Friday, April 08, 2005

Domestic Appeasement; Foreign Schizophrenia

Julian’s point is well taken; what we may be seeing in the Bush administration is a shift to a more realistic foreign policy and less a continuation of the schizophrenia of the first term. I hope that is correct. But by the Administration's attempts to appease the fringe elements in its party, I fear that it is not.

I accept (and have a nod in my original post) that the general view is that the Bush foreign policy has been consistent to the point of being almost wholly focused on “the axis of evil.” My point is that so much commentary on Bush’s focus on certain ends has obscured the rather wide policy swings on the issue of means. That is where we have had the most significant rifts with our allies: not over the issue of whether Iraq or Iran or North Korea is a problem, but on the question of how to handle these problems. This is more than simply applying international law because we want to make nice with our allies (and you know Taft’s argument is not that, Julian), it is about using international law because it provides a more effective tool for our policy ends than the “go it alone” approach. See here and here for two discussions.

I think that the Administration's hostility to international law and institutions is driven more by the right wing's irrational fears than by an appreciation of realistic foreign policy making. His father, remember, was a master of using international institutions to forward US policy interests. His father also lost an election when the Republican Party right wing jumped ship. (Anger over not flouting the UN and driving on to Baghdad and anger over NAFTA, to give two examples, played a role in this.)

In the end, Julian, your post doesn’t seem to defend foreign policy schizophrenia so much as hope that what we are seeing is less schizophrenia and more a shift to a thoughtful strategy of give-and-take. I would ask, by the way, what is to be gained by some of this give-and-take in practice. Why withdraw consular relations jurisdiction after we tell courts to follow the ICJ (except for the fact that we feared we were about to lose a case and we didn’t want to play anymore)? Why take the Law of Sea Treaty—supported by our military, our industry, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Democrats—and support it one minute, then let it dangle precipitously (except for the fact that some far right idealogues have drawn sci-fi scenarios of it being an attempt at world government)? Why twist our stance on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the point that no-one seems to actually know what our point of view is anymore?

Give-and-take as a diplomatic strategy works when you use it to send a coherent signal; too often, though, the Bush team is just making noise.

And the far right likes what it's hearing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philosophically my views are much more inline with Julian's posts and arguments, and I think one comment by Professor Borgen highlights one reason.

He notes:
"That is where we have had the most significant rifts with our allies: not over the issue of whether Iraq or Iran or North Korea is a problem, but on the question of how to handle these problems."

The problem really is, however, that many of our allies strategies and past tactics don't handle the problems we're facing. The EU can talk with Iran for the next ten years about nuclear proliferation, or north Korea, or try to enforce 12-years of sanctions and resolutions with Saddam, and there seems no limit to these allies talk-to-death approach. For many on the right, the argument isn't on one level how our methods differ from those of our allies, ersatz or otherwise, but whether our allies really intend to handle the problems we're collectively faced with, or merely kick the can down the road.

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