Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All and sundry realists on liberal internationalism

Which New Left Reviewer wrote the following about Matt Yglesias' new book?
Nor will other states necessarily recognize an impeccable record of deference when they see it. Foreign statesmen may be deceived. Even when they agree on the facts, they may still disagree on their proper interpretation. Yglesias labors, for example, to fit the 1999 Kosovo War into his internationalist framework, even though the United States initiated the intervention without UN approval. It was not the United States, you see, that bombed Serbia but the “international” institution of NATO. Fine, but for liberal internationalism to work, other nations must accept this interpretation of the Kosovo War as obviously correct, when just as obviously it is not. By Yglesias’s logic, one could also describe the invasion of Iraq as “internationalist” because the United States cobbled together a “coalition of the willing.” Coalition members other than Britain contributed almost nothing to the U.S. effort, but non-U.S. NATO members contributed equally little to the 1999 Kosovo War. In the end, it is unclear whether Yglesias seeks anything more than an internationalist fig leaf for the policies he happens to prefer.
Well, it was actually a gentleman named Austin Bramwell, writing for the American Conservative. Bramwell's realist critique of Yglesias contains several useful insights, and I recommend reading the whole thing. Interestingly for me, the review signals a further step in the rapprochement between paleoconservativism/realism and radical leftist critiques, the latter of which have proliferated in the past few years as a challenge to both liberal internationalism and neoconservativism (and which has seen its own Doppelganger in the "decent left" movements of the Euston Manifesto and others). See, for example, this review in NLR of arch-realist Christopher Layne's book The Peace of Illusions; Perry Anderson's assessment of the center-left internationalism of Habermas, Rawls, and Norberto Bobbio; his recent (and in my view, mistaken) acceptance of the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel lobby thesis; and several posts on the socialist blog Lenin's Tomb, particularly this one. The overall statement seems to be, to paraphrase Sartre, "Marxism is a realism." Or, to use lenin (the blogger's) formulation, "Socialism is therefore realpolitik for the poor, the working class, and the oppressed."

An interesting development, whatever your personal take on it. But to return to the AmCon review, there's this statement, which reestablishes whatever lines one might have thought were being blurred:
In the face of such massive public ignorance, the Democrats probably could not have opposed the Iraq invasion and won. Voters do not pay close enough attention to politics to grasp the counterintuitive conclusion that the president wanted to invade a country that had not attacked us. Indeed, at the highest levels of wisdom, perhaps we should be grateful that the public never quite got it. Greater public awareness of the reasons, or lack thereof, behind the invasion could have sparked a crisis of legitimacy. It may be better to continue to waste lives and treasure in Iraq than to allow our institutions to come under fundamental attack. The people must not know the truth. This anti-Dreyfusardist argument may at least subconsciously drive those opinion-makers who continue to support the occupation.
Yowza! It's not for nothing he opened the review with a reference to Schumpeter.

2 Comments:

Blogger The Sheriff said...

I think the shared language question is an interesting one, in many cases reasonable and in others dangerous. The most frightening instances of this are with liberatrian idologues, who've managed to poach from the traditional student/activist base of the left using a realpolitik, "outsider" critique of much of the contemporary (neo)liberal rhetoric and activity. As we've seen/discussed, however, their language becomes significantly impoverished after this point and critique becomes conspiracy, and an inability to reconcile a harsh critique of popular liberalism turns into antiegalitarianism and elitism.

I'd like to know more, Scantron, about your passing disagreement with Anderson's agreement with Mearscheieieimer and Walt.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Sebonde said...

Well, the Sheriff has beaten me to my question, and so I second the motion for Scantron to elaborate on his disagreement with Mearsheimer and Walt. If the Obama Candidacy demonstrates anything, it demonstrates the Mearsheimer/Walt thesis in spades! Here is a guy who allowed himself to be photographed with Edward Said now saying that Israel's Vernichtungskrieg against Lebanon was an act of self-defense! Clearly, the Lobby got to him.

11:28 AM  

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