Friday, November 12, 2004

Slacker/Foreign Policy Friday

I am loathe to convert TIA into a clearinghouse for various articles. Other blogs handle this function quite well already: aggregating articles and essays from various sources and thus providing one-stop shopping for the news of the day - or better yet, the news that is not receiving the attention from the mainstream media that it deserves. That is a valuable service, and part of what makes blogs such an important resource. I much prefer to compose longer pieces (perhaps too long at times) that look at a single issue or grouping of issues in greater depth. Perhaps, in this way, I am carving out a niche in the vast expanse of the blogosphere.

That being said, it's Friday, and I'm currently swamped at work, thus I don't have the time to write. But I have found the time to read, so today I will diverge from the framework and indulge in a bit of hit and run commentary on some pieces that I have been perusing (with an emphasis on foreign policy).

Laura Rozen at
War and Piece has flagged a very worthwhile interview with French scholar, author and professor Gilles Kepel in which he discusses the war raging between moderates and fundamentalists in the Muslim world. Kepel has recently written an insightful book entitled The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West, in which he argues that the moderates are winning, or at the very least, the jihadists are losing. His perspective is a valuable one.

Since the death of Arafat has led to much discussion of the possibility of a revival of the moribund peace process, I will call attention to a triumvirate of editorials on Arafat, Israel and the way forward. The first is by
Professor Mark Levine, a guest editorialist on Professor Juan Cole's site, who recounts the efforts of certain elements of the Israeli political establishment to thwart the formation of non-violent Palestinian movements. Next, former president Jimmy Carter weighs in with an even-handed share of criticism for both sides of the divide, and an exhortation for the Bush administration to re-engage the peace process. Rounding out the trio, Brent Scowcroft offers sage advice and a sketch of certain compromises and steps to be taken in order to breathe life into the road map. Despite the varying political vantage points of the three authors, all three seem to broach their political differences to end up with a similar prescription to remedy the problem. I tend to agree with all of them for the most part. If only that were all it took.

The last piece I want to call attention to I came across on an erudite blog called
Chez Nadezhda. The article is written by John Ikenberry, co-chair of the Princeton Project on National Security for the Woodrow Wilson School - with Francis Fukuyama being the other co-chair. In this article, Ikenberry lays out the case for liberal hegemony, a set of policies offered as an alternative to the prevalent conservative and neoconservative theories currently holding sway in many of Washington's power circles, including, and especially, the White House. Ikenberry's proposal is an intriguing new direction that incorporates the best from our past, with some of the imperatives of our current and future world. It is a must read. Here are some excerpts from the article to whet your appetite:

Bush administration foreign policy has failed - and failed spectacularly. Bush sought to mobilise the world in a great campaign against new threats, but instead the world is openly questioning the legitimacy of a US-led global order. His administration is seized by the problem of terrorism and the rest of the world is seized by the problem of American unipolar power. The world may not be able to restrain the US by organising a counterbalancing coalition. But the world today is about as close as it has ever come to being in open rebellion against the one global superpower. This global rebellion is particularly intense among citizens in the advanced western democracies, America's oldest and most established allies...

Future historians may see the last three years of American war and diplomacy as among the most ruinous since the Vietnam war. They will appreciate the difficulties that any government would have in addressing the unprecedented challenges confronting the US in the wake of 9/11. They will also give the Bush administration credit for its willingness to rethink old US national security ideas. But they will surely be puzzled at how such a powerful country - bolstered by the sympathy of the world in the wake of the terrorist attacks - could find itself so quickly disliked, resisted, isolated and bereft of legitimacy. This state of affairs is all the more tragic because it appears to be mostly self-inflicted...

If US power is measured not only in terms of hard military power but as a larger bundle of assets, which include prestige, credibility, respect and the ready support of close allies, the US has just witnessed the most massive collapse in national power in the country's history...

Second, there is a basic contradiction at the heart of the Bush administration's national security vision. The Bush administration wants both to serve as the global provider of security and simultaneously to pursue a traditional conservative foreign policy based on narrowly defined self-interest. That is, the administration wants to solve the Hobbesian problem of order by becoming a global leviathan but it also wants to use US power to advance nationalist goals at the expense of others and reduce its commitment to international rules and institutions. It cannot do both - it must choose.
Nadezhda's summary of the Ikenberry piece is concise and knowledgeable - especially the examination of the historical precursors, and effect that current changes in the geopolitical landscape have had in informing our need for change in some areas, and consistency in others. A valuable companion to Ikenberry's article.

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