In immediate response to the Russia-Georgia war, it has been popular to say that we are witnessing the 'return' of history. This was the title of a post by Stanley Crossick, crossposted on the Atlantic Review. There have been many who have heralded the return of history, some even more or less directly after Francis Fukuyama wrote his seminal essay 'The End of History?'. Most recently, Bob Kagan has written a book called 'The Return of History and the End of Dreams', which stems from the essay 'End of Dreams, Return of History'.
Francis Fukuyama answers some of the critics in his Washington Post column 'They Can Only Go So Far'. One interesting point Fukuyama makes is that we can't paint all forms of autocracy with one brush, that there are important differences between various forms of authoritarianism. He also argues that none of the current forms have an idea:
The facile historical analogies to earlier eras have two problems: They presuppose a cartoonish view of international politics during these previous periods, and they imply that "authoritarian government" constitutes a clearly defined type of regime -- one that's aggressive abroad, abusive at home and inevitably dangerous to world order. In fact, today's authoritarian governments have little in common, save their lack of democratic institutions.
The thing to say about 'The End of History' is that people generally misunderstand it. Fukuyama himself says so, and Blake Hounshell nods in agreement on Foreig Policy's Passport blog. It's unclear to me whether the idea is misunderstood by the many who have debated it in writing. Bob Kagan certainly gets the point.
Continue reading "Authoritarianisms"
On the Cato at Liberty blog, Benjamin H. Friedman notes that many commentators fatally misunderstand Russian foreign policy, due to an excessive focus on the intentions of the current government:
Continue reading "Russian Interests"
Commentators of all stripes seem to assume that Russia’s move into Georgia was driven by its increasingly autocratic nature. [...] It is worth considering whether this is a misperception. A powerful body of political science argues that states’ foreign policy actions are driven mostly by their circumstance and interests, not their regime type or the personality of the leaders. Regime type and personality affect how states interpret their circumstances, but maybe not as much as we tend to think. The United States is not particularly tolerant of seemingly hostile states in its near abroad either, whether they are democracies or not.
Having long secured the GOP nomination, John McCain has had plenty of opportunity for tacking back to the centre. It was to be expected that he chose to do precisely that in a recent foreign policy speech. In doing so, he has however angered the conservative wing of his party, as a Cliff Kincaid piece on GOPUSA demonstrates:
[I]f the liberals get beyond their differences with McCain on Iraq, they will not only vote for him but promote his agenda as president. Then, as Rush Limbaugh notes, it may eventually be possible to change the name of the United States of America: "We'll call ourselves New Europe." In the process, true conservatism as a political force will be finished in the U.S. The piece, called 'McCain's Incoherent World Order' reveals yet another split in the Republican party: between sovereignists, or as Steve Clemons disparagingly calls them, 'pugnacious nationalists', and neoconservatives. McCain's politics are a choice for neoconservatism. Although McCain downplayed it in his speech, he still seems eager to go on foreign adventures.
The tragedy of this approach is that it comes from a man who served his country in uniform and risked his life on behalf of the U.S. McCain would have been a natural choice to lead a campaign for restoration of American sovereignty in foreign affairs. He could have been "The American President Americans have been waiting for."
The lesson McCain has drawn from the Bush administration is not that the neoconservative agenda of aggressive democracy promotion is wrong, but rather that the unilateral manner in which this was executed -- through Bush' 'coalition of the willing' and defiance of international law such as the Geneva conventions -- has been both unhelpful and wrong. Principles and pragmatism tend to coincide in McCain's politics. Partially because of that, though, it is difficult to see how he could bridge the gap with liberals with regard to Iraq.
Related posts in the Atlantic Review:
• Neocons and Pragmatists Compete over Influence on McCain
• 40th Anniversary of Senator Fulbright's "Arrogance of Power" Speech
Senator and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has repeated his calls for a 'league of democracies' in a Financial Times op-ed directed at Europe.
We need to renew and revitalise our democratic solidarity. We need to strengthen our transatlantic alliance as the core of a new global compact – a League of Democracies – that can harness the great power of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests.
At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. We Americans recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we must pay “decent respect to the opinions of mankind”. Our great power does not mean we can do whatever we want whenever we want, nor should we assume we have all the wisdom and knowledge necessary to succeed.
The words about respect and trust are welcome. However, the idea of a leage of democracies is also likely to run into some opposition among America's European allies. The reasons McCain gives for his league of democracies, both in the FT and in a May 2007 speech reported on in the Washington Post, have much to do with America's perceived national interest. On issues like confronting the 'turn towards autocracy' in Russia, 'acting where the UN fails to act' on a problem like Darfur and providing 'unimpeded market access' to open market democracies, continental Europe has completely different perceived interests.
Continue reading "John McCain's League of Democracies"
As much as many Americans are looking forward for policy change, Europe is hoping for a multinational foreign policy under a new administration in the United States. In an article addressed to our "Dear Americans", former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt asks (in German; following translation and editing by Sonja Bonin) what Europe can expect from the next US president:
Continue reading "US Presidential Candidates: Who's Good for Europe?"
How do you intend to end the war in Iraq and what should Iraq look like afterwards?
What is your goal in Afghanistan? Eliminating just Al-Qaeda or the Taliban as well? Establishing democracy?
Should Al-Qaeda evade to Pakistan for good, perhaps even gaining access to nuclear weapons, would you military intervene?
What is your strategy for a peaceful solution of the decades-old conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors? Will you support the establishment of a Palestinian state?
What is the future US policy regarding Iran?