Sunday, February 19, 2006
The so-called Bush Doctrine that set the framework for the administration's first term is now in shambles. The doctrine (elaborated, among other places, in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States) argued that, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, America would have to launch periodic preventive wars to defend itself against rogue states and terrorists with weapons of mass destruction; that it would do this alone, if necessary; and that it would work to democratize the greater Middle East as a long-term solution to the terrorist problem. But successful pre-emption depends on the ability to predict the future accurately and on good intelligence, which was not forthcoming, while America's perceived unilateralism has isolated it as never before. It is not surprising that in its second term, the administration has been distancing itself from these policies and is in the process of rewriting the National Security Strategy document.----
The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism. Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally. The misjudgment was based in part on the massive failure of the American intelligence community to correctly assess the state of Iraq's W.M.D. programs before the war. But the intelligence community never took nearly as alarmist a view of the terrorist/W.M.D. threat as the war's supporters did. Overestimation of this threat was then used to justify the elevation of preventive war to the centerpiece of a new security strategy, as well as a whole series of measures that infringed on civil liberties, from detention policy to domestic eavesdropping.----
But the overarching lesson that emerges from these cases is that the United States does not get to decide when and where democracy comes about. By definition, outsiders can't "impose" democracy on a country that doesn't want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic. Democracy promotion is therefore a long-term and opportunistic process that has to await the gradual ripening of political and economic conditions to be effective.
The Bush administration has been walking indeed, sprinting away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea. Condoleezza Rice gave a serious speech in January about "transformational diplomacy" and has begun an effort to reorganize the nonmilitary side of the foreign-policy establishment, and the National Security Strategy document is being rewritten. All of these are welcome changes, but the legacy of the Bush first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarizing that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance American ideals and interests in the coming years. The reaction against a flawed policy can be as damaging as the policy itself, and such a reaction is an indulgence we cannot afford, given the critical moment we have arrived at in global politics.
One of his main arguments is that we must be careful not to retreat from the world as a reaction to failed neoconservative agenda. He proposes a "Wilsonian realism," where we work in non-military ways to promote our values but maintain a healthy skepticism of our own abilities and the intentions of others. Good stuff.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
"What the hell," Eilers said, puffing on a cigarette outside the bar. "I voted for Jesse (Ventura). That was interesting. Let's keep it interesting."I like that attitude a lot. Not to mention it does a lot to destroy rational choice theories of voting behavior... which is always a good thing.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Asked to describe the health of the Democratic Party, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said: "A lot worse than it should be. This has not been a very good two months."My God, I didn't know they had a voice. They say they haven't picked up much steam in the aftermath of such issues as the Abramoff affair, NSA wiretapping, or continued problems in Iraq. Just like 2004, they don't have any plans. Furthermore, on the Abramoff issue, they're as sunk as the GOP. Instead of a shrill cry for reform in the wake of that scandal, both sides were seen shedding their Abramoff dollars in an attempt to break any connections to his firm. When it comes to lobbyists, the Dems have nothing.
"We seem to be losing our voice when it comes to the basic things people worry about," Mr. Dodd said.
In the end, one Dem has figured it out at least:
Mr. Obama said the Democratic Party had not seized the moment, adding: "We have been in a reactive posture for too long. I think we have been very good at saying no, but not good enough at saying yes."