Thursday, May 01, 2008

Andrew Bacevich on a principled foreign policy

Historian Andrew Bacevich, a self-described Catholic conservative who's supporting Barack Obama for President, talks about his views on foreign policy in an interview with Susannah Vila in The Nation, Can Obama Resurrect Real Conservatism? (n.d., accessed 05/01/08):

A conservative argument on behalf of classical realism would give up the notion that you can change the world and remake it in your own image, and would be skeptical of those who promise to bring about world peace and global utopia. I think we need to have far more limited expectations than progressives tend to have. And in a sense we need to keep a gun in our holster because from time to time were going to have to use it.

I think that one of the under-exploited opportunities of not only the past seven years - but maybe of the entire post-cold war era - is the chance to have a left-right dialogue between principled progressives and principled conservatives. I don't think we're ever going to agree on a range of very important issues that relate to domestic policy - we're not going to see the role of government or important cultural and moral questions the same way. And that's what politics ought to be about, fighting out those different viewpoints. But I really think that there is a possibility for a progressive-conservative alliance with regard to foreign policy, an alliance that challenges the Democratic-Republican mainstream. And the cornerstone of that alliance is a shared skepticism about the utility of war.

In order for us to have a genuine foreign policy debate between principled progressives and principled conservatives we need to discredit the notion that the US must play the role of global superpower. There'd be people in the progressive camp who would say that now that we've woken up to the knowledge that preventive war is really a stupid idea, perhaps we can get serious about multilateralism, perhaps we can get serious about creating an effective regime of international law. That's not my camp, but I could see that those ideas would have a better chance of getting a hearing--if only because conservatism has been utterly and completely discredited by this pseudo-conservatism over the past several years.
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