SINCE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY MANAGED TO HIDE at is convention the civil war in its ranks over the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, the next best place to glimpse the competing schools of grand strategy is in Chicago this weekend at the American Political Science Association. The meetings are taking place in Chicago’s two big Hilton hotels: The Chicago Hilton & Towers at Balbo and Michigan Avenues and the Palmer House Hilton at Monroe and Wabash Avenues.
There are a lot of readers of The Washington Note in Chicago who emailed me last night telling me that they would keep an eye out for Alan Keyes if they see him at any local coffee shops. I did see two brave souls this morning carrying Alan Keyes signs down Michigan Avenue. But while attendance at the APSA meetings requires registration, it is not enforced on the whole — and the various professors and graduate students offering tidbits of newly crafted papers seem eager for anyone to listen.
So I recommend that those interested in some of the great debates on foreign policy crash the meeting.
Regrettably, this blog post is too late for one interesting meeting chaired by well known realist scholar Michael Desch, who has just moved from the University of Kentucky to Texas A&M University (where Bob Gates, a much better former CIA Director than James Woolsey, serves as President). This meeting that I’m listening to now is titled “Debating the Neoconservative Approach to International Security.” Desch, some of you may recall, helped spearhead an effort along with Harvard’s Stephen Walt and the University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer to line up mostly Republican realist scholars to oppose the invasion of Iraq.
All three of these people, including a cast of liberal internationalists, realists, and others who oppose much of the neoconservative foreign policy agenda, helped launch the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy last year. The Cato Institute’s Christopher Preble is the real driver of this — but Chris convinced people like the World Policy Journal founding editor Sherle Schwenninger, former NSC staffer and Georgetown University professor Charles Kupchan, and the Carnegie Endowment’s Anatol Lieven to join up. I followed along as well and am now an executive committee member of the Coalition. One of the things that I’m doing at APSA is looking for next generation smart-types who would be good allies in restoring a sensible foreign policy direction for the country.
This panel includes a lot of scholars of whom I’ve never heard of before. The roster includes Jonathan J. Monten from Georgetown University, Allan Craig Waggaman from Radford University, Hakan Tunc from McMaster University, Anthony Alexander Loh from Vanderbilt, Paul K. MacDonald from Harvard, and Fiona Adamson from the University of London.
Thus far, as I sit here, the panel has been mostly disappointing with surprisingly crude and fairly uninformed treatments of neoconservatism. One of the traditions at APSA is that scholars will send papers to those who request them — so for those of you deeply interested in the currents of thought defining neoconservatism and its critics, you might want to pursue some of these scholars for their papers.
Monten made the useful but already known point that there are deep roots of Bush’s modern neoconservative inspired foreign policy in the Progressive Era of American history. Actually, John Lewis Gaddis in his new mini-book — Surprise, Security and the American Experince — goes back farther and argues that John Quincy Adams was actually the innovator and cultivator of the doctrine of preemption and prevention.
Read the Gaddis book, which one of my favorite scholars (whom you will hear more about in this blog later today) — G. John Ikenberry of Princeton — turned me on to. Gaddis reminds us that while Bush’s foreign policy fits to some degree in a historical context crafted by Adams, Adams believed that America could stumble and fail in its objectives if it “went searching for monsters.” Gaddis seems to imply that Bush indeed made the mistake that John Quincy Adams warned about — and that Saddam Hussein was the monster America sought out.
The discussion following the presentations — moderated well by Desch — went more to the point of what neoconservatism is and isn’t; whether it mattered; would you know a neoconservative policy in Asia if you saw it; are there tensions between neocons and acolytes of Leo Strauss; and many more questions. The most nuanced and interesting paper seems to be Waggaman’s who delved into Leo Strauss‘s view of the “modern project,” arguing that in the end Strauss would be very disappointed in the direction neocons had gone. Although there was a lot of ephemeral stuff in Waggaman’s talk — “modernity as the joyless quest for joy” and Strauss’s and Francis Fukuyama’s confession that there is a “spiritual vacuity at the core of liberalism” — his paper sounded worth the effort reading.
At 4:15 today, a more star-studded crowd including John Mearsheimer, Columbia’s Michael Doyle and Jack Snyder, Brown University’s Nita Crawford, and Johns Hopkins’ Andrew Bacevich will discuss “Empire and International Security: Then and Now.” This is taking place in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton — although I think that they should be hosting the discussion in the dramatically imperially decorated Empire Room of the Palmer House Hilton.
Sunday morning at 10:15, in the Chicago Hilton, Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose is set to speak in a session titled “Threat Perception, Threat Inflation, and Lying.” His paper is titled “The Strong Do What They Can: A Neoclassical Realist Interpretation of the Iraq War. Gideon is a very interesting guy and succeeded Fareed Zakaria, now editor of Newsweek International, at the influential Foreign Affairs. It will be interesting to ask Gideon what he thinks of the unfolding debate between Francis Fukuyama and Charles Krauthammer.
John Mearsheimer — a local here in Chicago — is again appearing on this same Sunday morning panel offering a juicily titled paper, “Lying in International Politics.” Don’t jump to the conclusion that Mearsheimer things lying is a bad thing; in the dark, brutish world that the dean of realist studies in America sees, lying can be an effective survival strategy. But in the context of the neoconservative adventures the nation has been on, Mearsheimer will no doubt give his treatment of international duplicity an interesting twist.
This blog entry is already too long, but one other missed opportunity was to hear G. John Ikenberry speak on his paper “Liberal Hegemony or Empire? America and Europe in an Age of Unipolairty.” I missed this talk but have already read a version of this absolutely terrific paper — one that I think is a must read academic paper. I will offer more on this Ikenberry paper later today.
Why do all of these academics and talking sessions matter? Well, some of these folks are influencing those who actually manage policy — but the key thing is that these are great workshops to hear theoreticians kick the tires of public policy currents in ways that rarely happen in policy circles. I have already learned a lot here.
One big disappointment is that there is a meeting scheduled today at 4:15 p.m. at the Palmer House Hilton, Wabash Room, on “The Power and Politics of Blogs.” The Chair is Daniel Drezner of the University of Chicago with a paper by Laura McKenna of Columbia University. Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago is discussant. However, the listed discussion participants are Henry Farrell of George Washington University, Mark A.R. Kleiman of UCLA, Antoinette Pole, CUNY, Ana Marie Cox of and Andrew Sullivan of
So, I emailed Andrew, and it seems that this is a bit of bait and switch by APSA. Andrew is back east and will not be here today.
I’ll have to cover this blogs session anyway, although I think having low expectations is the best way to have fun at APSA meetings.
— Steve Clemons