Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Condi isn't Dean Acheson

And it's not the moustache....

Very interesting "realist" critique by diplomatic historian Walter LaFeber (thanks to C.F.) of The Flawed Rice Doctrine of ‘Transformational Diplomacy’ and American Global Policy. Here are some highlights:

In her January 18, 2006 speech at Georgetown University, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attracted attention by arguing that U.S. foreign policy would henceforth be shaped by a “transformational diplomacy . . . rooted in partnership, not paternalism.” Her address was taken by some observers to mean that the neoconservative policy assumptions which have condemned the United States to the tragedy in Iraq and elsewhere were being replaced by a realist perspective taking American policy back to the more constructive days of the partnerships George Marshall and Dean Acheson (whom she singled out for praise in her question-and-answer session), formed with Western Europe and Japan. These partnerships aimed to institutionalize both the rebuilding of those war-devastated partners and the containment of the Soviet Union.
A closer reading of her speech leads to another conclusion: the address is mostly old, failed policy dressed in necessarily different rhetoric. Most significantly, Rice began the speech not by emphasizing partnership, but with George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address from which she quoted that it is U.S. policy “to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” This “mission,” Rice added, is “transformational diplomacy,” and nowhere does she say this diplomacy came out of any partnership – which is well, because it didn’t.
Nor could it. Only a person ignorant of human history could seriously discuss “ending tyranny in our world.” Rice’s putative hero, Dean Acheson, told a group of military and diplomatic officers in 1949 that the idea that good and evil could not coexist in the world was the height of absurdity. Good and evil, Acheson noted in his own inimitable fashion, had coexisted ever since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, and given the historical record (and, one might add, nuclear weapons) , such coexistence, this Cold Warrior believed, had to continue. The partners Rice has in mind tend to see the world through Acheson’s eyes, not the President’s or, apparently, her own.. Given Acheson and the partners’ long historical view and insights into human nature, they did not, and do not, believe that “tyranny” can be eradicated everywhere; it is rooted in a human nature that cannot be changed, only contained. Bush and Rice’s religious views, and the President’s faith in American military power, may lead them to believe human nature can be universally cleansed to suit their idealism, but all of recorded history is on the side of Acheson and the partners.
(Read the rest...).
And while we are discussing America's chief diplomat's performance, this item from Asia Times about Seoul and Washington closer to divorce is quite amazing (again, thanks C.F.). Among other things it reports that:
South Korea and the US have drifted so far apart on North Korea policy there is now speculation the longtime partners are getting close to divorce. Kurt Campbell, former US deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific, reportedly likened the two to a king and queen who live separately but pretend to be happy before theirsubjects. The allies do not want to announce their divorce because it would have enormous consequences, he said at a seminar in Washington on February 27....
It is believed US officials no longer trust their South Korean counterparts on North Korea policy. Fueling that speculation has been the recent friction between Seoul and Washington over how to deal with US allegations North Korea is counterfeiting US dollars. While Washington has stepped up financial pressure on Pyongyang in an effort to defend the US currency, Seoul appears to have opposed such a move....
Meanwhile, the number of South Korean officials voicing concern over US financial pressure is increasing. If US sanctions designed to contain North Korea economically work, there is a strong possibility of a severe diplomatic conflict between South Korea and the United States. Such a diplomatic split could be a death blow to the half-century-long alliance, diplomatic sources say....
Speculation that the alliance is in trouble is also precipitated by Seoul's three-year objection to Washington's policy aimed at enabling US Forces Korea (USFK) to be moved about freely beyond the Korean Peninsula...With the South Korea-US alliance rapidly deteriorating, USFK is having difficulty securing training fields across the nation....

Iraq, Iran, North (and South) Korea, Russia, China, Palestine...What else could go wrong with these guys?

Pundits who screw-up: No big deal...

Matt Barganier desconstructs Andrew Sullivan's mea sorta culpa on Iraq in Time magazine (Sullivan seen above in a thoughtful pose on Bill Maher's "Real Time"). There have been many of those in recent weeks (including by WFB and Fukuyama). In an commentary published last year, Oops! I helped start a War which was about one of the earlier apologizing-war-aplogists, I pointed out to the contrast between the way the losers who operate in the market (including financial analysts) are punished and the reality in which the losers in the political game (including foreign policy analysts) rarely get punished:
Imagine: for a few years you were investing the money you had saved for your daughter's college education in one of those moderately conservative plans that provided some increase in the value of the investment without exposing it to major risks. But then your financial planner – let's call him Ken P. – got in touch with you and came up with a really great idea.

He heard through the grapevine on Wall Street that there was a grand company in Texas – it was called Enron – that was for all practical purposes a cash cow. His recommendation was to take out the money that was supposed to get your daughter through Harvard and that was invested in that dead-end Fidelity fund and put it all in Enron stocks. And since you trusted that guy, you ended up following his advice – and let's just say that you are still trying to figure out how to pay for your daughter's junior year.

Your financial planner did call you to apologize. "I'm so, so sorry. Really! Really!" he said. "You have to understand that the conventional wisdom on the Street at the time was that Enron was very big."

Indeed, major investment banks had forecast at the time a major rise in the value of Enron, whose bosses were also close friends of a powerful political family. Again, Ken P. pleaded for your forgiveness and expressed his hope that you would continue to use his services.

Would you actually do that? I don't think so. But now instead of a financial adviser, imagine a foreign policy expert who tells you in 2002 that you should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to Osama bin Laden and the perpetrators or 9/11, and that the Iraqi people would welcome you as their liberators. But it's 2005, and with no WMD, no Saddam links to Osama, not to mention the more than 1,500 American casualties and the prospects of a long quagmire in Mesopotamia, you would probably fire that expert.

Now let's imagine that there is such an expert and his name is Kenneth Pollack. A former U.S. intelligence officer, he published in September 2002 a book with an ominous-sounding title, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.

Mr. Pollack, it should be emphasized, was a Democrat who worked on the Middle East under President Bill Clinton and was well-regarded among the members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. In short, he wasn't a devout Bushie or a neocon ideologue. And when he assured the readers of his book and op-ed columns – and the many viewers of our talking-head television news shows – that Saddam had WMD and links to al-Qaeda, and he called on the United States to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, people around Washington listened.

If ideas do matter in determining policies, Mr. Pollack clearly made a difference when it came to the decision to go to war against Iraq. Bill Keller, the editor of the New York Times, admitted that he had been opposed to the invasion of Iraq and then he read The Threatening Storm and changed his view.

More importantly, some Democrat lawmakers on Capitol Hill who had been wavering on the issue probably decided to give President George W. Bush a green light to invade Iraq after listening to Mr. Clinton's respected aide. So it won't be an exaggeration to argue that if a list were compiled of the 1,000 or so individuals who are responsible for the mess America finds itself in Iraq these days, Mr. Pollack would be on it.

But don't worry. Mr. Pollack has not fallen on his sword; he is not even looking for work. After all, he did apologize for his pre-Iraq war role as a leading wise man. Indeed, during a post-Iraq war TV appearance, he actually said that he was "apologizing" for his mistakes and that he was "sorry."

He was "really, really sorry!" he told the television viewers in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. And you know, he explained, the conventional wisdom among most "intelligence experts" at the time was that Saddam had all those things. And weren't there MI6 and Mossad reports in 2002 that made exactly the same point? So who can really blame him?

Apologies accepted, and so let's close The Threatening Storm chapter. He is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who continues to write op-ed columns in the New York Times, make TV appearances, and testify on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Pollack has just published another bestseller, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America, in which he provides Americans with recommendations on how to deal with Iran. This time he doesn't call for invading that country.

Thank God for this and other small favors.

Well, all of this makes a lot of sense if you're familiar with the arguments made by F.A. Hayek and other classical liberal critics of the state and politics in general. The market and especially the price system allows consumers and producers to gain immediate access into info about the supply and demand conditions of a product, and if you own a business that manufactures the product and you fail to respond to the changes in the market prices you'll be punished very quickly and even go bankrupt (and if you are an investment analyst, you'll probably be fired if you advised your client to invest in that failed business). The political system doesn't have anything that resembles the price system which explains why the failed Political Man (including foreign policy analysts) can survive longer than the failed Economic Man. For more on all of this, read the recent issue of Critical Review, which is one of my favorite journals on political and economic theory.