Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Axis of Evilishness

So there's a typically brain-dead article in the National Review about Obama's West Point speech. In this article, the author says that Obama is speaking of a new internationalist order "on the heels of failures" in Iran and North Korea. This is right-wing blather has to be dissected. What failures are being discussed? First, apparently, the author thinks that the recent deal between Turkey, Brazil, and Iran is a sign of a "failure." The picture of Lula and Ahmadinejad holding hands is what is specifically what the author means by "failure." Is that a failure? Well, it depends on what you think "success" looks like. The author praises Bush II for having the guts to "go it alone" and use "American military might" to "win" in Iraq, creating a safer world. I would count it rather as a big success that Iran offered a deal that it refused two years ago, and the Chinese and Russians are STILL on board with new sanctions. Bush II never got anywhere with Iran.

Similarly in North Korea, Bush II presided over 8 years of saber-rattling that resulted in a nuclear-armed North Korea. That is his failure, not President Obama's. President Obama has been trying, through SecState Clinton's terrific efforts, to find a way to close the circle around North Korea through diplomacy. It is finally working.

But what of the term "failure"? It's not just wrong, it's wrongheaded. It expresses a past-tense over-and-done-with attitude. Nothing more you can do; a failure.

Nothing more except war or threats of war. And that's what it's all about. The far right, including the National Review, wants to use US military power to overthrow the regimes in Iran and North Korea, or to 'punish' them severely with military attacks. Or they want to threaten a whole lot of it. The belief that this will isolate Iran and NK, rather than us, is belied by the Iraq experience, of course. They are angry that Obama is not trying to intimidate our enemies. Anything else is failure.

This is why it was so important to defeat McCain in the 2008 election. McCain's foreign policy consisted entirely of wanting to attack Iran (or Russia). Same with Lieberman. They view real diplomacy as weakness or cowardice. This leaves almost nothing else. Sure, these neocons act as if there is another option short of war - they claim that if we just threaten and intimidate enough, we can get Iran and NKorea (or Russia, or China) to give in to our demands. But they know it's really about war. We can't send Perry's White Ships around the world again. You can't defeat dictators in the modern world by threats of violence. It just plays into their own domestic agendas, empowering hardliners and enraging patriots against colonialism.

What is the source of this fundamental misunderstanding about coercive diplomacy? Lack of empathy. Neocons don't know how to put themselves in the shoes of those whom they threaten. When they divide the world into "us" and "them", into "good" and "evil", they ascribe totally different motitvations to our adversaries. The resulting saber-rattling and gunboat diplomacy is premised on the idea that we can intimidate these lesser people. There is a tinge of racism about the whole enterprise, as if we liberals just don't know "how to handle them." Keep the wogs in their place, you know.

Imagine how the US would react if Iran threatened to attack an American nuclear reactor: would we lean towards accomodation or confrontation? Duh - confrontation. Here's the key insight that destroyed imperialism, the insight that changed both the attitudes of the colonized and the colonizers: they are the same as we. Iran reacts to intimidation just as we do, with defiance. This is why we lost Vietnam, because we never figured out that they were people with aspirations and motivations just like we have. And, of course, neocons still think we just should have tried harder, with bigger bombs. This is the meaning of the Iranian Revolution and all other anti-colonial revolutions of the past 60 years: Non-western peoples no longer believe in their own inferiority. As a direct consequence, imperialism doesn't work anymore. Saber-rattling is just as archaic as it sounds.


Raised By Republicans said...

It seems to me like American conservatism has sold out so thoroughly to the angry white male crowd that this kind of world view is simply the application of that anger to international affairs.

You are right, in terms of tangible results, the Obama administration has racked up a series of successes:

1) He's built up a coalition to contain Iran and forced Iran to at least make the pretense of compromising.

2) He got the G7 to take a coordinated response to the 2008 banking crisis which prevented a global melt down that would have put the entire industrialized world into the situation we now see in Iceland.

3) He got the Chinese to cooperate with the second accomplishment. They could have made it more difficult but did not.

I'm sure I'm leaving some out but I've been impressed with the results the Obama people are getting. But to some it's better feel like a tough guy watching wars on Fox News.

The Law Talking Guy said...

You're putting as "accomplishment" cozying up to a bunch of crazy commies? =)

The problem is that as a policy tool, war works poorly.