THE U.S. predicament in Iraq and other foreign-policy troubles have prompted a new realism from the Bush Administration. From an increasingly pragmatic approach to North Korea and Iran to a scaling back of the "freedom agenda" in the Middle East, caution is on the march. Still, the administration's foreign-policy vision is far from being a realist one-and no major presidential candidate has yet articulated an inspiring but pragmatic vision for America's international engagement. This creates an important opportunity-though not an easy one-for those who seek a new approach.
The Bush Administration has argued that pressuring governments around the world to become more democratic-with "all the elements of our power", as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice puts it-is essential to fighting terrorism, and it has attempted to make this the defining feature of America's foreign policy. Congress and the mainstream media seem to share this view-despite the fact that Americans themselves clearly disagree: Just 17 percent see promoting democracy as a "very important" goal for U.S. foreign policy, and 66 percent oppose using military force to make it happen.