Report and Retort: A Response to John Hulsman

The following is part of an ongoing debate between Barak M. Seener and John C. Hulsman. Seener gets the last word here.

The following is part of an ongoing debate between Barak M. Seener and John C. Hulsman.Seener offered a critique of Hulsman's article "Designated Driver Diplomacy." Hulsman responded, and Seener gets the last word here.

It is impressive how a supposed response manages to ignore several examples of how Britain either openly opposed or pro-actively reinforced U.S. foreign policy. These examples cannot be dismissed as merely being "trees pointing the other direction" in comparison to a forest, as they were pivotal moments in history. Instead, an onslaught is made upon my alleged policy leanings due to my being a "representative of the Henry Jackson Society." I have never been affiliated with neoconservatism for reasons described below. Ironically, I find myself in the position of wanting to cite the same Cary Grant lines despite it being unbefitting for an alleged neoconservative to recall the effeminate and debonair British actor.

In an emotive appeal to those subscribing to conspiracy theories, the author holds neoconservatives responsible for hijacking U.S. foreign policy. None of the Bush's cabinet advisors were neoconservatives. They were traditional realists who perceived the world as a dark and dangerous place with amorphous transnational threats that needed to be tackled, especially after 9/11. The notion of a neoconservative coup- which ignores most Democrats' position in 2002-is facile. It also enables those not subscribing to neoconservatism to evade responsibility for also actively promoting Iraq's invasion.

Just as historical readings ought not be conducted in a two-dimensional manner, similarly policy affiliations are allowed to be nuanced.

Condoleezza Rice, the disciple of the archetypal realist Brent Scowcroft, had, by 2002, already said extensively that the debate between realists and idealists was outdated. It made sense during the Cold War to weigh the contrasting approaches of realism and neoconservatism, focusing on the external balance of power between states or internal machinations. It is also worth noting Rice's poignant declaration: "I recognize that this debate has won tenure for and sustained the careers of many generations of scholars. As a policymaker, I can tell you that these categories obscure reality. In real life, power and values are married completely." Indeed, Scowcroft was among other realists that included James Baker who wrote an open letter published by the Council on Foreign Relations, which stated that nation-building was one of the most pressing strategic requirements for the United States to invest in. One would have thought that such aspirations would be the remit of liberal imperialists. The eminent British professor Robert Singh has repeatedly offered his perspective that due to the coherence and general cross-party consensus on foreign policy, it is to be assumed that a future administration, regardless of the party, will adopt similar policies.

Indulging in perceiving a "macro-historical reality" obfuscates an undisciplined attempt at making sweeping generalisations and ignoring counter-trends that are not peripheral to geopolitical developments. Such untidiness is reflected in not addressing a specific example that I provided which demonstrate that I am not "firmly placed in the neoconservative camp." While the neoconservatives embraced the 2002 National Security Strategy, I clearly referred to it as having committed the cardinal sin of promoting democracy indiscriminately, disregarding local cultures. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a paragon of neoconservatism, also recognized in her classic essay "Dictatorships and Double Standards" that there was a sequence for democracy promotion and that right-wing authoritarian regimes ought to be supported as opposed to left-wing autocratic ones. She also did not embrace whole-heartedly the Iraq War or the notion of regime-change. Despite retaining her neoconservative credentials, these ideas also happened to sit comfortably with realists. A more recent example can be provided in the generic concern among those in the democratic West with China's appalling human rights record. Irrespective of policy leanings, nobody in the policy community advances outwardly hostile policies towards China, despite awaiting the surge of democratic forces in China. This is because the United States seeks China's compliance with international interventions in areas such as Darfur. Thus the United States wields traditional diplomatic tools to bring China into the capitalist world. Similarly, the United States involves China in security frameworks so that the latter will maintain a vested interest in North Korean stability. At the same time, we do not avoid lecturing China on human rights. Attempting to establish distinctions between ideologies which genuinely were dichotomous at the time of the Cold War is today simply spurious.

There are numerous flaws with the neoconservative approach which are not simply evident as a result of the debacle in Iraq but were glaring at the time of the war's genesis. Realism and liberal interventionism were also not fully equipped to deal with the post-Cold War threats. I, however, will not divert the attention of the topic at hand to address them as it is not within the remit of the article.