good intentions

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Freddie

Freddie deBoer used to blog at lhote.blogspot.com, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    You’re right. I guess the reason I used “disappointing” is because I’ve been reading Reihan over at his new digs at The Corner and find that, as usual, I think he’s very astute on a number of issues and then I read his Daily Beast column and feel – well – disappointed. But I certainly shouldn’t have been surprised.

    Great post by the way.

    When you take so much of military intervention off the table, the boundaries of what kinds of disapproval are open to you widen considerably.

    Good point. I think that rather than this blustery hawkish position we’ve taken toward Iran for so long, we should adopt a sensible diplomatic approach. At least then, next time the Iranians rise up, we’ll have some form of leverage with the government beyond “strongly condemning” them. More trade would also help.

    By the way, what is your position on “crabbed realism” which you describe as callous but which seems, at least to me, to be a foreign policy framework that would fit nicely with your brand of non-interventionism. Pacifism as a foreign policy is certainly not feasible, so realism seems a reasonable choice.Report

  2. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    but I fear he especially sees the best in the least popular,
    Do you remember that crazy justification of McCain he wrote at TAS after the racist campaign ad (linking blacks and welfare came out) and Manzi said…..”McCain/Palin, the gift that keeps on giving?”
    Reihan has too much empathy.
    One should not have empathy for the stupid and the evil.
    Sympathy for the devil.Report

  3. Avatar Joseph FM says:

    as long as America’s friendship is provisional on towing a particular line on any particular issue, it is not to be trusted.

    Well, yeah. But what bugs me about this attitude is this: what else should it be based on? A nation-state cannot have “friends”, only allies, rivals, and enemies, and such relationships are necessarily conditional. And again as Larison points out, pragmatism =/= goodwill or moderation. What it does mean is attempting to accurately gauge a)the degree to which your interests are threatened and b) what strategy will have any real chance of producing the outcome you want. The answer to B, more often than not it seems to me, is “there isn’t one” – something that is arguably as true for the Iranian leadership as it is for the U.S. Where I disagree with Larison is in his belief that their reactions (blatant rather than subtle election-fixing, street violence and mass arrests) were those of reasonable self-preservation. They weren’t based on rabid zeal either, but on last-ditch panic, which is not rational but is predictable and understandable (which, contrary to popular use, are far from being the same thing)- the inevitably counterproductive actions of those who see no options that don’t require sacrificing some of their power to preserve it. (In that, they are not unlike the non-neocon supporters of Bush).

    All the critiques of realism I have studied (and there have been a lot, especially since my first major international-relations class was taught by a committed Social Constructivist), none have really convinced me that it is essentially wrong except in its assumption of rationality. I am willing to admit this may just come from a cynicism even deeper than your own, though having my views called “crabbed” by someone as nakedly interventionist as Reihan is actually something of a complement, I think.

    that basic realism (or post-constructivist neo-neo-realism, or whatever) – per E.D.’s comment above – is most of the reason why I share your non-interventionism, without always really agreeing with your ethical/democratic reasoning.Report

    • Avatar ChrisWWW in reply to Joseph FM says:

      “Where I disagree with Larison is in his belief that their reactions (blatant rather than subtle election-fixing, street violence and mass arrests) were those of reasonable self-preservation. They weren’t based on rabid zeal either, but on last-ditch panic, which is not rational but is predictable and understandable (which, contrary to popular use, are far from being the same thing)- the inevitably counterproductive actions of those who see no options that don’t require sacrificing some of their power to preserve it.”
      Joseph,
      What you seem to be describing is an incompetent Iranian leadership, not an irrational one.Report

  4. Avatar Consumatopia says:

    A nation-state cannot have “friends”, only allies, rivals, and enemies, and such relationships are necessarily conditional.

    Sure, but conditional on long-standing relationships, or on whatever the issue of the day happens to be? Of course we have to deal with bastards, but this got taken too far when we started dividing Europe into “Old” and “New” in late 2002.Report

    • Avatar Joseph FM in reply to Consumatopia says:

      Well, both, I would say. Longstanding relationships are obviously important, but in some cases they can’t be overriding. The Bush approach to Europe was more one of “we’ve made up our minds that we’re going to do something foolish, and if you disagree then screw you.” I’m not advocating that. I’m sort of arguing the reverse: that France and Germany were right not to let their relationship to the US drag them into a war that they had no reason to support. And (even in spite of my heritage, though perhaps also because of it) I think the US, even after all that has happened, should take that same approach towards Israel, if, say, Netanyahu decides that the situation in Iran just confirms his worst fears and attacks. (I have no idea how likely that scenario is, but you get my point.)Report

  5. Avatar Katherine says:

    Very well said, Freddie! The disturbing thing about US foreign policy is the tendency to make virtually any issue – not just ones of foreign relations that might actually effect the US, but domestic policies that are irrelevant to America’s well-being – the dividing line for whether a nation is a friend or enemy. And the fact that “friend” and “enemy” are the only two categories out there. Venezuela is a classic example – what has their government done, but direct some harshly-worded criticism at the US and adopt economic policies America doesn’t agree with? Neither of those things harms or endangers the US, but they’re considered an enemy.

    And yes, it would be far more comfortable if there seemed to be a middle ground between “countries we like” and “countries we might invade”.Report

  6. Avatar matoko_chan says:

    /sigh
    Well I’m super-tired of it.
    Like I said, bad conservative memes seem to be the orphan puppies of Reihanistan. All his stuff is like this at the Beast…..Cheney for president, Beck is really a good guy instead of the second coming of Jack Lucas without the self-examination, Obama is a closet neocon, crazypants stuff.
    This stuff is political satire, not political commentary.
    And it is badcraziness for the low information base, like the Sarah Palin crack Ross and Reihan were dealin’ last summer…..my studied hypothesis is that Ross and Reihan killed the GOP by not denouncing Palin for the big-hair-and-mall-bangs ex-beauty queen that she is in the beginning.
    If all the conservative intelligentsia could have presented a united front you could have got rid of her…….now you are doomed.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    “The road to hell, etc.”

    There are many, many problems with putting overmuch weight on intentions.

    First and foremost, of course, is the whole “people lie” thing. “I didn’t mean for X to happen. I wanted for Y to happen!” is something that pretty much everybody says when X happens.

    The problem, of course, is when people say “if you try that, Y isn’t going to happen, but X is going to happen”, other people will say something to the effect of “at least we’re trying something!!!” or “I would rather live in a world where people hope for Y despite the possibilty of X than in a world with negative netties like you.”

    And then, when X happens, people will, once again, point out that they didn’t want X to happen, they wanted Y to happen.

    The basic assumption that people who are hesitant to try a policy because they think that X will be the true outcome will generally be attacked as people who are opposed to Y… and, only if they are lucky, will they be engaged in a conversation about what the policy is likely to result in.Report

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