Mini Teaser: Charles Krauthammer, Mark Brzezinski, Pater Lavelle, Jay Loo, Moshe Zvi Marvit and Fred Siegel.

by Author(s): Charles KrauthammerMark BrzezinskiPeter LavelleJay LooMoshe Zvi MarvitFred Siegel

Krauthammer Responds

In his letter to the editor (Winter 2004/05), Francis Fukuyama repeats his contention that my advocacy of a muscular foreign policy-what he calls the "testicular route to hearts and minds"-derives from a peculiarly neoconservative identification with "Israel's experience dealing with the Arabs." He cites nothing to support this connection. He simply asserts it. 

This assertion is not just unsupported. It is wrong. Israel's experience is neither definitive nor particularly instructive. Having pursued both hard- and soft-line policies in dealing with its Arab enemies, Israel can hardly be a model for anyone-57 years of pursuing these policies have left it mired in conflict and subject to more terrorism than any country on earth.

My approach to Islamism is identical to the muscular approach I consistently advocated against our previous global challenge, Soviet communism. From opposing the nuclear freeze to advocating U.S. support for anti-Communist insurgencies in Nicaragua and Afghanistan and around the world, my views on muscularity in confronting existential enemies have not changed. Given that history has demonstrated, definitively and with rare clarity, the wisdom and success of precisely this approach in our last existential struggle, it is entirely logical that I would apply it to the current one. What has any of this to do with Israel? 

Does Fukuyama's attribution to me and to other neoconservatives of excessive and inappropriate identity with Israel amount to anti-Semitism? Fukuyama challenges me to answer the question. My answer is: I don't know and I don't care. I don't care what people feel. I care what they say. After speculating about my motives, he invites me to speculate about his. I decline. I do foreign policy, not psychiatry.

Fukuyama opens his letter by saying that he really does not want to do any more "extended exegesis of Krauthammer's writings" and is carrying on his argument only to defend himself on the issue of his Judaizing neoconservatism. But he cannot resist closing his letter with: "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." 

Again Fukuyama is divorced from the facts. Do I support the general thrust of this administration's foreign policy? Of course I do. It can hardly be otherwise: The policies it has carried out reflect the pre-emptive, unilateralist form of democratic realism that I had been advocating for over a decade-long before this administration even came into being. Where I have found fault with the administration has been in its radically universalist rhetoric and ambitions (a major theme of my AEI speech) and in its often hesitant execution of particular policies, beginning with its initial response to 9/11. 

Fukuyama's charge against me is little more than an unsubtle way of positioning himself. He is saying: Unlike other neoconservatives who blindly defend Bush, here I am, the brave neoconservative dissenter, courageously speaking out against the Iraq War. 

There are many ways to describe someone who joins the stampede of commentators bailing out on Iraq a year after the shooting began. Courageous is not one of them. Until things became difficult, Fukuyama had been utterly silent on Iraq. During the run-up to the war, the war itself, and the early months of occupation, he said nothing. He told the New York Times that he privately opposed the war, but kept quiet at the time. Why? Because "I figured it was going to happen anyway, and there wasn't anything I could do about it." 

Is that the criterion for declaring oneself on the great issue of the day? We all write, never knowing whether what we say is going to "do anything." But we say it nonetheless out of conviction and intellectual honesty. To sit on the sidelines when the most critical foreign policy decision of our time is being made, and then to pop up a year later to be 20th in line to attack the policy is not just pusillanimous. It is intellectual opportunism. 

I am willing to defend what I have written, both in favor of and against administration foreign policy. Is Fukuyama willing to defend his silence? 

Charles Krauthammer
Washington, DC

The Will of the People? 

In "Putin and His Enemies" (Winter 2004/05), Alexey K. Pushkov criticizes those who call for "support for reformers" in Russia, stating that such reformers are responsible for much of the corruption and other excesses during the Yeltsin era. 

On December 20, 2004, the highly respected Freedom House announced in a major survey of global freedom that political rights and civil liberties have become so restricted in Russia that the country has been downgraded to "Not Free." Freedom House's announcement includes the following statement: "Russia's status fell from Partly Free to Not Free because of the flawed nature of the country's parliamentary elections in December 2003 and presidential elections in 2004, the further consolidation of state control of the media, and the imposition of official curbs on opposition political parties and groups." 

Are we who hope to see democracy and human rights flourish in Russia supposed to ignore this development? Is it a contribution to U.S.-Russian relations not to react to ample evidence of regression in human rights and democracy in Russia? Today in Russia, those calling for political, legal and economic reform go well beyond the group associated with the Yeltsin Administration. There are many voices in Russia calling for reform to advance human rights, the rule of law, civil society and freedom of the press. These voices deserve our support. 

Tragically, since Putin came to power, political pressure against NGO's advocating such reform has increased dramatically. From the arrest and harassment of human rights activists to the creation of state-sponsored "civil society" organizations whose mission is to crowd out independent actors, the Russian government has moved to shut down independent critics of its policy. 

Mr. Pushkov notes that politicians in Russia pursuing reform programs supported by the West were "massively rejected" by Russian voters in the last elections. But in the most recent national elections in Russia, independent monitors have concluded that there was government intervention to influence the electoral process. Indeed, the most recent Duma elections were termed a "regression in the democratization process" by monitors for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. 

America has a broad agenda for its relationship with Russia, including working with Russia as a partner against terrorism and nuclear proliferation. These objectives are in Russia's interest as well. Constructive work with Putin to achieve these ends need not be purchased at the price of democratic regression in Russia. 

The tepid American reaction to disturbing trends under Putin's leadership reinforces the Russian president's worst instincts, as we saw in Putin's role in the recent elections in Ukraine. To look the other way as President Putin cracks down on human rights activists and journalists and consolidates control over Russian political life is not in the long-term interest of either the United States or Russia. 

Mark Brzezinski
Washington, DC

While I agree with much of Alexey Pushkov's analysis, I question his use of the word "authoritarian." 

This understates the nature of Putin's political objectives as he forces through his reformist agenda. The Kremlin's capture of the presidency and the legislative branch was pursued not to create an "authoritarian" regime or to dismiss the concept of democracy. Rather, having attained unchallenged power, the Kremlin is in the process of creating the foundation of a Russia-specific democracy, planted in the soil of economic reform. By reforming the economy and cutting "oligarchic capitalism" down to size, the Kremlin's primary goal is to create an economic environment in which the average citizen can be a meaningful actor. 

Putin engages society through a series of informal referenda and public opinion polls. It is true, formal representative institutions under Putin are not designed to represent the interests of the population-only to force through reform from above as quickly as possible. This arrangement should not be seen as inherently anti-democratic or authoritarian. To accept such assumptions is to argue that Russian society is unable or not allowed to identify, articulate and act upon its own interests. 

The protests against the "cash for social benefits" reforms have proven that there are limits to the Kremlin's bulldozing of reform, particularly when reforms negatively impact the average Russian and those sections of society marginalized by the failed system of Yeltsin and the oligarchs. However, in a strikingly "un-authoritarian" way, the Kremlin has reacted to protests and is quickly restructuring some of the social reforms.

When faced with strong social discontent concerning a law passed last year restricting public protests, the Kremlin backed down and rewrote the legislation. Pensioners and other groups mobilized to force the Kremlin to rethink social reform. Even the battered oligarchs spoke out against the heavy hand of the tax authorities, claiming the Kremlin was undermining its own goal of doubling GDP in a decade. Two working days after they made the protest known to the Kremlin, changes to tax laws were announced. All of this hardly sounds like an "authoritarian" regime in action. Actually, it appears that the system Putin has created is looking for some form of equilibrium to balance a variety of interests. 

Essay Types: Essay