October 16, 2004

Drezner's Long Fence-Sit Is Coming to an End

Dan Drezner is all but set to vote Kerry (Hat Tip: Andrew). Too bad! Dan's foreign policy acumen is second to none in the blogosphere. It's regretable to see him end up voting Kerry--particularly as I feel our worldviews aren't too far apart. Anyway, I'll address some of his issues in my post explaining why I am voting for the other guy.

Oh, don't miss the retired diplomat who tries to sway Drezner back to the Dubya camp towards the end of Dan's post. He's spot on in many respects (I've heard much of the same from worried former Foggy Bottom-ites). More on all of this, including the Matt Bai piece and much more, hopefully Sunday.

And Dan, it's not too late!

P.S. Does Dan really want John Mearsheimer to disapprovingly scowl at him in the faculty cafeteria come November?

UPDATE: A commenter (somewhat rightly) takes me to task for intimating (jestfully, of course) that Mearsheimer might cast a disapproving glance in Dan's direction should he vote Kerry. I respond in comments--but please note, by way of general context, as follows: a) I'm not a huge fan of uber-realist Mearsheimer (I plead more neo-Wilsonian stripes--supporting U.S. intervention in the Balkans, for instance, contra Mearsheimer); b) that said I think he's one of the most intelligent realists out there; c) yes, he's rightly criticized Bush for not fully understanding the ethnic/religious/tribalistic complexities of Iraq (and, even, not using alliance structures more efficaciously); but d) for reasons I begin to sketch out in the comments I think he's nevertheless more likely to vote Bush than Kerry.

Maybe I'm wrong on this one (Mearsheimer's electoral orientation) but I don't think so. Anyone with more info on this or (even) an inside scoop is urged to comment below. Not that Mearsheimer's selection for President is some kind of Holy Grail--but given Robert George's recent defection it would be interesting to get a better feel for Mearsheimer's outlook. Put differently, how many rightist or right-leaning, seasoned academics of top caliber are jumping ship and voting Kerry?

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I stand corrected. Mearsheimer is voting Kerry. Thanks to the commenter for pointing it out. And please accept my apologies.

Posted by Gregory at October 16, 2004 12:51 AM
Comments

Mearsheimer would be unlikely to scowl at someone who voted against Bush. He has been a vocal critique of the administration's foreign policy. He has said promoting democracy in the Middle East is foolish; his realist policy would leave these regimes in power. He also has criticized the Bush administration's competence in carryring out it's policies. Of course like most realists Mearsheimer has no idea what to actually do to combat Islamist inspired terrorism, but are sure that we shouldn't get involved with the internal politics of the Middle East.

Posted by: Kevin at October 16, 2004 09:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

kevin, you are right that mearsheimer has been a frequent bush critic. so perhaps my choice of words (meant jestfully) about disapproving scowls in the faculty hallways cast at Dan was poor. but i would still contend that mearsheimer has more concerns about a Kerry I than a Bush II (though I am willing to be proved wrong if someone can dig up a relevant mearsheimer quote supporting kerry). Basically, I would suspect mearsheimer is more alarmed about Kerry's tendencies towards wooly-headed multilateralism, lack of realist-based national security concerns about the possible implosion in Iraq (possible cut and run too quickly should kerry win), and the caliber of a non-realist national security team that would come into power (albright's B team). also, the neo-cons will have less power in a Bush II. does anyone really believe doug feith, wolfy, bolton, libby etc will be in ascendance in a Bush II like they were just after 9/11. they won't, i strongly suspect. another reason i think mearsheimer will tilt bush.

Posted by: greg at October 16, 2004 01:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Was Mearsheimer a "Reagan Nay-sayer" also or not?

John Kerry was anti-Reagan and is anti-American all of the time. It is amazing how FEW ACADEMICS were correct on Reagan's policies or on the Afghanistan invasion. Yet, we saw the first Afghan election in 5000 years last week-end.

I have NEVER FOUND ANY Tenured ACADEMICS who have any practical intelligence. Most of them are too dumb to find their rear end with both hands, so why bother to listen to their "white noise" on the Middle East or on anything else.

I always tell them to Sit Down and Shut Up. (I am a successful businessman who can easily laugh at the blathering piffle of almost all academics).

Posted by: leaddog2 at October 16, 2004 06:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

leaddog2- equating anti-Reagan and anti-Americanism might explain your antipathy toward academics who, as a general rule, would disdain such an idiotic correlation.

As a first time commenter, I wanted to say that I've long been an admirer of BD despite frequently disagreeing with Greg. This is a truly excellent site that appeals to thinking people on both sides of the aisle.

That being said, I wouldn't worry too much about Kerry's multilateral pleas- they're simply an electioneering ploy as far as I can tell. This election has to remain a referedum of Bush's first term, simply because we cannot foresee how a President Kerry would conduct foreign policy. Of course, what one says in a campaign is far different from how one acts as commander in chief.

Bush may be a visionary in foreign policy, but his management skills have been sorely lacking in my view. I disdain how his administration dismisses out of hand any evidence that runs contrary to their pre-disposed vision of the world. Plus, the lack of accountability is startling- that nobody major lost their job over Abu Ghraib sent the dangerous signal that we considered the prison abuses to be of little importance.

Many readers of BD may correctly criticize Kerry on his sometimes-asinine campaign rhetoric, but I think his more even-handed, flexible approach will mark a vast improvement over Bush. To me, he deserves a chance.

Posted by: Matt at October 17, 2004 07:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We are facing some of the biggest, most far reaching changes in our lifetimes. The world is and has been different from what we have believed for several decades. I think Bush rightly sees that a new paradigm is needed. To be sure, drastic changes are scarey because we are forced to confront unfamiliar territory. Those who want to keep the status quo have not stepped outside the box to see how the dynamics are changing with or without the U.S. It is the same mindset that allowed 9-11 (groupthink and lack of imagination).

As a result of Bush's actions there is talk in the Arab countries about the need for change. While it won't all happen for decades the first step has been taken thanks to Bush. Remember change was comming sooner or later with or without the U.S. Now there is a better chance that it will be more in line with the modern societies.

While some express distress with the U.S. standing in the world, let me submit that most countries don't understand us. The French have always, from the begining of the U.S., thought that Americans were ignorant and barbarians. The French and probably most countries don't understand the American system of state's right vs the Federal gov't. Remember how the Europeans didn't like Reagan. Bush is a leader, one who knows that this is not a popularity contest. One who sees what most of the world does not and is willing to act for the benefit of all the world.

The mainstream media in America is so far left that it aids and abets the left media elsewhere. Just a few years ago some U.S. journalists were ask if they were Americans first or journalists first. Their reply? they were journalists first.

One of Bush's failings has been not to recognize that the press of his own country is working agianst him. I am not suggesting that the press should be the president's mouthpiece. Rather that it has become so biased that the administration's message is not getting out to the detriment of the U.S. citizen and other countries. Thankfully, with the internet and other media sources a few of us are able to get a more comprehensive picture.

I believe Bush is on the right track. I am frustrated that his administration doesn't do a better PR job on the programs and progress they are responsible for that truely are leading in the right direction.

One of the areas I see lacking in most discussions is a knowledge of history and how it relates. For instance, when considering Iraq a look at three U.S. wars reveal that during the Revolutionary War, 18 mos in, Washington had lost every single battle since the Declaration of Independence and had depleted 90 percent of the military strength. During the Civil War, 18 mos in, Lee was in the north and Washingotn D.C. was on the brink of being overrun. During WWII, 18 mos in, Japan had taken control of all of the Pacific and Southeast Asia and had been occupying American soil for 10 mos in Alaska. Re elections: the U.S. held elections during the Civil War and only 25 of the 36 states. containing roughy two-thirds of U.S. population, voted. Yet somehow the nation survived.

Posted by: Jill Livingston at October 17, 2004 10:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jill-

I think it's a little ridiculous to assert that the French and other countries "don't understand the American system of states rights vs. the Federal government". To my knowledge, the nations opposing our Iraq effort most vociferously supported our invasion of Afghanistan. Several (i.e. France) supported our humanitarian interventions in the Balkans during the '90s. Therefore, I don't buy the argument that the French and Germans, for example, are against the Iraq war because they think we are "ignorant and barbaric".

And while it is relevant to argue that the French enjoyed a cozy relationship with Saddam's regime, they stood to benefit more financially from cooperating with the US, manifesting itself in the form of favorable business contracts in the reconstruction process. Remember, the US enjoyed such a relationship with Iraq during the 1980s as part of our support for Saddam in his war against Iran.

Incidentally, I would argue that rather than Bush understanding the necessity of a new paradigm, his administration has tackled its foreign policy dilemmas with a cold war perspective. I'll be interested to read what Greg has to say about Matt Bai's NYT piece, but one of its more cogent points is Bush's emphasis on rogue states over non-state terror networks. To me, this is the central ideological flaw of Bush's foreign policy.

I agree, however, that it's too early to assess the success of either Iraq or Afghanistan. More important than the reconstruction of Iraq itself will be how the invasion affected our broader struggle against Islamic terror groups.

Posted by: Matt at October 17, 2004 12:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The French government ended participation in the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, and later refused to endorse Desert Fox, the Clinton Administration's 5 days of airstrikes against suspected WMD sites in Iraq in December 1998. The French government began complaining about American "hyperpower" during the Clinton Administration.

I'm in favor of rhetorical respect for alliances and international institutions, and I've already voted for Mr. Kerry, but the French stance on the U.S. election -- which is sort of "Just vote for Kerry, and we'll be the closest of allies once again!" -- strikes me as highly disingenuous. If it's only President Bush that the French don't like, then why didn't the French government cooperate more closely with the Clinton Administration? And if it's only President Bush that the French don't like, then why is the French government solemnly vowing not to help President Kerry in Iraq?

Posted by: Arjun at October 18, 2004 01:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John Mearsheimer is not only planning to vote for Kerry this time around, but he "will do so with enthusiasm":

http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=7602

Some quotes:

[quote]

As a realist, the University of Chicago political scientist liked Bush's anti-nation-building rhetoric during the 2000 debates, and was displeased by Al Gore's support for the humanitarian interventions of the 1990s. But Bush's handling of foreign policy -- particularly the Iraq War -- has turned Mearsheimer and other realists into some of the administration's sharpest critics. "[T]he more time goes by," he says, "the more Bush makes [Bill] Clinton look like a genius in both domestic and foreign policy."

....

The first Bush administration, says Mearsheimer, was a "paradigmatic realist administration." The current Bush administration "looked a lot like Bush I" in its first few months. The events of September 11, however, "flipped" Dick Cheney from the realist camp to the neocon credo. Up until 9-11, the neocons "could get to first base with their agenda but no further," Mearsheimer says. After the terrorist attacks, "they were able to make it all the way."

[end quote]

Posted by: Mitsu at October 18, 2004 06:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jill,

The problem with much of the discussion surrounding Bush's foreign policy decisions, is that Bush supporters have framed the debate as if anything short of invading Iraq is the equivalent of the status quo or pre-9/11 mindset.

That is just simply not the case. There were many ways to realign foreign policy goals and adapt them to the post-9/11 mentality without invading Iraq.

I also think that you are misjudging the effect of the invasion of Iraq. First of all, there had been a growing movement toward change in the Arab world that existed even before Bush's presidency. While still in its nascent stages, it was gathering momentum in places like Iran (particularly amongst the youth), Bahrain, Qatar, Morocco and in pockets of resistance elsewhere.

The shocking events of 9/11 itself led many Arab intellectuals and thinkers to lean more heavily in that direction. Many concluded that change was necessary. That is part of the reason why reaction the US invasion of Afghanistan was so muted.

These movements needed US support to make further gains, and US diplomacy to put pressure on recalcitrant regimes in order to create space for them to gorw. No action at all on these fronts would have been a mistake, but few, especially Kerry, re advocating that.

Invading Iraq has arguably set many of these movements back and hindered the spread of reform. As a result of the invasion, Osama is more popular than Bush, recruitment is up, and there is broader appeal for radical anti-American jihadism. Iraq, for example, was relatively devoid of this ideology, and its attendant manifestations, before the invasion. Through invasion, we have inadvertantly radicalized many Iraqi civilians who are finding common cause with the fundamentalists. Whereas Iraqis as a population were conspicuously absent from the pools of foreign jihadists fighting around the globe over the past 25+ years, that is changing. That is a very troubling fact.

That is the point about the perceptions of the US abroad. It is not about the government of France, it is about the people in almost every country in the world. Poll after poll confirms the levels to which American prominence has sunk as a result of Bush and his policies. This makes achieving goals like democritization extremely problematic. Similarly, one of the major tasks of the effort to stop the spread of radical anti-American jihadism is to win the ideological war. The war for hearts and minds. We are losing this.

As Fareed Zakaria pointed out:

Bush does not seem aware that the intense hostility toward him in every country in the world (save Israel) has made it very difficult for the United States to be the agent of freedom. In every Arab country that I have been to in the last two years, the liberals, reformers and businessmen say, "Please don't support us. American support today is the kiss of death."

Further, it will be hard to build alliances when Bush is eliciting the support from leaders of democracies whose populations view Bush as toxic and may vote accordingly.

You can read further here if interested:

http://tianews.blogspot.com/2004/09/best-laid-plans.html

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 18, 2004 02:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think that Fareed Zakaria's statement is accurate and important -- indeed that entire Fareed Zakaria column is well worth reading. (Eric Martin's weblog Total Information Awareness is also well worth reading. Why not pay a visit?)

However, is Fareed Zakaria a hypocrite, since Fareed Zakaria himself supported the invasion of Iraq? Fareed Zakaria is my second-favorite foreign policy expert (after B.D.), so needless to say I think the answer is no.

The indisputable fact that the Iraq invasion has dealt a significant blow to America's popularity in the Arab and Muslim worlds is important, in my opinion, but that doesn't mean that it was inherently wrong (all actions have advantages and disadvantages, and short-term loss may lead to long-term gain), and retreating from Iraq, as many (not including Fareed Zakaria or Eric Martin) now suggest, is not the solution to this real problem.

I think the solution is to succeed in Iraq, or more properly, to allow the Iraqi people to succeed in Iraq, and then to leave Iraq.

Concomitantly, the U.S. needs to push much harder for progress towards a peace settlement between "a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine". (That phrase is the President's, but corresponding action has been lacking.)

I agree with Jack Straw and Walter Russell Mead (who may not actually agree with each other!): the invasion of Iraq was highly unpopular in the region, but the most important source of Arab resentment of the U.S. is not the invasion of Iraq. Rather, it is the widely perceived lack of American sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs suffering under Israeli occupation.

It is my hope that President Kerry will reappoint Dennis Ross as special Mid-East envoy, and that the Kerry-Edwards Administration will be more friendly to the Palestinians than the Kerry-Edwards Campaign's AIPAC-style rhetoric would suggest.

Posted by: Arjun at October 18, 2004 08:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I read what I wrote and decided that last sentence of mine was very unfair to the Kerry-Edwards campaign. (They deserve an apology from me -- but didn't I do them a favor when I voted for them?) The Kerry-Edwards campaign has not accused the President for being insufficiently supportive of Israel, for example (although some KE04 supporters such as The New Republic's Noam Scheiber have made this ludicrous accusation). Overall, with the minor exception of Mr. Kerry's feigned outrage over Howard Dean's use of the forbidden phrase "even-handed", the Kerry campaign's rhetoric on the Israel-Palestine issue has been more responsible than the corresponding campaign rhetoric of Clinton-Gore in 1992. We haven't heard the perennial proposal to relocate the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem this year.

Posted by: Arjun at October 18, 2004 08:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've already cast my ballot for Mr. Kerry, but Professor Mearsheimer's endorsement of Mr. Kerry makes me like Mr. Kerry less, not more.

I've been trying to point out, here and elsewhere, that two arguments against the President's foreign policy are very different from each other. I keep hearing one argument, then the other, sometimes from the same person. Why don't these two species of Bush critics honestly admit that while they both disagree with the Bush Administration, they also disagree with each other?

The first argument is that the President is wrong to identify democracy promotion as a strategy in the war on al Qaeda terrorism. Professor Mearsheimer and other "realists" would agree with this argument. I'm a non-realist -- I disagree with this argument. I believe in democracy promotion as a strategy in the war on al Qaeda terrorism.

The second argument is that the President is ill-equipped to carry out his own strategy of democracy promotion, due to the harmful effects of the Bush Administration's disdain for diplomacy, and its lack of sufficient rhetorical respect for America's alliances and for international institutions. I agree with this argument. As for the realists, they shouldn't even be interested in this argument! After all, if democracy promotion doesn't matter, then why should we care whether the Bush Administration is capable of promoting democracy?

Posted by: Arjun at October 18, 2004 09:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good point Arjun. I find myself in the camp that favors the promotion of democracy, but viewed the invasion of Iraq as a bad means to achieve those ends. As many, including me, predicted, it has hindered our efforts to spread democracy by further radicalizing and destabilizing the region, and undermining our credibility and the credibility of reformers who are associated with us.

As Greg notes, many of the worst case scenarios have not come to pass, thankfully, but that doesn't mean that internal conflict and larger regional conflict are still beyond the pale of possibility for Iraq. Indeed, they are as likely to occur as not at this point. That would really set back the efforts of democritization.

I think Fareed is in the camp that favors democracy promotion, favored invading Iraq to achieve those ends, but has since reassessed that decision because of the empirical evidence that has emerged, and in light of the gross incompetence in the execution of so delicate a maneuver. In that sense, me and Fareed agree on two points and diverge on another.

I think that Spencer Ackerman's article puts Kerry in my category, if you take Ackerman's words as truth which I do. There is also some guidance about how to go about promoting democracy absent the use of military force - which academics like Fukuyama have pointed out rarely ends in success.

Posted by: Eric Martin at October 18, 2004 09:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin,

Thanks very much for your response. I think your assessment of Fareed Zakaria's position is correct. I don't mean to trivialize the issue, but it's pretty obvious whom Fareed Zakaria is going to vote for: John Kerry.

I'm looking forward to reading that Spencer Ackerman article, which should arrive in my mailbox in about a week. I'm grateful to praktike for informing me about that article.

One can make the argument that a supporter of democracy promotion as a strategy in the war on al Qaeda terrorism should vote for Mr. Kerry even if Spencer Ackerman's article is incorrect -- that is, even if that voter doesn't know whether John Kerry believes in democracy promotion as a strategy in the war on al Qaeda terrorism. That is because American credibility must be restored before the United States can contribute to reforming the region, as best illustrated by Mr. Zakaria's important quote above, in a Newsweek column which actually influenced my voting decision.

Posted by: Arjun at October 19, 2004 12:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mearsheimer's "realist" beliefs are to foreign policy what Soviet central planning was to economic policy. He's voting for Kerry simply because what he believes and has preached for years is fundamentally flawed, has done great damage, and is being discredited before his eyes. He's pissed off. He's doing what most proud misguided men do -- taking it out on the person who is right; who is succeeding where he failed.

Posted by: C. Owen Johnson at October 19, 2004 02:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I had two classes with Mearsheimer and I have read all his books but the last one and I have followed his views attentively, even though I much less a systemic determinist than he is. Mearsheimer is not a lightweight. I don't think his views have been discredited. To the contrary. I supported the invasion of Iraq on what I perceived as small-r realist grounds, and I am dubious about democracy-spreading and I am ardently opposed to war-as-social work such as any proposed invasion of Sudan to end the Darfur genocide, positions which are compatible with Mearsheimer's I think. Mearsheimer was notably correct about Gulf War I. He was opposed to Gulf War II and his opposition seems to have been pretty well-founded, as things have played out. His prediction that there would be balancing action by other states against the United States is coming true, with France pushing for the renewal of arms sales to China, classic example of trying to counterbalance the hegemon. Mearsheimer is very hardnosed and pessimistic, and is often right. One of his intellectual virtues is that he is opposed to going in somewhere and killing people and getting our people killed unless there is a very good reason to do so.

All that said, I disagree with his assessment of who would be a better president, despite the problems with Bush's handling of the war, I am convinced that Kerry would be a disaster. I also think that Bush's conduct has not so much created rifts with foreigners as pushed into the open the quiet work that was being done to undermine the United States' leadership role. I don't blame the Europeans. I'd do the same thing if I were them. But it is silly to think that just being nice to these countries will make them more eager to help us. Nothing is going to do that. Any major US failure is in the interest of France and those who want a unitary Europe, and of China, which wants us weakened so we are not free to oppose them on Taiwan. They aren't allies, and they aren't neutral. Their interests are opposed to ours. No amount of invoking a non-existent "world community" or any such hogwash will change that.

I will also mention that I had a similar change of heart to the one you mention George Will demonstrated. I supported the war, but I got a chill when I saw we were calling it "Iraqi Freedom". Iraqi Freedom is none of our business, and not somethign we should spend American blood for. I was further appalled that we set the bar for success so absurdly high, saying we must turn Iraq into a democracy. This seems to be the core of the "Neocon" position, that American power is not legitimate unless it used for some overarching goal beyond American security. It is odd to see this naive Wilsonianism coming out of a Republican administration, and I have high hopes that Mr. Wolfowitz will be quiety sacked after the election if Bush wins. A visible repudiation of the democracy spreading program will be a valuable signal that the Bush administration is willing to put American security first and do so in a way which is realistic about the limits of our power. We set ourselves up for failure with these over-ambitious goals, which are based upon a misreading of history. We will almost certainly have to settle for far, far less than a transformed Iraq which is the envy of the Arab world. Never again.

Posted by: Lexington Green at October 20, 2004 04:05 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is easy for "realists" to be proven right, because their viewpoint is necessarily short term. Bush and the neo-cons have deliberately put in motion a series of events that will, even if successful, take years to prove out.

I supported the war for many reasons, some of which have not been borne out. But the most important reason - to disrupt the status quo in the Middle East - still has a good chance of proving out. Given the alternatives (appeasing terrorists, doing nothing, frustrating Palestinian hopes for statehood), promoting deomcracy doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Posted by: ronbo at October 20, 2004 04:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First time poster -- rather curious about Arjun's statement that: "American credibility must be restored before the United States can contribute to reforming the region."

I'm not nearly as knowledgeable about foreign policy in the Mideast as some of the commenters, so I'll just ask these series of questions:

1. What did "American credibility" mean prior to the invasion of Iraq? It doesn't appear from the comments here and elsewhere that "American credibility" prior to Iraq meant what it might mean now: that American threats of force are to be taken seriously. So what did it mean then?

2. If we had such credibility during the 80's and the 90's, how can the growth of the Taliban, anti-American Wahhabism, incidents such as the USS Cole, Khobar Towers, Kenya embassy bombings, and the like be explained?

3. What did "American credibility" mean in terms of the Intifadah which began long before Iraq, and in fact, long before even 9/11?

4. The quote about liberals, reformers and businessmen suggests that prior to Iraq, the Arab public opinion was largely favorable to the United States, but that has changed as a result of our invasion of Iraq. Is this really true? Was the Iranian street or the Palestinian people viewing support by the U.S. as a real positive for a local liberal/moderate/reform leader? Conversely, was the withdrawal of U.S. support seen as a real negative for an Arab/Muslim/Palestinian leader prior to the invasion of Iraq?

5. Finally, if America has no credibility (whatever that might mean) in the region left, then what nation is an example of one that has this credibility in the region?

Thank you,

-TS

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