Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama is not a Foreign Policy "Realist"

People really need to learn what that term means in the context of foreign policy. "Realism" in foreign policy is ethical egoism writ large; it is the view that actions are only right to the extent that they are in the interest of the nation--in this case, the United States. "Realism" in the foreign policy debated does not mean what it means in ordinary conversation about individuals. Urging someone to be a foreign policy realist is not the same thing as urging them to "be realistic."

Obama's actions in Libya alone show that he is not a "realist." A realist in the relevant sense would not have intervened in any way.

There's little he or the U.S. can do in, say Syria. The U.S. has expended its political and moral capital in the Middle East, and Bush/Cheney's insane Iraq adventure drained us of blood and treasure. And then there's Russia... So our options are limited.

Obama won't launch any crazed adventures like Iraq...but, then, only a lunatic would do so, especially now, in the aftermath of the Iraq debacle.

None of this, however, means that Obama is a "realist" in the strict sense of the term in the foreign policy debate. To have a sensible and modest foreign policy is not to be a foreign policy "realist." Foreign policy realism is immoral. It is the view that, no matter how easy it would be for us to save innocent lives by using military force, we should not do so unless there is enough in it for us.

Foreign policy realism is an insane view. It needs to be 100% off the table. No non-sociopathic nation has a "realist" foreign policy. A nation might have very conservative views about how much it should risk in humanitarian interventions; but to become a "realist" nation is to abandon many of the principles that make the United States a nation worth of respect, loyalty and commitment.


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