Neoconservatives and American foreign policy

Zachary Selden, who is the direc­tor of the Defence and Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee of the NATO Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly, argues that bq. … many Euro­pean com­men­ta­tors and much of the pub­lic are resort­ing to con­spir­a­to­r­i­al the­o­ries to explain the direc­tion of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and some­how over­look the fact­that Amer­i­can pub­lic opin­ion runs in favor of the pres­i­den­t’s han­dling of for­eign affairs. Per­haps more impor­tant, how­ev­er, they over­look the deep his­tor­i­cal roots of the cur­rent direc­tion of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy. It is not dri­ven by a “neo­con cabal.” Rather, it is that cer­tain indi­vid­u­als asso­ci­at­ed with the neo­con­ser­v­a­tive label have been par­tic­u­lar­ly artic­u­late in express­ing a set of poli­cies that flow from two ideas that res­onate deeply in Amer­i­can pub­lic opin­ion. The first is a belief that the Unit­ed States has a respon­si­bil­i­ty to spread its vision of indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty. The sec­ond is that the pri­ma­ry and per­haps exclu­sive task of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is to pro­tect its cit­i­zens from exter­nal threats. (“Pol­i­cy Review”: But is this right? Have for­eign crit­ics (not only in Europe) mis­tak­en the roots of US pol­i­cy in poli­cies that—Selden for­bears to say explicitly—have ben­e­fit­ed Europe in the past. Or are Wash­ing­ton’s crit­ics address­ing, rather, the absence of a ratio­nal, pur­pose­ful con­nec­tion between the goals of ‘spread­ing lib­er­ty’ and ‘pro­tect­ing from exter­nal threat’ (on the one hand) and the poli­cies of the Bush for­eign pol­i­cy rad­i­cals (on the oth­er hand) that, with respect to these goals, are inef­fec­tu­al and counter-pro­duc­tive? Con­sid­er briefly the three most promi­nent pil­lars of the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion’s for­eign and secu­ri­ty poli­cies. # Can there be any doubt that the belat­ed mil­i­tary pur­suit of the Tal­iban gov­ern­ment and their pro­tec­tion of Bin Laden has been inef­fec­tu­al in staunch­ing islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism in Afghanistan itself, let alone in Pak­istan or Sau­di Ara­bia or Indone­sia?
# Isn’t there already pro­ba­tive evi­dence of dishonesty—or at best cred­u­lous self-deception—in the claims endorsed by the Pres­i­dent that the inva­sion of Iraq was guid­ed by a prospect of elim­i­nat­ing a ter­ror­ist threat to the Unit­ed States or any immi­nent threat to any oth­er coun­try?
# Is there any real doubt that the monot­o­nous­ly accom­mo­dat­ing poli­cies of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion towards the reck­less­ly risky and bru­tal actions of the Sharon gov­ern­ment is dev­as­tat­ing to the prospects of region­al or glob­al secu­ri­ty or the spread of lib­er­ty? Selden acknowl­edges that in the past the ‘mes­sian­ic’ pur­suit of these pol­i­cy goals by the Unit­ed States have led to less than ide­al out­comes (Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, Soma­lia, South East Asia). But he shrugs-off this hor­ri­ble record as an unavoid­able ‘mix of the good, the bad and the ugly’. He goes on to argue that the dif­fer­ences across the Atlantic (and, he might add, the dif­fer­ences in oth­er direc­tions) are more of style than of sub­stance, as the Euro­peans would see if only they had a mind to the ‘deep roots’ of poli­cies that they, in fact, share. Incred­i­ble. I owe the refer­ral to this stim­u­lat­ing rub­bish to “Milt Rosenberg(link to a site I vis­it often)”: who, how­ev­er, prob­a­bly does not share my esti­ma­tion of it.

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