Monday, November 27, 2006

Realism for our times*

Robert Kagan and William Kristol have something to say in the Weekly Standard about the new yen for realpolitik:

So let's add up the "realist" proposals: We must retreat from Iraq, and thus abandon all those Iraqis--Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, and others--who have depended on the United States for safety and the promise of a better future. We must abandon our allies in Lebanon and the very idea of an independent Lebanon in order to win Syria's support for our retreat from Iraq. We must abandon our opposition to Iran's nuclear program in order to convince Iran to help us abandon Iraq. And we must pressure our ally, Israel, to accommodate a violent Hamas in order to gain radical Arab support for our retreat from Iraq.

This is what passes for realism these days. But of course this is not realism. It is capitulation. Were the United States to adopt this approach every time we faced a difficult set of problems, were we to attempt to satisfy our adversaries' every whim in order to win their acquiescence, we would rapidly cease to play any significant role in the world. We would be neither feared nor respected--nor, of course, would we be any better liked. Our retreat would win us no friends and lose us no adversaries.

What our adversaries in the Middle East want from us is very simple: They want us out. Unless we are prepared to withdraw, not just from Iraq but from the entire region, and from elsewhere as well, we had better start figuring out how to pursue effectively--realistically--our interests and goals. This is true American realism. All the rest is a fancy way of justifying surrender.

And the Washington Post seems to me to be suffering from multiple personality--or it just that this editorial was written by a committee? For the most part, the author[s] explain why Iran and Syria can't be reasoned with, and do it rather well. They call for more than talks as a remedy; a "big stick" is needed. But there is a strange reliance on the supposed power of UN sanctions--not only a pipe dream at this point, but a worthless pipe dream, at that.

The Post seems relatively clear on what the problem is. But I'm afraid their solution more closely resembles a small toothpick than a big stick.

[* See this.]

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