Wednesday, November 23, 2005


To many realists (like John Mearsheimer, who I saw at a public debate at UChicago that occured during the leadup to the Iraq War--he opposed intervention), even those of an American strain, say Bush's foreign policy is folly. I agree that there have been mistakes, but I think that is due to a lack of a clear plan and grander strategic thinking.

What I want to know is why don't I ever read an article by a political scientist on a realism that utilizes the theory of democratic peace to achieve results? To me that seems like a merging of a strain of realism, neoconservatism, and liberalism in a very American way--a foreign policy that uses the inherant morality of democracy and capitalism to help spread a system that ensures American power and security.

That's my way of thinking. Establish democracies, through using force to topple dictators that pose more immediate security threats to the US (or even a more distant threat, like China [thus working to keep China down]), or more passive means if thie nation is less threatening, to build a network of capitalist, democratic nations that tend to not be agressive (like Japan and Western Europe in the last fifty years). You build up a world of relatively happy capitalist democracies that won't try to compete for world hegemony with the US because they're placated by their rising standards of living and representative governments. Thus you prevent future world hegemonic wars by keeping the US as the world's only superpower, because its the only continental country with a large military in a system where other countries have no interest in building militaries because the US is taking care of police actions for them. It'd be an economic and cultural victory of world domination. Where everyone seems to win in that many more peoples of the world gain prosperity without the expense of war, and the current hegemon remains hegemon.

It doesn't seem ridiculous to me. And it seems to be in line with recent US foreign policy Am I just deluding myself, or am I on to something? Thoughts, please...

I've sent an e-mail to Daniel Drezner, one of the blogosphere's resident political scientists, for his thougths on the above blatherings. Hopefully he can shed some light on all of this.

UPDATE: Here's more, provoked by the comments below:

The crux if it all is that if people have money and economic prosperity, they tend to worry more about their own lives and spend less time agitating politically. They become passified by their luxury--you know, kind of like what happened to the Roman Empire according to Gibbon's interpretation.

And, since prosperity and freedom are attractive to most people, spreading this idea isn't that hard, because people want to be better of in most cases. You just need to give people the opportunity to chose prosperity, and they'll normally take it.

Once that happens, they want to join the WTO and to gain wealth by competing in the world capitalist system. Once they do that, they're under the USs thumb because the world system constructed after WWII in the free west was built with the US on top.

However, the countries won't care if the US is bigger and badder than them militarily because their own lives are doing pretty well. And thus the chance for war is less. Additionally, since the US has the lead currently economically and militarily, if it plays its cards right it can easily maintain that lead due to the fact that a more powerful economy produces more capital, reinvests more in itself, and thus keeps and perhaps gains more of a lead. But other peoples don't care because their prosperity is underpinned by being a trading partner to the US, and no one wants to lose their bread and circus.

Also, check out the comments I wrote below for replies to criticisms (which are mostly due to this being a blog-post and not an academic paper where I have the time and space to lay this out more thoroughly and to hit obvious objections before they can crop up.

Unless it is a UN type operation with support across a broad range of people it is just imposing ones belief structure on another. Do you really believe that the 1/3 of the new Iraqi parliament members that were picked/appointed by the US/CPA really have support of the people?
Establish democracies, through using force to topple dictators that pose more immediate security threats to the US (or even a more distant threat....

What is your your defintion of a "threat"?:

a.) A worn out thug (and former client) with a moth-eaten army and an even more decrepit weapons capabilities (ex: Iraq)-?
b.) A superpower who openly announced an increase in nuclear weapons production (ex: Russia) -?

What are working examples of the stated policy?
Nicaragua? El Salvador? Haiti? Zaire?

What qualifies one as being a dictator? Who is a dictator?
Pervez Musharraf ? Islam Karimov? Mubarak? Bolkiah?...
I won't contend that the stated policy has worked flawlessly, but then again it hasn't been executed flawlessly, and perhaps even conciously. How it would work if it was the direct aim of US policy is uncertain, since it really hasn't been our aim to do similar things on a grand scale since WWII.

Working examples: Easy--Japan and Germany. Eastern European countries are coming along nicely as well, and Lebanon isn't looking to shabby either. Afghanistan isn't so bad either, and it's getting better every day.

And I should clarify, I don't really mean dictator. I should have said economically illiberal states that are built on populist policies designed to hate the west. You topple the governments and cartels that are preventing their peoples from converting their nation to capitalism themselves. Once you remove the power of opressive states and cartels (drugs in south america, oil and minerals in Russia), people will be more easily able to compete in a fair economy.

And now, you don't do the entire world at once. You work from the greater threats on down. So, Syria, Iran, North Korea, with hard force if necessary, while also more slowly taking on Russia and China through softer policies of cultural conversion, and political and economic isolation if the country in question resists conforming to the world system.

What I'm proposing is clearly a power play for the US that establishes its dominance. However, a nice side effect is that the world becomes more prosperous and free. Win-win, in a way.
Oh, just in case I wasn't clear to comment poster #1's objection about imposing beliefs on another: The belief wouldn't be really imposing beliefs on another. It would be allowing people to chose what we want them to.

You can view that as wrong, but since it's unacceptable to have genocidal regimes that support terrorism against us and which opress and kill their own peoples, I'm willing to take a side in this conflict of beliefs.

There is such a thing as natural right. Everything is NOT relative. And islamo-fascism is a perversion of Islam and entirely unacceptable. And one man's terrorist is definately NOT another man's freedom fighter. Not in an acceptable world to me and those that want to live in a safe, secure country.

And I think I'll address one more historical example--the Roman Republic. Reading Machiavelli, specifically the Discourses (although you need to read the Prince as well because both works really go together--and reading Strauss' commentary on both wouldn't hurt to improve your ability to think) and histories of Rome such as Livies and Gibbon's, you see an example of the spreading of a cultural and political system done successfully.

Now that the world is small enough due to air travel and near-instantaneous communication (such as this blog), I don't see why it's unreasonable that the world couldn't be slowly converted to the western system of free democracies that are prosperous due to capitalism. The US could be the engine of such change if it wished (it's done so it the past, as I say, to great effect), and doing so is in its best security interests, since it would make the world more stable and less inclined to bouts of world and nuclear war.
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