February 28, 2011


Dallek, Robert, The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953 (New York: Harper, 2010) ("The United States, the dominant global power for the last sixty-five years, has not been innocent of actions that violate human rights and cause suffering: Eisenhower's use of the CIA to topple popular governments in Iran and Guatemala; John Kennedy's unleashing of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs to bring down Fidel Castro; Lyndon Johnson's failed war to rescue South Vietnam from Communist control; Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's four-year extension of the Vietnam War and their aid in ousting Salvador Allende's democratically elected government in Chile; Ronald Reagan's machinations supporting the contras in Nicaragua; George W. Bush's determination to spread democracy across the Middle East by overturning Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq are case studies in actions that ultimately served neither American nor international well-being." "It would be extraordinary if we could discern a common pattern in all these miscalculation by U.S. and foreign leaders. But the best we can say is that these disasters were not the result of inevitable forces beyond human control; rather they were the consequence of bad judgments and a misuse of historical experience by decision makers, who more often than not acted with the support of national majorities." Id. at 365-366.).

Dueck, Colin, Hard Line: The Republican Party and U.S. Foreign Policy Since World War II (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010) (Dueck argues, first, "that despite apparent oscillations between internationalism and isolationism, there has in fact been one overarching constant in conservative and Republican foreign policies for several decades now, namely, a hawkish and intense American nationalism. By this [Dueck] means that since at least the 1950s [that is, at least since the Korean War] , Republicans and conservatives have generally been comfortable with the use of force by the United States in world affairs, committed to building strong national defenses, determined to maintain a free hand for the United States internationally, and relatively unyielding toward potential foreign adversaries. The typical conservative Republican foreign policy approach for over half a century has been, in a word, hard-line--a long-term trend with considerable domestic political as well as international significance, especially since [according to Dueck] a majority of liberal Democrats began to abandon hard-line foreign policy views following America's war in Vietnam. Id. at 2-3. I wonder why? I doubt that any reader, regardless of his or her political leanings, will find much to disagree with Dueck on the huge divide between Republican and Democrats, or between conservatives and liberals, on questions of how hawkish American foreign policy should be and has been during Republican administration. Where the disagreement rests is in how net positive/negative to U.S. interests, and/or to the interests of those the U.S. intervenes with/against, these hawkish approach has been. But that is not the main thrust of this book. The main thrust is that Dueck purport to "demonstrate that certain particular conservative and Republican foreign policy tendencies have still been possible within the above framework, and that contrary to popular arguments centering on the importance of public intellectuals or economic interests, the crucial factor in shaping these specific policy tendencies has been presidential leadership.Presidents have acts as focal point for their party, and Republican presidents have been given remarkable leeway to redefine not only conservative foreign policies but what it mean to be a conservative in the United States." Id. at 3. I might suggest that the critical difference among the various Republican presidents since 1952 is in styles of governance and decision-making. Moreover, whether public intellectuals had any influence on particular administrations really turns on whether they had influence on public discourse generally. If they did, presidents and their administrations responded. If they did not, presidents and their administrations ignored them as well. The discussion of the whether, or rather the degree to which, the neoconservatives influenced George W. Bush's foreign policy is poorly developed. Everyone knows the neoconservatives had an influence in the rhetoric of administration, but that may be more a function of the fact that the 24/7 legitimate news cycle, 24/7 in-your-face-political-propaganda-media masquerading as news, and the Internet were something not available to George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon or Eisenhower. How does one measure, in the short time frame of a presidency, the impact of intellectuals generally? Yet, Dueck is right: the conservative and Republican have been hard-liners, not only in foreign policy but in domestic policy as well. And where has it gotten America? Have American values really taken hold around the globe? Is American respected, or merely feared as a rather large bully? Is democracy weaker or stronger in American today than it was before World War II?).

Leebaert, Derek, Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American Foreign Policy from Korea to Afghanistan (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010) ("[America's foreign policy] profound successes are nonetheless surrounded by a host of dangerous self-deceptions that I sum up as magical thinking. I call it 'magical' because shrewd, levelheaded people are so frequently bewitched into substituting passion, sloganeering, and haste for reflection, homework, and reasonable objectives." Id. at 1. "[T]he six compelling illusions that typically are in play when the country lunges in dangerous directions that it never intended to go. . . area: [1] A sensation of urgency and of 'crisis' that accompanies the belief that most any resolute action is superior to restraint. . . . [2] The faith that American-style business management . . can fix any global problem given enough time, resources, and appropriately ;can-do,' businesslike zeal. [3] A distinctively American desire to fall in behind celebrities, stars, and peddlers of some newly distilled expertise who, in foreign affairs especially, seem to glow with wizardry--and whom we turn to for guidance while believing , for a fatefully long moment, that they only have to wave their wands for success to fall from the sky. [4] An expectation of wondrous returns on investment, even when this is based on intellectual shortcuts--in fact on lack of seriousness and mental flexibility. . . . [5] Conjuring powerful, but simplified, images form the depths of 'history' to rationalize huge and amorphously expanding objectives. . . . [6] The repeated belief that America can shape the destiny of other countries overnight and that the hearts and minds of distant people are throbbing to be transformed into something akin to the way we see ourselves." Id. at 6-8. "Another way the universities can contribute to better thought is to assess how 'national security,' let alone the new calling of 'homeland security,' is being studied in the first place. As much an academic field as a field of practice, 'national security' is troublingly unanchored. ''Might you want to consider anthropology or computer science or Arabic to then someday apply it to national security?' I ask students. . . . Usually not; they're eager to jump right into the mix and 'make policy,' playing for the highest of stakes before they have proved themselves at the humbler but harder-edged crafts upon which the structure rests. For the sake of seriousness, political science departments as well as public policy schools might drop degree specialization in 'security studies.' They can instead demand more rigorous concentrations, such as in international economics, with perhaps 'national security' being offered as as a minor It's also time for university presidents and provosts to examine the extent to which members of their own faculty get seduced by the excitement of 'security studies'--including all the consulting, conferencing, and punditry--at the price of lasting scholarship." Id. at 266-267.).

Mandelbaum, Michael, The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010) ("The central task of American foreign policy, even as . . . economic challenges constrain it, is to preserve as many of the vital governmental services the United States supplies to the world as possible. The challenge for American policy in the second decade of the twenty-first century is to provide leadership on a shoestring--or at at least on a much reduced budget. There are to obvious strategies for doing so." "One is to discard some responsibilities, the better to sustain others. To govern is to choose, and in its capacity as the world's government the United States will have to choose for continuation the policies that make the most important contributions to its own and the world's well-being, while discontinuing other that, however worthy do less to promote American interest and a benign world order. The other strategy is to share the burden of furnishing global services with other countries." Id. at 62-63. "In the first decade of the twenty-first century, much of the world expressed . . . its disapproval of a series of American foreign policies, above all the war in Iraq. They generally considered such policies to be the result of the United States' having too much power. In the century's second decade the economic conditions in which the United States will have to operate will lead to what are all too likely to be far more disagreeable and globally damaging consequences of the United States' having too little power. One thing worse than an America that is too strong, the world will learn, is an America that is too weak." Id. at 194.).

Pfaff, William, Barbarian Sentiments: How the American Century Ends (New York: Hill & Wang, 1989) ("We are in an odd situation. At one level of intelligence, or consciousness, Americans--conservatives, liberals, the rest--know that their political language is false and that their ideas are sentimental and self-aggrandizing. People recognize perfectly well that the Lebanese, Iranians, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Filipinos, Africans--not to speak of the Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese--all lead lives more or less remote from the American national experience, with different perceptions and national ambitions, motivated by different values. This is evident to those who make American policy; it is the main obstacle to the success of that policy. There would be no problem . . . in any of the . . . places where the United States finds itself in collision with local feelings . . . if it were really true that American values are universally admired and sought, or would be if these were properly explained. That we are the norm of the world is simply and ancient and self-serving theme of American political rhetoric, of interest, these days, only to our ourselves." Id. at 10. "A fundamental difference between the United States and Western Europe . . . .arises from a different understanding of democracy. Americans really are democrats, however badly democracy is practiced; the national imagination does not run to any alternative. We obey the dictations of numbers, to the despair of American artists and intellectuals, who always lose to the masses, even when the mass market take them up (or most of all when it does so). The Europeans are not levelers. They believe in elites, even if from time to time they rise up and murder them. There has been a European taste for abstract truths in disregard of practical consequences, while Americans like ideas for their practical use, and will even supply the ideas--as we often do in foreign policy--to justify what we have already decided that we want to do. Europeans believe in democracy--or, at least, in republican government--but they have considered the alternatives, and continue to do so, and that scandalizes Americans." Id. at 22-23. "What was not evident to Europeans in . . . meeting with a mechanized America was the darkness in Americans' own self-perception, our vulnerability to a sense of national incompleteness as we constantly change our lives, our lack of inner security when out optimism begins to seem unfounded or betrayed. Our optimism is perhaps a necessary compensation for a pervasive insecurity, which derives from the physical and economic origins of American society--first on the frontier and then in immigrant life in cities. Hardly suspected in Europe is the profound and sometime anarchic pessimism that this insecurity can inspire in us." Id. at 51. "The American notion of the United States as the 'new' world, successor to the 'old' world, which is Europe, has affected the American approach to Asia, Africa, and the Middle East since the Second World War. We have chosen to call those states 'new nations,' and for a considerable time we tended to regard them as closer to us, in an important way, than the European states that had been their colonial rulers. Like us, we felt, they had cast off Europe to make for themselves a future that we had already explored, and toward which we led. But these supposedly new nations are actually much older than Western nations, even in terms of conventional linear history, and at the same time, by virtue of cultural differences, they exist on a different plane. The societies of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Morocco, Turkey, India, Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, China, are fundamentally different from West societies today, and, indeed, they are not like what Western civilization ever has been. They are not following us, somewhere on a road we have already traveled. They are in a different place, with a different past, It is not wholly unreasonable to think that they may have a different future." Id. at 149. "Americans are at an axial point in the national relationship to the world, unwilling to admit that the United States is not a unique nation. We are ready to despise the world again, as we did in the past. . . . Id. at 185. "America's has been a fleeting empire, forced upon us in emergency, extended with idealism--already being abandoned. . . . America's has been an unserious empire, of unexamined ideas and uncalculated ambitions, a solipsistic nation's means for reacting to an external world whose very particularity has seemed threatening. Perhaps it is to America's credit that we never wholly abandoned ourselves to a real imperialism even while practicing it, hotly denying that we were anywhere outside our borders except for the briefest time and the most disinterested purpose. Even our imperial pomp was unconvincing. The militarized ceremonial of latter-day Washington provided neither Roman grandeur not Nuremberg menace. There has always been about it the air of show biz, evidence of the effort of Hollywood pals of our Presidents, a glimpse of drum majorettes and the high school band." Id. at 186.).

Pfaff, William, The Bullet’s Song: Romantic Violence and Utopia (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004) ("Whatever the sentimentality, or kitsch, of its popular manifestations, the chivalric code held that what an individual or a society could licitly do to another was limited by a morality linked to the essential values of Western civilization. The First World War ended this, replacing it with a nihilism that men subsequently reacted to through codes of individual transcendence and collective will on the one hand, and on the other hand by utopias based on historical fictions. The fundamental problem remains unresolved today, and in some respects worsened when the dominant liberal democratic state became the international military hegemon acting under the influence of a myth of national mission." Id. at 6. "It has been the American as well as a certain French intellectual fashion in recent years to assert that 'truth' is a text, and human history a textual construction. This nihilistic ontology has represented an intellectual attempt to dispense with the past and claim the power to do away with the constraints of reality. On the other hand, modern governments, led by the United States, increasingly act with the dimensions of virtual reality their own propaganda or ideology has created, so that such constructs as 'Asian Communism' (in the 1960s) or later, 'rogue states,' 'Islamic terrorism,' or indeed 'terrorism' itself, treated as an autonomous phenomenon, acquire a power over political imagination and discourse, and official decisions, that is infrequently questioned." Id. at 17. "To go to war is not proposed as a choice for mot people, but for some it is, and for them it ought to be an existential moral choice, an act of responsible decision contributing to the making of oneself into what one is to be. The issue should be considered a moral one involving discrimination among comparative evils and the perceived consequences, and the inevitable prudential problem of intentions, doing evil in the intention of doing good, an ancient problem." "In practice, escape, the taste for adventure, or a straightforward patriotism are decisive factors. The influence of the twilight of chivalry can be seen among young men who read too much, but that is a superficial rather than deep influence in that chivalry, as an individual influence, reflects in considerable measure a notion of how one should be seen to conduct oneself." Id. at 128-129. "A gap has opened between what is said about the future in conventional public discourse and what people actually expect. . . . The political debate and popular discourse at the same time are framed as if progress and rationality remain reliable assumptions, despite the empirical evidence to the contrary provided by the events of the twentieth century, and the collapse of the intellectual foundations for such a belief." Id. at 300. "Naive or desiccated versions of the theory of historical progress provide a vocabulary in which the declarations of governments are still phrased, editorials written, and a good deal of the routine work of the academy is conducted. The downfall of Communism in 1989 was greeted as having vindicated the liberal version of Western optimism. Little that has happened since would validate that view, even in the rich and lucky societies. The United State itself, since September 2001, has, however improbably, considered itself under constant and terrifying threat from Islamic militants, failed states and contagious anarchy, and by rogue nations armed (or not armed) with mass destruction weapons, Its policies still put forward sentimental confidence in the inevitability and benevolence of global democracy (in ignorance or indifference to Aristotle's observation that democracy is justified only because oligarchy and tyranny are worse). " "This secular utopianism is the common belief among Western elites. It is scarcely possible to talk about politics, not to speak of life, outside a progressive conceptual scheme. Yet the intellectually most powerful figures of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European political thought, including Tocqueville, Burke, Burckhardt, Acton, Niebuhr, Aron, Arendt, Kennan--all were hostile to the progressive view of history, aware of the precarious role reason plays in political affairs and of the corruption of power and vanity. The real American conservatives are those who are most anxious about the country's future." Id. at 301. "There is an antiutopian tradition of political thought largely neglected in our day. It demands that one look for solutions within, rather than without, in experienced reality rather than imagination about the future, while admitting and accepting the human implication in violence a part of our nature-- to be transcended. This is the tradition I defend. It follows from the classical injunction that the human obligation is to cultivate virtue, from which the virtue of society flows--an injunction of reason, as Aristotle held." "This is a formulation that would have been familiar to the educated person in the nineteenth century. It is remote from contemporary advanced society (although it survives in the values systems of many nonmodern social groups). A solid contemporary defense can be made for it, whether virtue is considered in private or pubic, philosophical or theological, terms. However, it would be mistaken to argue that virtue 'pays,' since it often does not do so other than in its contribution to the general quality of society." Id. at 310-311.).

Pfaff, William, The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy (New York: Walker, 2010) ("The secular era has no divine reference, and frequently has constructed its substitute for that reference in the form of a synthetic religion whose god is the nation and people themselves. For that reason the modern political ideology has generally proven to be a project to control the world. The nature of an ideology is the purported discovery of the universal truth about society and history, implying a line of action necessary to conform to or exploit this discovery. A program is implied, and a national policy." "The United States has dramatically departed from the isolation of it colonial origins into the global arena to become the ideological expansionist military power it is today. Why and how this happened is important to understand, along with the historical and cultural circumstances that shaped this development. . . " Id. at 12-13. "In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, only a narrow North American elite was part of the Enlightenment intellectual upheaval, experiencing its influence in the same way as Western Europe. The intellectual life of the United States in the colonial and federal periods was dominated by religious influences, despite the contrary impression given by the profundity and elegance of h nation's founders' published debates on the institutions of the new republic and their philosophies of f government." Id. at 48. "It seems fair to say that most American churchgoers from the eighteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century (and by and large, the religiously disposed or questing unchurched as well) have been opposed to what most Europeans considered fundamental tenets of the Enlightenment." Id. at 54. "The common Western assumption about history is that it moves toward an intelligible conclusion, a belief derived from Western religious eschatology. The Enlightenment rejection of religion resulted in an effort to discover autonomous ethical 'rules' and a secular pattern in history, leading toward historicist theories . . . ." "In the case of the theory, common to liberal as well as many conservatives, of universal progress toward democracy, the presumption made is the seeming self-evident superiority of democracy makes it the natural end point of history. A foreign policy of military intervention to speed progress toward this inevitable outcome logically follows. Liberalism in its American sense nearly always sees the increasing complexity and interdependence of modern society, and the advance of technology, science, and human knowledge, as evidence of positive change in the moral (and political) nature of humans--an assumption for which there is no evidence . . . Id. at 86-87. "The United States, as the last-born offspring of the Enlightenment, is the nation perhaps more susceptible to the notion that men and women are all natural democrats waiting to be freed. . . ." "It is evident that democracy on the American model is not going to be made to prevail in the contemporary world. This leaves the American government and public with an irreconcilable contradiction between the chaotic international realities and stubbornly unresolvable wars they see around them, and the theory on which the government asserts that its acts, and in the service of which it now is is engaged in further strengthening its military foreign political services. Id. at 101.).

Weber, Steven & Bruce W. Jentleson, The End of Arrogance: America in the Global Competition of Ideas (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England (Harvard U. Press, 2010) ("All the talk in the wake of 9-11 about the 'war' of ideas just didn't click with us. . . ." "We felt that what all that talk did get right was the focus on ideas. Ideas matter. . . . Yet America's position in this global competition of ideas is less robust than most Americans think--and weaker than we need." ". . . More fundamentally, we saw across the political spectrum a shared sense that America would still provide the ideological leadership the world needed, and that aside from some outliers, that was what the world wanted." "That's the arrogance that concerns us. . . . Arrogant policies carry with them a strong sense of entitlement--an embedded belief that others should listen, understand, agree (more or less) and act in ways that the policies suggest. When arrogance fades, real and meaningful influence grows." Id. at ix-x. "As [E. H.] Carr eloquently said, the realm of international politics lacks authoritative legal mechanisms for getting to and enforcing agreements. Which means it really is politics, not law, that influences the course of human events from start to finish. And in politics, ideas and ideology are a critical currency." Id. at 7. "The central security dynamic for most states outside of a few particularly backward regions is now the problem of systems disruption. World politics today depends upon an elaborate and interweaving lattice of complex systems through which the stuff of political economy flows: money through transnational markets, goods and hydrocarbons through sea lines of communication, people through airports, ideas and commerce through the telecommunications networks. Disruption of those systems is the major security threat because it is the thing that places most at risk the safety and prosperity of states." Id at 119.).