A Defense of Foreign Policy Schizophrenia

A Defense of Foreign Policy Schizophrenia

Chris makes some very good points about the Bush Administration’s foreign policy “schizophrenia” and listing the nomination of Bolton as symptomatic of the problem. Not surprisingly, I disagree. I think this “schizoprenia” is actually a good thing.

I do agree that there is some back-and-forth in the Bush Administration’s foreign policy recently, but I actually think this reflects an increasing sophistication rather than increasing confusion. Indeed, the main complaint up to now with the current administration has been that it has been way too consistent in the pursuit of single-track ideals and policies to get to those ideals without taking into account the complexity of the real world they are facing. I was reminded of this by the rolled eyes from some audience members during ASIL meeting to Secretary Rice’s admittedly somewhat trite invocation of “freedom and democracy” as the primary goals of U.S. foreign policy.

I take this is also the standard criticism of the U.S. insistence on denying the Geneva Convention protections to Al Qaeda members. This approach is hurting you with your allies and with your efforts to win over the Arab world so why not apply the GC and other protections since it won’t really hamper you very much anyway (that was the Taft argument that Chris praises here)?

It seems that Bush II (or perhaps Bush III?) is beginning to adopt a more pragmatic give-and-take approach. Give (say the Darfur referral to the ICC) but make sure you “take” (say Wolfowitz at the World Bank). Support the U.N. generally (notice how Bush has not called for Annan to step down) but keep the pressure on for U.N. reform (that would be putting Bolton there to watch over them, see the WSJ’s explanation of this strategy). Comply with the ICJ order, but withdraw from the Optional Protocol. It seems that if a President named something other than Bush was engaged in this sophisticated approach, the over-educated folks at places like the Council of Foreign Relations and ASIL would be nodding approvingly over their glasses of chardonnay.

On the flip side, although I respect very much what the folks at places like Democracy Arsenal are trying to do, I think there is as much “schizophrenia” in foreign policy on the left these days, if not more. What exactly do progressives stand for in foreign policy today? More support for international law and institutions? But what about that pesky WTO and NAFTA? Reduction in the use of U.S. military force abroad? But what about humanitarian interventions? Admittedly, these are difficult questions. But both sides have to deal with them. And when President Hillary comes into office (a reality that I fear lies in our very near future), I have no doubt that the complaints about her “foreign policy schizophrenia” will erupt nearly immediately.

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