Thursday, July 13, 2006

Robert Kagan's Fever Dream

In today's Post.

Well, he knows more about this sort of thing, than I do, but this piece seems to border on fantasy.

First, there's the gratuitous shot at Clinton, for allegedly "leaving every major international crisis...for his successor." Which is, first, untrue--crises in the former Yugoslavia are easily forgotten, I suppose, since they were solved--and, second, misleading in the extreme. In some cases the best option is to simply do more harm. A simmering crisis is usually (though not always) better than one that is boiling over. And even when that's not true, not all ways of making a crisis boil over are preferably to letting it simmer. In Iraq, for example, I was no fan of the "let it simmer" strategy. An intelligent effort to resolve it would have been welcome. Instead, we got a bone-headed effort that simply made things far, far, far worse.

Many experts agree that Clinton handled Korea about as well as it could have been handled. I'm not sure what the consensus is of his handling of Iran. But there's a great deal of agreement that Bush's cowboy diplomacy, including his peurile "Axis of Evil" ad campaign, simply made things worse.

Bush might be engaged in the patient and intelligent diplomatic campaign that Kagan fantasizes about, but there's almost no reason to think that he is. If he'd shown any patience or intelligence in the past, this theory might have some plausibility. But he hasn't, so it doesn't. His own diplomatic strategy having proven to be a resounding failure thus far, it seems as if he may be--may be--falling back on more orthodox, time-tested methods. One can hope, of course, but it's probably too soon to tell.

Kagan also writes that his hypothetical Bush "...would have learned from his Iraq experience that, to be successful in the present, profoundly unserious international environment, a diplomatic effort requires two things: evident sincerity and almost infinite patience." Which would mean that he had finally, after disastrous failure after disastrous failure, learned what Clinton knew all along. Making Kagan's unfavorable comparison of the two even stranger.

I share Kagan's hope--improbable though it seems--that Bush has turned over a new leaf. But there's a difference between hope and fantasy. And Kagan's continued adherence to the "blame Clinton" strategy does not inspire confidence in his ability to distinguish fantasy from fact. At some point conservatives are going to have to acknowledge that Bush's failures are Bush's fault. But this would, I suppose, force them to acknowledge that they have elected and backed a candidate who is patently unfit for office, and, as a result, put the nation and the entire world in peril.

Intellectually honest people who really believed in taking personal responsibility for their actions would admit just that.

Wonder what this bunch will do?


Blogger Xanthippas said...

Your post on Kagan's article resembles mine, only that yours is longer and more eloquantly worded!

1:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You're the one engaging in fantasy, that Clinton left foreign policy in good shape when departed the White House.

(Is that style of argument OK when it's directed at you, WS? I can do it too, y'know, but my heart's not in it.)

4:42 PM  

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