On the Present and Future of Realpolitik
I agreed with most of this post, but I think Jeff is a little off when he says:
"The days of measured responses and Realpolitik are over."
No, Realpolitik is alive and well. North Korea is a nuclear power run by a psychotic fool who doesn't blink an eye at the deaths of millions of his own people, and missile capability to hit our allies. Why haven't we done something about it? Because of logistics, lack of popular support at home, and the incredibly tricky China question. But for the immediate future, it's more China's problem than ours, so we can sit on it. Iran is almost nuclear, and run by lunatics who think God wants them to nuke Israel. Why haven't we done anything about it? Well, we might be on the verge of doing just that, but in the mean time, we've got logistics, popular/international support problems, the hope that maybe Israel will make our problem go away. Realpolitik.
Administration critics frequently cry "hypocrisy!" when Bush-supporters point to Saddam's human rights record as an excuse to invade Iraq. "Look at all the other places we haven't invaded!!! That's conclusive proof that it's all about the ooooooiiiiiiiilll!" The response is that America can't possibly invade every nation that is run by a brutal dictator. So that gives us a couple of options: (1) we can choose to invade none of them, because we can't invade all of them, (2) we can invade them one at a time, in a completely random fashion, or (3) we can invade those nations that, by deposing genocidal dictators, also gives our nation some advantage.
The third option is unquestionably the most attractive, although you'll never get a Lefty to agree.
But that option also pre-supposes a healthy dose of Realpolitik. America has done nothing about the on-going tragedy in Sudan. But while it would be nice if we could, invading Sudan would give us no benefits, would be extremely difficult, and would more or less committ U.S. troops on the basis of whatever blood-letting CNN decides to feature most prominently. So why invade? Doesn't it make much more sense to topple someone like Saddam, where we stand some sort of chance of seeing positive benefits accrue as a result? So sure, maybe by invading Iraq, we may secure a source of oil (Note: I've never seen a Lefty willing to drill ANWR in exchange for leaving Iraq), but that's a reason to invade, not a reason to ignore it. And we have already seen the benefits accruing, in Lebanese freedom and democracy, an increasingly unstable Syria, Iraqi Kurds willing to let Israel use airbases for possible Iran strikes, and an increasingly cooperative Libya (to name a few), in addition to the simple fact that millions of Iraqis (and let's not forget the Afghans) now know what it's like to vote.
Jeff may be right that the days of Clinton-esque "measured responses" are over, but Realpolitik is alive and well, as it should be.