Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Arrogant Empire: Fareed Zakaria, writing in Newsweek, has a long essay on anti-Americanism, diplomacy, and Iraq. It's a thoughtful piece, though a touch one-sided. For example, he mentions America's desire to maintain global hegemony, while conceding that such a policy makes eminent sense; but he neglects to point out the ulterior motives that countries like Germany and France have for opposing U.S. foreign policy. He mentions that Bush has made enemies by cutting off the middle east "peace process" until Arafat is out of power, but fails to mention the absolute necessity of a trustworthy negotiating partner. I agree with Zakaria that this administration's diplomacy has been one of mixed messages, arrogance, and short-sightedness. But Zakaria again fails to mention that the Iraq situation has several times neared collapse as the European powers, aside from Britain, drifted away from the containment policy they now trumpet so strongly. Anyone writing on this subject is duty-bound to address the fact that, only a few years ago, France and Russia (for self-serving, and "unilateralist," reasons) actively campaigned for an end to economic sanctions and trade restrictions in Iraq. Those allies that oppose our action today, Zakaria fails to note, have played a dangerous game on Iraq. Our foreign policy may be self-serving and a bit coarse, but theirs has been slick and often downright duplicitous. I won't rehash the whole neocon argument for a muscular American interventionism, partly because Zakaria is not unfair in his own description of it, and partly because that policy, as articulated by politicians like John McCain and pundits like Bill Kristol, has been an occasional inspiration, though not a blueprint, for the Bush administration. Put bluntly, Bush is winging it, having opposed McCain in the 2000 primary on interventionism, calling it "nation building." Though officials like Wolfowitz and advisors like Perle advocate the neocon view, Bush's closest confidant, Cheney, is much more of a realist, and Donald Rumsfeld, who also came of age in the Ford administration, has an equal measure of realpolitik in his makeup. (See Bob Woodward's post-9/11 reporting to see Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz arguing opposing strategies, to the annoyance of Bush himself.)

Zakaria is a great read, even if you disagree with him.

More: Michael Barone defends the administrations diplomatic efforts; concedes that they were, in some specifics, flawed; and concludes that it doesn't matter because France's security council vote was never really in play anyway.

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