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.
If managed with common sense and a long-term strategy in mind, the United States does not have to choose between having good relations with Russia and China and supporting allies like Taiwan and Georgia. In any case, China will cooperate with the United States when Beijing decides such cooperation is in its interest, even if it is not happy with the approach of the United States toward Taiwan at any given moment. The United States should certainly avoid unnecessary acrimony with Russia, but managing the partnership does not mean always having to yield to Russian demands, especially when they conflict with America's overriding security goal of creating a democratic, stable Eurasia.
America's conception of its own vital interest is shifting. The United States has now placed at the top of its foreign policy agenda the advance of democracy in the broader Middle East and neighboring regions as a bulwark against Islamist radicalism and extremism there. Democracy and realpolitik go hand in hand in the post-9/11 world. The new enemy is transnational and cannot be contained by exclusive reliance on large state actors, especially those that aggravate extremist tensions through repressive policies.
Gvosdev and Tanner end by citing Ronald Reagan, who stated, "I am hardline and will never appease [the Soviets]. But I do want to try to let them see there is a better world if they'll show by deed that they want to get along with the free world." This is indeed the right approach-in dealing with China and Russia.
Project for the New American Century
GVOSDEV & TANNER RESPOND: We would like to thank Gary Schmitt for his thoughtful reply to our essay. For reasons of space, we cannot present a comprehensive response to his points. We would disagree, however, with his assertion that the United States "does not have to choose" between keeping good relations with Russia and China and supporting allies like Taiwan or Georgia. This, to us, seems like wishful thinking. Sometimes we have to choose. And as realists, we feel that our choices must be grounded in a clear assessment of America's foreign policy priorities.
In combatting the new threats of the 21st century-terrorism and WMD proliferation-the United States cannot do it alone, and it cannot do it via cosmetic coalitions where the United States bears almost all of the burden. We do not advocate "exclusive" reliance on large state actors, but their essential contributions cannot be minimized. Beijing, for example, encouraged Islamabad to cooperate with Washington in the run-up to the American offensive against the Taliban, cooperated with the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and allowed an fbi office in Beijing. Certainly, China or Russia can deliver more than they have. But the cooperation we are already receiving from both-including on Afghanistan and North Korea-is not inconsequential. And Schmitt doesn't explain how the United States can ignore vital Chinese or Russian concerns and yet expect a complete and full accommodation of American priorities.Essay Types: Essay