A very intelligent critique of Robert Kaplan...
...has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review (via Antiwar.com).
Euphorias of Perrier: The Case Against Robert D. Kaplan by Tom Bissell. He certainly makes a good point here:
How to deal with this fractious world is Kaplan’s great question. Some years ago, he has written, after a conference where “intellectuals held forth about the moral responsibility of the United States in the Balkans,” he took a cab back to the airport and was asked by the cabbie, “If there’s no oil there, what’s in it for us?” This was, Kaplan says, “a question none of the intellectuals had answered.” And shame on them, because “thousands of words and a shelf of books in recent years about our moral interest in the region do not add up to one sentence of national interest. . . . It is only from bottom-line summaries that clear-cut policy emerges, not from academic deconstruction.” Kaplan once believed that something called “amoral self-interest” should be the defining aspect of American foreign policy. His hope for the Clinton administration was that it could “condense” a justification for Balkan intervention “into folksy shorthand,” because “speaking and writing for an elite audience is not enough.” Robert D. Kaplan, meet George W. Bush. The writer who could once argue that “the world is too vast and its problems too complicated for it to be stabilized by American authority,” has found his leader in a man who in the 2000 presidential debates proclaimed that the job of the military was “to fight and win war,” not toil as “nation builders.” Kaplan is said to have briefed President Bush in 2001, and today finds these protean gentlemen in a surlier and far more interventionist mood. They have fused an apparent personal fondness for strutting machismo with a fetishized idea of simplicity’s value. Both have willed into unsteady reality extremely forced senses of personal identification with the common American, whose drooling need for that which is clear and cut trumps all other moral and political considerations. Bush has gone from an isolationist to an interventionist minus the crucial intermediary stage wherein he actually became interested in other places. Kaplan has traveled from the belief that America should only “insert troops where overwhelming moral considerations crosshatch with strategic ones” to arguing that “September 11 had given the U.S. military the justification to go out scouting for trouble, and at the same time to do some good,” seemingly without understanding that he has even changed. Doubtless both men would sit any skeptic down and soberly explain that September 11 changed everything. What September 11 changed, however, was not the world itself but their understanding of America’s role in the world. For President Bush and Robert D. Kaplan, September 11 primarily means never having to say you’re sorry.
Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote that war is the extension of politics by other means. Bush and Kaplan, on the other hand, appear to advocate war as cultural politics by other means. This has resulted in a collision of second-rate minds with third-rate policies. While one man attempts to make the world as simple as he is able to comprehend it, the other whispers in his various adjutants’ ears that they are on the side of History itself.