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September 06, 2003

Multilateral Realists

By Byron LaMasters

Back to my post on the Christian Science Monitor Neocon Quiz. Most everyone with a Democratic / moderate / left leaning perspective on foreign policy was listed vaguely as a "realist". I wanted to repost a comment that I wrote on the earlier thread.

From looking at the questions of the quiz it seems like the answers are generally go like this:

A) Far left-wing, Anti-American radical answer

B) Centrist, multilateral answer, pro-alliances, pro-diplomacy answer

C) Center Right/Right wing American Empire answer


D) Protectionist, isolationist, crazy right wing answer.

So, 'A' is for "liberals" although I'd really probably classify it as "far left". 'C' is for the Neocon's and 'D' is for the isolationists. Fine, but what is a realist? It's a broad term which unlike liberals or neocons spans the traditional left / right, Democratic / Republican divide in order to include people from Colin Powell to Bill Clinton. 'B' is the "realists" which I would guess that the majority of people come closest to. I think that realists could be further divided into conservative realists and liberal realists. I guess I'd call myself a "liberal realist". Still broad. So, how would you define me?

I consider my foreign policy to be center-left, multilaterist, pro-alliances, pro-diplomacy, hawkish on national defense, but anti-pre-emptive strike/unilateral action, strongly pro-NATO and pro-UN, pro-Israel but anti-Sharon and pro-Peace and pro-Palestinian state (two state solution). If I could make a category, what should I call it? Multilateral Realists?

Historial "multilateral realist": Tough one, but Woodrow Wilson comes close (he's the guy the CSM guys chose for historical leader of "liberals").

Modern "multilateral realist": Easy. Wesley Clark. Hmmm... interesting.

Posted by Byron LaMasters at September 6, 2003 07:08 PM | TrackBack


In 2000, NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman hypothesized that there are four de facto political parties in the US. The four generalized foreign policy positions mentioned here correspond to the divisions Friedman outlined in this three year old edition of the Minnesota Public Radio program called SOUND MONEY.

The Friedman interview takes up roughly the middle third of this one hour program.

Posted by: Tim Z at September 7, 2003 01:00 PM

BTW, just read this excellent essay in the current NY Times Magazine by Michael Ignatieff on U.S. interventionism.

Posted by: Tim Z at September 7, 2003 10:52 PM

I came out a Liberal. My basic philosophy is only to intervene when necessary and to damn sight get a true international coalition to go along.

Posted by: phil at September 8, 2003 01:25 PM

and when Poland has more troops to spare for a mission than France, does that mean it's not a true international coalition? And as I've already reamed Dems time and time again over, why is it a real coalition when you fail to get UN support in Kosovo and go in with France and Germany supporting but not for Iraq without UN support when you go in without France and Germany? It seems the main differences are:
1. there was a Democrat in the White House then, 2. Serbia was not occupied nor invaded (God only knows how many casulties we would have suffered, probably much worse than Iraq)
3. Serbia is not an Arab or Muslim country, the subtext of so much of the debate over what Iraq will become and the 'quagmire' lines tossed around by 'liberals' who don't really in their hearts believe democracy is possible there.

The 'American Empire' question is rigged. Not all neoconservatives even agree with that notion, see the AEI website debate between neocon Robert Kagan (opposing) and celebrity academic Niall Ferguson, a debate I just finished an article about.

Left is Right, up is down and the 'liberals' are the heard-hearted 'realists' while the 'Right-wing' neoconservatives are the fools who think democracy in the Arab world is a real possibility.

Posted by: TX Pundit at September 8, 2003 06:49 PM

Countries which have some need to brownnose Dubya are the only ones who take part in his "coalition".
Kosovo is 90% Muslim and was considered part of Serbia at the time. There is also a Muslim minority in the Sandjak region of Serbia proper. That would have given Serbia a percentge of Muslims similar to the percentage of Hispanics in the US.
France has the same conservative president, Chirac, that it had when Bill Clinton used air power to thwart the Serbian genocide of the Kosovars. And Germany had only recently undergone a régime change from conservative Kohl to social democrat Schröder.
The degree and cost of American interventionism in Iraq and former Yugoslavia aren't even on the same planet. More Americans are killed on a typical week in Iraq (since the famous victory speech) than were killed in both the Kosovo AND Bosnia air campaigns.
If Bill Clinton had asked for $87 billion for American interventionism in the Balkans while pushing through big tax breaks for his buddies, he really would have been removed from office.

Posted by: Tim Z at September 9, 2003 12:43 AM

The point is that save for France and Germany (ok, and Belgium and Luxembourg) NATO supported moving equipment to Turkey to defend that country from Iraqi attacks in the event of war. With the 'brown nosing' Dubya comment you are once again, just like John Kerry with his 'bought and paid for line', INSULTING real allies in the name of multilateralism, making a mockery of your own pretensions to such as a veneer for partisanship. Well my last name's Polish, maybe that has something to do with why I take such arrogance in the name of multilateralism so seriously.

Chiraq was a longtime patron of Saddam Hussein with cronies up to their eyeballs in Total Elf Fina pledged deals with the regime, as well as Alcatels. Before you get on your 'yeah but what about Halliburton' idiotic comparison, recall that this was with the regime with the rape rooms and children's prisons running we're talking about whose pockets they stuffed.

Multilateralism only counts if you get the UN on board (oh wait, we didn't even have a Security Council resolution in Kosovo like we did with 1441, where all the security council members agreed that Iraq had WMD - the Syrians especially since they got the damn stuff before the war started). Ok so multilateralism comes down to having the French support you and a Democrat in the White House, got it.

Posted by: TX Pundit at September 9, 2003 11:20 PM

I am touched by this newfound Republican veneration for human rights in Iraq. But where were Pearle, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and the neocons when Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988? And what's up with the first Bush encouraging the Kurds and Shiites to revolt against Saddam in 1991 and then leaving them to be massacred? If spreading human rights is a major reason we're in Iraq, what about the disgusting régimes in Burma and Zimbabwe? Something tells me Haliburton sees little of commercial value in either country.

President Jimmy Carter injected human rights into US foreign policy in a major way. Many Republicans have made a career out of ridiculing and vilifying him for his efforts. Carter's human rights policies have made far more friends for America than Kissinger's Realpolitik. Carter administration pressure on brutal military régimes in South America (especially Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile) to respect the fundamental human rights of their citizens is certainly one of the reasons people on that continent don't hate America the way so many people in the Middle East do.

Oh, do not attempt to "out-Polish" me. My grandmother was born down the street from a tavern owned by the grandfather of Dan Rostenkowski. In the 1940s she was a volunteer for Congressman Anton Maciejewski. On her deathbed my great aunt referred to me as "Ten który chodzi w nocy" (sort of prophetic). In the middle of the 19th century, ancestors on the other side of the family took part in a bloody little revolt against the Austrians. I feel I have a right to criticize policies of the Polish government the way Jewish Americans criticize Ariel Sharon.

Posted by: Tim Z at September 10, 2003 09:01 PM
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