Fareed Zakaria calls John McCain’s Foreign Policy Vision Radical

I won’t be posting much over the next week or so as grading and exams are taking up most of my time. I did want, however, to alert my students to this interesting article by Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria on Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s foreign policy philosophy. Zakaria agrees with Pat Buchanan and others at the American Conservative magazine that McCain’s foreign policy views are a radical break with past administrations (Democratic and Republican). Zakaria writes:

On March 26, McCain gave a speech on foreign policy in Los Angeles that was billed as his most comprehensive statement on the subject. It contained within it the most radical idea put forward by a major candidate for the presidency in 25 years. Yet almost no one noticed.

I guess that’s because the American media knows what the real issues are–Barack Obama refusing coffee for orange juice at a diner in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton doing shots in a Pennsylvania bar (were they body shots?), and lapel flag pins.

In his speech McCain proposed that the United States expel Russia from the G8, the group of advanced industrial countries. Moscow was included in this body in the 1990s to recognize and reward it for peacefully ending the cold war on Western terms, dismantling the Soviet empire and withdrawing from large chunks of the old Russian Empire as well. McCain also proposed that the United States should expand the G8 by taking in India and Brazil—but pointedly excluded China from the councils of power.

We have spent months debating Barack Obama’s suggestion that he might, under some circumstances, meet with Iranians and Venezuelans. It is a sign of what is wrong with the foreign-policy debate that this idea is treated as a revolution in U.S. policy while McCain’s proposal has barely registered. What McCain has announced is momentous—that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war.

This is bang on. Hillary Clinton and others, who have tried to trash Obama on his views about dialogue with putative enemies would do well to remember that it was ultimately dialogue with China and the Soviet Union that lessened tensions between these states and the United States. What McCain wants to do is to return the world to the situation ex-ante, for what strategic reason I’m not sure. This is, in the immortal words of Chazz Michael Michaels, “mind-bottling!”

I write this with sadness because I greatly admire John McCain, a man of intelligence, honor and enormous personal and political courage. I also agree with much of what else he said in that speech in Los Angeles. But in recent years, McCain has turned into a foreign-policy schizophrenic, alternating between neoconservative posturing and realist common sense. His speech reads like it was written by two very different people, each one given an allotment of a few paragraphs on every topic.

The neoconservative vision within the speech is essentially an affirmation of ideology. Not only does it declare war on Russia and China, it places the United States in active opposition to all nondemocracies. It proposes a League of Democracies, which would presumably play the role that the United Nations now does, except that all nondemocracies would be cast outside the pale. The approach lacks any strategic framework. What would be the gain from so alienating two great powers? How would the League of Democracies fight terrorism while excluding countries like Jordan, Morocco, Egypt and Singapore? What would be the gain to the average American to lessen our influence with Saudi Arabia, the central banker of oil, in a world in which we are still crucially dependent on that energy source?

How many of these questions do you think will be asked at the first Presidential Debate? My over/under is one. Zakaria is right that McCain’s foreign policy vision is a triumph of ideology over strategy. Here is where McCain would most clearly take the mantle from George Bush and embark upon a third term for the ideological and policy goals of the current administration. “The King is dead…long live the king!”

American Conservatives Against John McCain’s Foreign Policy

A few sessions from now we’ll analyze international relations from a state-level perspective.  The great debate in IR, with respect to the state level, is whether state level characteristics such as economic system, political regime, etc., are determinative in explaining and predicting state behavior at the international level.  As we have already discussed, the neorealists have a ready answer: the only state-level characteristic that matters in foreign affairs is power.  The liberals, of course, have a different viewpoint, as do radicals and constructivists.   Notice one word that was absent from the preceding two sentences–conservative.  What are the elements of a conservative foreign policy?  [There is, of course, a neoconservative approach (or theory) in IR, but what about conservative, with the neo prefix?  Moreover, does the ideological viewpoint of the U.S. President matter in the way that foreign policy decisions in the White House are made?

To help answer the second question, I would like to introduce you to a group of self-professed American conservatives, who banded together in 2002 and created The American Conservative magazine.  How do those in charge of the magazine define conservatism and what are their views of the upcoming presidential election?

We believe conservatism to be the most natural political tendency, rooted in man’s taste for the familiar, for family, for faith in God. We believe that true conservatism has a predisposition for the institutions and mores that exist. So much of what passes for contemporary conservatism is wedded to a kind of radicalism—fantasies of global hegemony, the hubristic notion of America as a universal nation for all the world’s peoples, a hyperglobal economy. In combination with an increasingly unveiled contempt for America’s long-standing allies, this is more a recipe for disaster.

Against it, we take our stand.

Consistent with their view of conservatism, they are worried (terrified?) with the prospect of a McCain presidency.  Rather than excerpt from a recent article in the magazine that assesses what a President McCain means for the future of American foreign policy, I’ll provide a link to the article and give you the title and a shot of the cover:

“The Madness of John McCain–A militarist suffering from acute narcissism and armed with the Bush Doctrine is not fit to be commander in chief.”


Drezner explains Neo-conservatism

Here‘s a nice, and concise, description from Dan Drezner* of neo-conservatism, the theoretical underpinning of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

Neo-conservatism borrows many ideas from liberal internationalism, though it promotes those ideas in terms of more expansive aims and aggressive methods. The first sentence of the March 2006 National Security strategy reads, “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” Like liberal internationalists, neo-conservatives believe that the spread of free markets, democratic values, and human rights leads to a more prosperous and pacific world. But neo-conservatives reject the “third leg” of the Kantian triad: multilateralism. Whereas liberals put greater faith in international institutions as a means of promoting American interests, neo-conservatives view them as constraints on US action: in place of multilateral agreements, neo-consevatives prefer more unilateral and more forceful means of promoting regime change.

*If you are interested in international political economy, you should take a look at Drezner‘s blog.  You also may be interested in his new book–Daniel W. Drezner, All Politics Is Global Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).

The Future of US Foreign Policy post-Bush?

Daniel Drezner, an associate professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, has published an article in the latest issue of Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft (“International Politics and Society”) entitled “The Future of U.S. Foreign Policy.”  In it he envisions what a post-Bush US foreign policy (regardless of which party wins the White House) should look like.  

As we have already discussed, and will discuss further throughout the course, a fundamental tenet of the realist theory of international relations is that the nature of the domestic regime does not matter as it pertains to the manner in which a state acts in the world.  Thus, whether a regime is democratic, authoritarian, or even a theocracy, the compelling logic of trying to ensure security in an anarchic world means that all states will act the same way.  A corollary of that is that it does not matter, say the realists, whether the leadership of a state is more left-wing or more right-wing, the fundamental character of foreign policy will be the same.  Does Drezner agree with the realists?

For Europe, American foreign policy in 2009 will clearly be an improvement on its current incarnation. Regardless of who wins the presidential election, there will likely be a reaching out to Europe as a means of demonstrating a decisive shift from the Bush administration’s diplomatic style. This does not mean, however, that the major irritants to the transatlantic relationship will disappear. On several issues, such as GMOs or the Boeing–Airbus dispute, the status quo will persist. On deeper questions, such as the use of force and the use of multilateralism, American foreign policy will shift, but not as far as Europeans would like. When George W. Bush leaves office, neo-conservatism will go with him. This does not mean, however, that Europeans will altogether agree with the foreign policy that replaces it.

Drezner also has some interesting things to say about neoconservatism, the theory underpinning the Bush administration’s view of international relations:

 It would appear that Americans are now disenchanted with neo-conservatism
as a foreign-policy doctrine. Five years ago, the idea of muscular,
unilaterally-imposed democratization was believed to resonate with
American values in a post-9/11 world. This is no longer the case. In October
2006, a Public Agenda poll found that 83 % of Americans are worried
about the way things are going for the United States in world affairs.
Their new »Anxiety Indicator« found that »a significant majority of the
public is feeling anxious and insecure about the country’s place in the
world.« Iraq – an obsession of neo-conservatives for over a decade now –
is obviously a major cause of this discontent…

…Neo-conservatism will formally expire as the grand strategy of the
United States on January 20, 2009: the date George W. Bush leaves office.
What will take its place? There are myriad ways in which us foreign
policy could diverge from the neo-conservative approach.