Sunday, April 29, 2007

Obama's Foreign Policy, Part 1

Kingston got this one rolling on Friday. There's no hiding the fact that I heart Obama, but I'll try and keep it as objective as possible. I'd like to pick up where Kingston left off, with the theme that Obama offers the, "potential for a substantively compelling foreign policy vision that actually attacks the underlying premises of the neocon worldview."

Lets start by reviewing the neocon worldview, both neocon 1 (the pre-invasion worldview) and neocon 2 (the current worldview, which makes the same faulty assumptions, but broadens the approach). In the next post I'll expand on how Obama differs from this worldview.

Neocon Foreign Policy 1

From the work of Irving Kristol, the godfather of Neoconservatism, one can outline the following basic premises of neocon foreign policy: World government (The United Nations) is a terrible idea, statesmen should have the ability to accurately distinguish friend from foe, protect national interest actively both at home and abroad, promote national security by spreading democracy abroad, and develop a strong military.

Historically they supported the Vietnam War and took a strong stance against the Soviet Union; they aligned themselves with the policies of Reagan in the 1980s. They support Israel and Taiwan. They tend to be less deferential to traditional conceptions of diplomacy and international law.

Neocons begin with axiomatic principles, which they will not compromise even if it means unilateral action. For example, neocons begin with the assumption that spreading democracy is always good for US national security. From this assumption, they derive a foreign policy which supports regime change, even in the face of international opposition. This was the logic behind the Iraq invasion. Neocons did not need WMD to justify the invasion; as Bush himself has said, he would have invaded even if he knew that Saddam had no weapons program.

Neocon Foreign Policy 2

Much has been made about the dismissal of neocon advisers in the White House (such as the the outing of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) and the rise of Condoleeza Rice. Neoconservatism is supposedly out, Neorealism is in.

Neoconservatism or Neorealism? It is hard to tell. There are signs of Neorealism, such as our attempts to foster bandwaggoning. The administration is seeking a multilateral approach to Iran and North Korea. They are working through the UN and the IAEA. Gone is the rhetoric of the Axis of Evil. Whereas the American Enterprise Institute is advocating regime change in Iran, the administration is focusing on economic carrots and sticks.

It may be semantics, but I do not believe the administration has shifted significantly from its previous assumptions. This is Neoconservatism with a multilateral bent. The administration still advocates the spread of democracy as a means to protect America. They still believe there is a military solution in Iraq; leaving Iraq is described as surrender. There is unambiguous support for Israel. National security is still fostered by actively intervening abroad. Peace in America can only be achieved by hunting down terrorists abroad and undermining or destroying the states where they operate.

They are engaging more with international institutions, but it came only after military constraints in Iraq and political weakness at home. This is constrained Neoconservatism, rather than a fundamental shift in worldview.

Posted by Peter

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