The actual Montesquieu quote, per Denzer, is
"Useless laws weaken the necessary laws."
A sentiment with which I heartily agree! Obama's domestic policy (so far) reveals a barely-examined faith in the ability of the law to manage many additional aspects of our lives. It is, shall we say, in conflict with this sentiment.
As to foreign policy, of course the answer is, it is too early to tell. However, the early indications are that Obama and Europe are determined to flight "useless" fights, just over different issues than the Bush administration.
The major theme of the Bush foreign policy was pre-emption, that certain threats would be confronted as they emerge, rather than after they emerge. Obama seems to believe in a variation on pre-eption, except his supporters call it the precautionary principle. I am talking about global warming.
Saddam, who had WMD in the past and seemed determined to have them again, [url=http://everything2.com/title/October%252031%252C%25202003]nevertheless wasn't an imminent threat[/url] (on the link, see the section titled "On WMD").
Significant, human-caused global warming hasn't happened yet. The past 10 years of data suggest that, if it is going to happen, it is much further in the future than was generally thought. Futhermore, even if you believe the science is settled, there remain major questions of how to ensure that countries do not cheat on their CO2 commitments. If a poor country commits to debt, debt can be forgiven. If a belicose country commits to nuclear non-proliferation, violations can be overlooked as long as the weapons are not used in anger. Not so with CO2 violations. To act now, decisively, against global warming, will inevitably put us into a multi-decade conflict with emerging powers like China, India, etc. who make the fair point that they are entitled to pollute, much as the West did when it was emerging.
Is the likely conflict over global warming strictly necessary at this time?
I have a perfect example of a 'useless conflict' which was avoided:
When Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936, France and the UK wisely refrained from responding, thereby averting war.
One can only wish Bush had been so wise, and averted war himself....
Drezner may be right - or not. With only 100 days in, one could spin other possibilities for the evidence that exists. On what basis has he chosen that aphorism - beyond his desire to provoke a discussion in the comment thread.
SC, Drezner writes a fairly shallow blog; can't speak for his books, but his Newsweek op-eds and most of his blog posts are a little too frothy for what he is, I think.
Thats all very well as a starting point, but he tries to begin a debate in the comments but then refuses to participate. Rather disappointing I find, a case of debatus interruptus, mebbe.
"Debatus interruptus": Heh! I like that.
Drezner's more of a political economist, I think. Foreign policy, per se, may not be his strong suit. I also wonder if the frothiness you detect may have characterized some of his past academic work. I seem to recall that he had some problems in Chicago before landing at Tufts. So many interests, so little time.
It's way too soon to draw any conclusion about the Obama/Clinton foreign policy team. They seem to have made a significant change regarding Cuba; one that's been overdue, in my opinion. But otherwise, not much has changed.
To give you an example of a different possible spin, how about this: Like Clinton's first term, foreign policy, despite appearances is not this administration's principal focus. Domestic politics and policy is. To the extent that the Bush administration's policies maintain a probable stablity and status quo in areas of actual conflict, they'll be left alone and the personel left to tend to them. To the extent that those policies actually meshed with the declared policy intent during the campaign, so much the better: a shift of focus from Iraq to to AfPak, for example. The current uptick in violence in Iraq is managable but events in Pakistan are not something necessarily anticipated. Otherwise, for the most part, a desire to retrench.
From campaign statements on Pakistan, one might assume an agressive stance regarding current events. The Sec'y of State's recent comment signal concern. Is this one of Drezner's "necessary conflicts" in the making? If so, how does it play out? What steps actually taken, beyond the Secretary's words, signal a serious intent to engage the emerging situation.