Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Again with realists and Iraq

I chimed in on a neoneocon post about Barack Obama. Regarding the Iraq mission, Obama strikes me as a more-palateable redux of John Kerry in 2004 in that he holds promise for both Iraq mission supporters and opponents.

From the comments thread:

harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist Says:

February 13th, 2008 at 1:23 am
Eric ****:
“The various anti-war factions, from the incredibly harmful right-wing realist camp to the isolationists to the leftists, are illiberal. “

Thats interesting. Which faction are the “harmful right-wing realist camp”? Are you talking about those conservatives too anti-McCain to either vote for him or vote against him? Im not sure what you meant there. Other than that, the only truly anti-war Republican Im aware of is Ron Paul camp, and he strikes me more libertarian than right wing.

My response [with some copy editing]:

Eric **** Says:

February 13th, 2008 at 10:15 am
harry McHitlerburtonstein the Extremist:

President Bush, 2004: “Some who call themselves “realists” question whether the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be any concern of ours. But the realists in this case have lost contact with a fundamental reality. America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat. America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.”

Google ‘realist Iraq’ or a similar variation, and you will find many articles by the top proponents of realism explaining their opposition to our Iraq mission. They have been prolific in their opposition of the mission since the first day the Bush admin made it a prospect. Indeed, it would almost seem that the vindication of their fundamental beliefs as relevant in the 21st century, ie, after the Cold War in which they made their mark, relies upon a defining failure of liberalism in Iraq. It’s been a symbiotic relationship between right-wing realists and radical anti-war protestors. You find few realists stridently protesting the Long War with guerilla theatrics, but their opposition has provided much of the substantive material and legitimacy for the anti-war movement, which in turn, has obliged the realists by applying theory to practical use. Why? Due to their Cold War legacy, realists are highly respected and entrenched authorities in the academic, military, and political (foreign policy) establishments. For its part, the anti-war movement is highly adaptable, because while most of it is ostensibly leftist, it is able to freely adopt and sample the right-wing realist opposition to the Iraq mission. Doing so is not a contradiction for them. The “anti-” of the anti-war movement means their standard of judgement is less about upholding an affirmative belief than whether something can be practically used to attack our nation’s strategy or more specifically target the Republican party or this Bush administration. As such, the realists have been eminently useful in fueling the anti-war movement.

In sum, the realists oppose the Iraq mission because it has been shaped as a Wilsonian progressive liberal mission. Much of the prevailing anti-war argument against the Iraq mission as a (liberal) “fool’s errand" is realist-based. However, Barack Obama presents himself as an enthusiastic, even aggressive, Wilsonian progressive liberal who wants the US to be a proactive, leading liberal change-agent in the world. So, how can Obama’s classically liberal principles square with his professed allegiance to the illiberal anti-war movement? Well, the hope - my hope - is that those principles cause him to be the enthusiastically liberal CinC upholding the Iraq mission that we’ve needed all along. Or, he could be anti-war. Much like John Kerry in 2004, Obama holds forth both promises.

BTW, I had close access to realist thinking as a recent Poli Sci/IR grad from Columbia University, where the realist school is dominant. As a campus activist, I also had close observations of the anti-war movement.




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