I HAD NOT intended to respond to Charles Krauthammer's "In Defense of Democratic Realism" (Fall 2004), since my aim was to stimulate a debate over the Bush Administration's foreign policy and not to spend time in an extended exegesis of Krauthammer's writings. I am compelled to respond, however, by one thing he wrote.
Krauthammer says I have a "novel way of Judaizing neoconservatism", and that my argument is a more "implicit and subtle" version of things said by Pat Buchanan and Mahathir Mohamad. Since he thinks the latter two are anti-Semites, he is clearly implying that I am one as well. If he really thinks this is so, he should say that openly.
What I said in my critique of his speech was, of course, quite different. I said that there was a very coherent set of strategic ideas that have come out of Israel's experience dealing with the Arabs and the world community, having to do with threat perception, pre-emption, the relative balance of carrots and sticks to be used in dealing with the Arabs, the United Nations, and the like. Anyone who has dealt with the Arab-Israeli conflict understands these ideas, and many people (myself included) believe that they were well suited to Israel's actual situation. You do not have to be Jewish to understand or adopt these ideas as your own, which is why people like Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld share them. And it is not so hard to understand how one's experience of Arab-Israeli politics can come to color one's broader view of the world: The 1975 "Zionism is racism" resolution deeply discredited the UN, in the eyes of Jews and non-Jews alike, on issues having nothing to do with the Middle East. This is not about Judaism; it is about ideas. It would be quite disingenuous of Charles Krauthammer to assert that his view of how Israel needs to deal with the Arabs (that is, the testicular route to hearts and minds) has no impact on the way he thinks the United States should deal with them. And it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether this is the best way for the United States to proceed.
I understand perfectly well that Krauthammer has a narrower interpretation of American interests than William Kristol or Robert Kagan, and that he wants to use democracy promotion primarily as a tool to achieve realist ends. I would say that both of these positions are wrong: What we need is not democratic realism, but a realistic Wilsonianism that matches means to ends better than the Bush Administration has done. Krauthammer should consider that if democracy is merely a means and not an end of our policy, we would never support Israel as strongly as we do.
Now that the partisanship of the election is past, it is important for American policymakers to sit down quietly and reflect a bit on the past four years. A lot of mistakes and poor judgment calls were made; some were by individuals and others were failures of institutions. Charles Krauthammer joins the Bush Administration in doggedly defending everything that has been said and done in U.S. foreign policy over the past three years. Let's hope this doesn't remain the pattern as we move into the first year of the new administration.
Johns Hopkins University
Friends in Need?
I WOULD LIKE to offer a point of clarification regarding Nikolas K. Gvosdev's and Travis Tanner's "Wagging the Dog" (Fall 2004). The authors stated: "The United States has on many occasions demonstrated its resolve to Beijing through weapons sales, public statements and deployments of the Sixth Fleet." I suspect they actually meant the Seventh Fleet, which is responsible for the Taiwan Straits. The Sixth Fleet is based in Gaeta, Italy. Its area of responsibility is Europe, Africa and Israel.
Johns Hopkins University
HANS MORGENTHAU said it in 1948, and it bears repeating here: "Never allow a weak ally to make decisions for you." Those who do "lose their freedom of action by identifying their own national interest completely with those of the weak ally."
Chair, Political Science Dept.
NIKOLAS GVOSDEV and Travis Tanner would have you believe that the tail is "Wagging the Dog"; that reckless leadership by allies in Taiwan and Georgia is putting at risk the larger national security interests of their key benefactor, the United States. However, the evidence they present for this conclusion is scant at best.
They over-dramatize the actions of tiny Taiwan with respect to its enormous neighbor. How irresponsible indeed of the Taiwanese to discuss defending themselves from some 600 PRC missiles pointed their way, and how worse it is to begin amending a constitution written nearly fifty years ago for a one-party dictatorship! These changes will not, as President Chen has promised, touch on any issue that might be construed as changing the status quo in cross-Strait relations. As for Beijing accepting the current situation-China spends enormous amounts on developing a military capability to coerce Taiwan; routinely practices invasion scenarios; publicly states that it reserves the right to settle the dispute militarily if Taiwan does not agree to talks leading to unification in the near future; and works assiduously at denying Taiwan any semblance of international legitimacy.
Nor should Beijing's cooperation with the United States on non-proliferation and the War on Terror be overstated. China's cooperation on these issues has been perfunctory: No serious pressure has been applied to North Korea, Chinese companies continue to assist states like Iran with their weapons program, and the only "terrorists" Beijing sees are those who are opposed to its dictatorial ways, such as the Uighur Muslims.
With regard to Georgia and Russia, it is Putin's increasingly open accretion of authoritarian power that is creating a new rift in U.S.-Russian relations. Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili may have taken steps with which the United States was not comfortable, but no ally should be expected to ignore its own pressing national interests-especially when they involve the neutralization of three large, Russian-supported, criminal pseudo-states within the country's borders. Gvosdev and Tanner cite the tension with Russia over Abkhazia but fail to mention that the Russian government played major role in the Abkhazia problem devolving into its current dangerous state. Ultimately, U.S. national security interests lie not with placating an increasingly anti-democratic and unreliable Russia, but rather with ensuring that a democratic Georgia succeeds in becoming a beacon of hope for the rest of the region. In turn, Russia should be working with the United States and Europe to stabilize Georgia and sustain its territorial integrity, especially after the tragedy in Beslan. Such cooperation will lead to the most realistic benefits in terms of advancing the fight against terror and preventing the deadly disintegration of states in the Caucasus along ethnic lines.Essay Types: Essay