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  Gustav
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Monday, January 03, 2005

Think again

Excellent analysis from Melvyn Leffler at Foreign Policy magazine. The lead paragraph (emphasis mine):

Not since Richard Nixon’s conduct of the war in Vietnam has a U.S. president’s foreign policy so polarized the country—and the world. Yet as controversial as George W. Bush’s policies have been, they are not as radical a departure from his predecessors as both critics and supporters proclaim. Instead, the real weaknesses of the president’s foreign policy lie in its contradictions: Blinded by moral clarity and hamstrung by its enormous military strength, the United States needs to rebalance means with ends if it wants to forge a truly effective grand strategy.


Amen brother.

8 Comments:



Blogger wafflestomper said...

so then moral clarity and military might should be exclusive to this new grand strategy?

should i presume the democratic party's foreign policy will be based on increased moral ambiguity and military mediocrity?

hmmmm. this country can lead or be liked, not both. i fail to see how the benefits of being liked exceed the benefits of being the ones to set the course of history.

on a totally different subject... i skimmed an article today about bill cosby's crusade to elevate the conditions of black population. he tells the story of a black child in school that gets beat up by the other black kids because he answered too many questions right. the kid is left with the decision to not try to excel in school or not be beat up. seemed like a tragedy to me. what do you think?

1/04/2005 07:57:00 PM  


Blogger Gustav said...

so then moral clarity and military might should be exclusive to this new grand strategy?

No, moral clarity and military might should be part of a strategy whose means and ends don't conflict (and serves the interests of the US). Any strategy which fulfills those requirements will do.

should i presume the democratic party's foreign policy will be based on increased moral ambiguity and military mediocrity?

No. From Leffler: ---What is striking about President Bill Clinton’s foreign policy is that it actually increased U.S. military preponderance vis-à-vis the rest of the world. During the late 1990s, U.S. defense spending was higher than that of the next dozen nations combined. The overall goal, according to Clinton’s joint chiefs of staff, was to create “a force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations—persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict.”

Neither liberals nor neoconservatives want to acknowledge it, but the Clinton administration also envisioned the use of unilateral, even preemptive, military power. Prior to the September 11 attacks, the last strategy paper of the Clinton administration spelled out the nation’s vital interests. “We will do what we must,” wrote the Clinton national security team, “to defend these interests. This may involve the use of military force, including unilateral action, where deemed necessary or appropriate.”---

this country can lead or be liked, not both.

Wrong again. The US has led, and set the course of history many times and been seen as a beacon of hope and freedom.

Leffler: ---But the breadth and depth of the current anti- Americanism are unprecedented. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, favorable attitudes toward the United States in Europe plunged during the last two years, dropping from 75 percent to 58 percent in Britain, from 63 percent to 37 percent in France, and from 61 percent to 38 percent in Germany. It’s even worse in the Muslim world, where substantial majorities think the United States is overreacting to the terrorist threat and that Americans seek to dominate the world. Most worrisome of all is the reaction among “friendly” Muslim nations: 59 percent of Turks, 36 percent of Pakistanis, 27 percent of Moroccans, and 24 percent of Jordanians say that suicide bombings against Americans and Westerners are justified in Iraq.---

I would also argue that being hated works against our setting the course of history, not for it.
------------------------------------------------------

Bill Cosby:

Tragic definitely. But hardly a black-only problem. Didn't white know-it-alls get beat up at your school?

There's a combination of factors contributing to the difficulties black America faces, and one of them is probably, as Cosby has said, the black community's reluctance to take responsibility for its own failings -- but it's hardly abnormal. Take a look at any conservative site, and you'll find whites who feel they are being held back, or threatened, or supressed by minorities or the "extra privileges" they get. You get the impression that white America is infallible.

Not only that, but while blacks may over-victimize themselves, that shouldn't lead us to believe that it's the root cause of their problems, nor that a simple change in their worldview would put them on the right track. I was just watching an excellent PBS documentary this weekend: "Reconstruction: The Second Civil War". It reminded me that while some (not all, surely) other minorities have managed to overcome the difficulties associated with being a minority, none has suffered the systematic subjugation and destruction black America has endured.

This leads me to all of the problems that our public schools have. Teachers need to create an environment where students who excell are not demonized -- where those who don't excell don't feel wholly inferior, and feel the need to show their superiority by kicking the smart kid's ass.

I'm not pretending we can stop kids beating up the smarty-pants -- but I believe the proper environment can lessen it.

Unfortunately, it takes teachers with talent to create this environment. It can't be taught.

But teachers with those kinds of people skills are in high demand, and rarely choose to work in dangerous and difficult places like inner-city public schools. Many of them choose more profitable lines of work altogether. That's why I favor raising teacher's pay, to make teaching positions more competitive, and to attract more talented people.

1/04/2005 11:03:00 PM  


Blogger wafflestomper said...

No, moral clarity and military might should be part of a strategy whose means and ends don't conflict (and serves the interests of the US). Any strategy which fulfills those requirements will do._

just pretty words, i think, or is there some insightful thought there that i'm missing. what requirements need to be fulfilled? that the means and ends don't conflict? or that moral clarity and military might should be a part of the strategy?

because if it's the latter, leffler says the opposite in that that those two items are the problem with the admin's policy. if it's the former, then what do moral clairty and military might have to do with anything? i say taken in its entirety, it means as much as a mission statement from a sub-fortune 500 company.

leffler is coming across as a partisan backbiter. apparently bush's weakness is enormous military strength that clinton created, but clinton used it as a strength? does he have a theme in his paper or are you just attracted to meritless bush bashing? he really sees clear morality as a weakness of bush?!? could you reproduce the part where leffler compares the morality of bush and clinton? i don't have a subscription to your link and could use a chuckle.

The US has led, and set the course of history many times and been seen as a beacon of hope and freedom._

so substantive. but now it's not i suppose? that was the conclusion of a post a little ways down the page too. is your point that america has always been loved in the past but not now? and its the unprecendented anti-americanism stats that leffler provides that proves your point? i should think that the mere use of the word unprecendented would cause you stop and review leffler's work a little more critically. since this huge, unprecendented(!) increase in antiamericanism has occurred, how many american civilians have died at the hands of foreigners? been taken hostage? been beseiged or otherwise harmed? unprecedented! is it unprecendented military deaths? unprecendented devestment of american enterprise??? and its moral clarity and enormous military might that are root causes? ha. how do those two items factor into septemeber 2001? was it bush's moral clarity that caused one of the most significant acts of antiamericanism that has ever occurred? does leffler cite the unprecedented gains in favorable attitudes that occurred on septmeber 12? unprecendented. maybe just a bit sensational. what was germany's favorability of american in 1944? better than 38 percent? at least we can always wax nostalgic when bad things never happened to americans - you know - back when we were a beacon of hope and freedom, huh gustav? when we led the world and everyone had unprecedented favorability ratings of us. good times. good times.

I'm not pretending we can stop kids beating up the smarty-pants -- but I believe the proper environment can lessen it._

it wasn't such an off-topic subject. people are always going to hate the leader. america should not have to hinder itself in order to be liked by the rest of the world any more than a black kid should dumb himself down to be liked by his classmates. moral clarity and military might should not ever be deemed as items that we need to lessen just so we can be friends with others - even if we take a few punches because of it. we all want an environment where bad things don't happen, but you and leffler claim that strengths are actually the weaknesses of america, akin to intelligence being the weakness of a black kid.

1/05/2005 01:02:00 AM  


Blogger Gustav said...

I don't know if you read the piece, but it's not Leffler's intention to say that moral clarity and military strength are bad things. It's his point that Bush has remained so fixated on preaching moral clarity and has overused the US's military strength to a point where his administration lost sight of how to use these to the US's advantage. Indeed, I don't even know if they can anymore.

So:
[If the means and ends not conflicting is the requirement needed to be fulfilled for an effective foreign policy]then what do moral clairty and military might have to do with anything?

When the US uses its "military might and moral clarity" to do what it's doing now in the regions affected by the tsunami, it serves our interest by supressing anti-Americanism. That's vital in defeating terrorism. Bush's method of using a sledge hammer to kill some flies may be effective in exterminating the insects, but it also increases Americophobia, as shown by Leffler's numbers. The remaining flies lay their eggs in the corpses of their dead brethren, and the population explodes.

but now it's not [seen as a beacon of hope and freedom] i suppose?

No it's not. IT'S NOT. While I wish it were, that's just not how the world sees us now. Call me unpatriotic if you wish, but wanting something does not make it so. I'm ashamed of how the rest of the world sees my country, and I put the onus squarely on the shoulders of GWB.

Is your point that america has always been loved in the past but not now?

The US has done some unpopular things, but it has never been loathed like this. And that loathing is in direct conflict with our interests. The tragic thing is, we could have achieved the same goals that Bush wants to achieve, without aligning the rest of the world against us.

Even worse is that just a few years ago, there was unprecedented sympathy towards the US, as you mentioned. Wasted.

what was germany's favorability of american in 1944? better than 38 percent?

I dunno, but WORLD opinion of the US was pretty high. That's why the world wasn't galvanized against our involvement there. As much as conservatives love to compare the struggle in Iraq to WWII, the similarities just aren't there.

Also, after the war and throughout the 50's, many Germans loved the US, because we were protecting them from Soviet Russia. I suspect that if you asked an Iraqi if the US was protecting him against terrorists, he would laugh in your face.

at least we can always wax nostalgic when bad things never happened to americans - you know - back when we were a beacon of hope and freedom, huh gustav? when we led the world and everyone had unprecedented favorability ratings of us. good times. good times.

Yes stomper. But thick sarcasm is no substitute for a good argument. The point is not that bad things never happened to Americans, it is that we used to be seen as the good guys, not the bad guys. For most of the world now, watching America fight the terrorists is like watching Alien vs. Predator.

you and leffler claim that strengths are actually the weaknesses of america, akin to intelligence being the weakness of a black kid.

Once again, it's not the strengths that are bad. If the smart black kid went around taunting everybody, telling them how stupid they were, some might say he deserved a beating, regardless of race ...

1/08/2005 06:25:00 PM  


Blogger wafflestomper said...

but now it's not [seen as a beacon of hope and freedom] i suppose?_

No it's not. IT'S NOT. _

you called me on my sarcasm earlier, but indulge me in this brief bit of sarcasm: (yawn.)

i hadn't realized that the beacon of hope and freedom was such a binary condition, but i deduce that you're either saying that some other country has taken the place of the alpha beacon of hope and freedom, or one simply does not exist anymore. so people looking to emmigrate will have nowhere to go or have to go somewhere other than america. hmmm. i know that i am risking having you write a pretty paragraph about how immigrants made america the best country in the whole universe but...

its their attitude - their loss.

go ahead and write the mushy stuff now about how the foreign scientist will take his cure for cancer or his patent for time travel to some other country, how much america loses, how callous i am to these basic truths... i'll skim through it all the same.

how many of these are true?
the world needs a beacon of hope and freedom.
the world needs america to be the beacon.
america needs a beacon of hope and freedom.
america needs to be the beacon.

be sure to include in your mush the future doom that certainly awaits us all for failing to be the beacon. i need to read that stuff.

so bush opens the door for canada or australia to become the beacon. so what. you reside in poland. how does that affect you? are you looking for bragging rights? do the poles only tolerate your presence so long as we maintain certified beacon status? are you sick of your property being vandalized by the unprecendented antiamerican sentiment? did you almost stay here stateside after christmas because you're sick of the protesters with the 'yankee go home' signs outside your house? who loses more if you stay home - you or the country of poland? forget the mutually beneficial stuff - which column does the net loss get attributed to?

their loss. their attitude. when america truly ceases to be the hope and freedom, that is when the world will realize the repercussions. let them perceive whatever in the meantime.

perception is not reality in this case. intellectual honesty time - list all the freedoms bush has taken away in implementing this oppressive state. can you think of any countries that its citizens experience greater freedom as a result of bush? beacon of freedom.

beacon of hope: what did all the world hope for that bush messed up? be specific like: the world hoped afghani women would never vote or the world hoped saddam's regime could fill more mass graves or the world hoped iraqis wouldn't be subjected to the torure of having to wear panties on their head or the world hoped that they could continue to profit of sanctions indefinitelyskip that last one if you will... it wrecks my argument.

call me when american emmigration exceeds the immigration. we could use that as a barometer of foreign sentiment you know. kinda hard to explain the moths being attracted to a light that is turned off.

1/11/2005 12:38:00 AM  


Blogger Gustav said...

i deduce that you're either saying that some other country has taken the place of the alpha beacon of hope and freedom, or one simply does not exist anymore. so people looking to emmigrate will have nowhere to go or have to go somewhere other than america.

Your deduction skills are well practiced enough so that you can distinguish stylized hyperbole. You pass. Yes, not seen as the alpha beacon of hope, I'll take that one.

Their loss? Depends on how you look at it. Some of them have perfectly successful and happy lives in other countries.

how many of these are true?
the world needs a beacon of hope and freedom.
the world needs america to be the beacon.
america needs a beacon of hope and freedom.
america needs to be the beacon
.

All of the above are true.

be sure to include in your mush the future doom that certainly awaits us all for failing to be the beacon. i need to read that stuff.

Doom? I don't know. When the US is the world paragon for respect of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, it will have the most moral authority to support its activities. While it touts democracy at home and abroad, but flouts international law and further restricts the civil liberties of its own citizens, it loses credibility. Naturally the world community becomes suspicious of its motives and resists. As we have seen, that can present major problems when the US wants to take some actions which it believes are in its interests.

so bush opens the door for canada or australia to become the beacon. so what. you reside in poland. how does that affect you? are you looking for bragging rights? ...

Sarcasm again. gotcha.

You know how it affects me? I'm sick of hearing how Americans are boneheaded or ignorant or unwilling to listen. I'm tired of being reminded that fewer than 5% of Americans own a passport. I'm tired of: "You're American! -- you not packin' are ya?"

I'm doing my best to fight these stereotypes but it's not enough. I need a leader who fights them too.

A year and a half ago a woman asked me where I was from, so I told her, "the States."

She cringed.

who loses more if you stay home - you or the country of poland? forget the mutually beneficial stuff?

I think my boss and Red would both agree that Poland just might be the winner in that one.

what did all the world hope for that bush messed up? be specific like: the world hoped afghani women would never vote ....

The world hoped Bush wouldn't start a war unless he absolutely had to.

kinda hard to explain the moths being attracted to a light that is turned off.

In the dark, even a nightlight is comforting-- isn't it, stomper? I want the US to be the lighthouse.

1/12/2005 01:52:00 AM  


Blogger wafflestomper said...

I see your response and disagree with some items - not so much the theory, but maybe the importance of the principles. We could go another round, but I suspect you can anticipate my points without me penning them. You look to be tiring of my sarcasm anyway. I did like the 'flouting international law' part however. It ranks up there with 'sanctions were working' and 'squandering international goodwill' on my eye-rolling scale. If you meant it, you would not be so partisan in your condemnation.

1/12/2005 07:57:00 PM  


Blogger Gustav said...

Naw, I love your sarcasm stomper. We may as well leave this one here and move on to other ground. Thanks for your excellent responses.

Flouting international law:
True, I oughtn't be onesided. Seems the right is up in arms about how terrorists aren't criticized for violating international law. I thought their blatant disregard for international law and human rights was what made them terrorists, but ok, I'll say it here:
I abhor and condemn the violations of international law and human rights, as well as the murderous crimes that terrorists commit.

Seems superfluous and obvious to me.

1/13/2005 01:20:00 PM  

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