Across the Bay

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Splitting Hairs

Reason Magazine's Matt Welch wrote a very significant piece on the exact differences between the Democrat Kosovo war hawks, and the Bush administration.

Welch concludes:

"The difference? One party talks up the virtues of multilateralism, while the other talks it down.

That distinction may be enough to earn my vote in November, but as tangible philosophical differences go it ranks somewhere not far above splitting a hair. If the most vexing foreign policy issue we face is that American supremacy is indeed a bubble inflated by military assertiveness -- and that’s the big if -- then playing nice with international institutions is about as structurally significant as applying a new shade of lipstick on a very old pig.

That, and a clear partisan war! At one point Welch writes:

"But both fail to acknowledge that the democratizing idealism of Bush administration officials such as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is in fact suspiciously similar to their own nosy Wilsonianism. They do not ponder whether aggressive Democratic interventionism made Bush’s Republican (and therefore less palatable) version more possible. To the contrary: Soros even writes an entire chapter on how to overcome that annoying obstacle of "sovereignty" when meddling in the affairs of tyrants. He and Albright both skate over the fact that, in Kosovo especially, their pro-war and anti-U.N. arguments could be cut and pasted into Dick Cheney’s talking points on Iraq."

But here's a really interesting point, which hearkens back to my remarks on the merging of Realism and Idealism (what I tentatively called a "Weberian" approach in a different context):

"Like Soros, Clark is alarmed, not heartened, that a Wolfowitz-flavored Wilsonianism was grafted onto the Kissinger-style balance-of-power approach after September 11. "Overnight, U.S. foreign policy became not only unilateralist but moralistic, intensely patriotic, and assertive...intimating the New American Empire.""

Yes, being assertive after your hardest hit in ages is a big problem. It's far better to have a policy analogical to telling US athletes not to "flaunt" American flags after winning medals. That is really "humble."