makes right, the top dog gets the choicest morsels. And the US intends to be the top dog and get the choicest morsels, period. Like laissez-faire in economics, more recently known as neo-liberalism or savage capitalism, realists seem to simply be justifying a darwinist approach to international relations. This is not a belief systmem, rather it is the limbic system (or the Paleomammalian brain) on steroids.
    You can see that behavior not only in the intervention in Iraq (and underlying the bellicosity toward Iran), but also in the Washington consensus, which forced third world governments to sell off their crown jewels at fire sale prices to Western investors. The effect was social engineering–poverty and concentration of wealth–on a grand scale. Rather than humility, the Iraq Occupation and Washington Consensus reveal sheer arrogance, teaching third world countries how to behave according to US dictates.
    I much prefer the approach European countries have taken towards each other since WWII–cooperation, negotiation, and the search for win-win solutions. Ultimately such an approach brings peace, prosperity, and democracy. Raw greed is tempered by respect for the Other and consideration of his/her aspirations.

    Reply

  12. will says:

    Dan,
    This is not a trade treaty we’re talking about here, this is a
    Constitution. Attempts to underplay it’s significance are one
    reason why a good portion of the people in Europe are so
    skeptical of it and continue to reject it (when given the option).
    Let me ask you something, how would you feel if the U.S.
    Senate and the President decided to sign onto the EU treaty? I
    would hope that you’d be pretty upset without some sort of
    referendum (in line with our historical handling of Constitutional
    issues).
    I’m sorry but your second point is incorrect. In fact it was the
    U.S. that had to drag the Europeans kicking and screaming to do
    something about this. Take a look at the Spiegel editorial that
    chided the U.S. for its financial mismanagement…that was the
    common European thinking (with the Brits being the exception)
    prior to October. Then reality happened and Europe gave into
    U.S. “suggestions.”
    With respect to your third point, I, and others, have made a
    career out of correctly estimating the European Union. When I
    see the issue that I described above solved, then I’ll be prepared
    to deal with them as a whole. Until that time however, I find it far
    more advantageous (and quicker) to deal with each nation
    individually. God knows the Federal Reserve and Treasury tried
    to deal with the EU as a whole through the ECB…look where that
    got both sides of the pond. Sometimes events dictate actions.
    The U.S. should not just sit and wait for Europeans to play nicely
    in the sandbox while Rome burns. So long as an alternative
    exists, I’m willing to exploit it. Given its history and current state,
    I would suggest that you temper you overestimation of the EU.
    As to your fourth point, I agree. Although I’m not holding my
    breath waiting for folks to do the right thing. Unfortunately
    success is a fleeting thing in this world, and there are no
    guarantees that people solve their problems…even over the long
    term.
    As to your final point, totally agree. But remember, these
    systems must be seen through the lens of our Constitutional
    obligations and a thorough cost benefit analysis.

    Reply

  13. Dan Kervick says:

    will,
    Any international compacts we enter into must be ratified by the Senate. They are not undemocratic. If the American people ratify one, and later decide they don’t like it, they can petition their representatives to drop out of the compact. If the problem is the absence of direct local representation in some sort of international governing body, we should then demand to create more bodies that accept representatives, and then decide among ourselves how to choose those representatives.
    My sense is that the US was fully prepared to go with the toxic asset buy-up as its solution to the financial mess. Then some European governments started issuing very broad bank deposit guarantees, and began nationalizing or partially nationalizing banks. That made those banks attractive islands of security for nervous global depositors. It was recognized that unless there was a common approach money would start flying around chaotically in search of the safe havens, and leave some countries vulnerable to catastrophic runs on their banks and currencies. This forced the US, among others, to go along with the European approach to protect its own financial industry.
    The growth of the EU has had fits and starts, big pushes ahead and setbacks, but I believe you are underestimating the effect of the general tendency toward integration. Yes, the Brits seem to keep themselves poised halfway between Europe and the US. But the economy of the continent has been dramatically transformed and strengthened by the EU, most obviously in the adoption of a common currency, the fulfillment of a long-time internationalist dream, and surely one of the most significant global developments of the past several decades.
    I agree we need to lay off efforts to socially re-engineer the domestic arrangements of other societies. If we and others focus on sustaining and strengthening a social, political and economic model that builds prosperity and security for its own people, and is freely chosen by our self-governing peoples, that model will eventually be copied by people around the world with half a brain, with adaptations based on their own social traditions. People who don’t adapt to more advanced forms of governance will be left out of the general prosperity. That’s their choice.
    But a reluctance to interfere paternalistically in the affairs of economically and politically backward nations shouldn’t prevent more economically developed countries, and the more enlightened developing countries, from pursuing their own self-interest by building more advanced and sophisticated forms of cooperation and governance to optimize the performance of a globally integrated economic system.

    Reply

  14. will says:

    Dan,
    Perhaps that’s what John was saying, I however read it
    differently. With respect to your point, I don’t think that you, or
    I, or frankly most Americans would be comfortable adopting a
    system whose foundation is built upon a series of undemocratic
    actions. When we ratified our Constitution for example, we put
    the issue to the people of the U.S. (at least the people that could
    vote). That’s more than I can say for what the EU would like to
    do.
    Moreover, I don’t need a failed EU model to improve the way in
    which the US conducts its foreign policy. It’s really quite simple,
    stop trying to socially engineer the world and start being a more
    humble and honest broker. Maintain the most powerful military
    and don’t ever use it unless you really, really, really have to.
    Indeed, it really is that simple.
    As for the future of the EU, you’re going to have to overcome
    quite a bit to get it to work in a fashion that the elites would
    like. As my father used to tell me, until some working class Brit
    from London is prepared to cede his rights away to some
    German from Berlin, this thing isn’t going to work. That was 15
    years ago…He’s still right today.
    With respect to bank equity, let me assure you, it wasn’t the
    Europeans that forced us into that. It was actually the NY FED
    that felt that this was the only way in which to ensure that no
    one else (high profile banks) failed. They’ve been the one’s
    pulling the strings here, because they’re the only competent
    folks on the planet.

    Reply

  15. Dan Kervick says:

    will, I think you missed John H’s point. It wasn’t that we should now look to the EU to become the world’s new superpower, but rather that we should look to the successful creation and expansion of the EU as a *model* for a viable American response to the present economic and military challenges to US security. That model would recommend that we do not to seek to retrench and rebuild ourselves as an indomitable and self-reliant superpower ruling the world’s commanding heights, achieving security through fortress-like supremacy – something that may well be impossible anyway – but that we to look for strength in greater global interdependence, cooperation and the networking and expansion of global governance.
    I suspect you are wrong when you hypothesize that the financial crisis in Europe will just provide one more wedge issue to divide and weaken the EU. One effect of the financial crisis in Europe has been to increase calls to *strengthen* the European Union by creating a more potent “economic government”. Who will win out, I can’t predict. We will have to see whether the urge to band together in a crisis is stronger than the urge to pull apart and protect one’s own.
    But I imagine we will soon be having a similar debate here. The EU might have been pushed into a rate cut by the US, but the US was likewise pushed into the purchasing of bank equity by the Europeans. The halting, scrambling, temporarily self-defeating nature of the western response to what is a multinational crisis is likely to raise calls for an *expansion* of the instruments and institutions of international economic governance.

    Reply

  16. will says:

    John H.,
    Wrong.
    Firstly, the EU would have never existed had the U.S. not been
    the world’s superpower during World War II. The rules of reality
    don’t allow one to see the world as they would have it be.
    Second, I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the news
    as of late, but if issues of war and peace weren’t enough of
    wedge issue for European nations in the EU, now economics is.
    Because of the variance in domestic economic policy among EU
    members, the ECB was unable to respond to the financial crisis
    in such a way as to mitigate some of its effects for the Union.
    For all of it’s economic and “soft power” muscle, the ECB was
    pushed into a rate cut by the Federal Reserve and the U.S.
    Treasury–an action that perhaps saved investors trillions of
    dollars.
    It is unlikely that the EU will ever displace the U.S. in any
    realistic way (provided of course that the U.S. doesn’t shoot
    itself in the foot). There are just far too many factors relating to
    demographics, history, or just outright greed that ensures that
    the EU remains divided for the forseeable future.
    As to possibility of the world with an EU superpower…I don’t
    know if you’ve read your history, but Europe has been ground
    zero for some of the most destructive wars in human history.
    Would you really like to complete what people like Napoleon,
    Hitler and Stalin tried to complete?
    Personally, I’m willing to take my chances with the U.S., for all
    it’s flaws. Not ceding your life or liberty or the pursuit of
    happiness away to a foreign power…that’s realism.
    You’re really going to have to do better than that.

    Reply

  17. arthurdecco says:

    off topic, but quintessential Obama quote, courtesy of a Daily Kos comment: “”It’s like Robin getting mad at Batman,” he says of McCain’s recent efforts to distance himself from Bush.”
    I can’t authenticate this quote I found online, but nevertheless, it’s hilarious because it’s true. Perfectly true.
    Poor, poor, pitiful John McCain.
    As for Lieberman – he’s yesterday’s story, the pitiful, bigoted, self-centered man that he is.

    Reply

  18. JohnH says:

    DonS makes an important point that bears repeating: “Why haven’t realists, the realist “establishment” if you will, publically and loudly denounced the Perle, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Lieberman, Kristol neocon establisment for leading us in a disasterous direction. Are the neocon/realist/liberal intervetionist ‘establishments’ in fact intertwined in foreign policy musical chairs? Do we the people get to only see a difference in style but no real difference in substance when it comes to delineating “vital interests”?”
    It does seem that realists have no real problems with neocon men or their PNAC goals. They only differ in their competition for power and how goals get implemented. At least the neocons were forthright enough to publish PNAC, though their media campaigns don’t mention it, relying heavily on deception instead. Noble sounding goals supposedly justify their every action, though they have shown precious little interest in actually putting freedom, democracy and human rights into practice.
    Realists, on the other hand, rather than being clear like the neocon men, prefer to be ambiguous. Such lack of clarity may provide camouflage for implementing hidden agendas similar to that of the neocon men, but it does little to build trust or bolster support by the American people, who are expected to trust them, not because they know the realists’ goals and agree with them, but because they are the self declared experts. “Trust us,” they say.
    The time for “faith based” foreign policy is over. If America has vital strategic interests, it is time for the foreign policy establishment to clearly enumerate them country by country. No more hiding behind lies and ambiguity.

    Reply

  19. JohnH says:

    Will–The interesting alternative to the US as a superpower is not the Kaiser or Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union, or Mao’s China. The alternative is the European Union, which got the parties involved in two world wars into a political and economic system that fostered both prosperity and democracy. The EU has created far more democracies that the United States, many from the ashes of brutal dictatorships, like Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal (both US allies) to the former Soviet puppet states of Eastern Europe. How many wars has Europe started in the last 60 years? Where is Europe’s equivalent to Korea, Vietnam, of Iraq?
    The European experience shows that you can promote your own interests emphasizing cooperation and shared mutual interests rather than militarily dominating and exploiting other nations, which seems to be at the core of today’s US foreign policy.
    As for the realists, who knows what they stand for? They can only talk in code unintelligible to others and probably often unintelligible to themselves as well.

    Reply

  20. Zathras says:

    Just to be clear, it was the physical age and lack of constituency of the most prominent foreign policy realists that provoked my reference to them upthread as “yesterday’s men.” The reference had nothing to do with their powers of persuasion or any other quality. I had thought this was obvious from the context, but it appears it was not obvious enough for at least one poster here.

    Reply

  21. will says:

    Well Neo Controll, having read a great deal of neoconservative
    propaganda, one thing that I’ve noticed is a tendency to use the
    chutzpah to describe anything that they feel is phony or incorrect.
    Therefore, based on your solid logic, I’m going to pronounce you a
    neocon, because no one but neocons use that word.
    Can the simpletons please excuse themselves from debates of
    substance? I’ve only got a bit of alcohol left to motivate me to
    defend my position, must I waste it on individuals that consider the
    need to visit the bathroom a brainstorm?

    Reply

  22. Neo Controll says:

    neocon-realist alert:
    Will says,
    “The reason why we should be a
    superpower with no equals is
    because it preserves the way
    of life outlined in our
    Constitution. . . . I believe
    in a humble foreign policy
    . . . that respects the
    sovereignty of other nations
    –to the extent that their
    actions don’t interfere with
    our sovereignty (i.e. protecting
    our way if life under the Constitution). . . . ”
    The above is rhetorical BS
    clothed in chutzpah.
    George Bush stated belief in
    a “humble foreign policy”.
    –NHQ

    Reply

  23. will says:

    John H.,
    Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m going to claim victory
    on this point.
    Perhaps realists are not so simple minded when it comes to
    matters of national security.
    Do yourself a favor and spend a bit more time factoring history into
    your musings.

    Reply

  24. leo says:

    FYI, the Financial Times endorsed Obama today… now I’m waiting to see what the WSJ does (my bias is that they won’t endorse anyone this year).
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1d0b127c-a380-11dd-942c-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1

    Reply

  25. Will says:

    John H.,
    In the 20th century, you had five choices to be the superpower
    with no equals.
    1. The Kaiser’s Germany
    2. Hitler’s Germany
    3. The Soviet Union
    4. Maoist China
    5. The United States
    Which one would you have chosen?
    The reason why we should be a superpower with no equals is
    because it preserves the way of life outlined in our Constitution.
    Having said that, I believe that the United States, for all of it’s
    goodness, is not perfect. We are a nation of human beings…with
    all of their faults. This is why I believe in a humble foreign policy
    that respects the sovereignty of other nations–to the extent
    that their actions don’t interfere with our sovereignty (i.e.
    protecting our way of life under the Constitution).
    That’s not circular logic, that’s reality. Care to offer an
    alternative?

    Reply

  26. DonS says:

    A point I was trying to make above might be simply asked: Why haven’t realists, the realist “establishment” if you will, publically and loudly denounced the Perle, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Liberman, Kristol neocon establisment for leading us in a disasterous direction. Cast them into the outer darkness so clearly that even Fox news doesn’t want them? If they have been so denounced, I’ve missed it. Are the neocon/realist/liberal intervetionist ‘establishments’ in fact intertwined in foreign policy musical chairs? Do we the people get to only see a difference in style but no real difference in substance when it comes to delineating “vital interests”?

    Reply

  27. DonS says:

    Take the recent example of the McCain and Obama responses to Georgia that Simes cites. Either with McCain, or with Obama. Both fell back on hard line ideological framing.
    Where were the realists? What use is a realist staff if its just a cover for neocon rhetoric and behavior.
    Let’s face it, the aggressive, triumphal neocon line is an easy sell, especially when Americans are feeling bad about themselves domestically. Perhaps the whole foreign policy establishment has drifted so far toward the neocon view that it is unredeemable. For instance, I took will’s statement that “America’s preeminent vital national security interest today is to remain a superpower with no equals in the world” to be tongue-in-cheek or at least hyperbole, although I agree that Iraq was not, in all but the AIPAC- dictated sense, in the vital interest of the US.
    I guess I am more befuddled than ever. American “exceptionalism”, in a post-industrial, post economic catastrophe world seems more out of place than ever. How is it different than George Bush bullying everyone else on the block?

    Reply

  28. easy e says:

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing for our institutionalized War Party (Republican, Democratic) to transform itself to supporting a peaceful global economy.
    PEACE ECONOMY PROJECT
    “Reducing military spending in favor of social and infrastructure needs.”
    The Peace Economy Project researches military spending, educates about the hazards of an unchecked military-industrial complex and advocates for conversion from a military to a more stable peace-based economy. We focus our attention on local weapons manufacturing and its connection to global militarization. We collaborate with other organizations to raise consciousness of where our tax dollars are invested and to encourage others to reinvest in their communities.
    Take action
    http://www.peaceeconomyproject.org/site/take_action.php
    ******
    INDEFENSIBLE DEFENSE SPENDING
    By Robert Scheer
    America’s massive military budget is irrational, costly and dangerous. Why isn’t it a campaign issue?
    What should be the most important issue in this election is one that is rarely, if ever, addressed: Why is U.S. military spending at the highest point, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than at any time since the end of World War II? Why, without a sophisticated military opponent in sight, is the United States spending trillions of dollars on the development of high-tech weapons systems that lost their purpose with the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago?
    Read entire article here – http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-scheer1-2008jun01,0,7121603.story

    Reply

  29. JohnH says:

    Will–Why is it a vital strategic interest for America to “remain a superpower with no equals in the world?” You are simply stating that America needs to protect its status as top dog because it wants to be top dog. This is the kind of circular logic that leads me to call the realists sad and befuddled.
    But the bigger problem with realists is that they have ceded the framing of the debate to neocon men, who use false pretenses are their primary evidence. As a graduate school professor once told some students who couldn’t explain themselves, “if you can’t explain an idea, you don’t have one.” This aptly sums up the predicament of the realists. In the face of persistent lies by the neocan men, is it really so hard to explain reality? Is it so difficult to explain how certain foreign policies will enhance the commonweal without relying on obfuscating code words, like ‘vital strategic interests?”

    Reply

  30. will says:

    John H.,
    I don’t know what “realists” you’re referring to, but judging by
    your post, it is you who needs to educate yourself.
    Firstly, America’s preeminent vital national security interest
    today is to remain a superpower with no equals in the world.
    Anything that we do that weakens our position (Iraq), is not a
    vital national security interest of the U.S. Of course there are
    specific tactics to achieve those ends…If you’d like to read more
    about them, I’d suggest a book by the name of Ethical Realism
    by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman. BTW, neither graduated
    from SAIS or Princeton.
    As to your second point, it’s not like realists have some magical
    ability to simply call the shots. That’s political reality. Just as
    Wilsonians have been on the outs for the last 8 years, realists
    have been unable to establish a consistent set of policies
    (possibly North Korea) thanks to the fools running the country.
    Moreover, the American people for much of this period, seemed
    more inclined to support a position that directly attacked the
    fear that came following 9/11. It’s difficult to tell people not to
    support a war in Iraq for example, when you’ve got Wilsonians
    and Neocons selling faulty intelligence for the purposes of
    testing out their own unique social engineering theories.
    Finally to your point about realist’s future. I’d agree that realism
    represents a small piece of the Republican and Democratic
    parties. That being said, it is rather amusing to see people in
    both parties adopting pragmatic, realistic policies after
    Wilsonians and Neocons screw things up. Iraq is certainly an
    example in the neocons case as nearly the entire country thinks
    that it was a bad idea; and the UN in the case of the Wilsonians
    where the entire country believes that the UN never carries a
    veto over U.S. action (a position that some Wilsonians are finally
    starting to get).
    Realism will always have a place in our foreign policy
    consciousness thanks in large part to reality. Personally, my (and
    other realists) concern has always been to prevent Wilsonianism
    and Neoconservatism from damaging this nation to the point
    where not even realism can rescue it (i.e. overstretch).

    Reply

  31. Dan Kervick says:

    It seems to me that the Republican split Steve is talking about goes back at least 25 years to the Cold War division between Nixon Republicans and Reagan Republicans, between those who saw the Cold War as mainly a geostrategic great power rivalry over global control, wealth and influence, and who were open to power-balancing and detente as a foundation for global security, and those who saw the Cold War as a twilight ideological struggle to the death between the Forces of Good and the Evil Empire. Most of the neocons made their bones during the Reagan administration pursuing that hardline ideological agenda, especially in the dirty wars in Latin America. McCain has *always* been a Reagan Republican. He was a down-the-line supporter of the Reagan foreign policy agenda, and says Reagan is his hero.
    And in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, McCain was one of the main drivers of the pro-war agenda in the Congress, an early supporter of turning our attention to Iraq, a tireless propagandist on behalf of seeing our efforts as part of a titanic global war against evil, and one of the four sponsors of the war authorization legislation. I don’t get why Steve continues to try to re-write history and portray McCain as an old-style Nixon-Kissinger foreign policy realist who suddenly converted to neoconservatism in 2007-08.

    Reply

  32. JohnH says:

    What is a realist?
    1) Someone who can’t clearly spell out what America’s vital strategic interests are. How realistic is that?
    2) Someone who lets neocon men frame the foreign policy debate by refusing to identify an alternative. Even after neocon men exploit their frame to lie us into war, realists can think of no good reason for why we went to war nor why we should stay, only that leaving would be worse. How realistic is that?
    With such limited powers of persuasion, it’s easy to see why Zathras says that realists “are all yesterday’s men, all past and no future. They represent no important constituency with the Republican Party.”
    If neocons are notorious liars, realists are a sad, befuddled lot who are lost without their fuzzy code words, cliches that have lost all meaning, even to them.
    It’s time for the realists to go back and get educated–not at Johns Hopkins or Princeton’s foreign policy factories–but at a school that can teach candor, clarity of thought, logic and persuasion.

    Reply

  33. Will says:

    “realist Republicans that worry Mr. McCain has been captured by
    neoconservative foreign policy advisors”
    Is this a joke? We don’t worry about this, we know that it is the
    reality with McCain. Attack Iran, keep a significan troop presence
    in Iraq, a surge in Afghanistan, push for Georgia and Ukraine in
    NATO, a league of democracies/nations. I’m sorry, is there
    something that I’m missing here? And all of this was before
    McCain picked a running mate.
    Despite Richard Armitage and Henry Kissinger, the latter of
    whom seems more interested in making money than protecting
    US interests, there’s nothing realist about the McCain camp.
    Where there’s hope is in Obama. But after Steve’s post on John
    Kerry and Bill Richardson, that’s where my worries are these
    days. That being said, in the scheme of things, the Wilsonians
    will probably do less damage over the short-term. Kinds makes
    you wonder why America’s choices these days are bad and
    suicidal when it comes to foreign policy leadership.
    Oh well, fingers crossed for Obama’s realist tendencies to guide
    this nation out of the neoconservative abyss.

    Reply

  34. Cee says:

    DeSelby,
    Ridge got a jab in at Palin last week when he said the ticket wouldn’t be struggling if HE was the VP pick.

    Reply

  35. Mr.Murder says:

    Glenn Greenwald waylaid McCain on CSpan this evening.

    Reply

  36. Zathras says:

    A split in the Republican Party? What split?
    Steve Clemons keeps coming back to this idea, and keeps gliding past the fact that the “realists” he sympathizes with are almost all old men, all but one or two of them with no constituencies. Moreover, the great break with Republican realism did come with Sen. McCain’s candidacy this year. It came with George Bush’s administration over the last eight years, with which most of the “name” realists went along, albeit with occasional complaints, until Bush was a lame duck and criticism of “non-realists” could be made without attacking him or his Vice President.
    Now, personally I have nothing against any of these people, though I admire some more than others. But they are all yesterday’s men, all past and no future. They represent no important constituency with the Republican Party. In fact, they barely even know how to talk to what will emerge after the election as the largest group of “dissidents” in the Party: the Bush Republicans convinced that the only reason the 2008 election went so badly was that John McCain was such a lousy candidate.

    Reply

  37. Brigitte Q says:

    God forbid we get another President who sees the world in black and white, good and evil, and whose decicion-making process is based on emotion without rationality. That kind of intellect and temperament has brought America and the world to its knees – we can’t afford it any longer and WE DESERVE BETTER!

    Reply

  38. Mr.Murder says:

    There is no republican realist. Their party was built on the heritage of robber barons. It’s why Teddy Roosevelt left the party.
    There’s no there, there.
    Balancing budgets by use of deficit, let them eat fuzzy math!

    Reply

  39. MarkL says:

    Realist Republicans have not had a President in the White House since Eisenhower, except for Bush I.
    I would count Ford, except that he forgot Poland.
    Realist Republicans’ political clout is almost as much as myth as free market absolutism.

    Reply

  40. DonS says:

    “Detractors accuse Mr. McCain of dividing America. But the most acute cultural divide his campaign is exposing is within the Republican Party itself.”
    I don’t know. It depends on what you hear. Some of us hear things those on the right — and that is virtually the whole Republican party and some of the dems too — can’t even imagine.
    How is McCain of dividing America more than any other Republican has sought to divide America since Ronald Reagan, actually since Richard Nixon proclaimed “us and them”? There may be schisms exposed within the Republican party that are wide. But they are wide within a spectrum that to me seems all of a piece, and not a piece that speaks of social responsibility.
    It’s OK. A couple of decades from now, most of us “Neanderthals” will be gone, and the idea of a social covenant will be a quaint notion gleaned from history books.
    But please don’t tell me that Republicans have the widest “cultural divide” unless one is ready to label the right repubs as fascist.

    Reply

  41. JohnH says:

    “the worst decision of his campaign — to abandon realist principles in foreign policy — and embrace the kind of neoconservative thinking that had already had a tragic run in the Bush administration.”
    Actually the conversion may have occurred before his 2000 campaign. Any suggestion of his suddenly coming under the spell of the con men during this campaign is almost certainly false. His blatancy of his embrace, however, could be something new.
    http://www.kansascity.com/449/story/856025.html
    The tragic part is that, like John Kerry, he forgot what he learned in Vietnam. He should know better. Bush on the other hand never had a clue.

    Reply

  42. Monica Wolf says:

    Actually, it doesn’t matter at all if he’s running his own campaign or not.
    If he is, one can come to some logical conclusions about him given how the campaign has been managed and run, his willingness to run against the image that he spent over two decades building, not to mention the shifting messages, the descent into ugliness and now the highly entertaining spectacle of the principal’s staff calling each other names before the election is consummated…the word ‘diva’ was mentioned today by a McCain staffer.
    If he isn’t, one can come to other conclusions about his ability to manage people and generally lead.
    In either case, the conclusions aren’t really favorable to McCain regarding either his temperament or ability to lead.
    Monica

    Reply

  43. Linda says:

    Posted by Linda Oct 22, 11:22AM – Link
    Republicans just lost 1-3 days of news cycles on this. Can’t wait to hear Campbell or Anderson ask Bay Buchanan about wardrobe budgets!!
    Also the fashion hit so far of this election has been Michelle Obama’s dress from Black and White that she wore on “The View.”
    But on a much more serious note, MSM has not yet picked up on Jane Mayer’s article in this week’s “New Yorker” about how Palin actually got the VP slot. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/10/27/081027fa_fact_mayer

    Reply

  44. sdemetri says:

    Steve, have you seen The New Yorker article by Jane Meyer on the
    visits the right’s leading pundits made to Palin while touring in
    Juneau? Notably, John Bolton. Bill Kristol has been an ardent
    supporter for a number of months, but Bolton’s admiration was a
    surprise. That might say quite a bit about Gov. Palin.

    Reply

  45. Robert M says:

    There is a thread on Pam’s House Blend describing McCain’s choice of Gov Palin as the monster in Alien jumping out of the chest of the Republican Party. I think it is accurate as the “thinking Republicans” have long known they truck and trade in racism, class warfare and a complete disdain for the beliefs of their supporters. Ask yourself this if you doubt it; Why has not a single Republican ever brought to the House floor a bill to outlaw abortion? Up until two years ago they controlled all both legislative chambers and the presidency yet what does the Christian Right have to show for it outside of the right of churches to compete for social service contracts.

    Reply

  46. Bill R. says:

    I don’t believe for a minute that John McCain is not running his own campaign. He chose his advisers, he chose his campaign staff, the decision for his VP was clearly his. If he’s not making those decisions then he must be seriously incapacitated and mentally incompetent and has no business presenting himself to be president of the United States of America. The truth is he has no integrity, has a fatally flawed character, and will sell his soul and turn on a dime to fuel his ambition. All this own undoing.

    Reply

  47. pacos_gal says:

    The thing with McCain is that he isn’t running his own campaign. He went with what advisors said he should do and then those advisors became handlers and it is like a runaway freight train, with McCain the caboose instead of the engine.
    At the very least, McCain should have choosen his own vice president. I think that would have made a difference in how the campaign went from that point forward. The point is moot now, but it could have been different for him in terms of confidence and perhaps even have had a message to deliver.
    Maybe he wouldn’t have won against Obama, but he might have been able to still look himself in the mirror the day after the election and said he ran his own campaign to the best of his abilities.
    This is Not his campaign and it is certainly not the best of his abilities.

    Reply

  48. Bill R. says:

    Here’s a breaking story from Ha-aretz:
    http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1031246.html
    Bush reported to renew ties with Iran after election.
    Steve, what’s your take on this?? Has W suddenly stepped into the “Reality” camp?

    Reply

  49. Bill R. says:

    McCain once said in a video clip I saw, ” Presidential ambition is a disease, curable only by embalming fluid.” I don’t know if that was original or if he was quoting someone else. But McCain sold out every moderate and sensible instinct he ever had to win his party’s nomination. And he lost this election to appeal to the religionists and necons. He destroyed his own brand and his own political judgment to sell his soul. If that isn’t a statement about character, what is?
    Regarding Lieberman, there is no one who doesn’t seek war with Iran more than he does. His obsession with Israel’s security and destroying Israel’s enemies through war has destroyed his political judgment. He is a man consumed with fear and hate. As a consequence he has no political future. Lieberman and McCain have come to the end of the line.
    Is there any person with any rationality that has a future in the Republican party? America needs a healthy two party system, but I wonder if rationality can exist in the Republican party of today, whether it be on foreign policy, economic policy, or social issues. Al Gore was absolutely right about the “War on Reason.” McCain destroyed himself to lead this monster. A political party that hates learning, intellect, books, and rational discourse has no future.

    Reply

  50. Joe Klein's conscience says:

    Steve:
    McCain has always been in league with the neo-cons. After all, Bill Kristol endorsed him, not Dubya, back in 2000. Are you telling me what Kristol would endorse someone that doesn’t agree with his worldview?

    Reply

  51. ... says:

    why is it the republicans whether it be mccain, palin or turncoat lieberman always want to appeal to the lowest characteristics in people, not the highest?? these folks are all self serving in the worst sense of the phrase, lieberman and palin in particular and mccain to a lesser extent.. mccain made a big mistake picking palin, and put on a clear display of his inability to lead in picking her as well… big mistake to choose mccain to lead the country at this time as his leadership abilities are clearly lacking…

    Reply

  52. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Personally, I think Lieberman’s loyalties are as dangerous to America as Palin’s ignorance is.

    Reply

  53. DeSelby says:

    McCain should have picked Ridge. Can you imagine any state McCain has now that he wouldn’t have with Ridge?
    And McCain would probably be ahead in PA, VA, and OH, and much more competitive in the upper midwest.
    Pawlenty would have produced a similar result.

    Reply

  54. Don Bacon says:

    Steve, excellent analysis, really good. When you’re on (i.e. when I agree) you’re on.(:-)

    Reply

  55. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    Joe Lieberman is the big loser here.. The CT. State Central Committee is poised to consider a motion to censure him in Dec… it was submitted after he spoke at the Repug convention but was tabled until after the election, presumably to see what kind of margin the Dems have and if they need him..,
    So many prinicples, so little time….

    Reply

  56. Sudhir Afridi says:

    Non-governmental organizations can do much help with the poverty struck tribal people if there is sincerity and that their goal in real sense is to serve the poor and ailing humanity in the tribal areas of Pakistan.Non-governmental Organizations throughout the World are working on non-profit basis as it is certainly clear from their manifestos that they would assist the needy and poor people without exploiting them for their personal gains. Commuinity Motivation and Development Organization (CMDO) is also a non-profit organization, which has focused on work solely the tribal areas for the last one decade. In the post cold war era its target was demining the tribal areas as in some parts of FATA and on the border areas the fighters and the Russians troops had spread mines (bombs), which could have crippled lot of tribal people living on the Pak Afghan, border. We don�t know why this NGO forgot to leave that project or goal, but one of the workers of this organization long ago had confided that CMDO had no benefits in mining project because the Donor Agencies had not funded it and second Princess Diana also passed away very early who was also working on demining in the World. In short this organization changed its way in the middle.
    CMDO and many other NGOs are basically not able to help the tribal people if the International Donor Agencies don�t assist them in funding. Most of the NGOs working in tribal areas are run and owned by those who are basically not tribesmen as they belong to the settled areas of NWFP and other parts of Pakistan. The tribesmen are sure that NGOs also exploit their basic rights and the funds allocated for their prosperity and development as other departments of the government. People in FATA are of the view that International Donor countries and Agencies should directly contact the social and educated people of tribal areas so that the tribal people could in real sense avail all the funds and projects. Once I asked Steep, a responsible person of World Bank that World Bank and IMF etc should directly invest and provide funds for FATA development rather than they should give any thing to non-tribal people. Steep of World Bank had fully seconded and supported my view but a team of CMDO who had accompanied him minded this and requested me not to create problems for them. This was a clear indication that the organizers of CMDO were interested only to get funds on the name of FATA development though they have no concern with the progress of FATA.
    Now CMDO has been running another project under the title of �Mitigating Child Labour through education� which is funded by �Save the Children UK�. Under this project CMDO has chosen 14 schools from the whole tribal belt and have chosen at least 20 students from each school who are provided with bags, pencils and note books which is another joke with the tribal people, this was observed by a teacher in a school. This puts a very negative impression on the children in FATA Schools who are debarred from notebooks, pencils and rubbers.
    The girls schools run by this NGO in Landikotal have also produced no results as their own spoons just get monthly salaries instead of educating the poor tribal girls. Most of the NGOs working in tribal areas have nothing to show but only paper work to throw dust into the eyes of the Donor Agencies and Countries to get more funds. The owners and other team members get very much high salaries, which they really don�t deserve. The tribal people are well aware of these fraudy people of NGOs and that is why people in FATA don�t support and encourage them. The people in tribal areas blame them for working on the Western Agenda to spoil the tribal culture of modesty and faith. They cannot show solid projects on ground. In short the NGOs people are working to make money by exploiting the words poverty and illiteracy in the tribal areas of Pakistan. There is a serious lack of devotion and dedication in NGOs to mitigate miseries of the tribal people.

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *