April 25, 2004

Berger's Vision: The Fisking V

Sandy Berger was commissioned by Foreign Affairs to produce a foreign policy essay for the next president from a Democrat perspective.

This is much too long to analyze in one shot, thus the numbered title, Part V is below:

These ["U.S. power -- particularly military power -- is the only real force for advancing U.S. interests"] are not new ideas. During the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, a hard-line faction of congressional Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Robert Taft, fought virtually every measure to build the postwar international order. They opposed NATO and the permanent deployment of U.S. troops in Europe, believing we should rely on the unilateral exercise of military power to defeat Soviet designs. They fought the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and turned against the UN. And they disdained "one worlders" such as Eleanor Roosevelt for their support of international law. Taft Republicans were briefly dominant in the U.S. Congress (until the combined efforts of Democrats and internationalist Republicans such as Dwight Eisenhower relegated them to the sidelines). But their radical world-view never drove policy in the executive branch -- until today.

This section is so detached from reality that I'm having a hard time trying to figure out where to start. International Communism was an existential challenge but it was generally not a challenge to the Westphalian system though there were some tertiary aspects to Communism that did threaten the system in theory. You might recall that theoretically the state was eventually going to wither away.

The true state of things today isn't a mainstream choice between two forms of action to counter this threat but rather between real action and verbal posturing. The reality is that parts of our international system have either always been dysfunctional or have grown that way. Ronald Reagan tried to force reform by withdrawing from UNESCO. And his method worked, after 20 years...

So if the IAEA is ineffective in N. Korea and Iran, and it is missing proliferation cabals like the Libyan group effort recently abandoned should we withdraw and wait two decades for reform to happen in the UN? Or should we take the Bush approach and create a new institution, the Proliferation Security Initiative? The PSI may not have the fancy offices and institutional age and weight that the IAEA has but it does have one advantage, effectiveness.

The pattern of opting for effective action once permanent institutions prove ineffective is a continuing theme for the Bush administration. But what is the Berger alternative for effective action once a permanent part of the international system shows itself as ineffective or worse? There doesn't seem to be one other than to take the defeat gracefully and just live with it. Such a strategy is simply not acceptable wartime thinking.

Posted by TMLutas at April 25, 2004 11:41 AM