I spent most of today on a transcontinental flight either sitting on the tarmac or cursing at the executives at United Airlines dumb enough to think 1) A Katherine Heigl movie will put everyone in a better mood; and 2) Running out of food -- for purchase, mind you -- halfway through the flight would be a swell idea.
I was, in other words, in a very cranky mood. And then someone asked me to look at a Paul Saunders essay over at The National Interest. Here's how it opens:
The Obama administration’s poor handling of its interaction with Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has prompted renewed denunciations of its “realist” foreign policy, already a focus for critics of its approach to Russia, the Middle East and other major international issues. Yet while criticism of the administration’s conduct is appropriate, calling it “realist” is misguided. In fact, the administration’s aimless and stumbling pragmatism is giving realism and realists a bad name.
Pragmatism is a central component of foreign-policy realism, but it is only so when firmly subordinated to a strategic vision founded on American interests and reflecting American values. While President Obama and senior administration officials cling rhetorically to a strategic vision based on a pragmatic version of liberal internationalism, attempting to build a rule-based liberal international order, the sum total of U.S. policy appears instead to define a considerably narrower goal: avoiding international problems, particularly when they have domestic political consequences.
Oh thank you thank you thank you -- there's nothing that puts me in a better mood than seeing tripe like this and ripping it to shreds.
1) They don't give a flying fig about promoting "American values" overseas;
2) They don't sweat the small stuff.
The first point is Realism 101, and doesn't need to be elaborated upon. It's the second thing that matters more here. Seriously, all realists pretty much care about is the relationships among the great powers. And if you step back, the signal theme of the Obama administration's foreign policy guidance and national security guidance has been to disengage from costly ground campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocus energy on the most dynamic region in the global economy and the only one with a possible rising hegemon. That seems to fit this description of a realist foreign policy pretty well. That's exactly what the Obama administration has done with its "strategic pivot" or "rebalancing" or whatever they're calling it this week.
If you focus on the big picture, this administration is really realist. If you focus on small tactical errors like the Chen case and inductively generalize from that, well, you've revealed yourself to be someone without a firm grasp of realpolitik principles in the first place.
Congratulations to Mr. Saunders for being this week's Vizzini Award winner -- I don't think "realism" means what he thinks it means.
Following up on my rant against realist whinging and Rosato and Schuessler's non-whinging defense of realism, the following is a response by the managers of the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) surveys. Their basic argument: no matter what realism says as a paradigm, individual realists do not exactly advocate what Rosato and Schuessler say they advocate.
Let the fight…continue!
Are There Neoconservative Wolves in the Realist Flock?
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. —Matthew 7:15
Sebastian Rosato and John Schuessler recently argued that there is "a complete absence of bona fide realists inside the Beltway" and that if more policymakers employed realist thinking when making foreign policy, then we could expect the real "prospect of security without war." They bemoan the criticism that realist theory receives within both the academy and, especially, in foreign policymaking circles. "This is unfortunate, as realists seem to turn up on the right side of history as often as not -- the Vietnam and Iraq wars are prominent examples -- and may do so again if the Obama administration stumbles into a foolish war with Iran (a war that prominent realists have opposed)."
Leaving aside the notion that we ought to strive for a foreign policy that is only successful "as often as not," Rosato and Schuessler are correct that some prominent realists (e.g. Stephen Walt and Nuno Monteiro) oppose war with Iran. Several prominent realists also opposed the Vietnam War (e.g. Hans Morgenthau) and the war in Iraq (e.g. John Mearsheimer). But realists are not alone in their opposition. Many other non-randomly selected scholars representing other schools of thought also often oppose the use of force. For example, see liberals Joe Nye and Anne-Marie Slaughter or constructivists Marc Lynch and Colin Kahl who also oppose war with Iran.
Noting the policy preferences of a particular set of realists (or liberals/constructivists) does little to support the claim that having more realists inside the beltway would lead to fewer U.S. military interventions. An alternative way to assess the likely impact of inviting more realists into policymaking circles would be to survey all IR scholars and see whether self-identified realists are less likely, more likely, or no more or less likely on average than proponents of other IR paradigms to support the use of force abroad. As it happens, we've done that in a series of Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) surveys.
In 2004, we asked IR scholars in the U.S. a variety of questions about their support or opposition to the war in Iraq. Among dozens of other questions, we also asked scholars to report the primary IR paradigm that they employ in their research, their political ideology, and their substantive field of study. No matter how we asked the Iraq question (and we asked it four different ways), realists are no more likely than liberals or those who don't adhere to a particular paradigm to support or oppose the war in Iraq once we control for political ideology. If we leave ideology out of the model, realists are actually more likely to have supported the war in Iraq. Constructivism is the only paradigm that is statistically significantly correlated with opposition to the Iraq war after controlling for ideology. Here we plot the predicted probability of favoring the Iraq war by paradigm after controlling for ideology (error bars represent 90 percent confidence intervals):
The 2004 Iraq results are consistent with results from the 2011 survey regarding the potential use of force in Iran. We asked scholars "Would you approve of disapprove of the use of U.S. military forces ... if it were certain that Iran had produced a nuclear weapon." Again, realists were no more or less likely than adherents of other paradigms to support or oppose the use of force against Iran after controlling for ideology and field of study. Again, if we leave ideology out of the model, realists are more likely to support striking Iran (We discussed the results of the 2011 survey in more detail in a recent guest post on the Monkey Cage).
Our 2006 results differ. We asked scholars "If Iran continues to produce materials that can be used to develop nuclear weapons, would you support or oppose the U.S. taking military action against Iran?" In this case, realists are more likely to support intervention, even after controlling for ideology and a number of other factors.
So, our results from 2004 and 2011 fail to support the claim made by Rosato and Schuessler and our results from 2006 are the opposite of what their argument suggests.
Proponents of a realist foreign policy may rightly point out that our discussion above is about individuals who self-identify as realists, not realist theory. Perhaps there are just a bunch of respondents in our sample calling themselves "realists" who don't really understand the logic of their favored paradigm. And perhaps a more accurate reading of realist theory (as offered by Walt, Mearsheimer, Rosato and Schuessler) would lead to foreign policy prescriptions that are less bellicose and radically different from other IR paradigms. Perhaps. But it is individual realists — not some version of realist theory personified — who are appointed to policy posts in Washington to craft and implement policy, who write op-eds, blog posts, and journal articles to inform current policy makers, and who teach future policy makers at colleges and universities. And those realists (on average) were not less inclined to advocate the use of force in Iraq back in 2003 and they are not less inclined to advocate the use of force against Iran today.
In most of our tests above, it is only after controlling for political ideology that realists tend to fall in line with liberals and constructivists in opposing the use of force. The average ideology of self-identified realists in the sample helps to explain the gap between the realism that Rosato and Schusseler advocate and the "average" understanding of realism that is reflected in our surveys. As Brian Rathburn recently argued, there may be hawkish wolves within the realist flock — individuals who call themselves realists but who support policies that do not conform to the realism of Mearsheimer, Walt, Rosato, and Schuesster. As Rathbun explains, "The situation is...confused by the invocation of 'realism' as a guiding set of principles by both neoconservatives and conservatives."
To put our cards on the table, we find the Rosato and Schuessler version of realism both sensible and consistent with our own descriptions of realism to our students. We also agree that the Iraq and Vietnam wars did little to advance the interests of the United States, and that a war with Iran would also be a bad idea. We show that many IR scholars also agree for reasons related to their scholarly commitments and/or personal views. Currently, many scholars who self-identify as realists are also conservative and it may be their ideology, rather than the logic of realism that shapes their policy preferences. If that is the case, and they are dressing up their ideologically driven positions in realist trappings, Rosato and Schuessler are right to continue their efforts to better communicate the logic and implications of realist theory. But perhaps they also ought to warn their readers, "Beware those who come to you in realist clothing, for they may inwardly be ravenous neocons."
What do you think?
Last week I had a good rant about the persecution complex of realist international relations scholars.
This is a discussion that needs to continue, however -- see the responses by Justin Logan, Alan Alexandroff and Steve Saideman, for example. So, I invited two of the smartest and least-likely-to-whine realists I know to respond. John Schuessler (an assistant professor in the Department of Strategy at the Air War College) and Sebastian Rosato (an assistant professor of political science at Notre Dame) offer their take below. I will respond later in the week:
Realists are Right After All
Sebastian Rosato and John Schuessler
Dan Drezner claims that academic realists have a "strong, cultivated sense of victimhood." He is tired of what he sees as their unjustified griping that they are pariahs in the academy, among the general public, and in the foreign policy community. And he wants them to just come out and admit that they've failed to "popularize their own ideas."
As it happens, his post comes shortly after the publication of our article, "A Realist Foreign Policy for the United States" (Perspectives on Politics), in which we have a different take on these issues.
Let's start with whether or not people like realism. In our article, we ask what kind of policy the United States can pursue that will ensure its security while minimizing the likelihood of war. We then point out that IR scholars have tended to dismiss the possibility that realism has anything to contribute to the debate. The charge comes in a variety of forms, from ‘realism causes war' to ‘realism prevents progress.' This prompts critics to label realists as irresponsible or even immoral and to call for more ‘enlightened' or ‘morally acceptable' alternatives. It is for good reason that Robert Gilpin has said that "no one loves a political realist." This hostility extends to the policy community. As we discuss in our article, U.S. policymakers have taken and continue to take their cues not from realism but from its main theoretical antagonist, liberalism. There is no need to take our word for it, however. John Owen, Colin Dueck, and Michael Desch, among others, have pointed out that American foreign policy has been guided by liberal principles since the Founding.
Our article describes and defends a realist foreign policy to guide U.S. decision makers. Our recommendation, which is logically derived from realist principles, is that the United States should balance against other great powers as well as against hostile minor powers that inhabit strategically important regions of the world, while otherwise practicing restraint. We then show that had the United States and other great powers followed our realist prescriptions, some of the most important wars of the past century-including the world wars, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War-might have been averted. Simply put, realism offers the prospect of security without war.
We wrote our article at least in part to popularize realist thinking. This would not count for much, and realists could still be accused of failing to spread their ideas, if we were the first realists to do so. But as we note, realists have been vocal contributors to the debate on U.S. foreign policy since World War II, even going so far as to oppose both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Since the end of the Cold War, realists have been some of the loudest voices calling for restraint, with John Mearsheimer, Chris Layne and Steve Walt all urging the United States to adopt an "offshore balancing" posture, which overlaps considerably with our own preferred policy. On the merits, such an approach, and the realism that underpins it, should be popular. After all, if the United States had abided by its precepts, it likely would have been involved in fewer wars than it has been over the past few decades.
We did not write "A Realist Foreign Policy for the United States" with Dan's criticisms in mind, but if we had we would also have noted the following.
For one thing, we have cited only some of the evidence that Americans dislike realism. Dan argues elsewhere that the public is not unsympathetic to realism, but others have claimed that public opinion is essentially liberal. As for the foreign policy community, we share Justin Logan's sense that there's a dearth or even a complete absence of bona fide realists inside the Beltway. Realism's approval ratings in the academy are hardly better. Dan's concession that realism is not the most popular paradigm among IR scholars is an understatement-indeed, if you ignore Marxism, it's the least popular approach in the field. As a recent survey concludes, "realism does not have the hold on the field it is often thought to have" and, in fact, it never did. Realist research has never made up more than 15% of published articles, for example. And although we agree with Dan that realism commands a lot of attention in the classroom, it is typically presented as a crude, dated, unscientific, amoral approach that needs to be heavily amended or, preferably, jettisoned entirely. No other approach receives as much criticism.
This is unfortunate, as realists seem to turn up on the right side of history as often as not-the Vietnam and Iraq wars are prominent examples-and may do so again if the Obama administration stumbles into a foolish war with Iran (a war that prominent realists have opposed).
This is not to say that we feel victimized. But as card-carrying members of an academic approach that is excoriated and ignored despite being regularly vindicated by real world events and providing a better recipe for peace and stability than the alternatives, we admit to being confused.
Note: John Schuessler's views are his own and do not represent those of the Air War College, the Air Force, or the Department of Defense.
Over the break, I see that John Mearsheimer got the glowing Robert D. Kaplan treatment in The Atlantic. Kaplan is a master of this genre, writing my favorite profile of Samuel Huntington a little more than a decade ago. In his Atlantic essay, Kaplan smartly observes that John's real intellectual legacy should be his 2001 masterwork The Tragedy of Great Power Politics:
The best grand theories tend to be written no earlier than middle age, when the writer has life experience and mistakes behind him to draw upon. Morgenthau’s 1948 classic, Politics Among Nations, was published when he was 44, Fukuyama’s The End of History was published as a book when he was 40, and Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations as a book when he was 69. Mearsheimer began writing The Tragedy of Great Power Politics when he was in his mid-40s, after working on it for a decade. Published just before 9/11, the book intimates the need for America to avoid strategic distractions and concentrate on confronting China. A decade later, with the growth of China’s military might vastly more apparent than it was in 2001, and following the debacles of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, its clairvoyance is breathtaking.
Note to self: start outlining awesome, earth-moving grand theory now. [Note to Drezner: sorry, but you already dug your own grave when it comes to intellectual legacy--ed.]
It's not surprising that Kaplan, a geopolitics wonk, loves Tragedy, with its emphasis on the "stopping power of water" and all. The essay is worth reading in full -- but seeing as how
I'm quoted without attribution I've done a bit of research on realism, I can't let this casual assertion go by without some pushback:
[I]n a country that has always been hostile to what realism signifies, [Mearsheimer] wears his “realist” label as a badge of honor. “To realism!” he says as he raises his wineglass to me in a toast at a local restaurant. As Ashley J. Tellis, Mearsheimer’s former student and now, after a stint in the Bush administration, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, later tells me: “Realism is alien to the American tradition. It is consciously amoral, focused as it is on interests rather than on values in a debased world. But realism never dies, because it accurately reflects how states actually behave, behind the façade of their values-based rhetoric.”...
For Mearsheimer, academia’s hostility to realism is evident in the fact that Harvard, which aims to recruit the top scholars in every field, never tried to hire the two most important realist thinkers of the 20th century, Morgenthau and Kenneth Waltz. But at Chicago, a realist like Mearsheimer, who loves teaching and never had ambitions for government service, can propound theories and unpopular ideas, and revel in the uproar they cause. Whatever the latest group-think happens to be, Mearsheimer almost always instinctively wants to oppose it—especially if it emanates from Washington.
This notion of realism being alien to the United States has been a recurring theme of realists, since, well, realism asserted itself in the American academy. It's impossible to have a conversation with John Mearsheimer longer than 15 minutes without him bringing up this point.
The thing is, it's a sloppy argument lacking in empirical foundation. Just for starters, even realists acknowledge that Ron Paul's campaign is doing well because it's sympatico with the realist critique of American foreign policy. More substantively, this canard is why I researched and wrote "The Realist Tradition in American Public Opinion" a few years ago. My principal conclusion from that essay:
Americans do hold some liberal aspirations for their conduct across the globe, and believe that morality should play a role in foreign affairs—in the abstract. However, surveys about foreign policy world views and priorities, the use of force, and foreign economic policies all reveal a strong realist bent among the mass American public. The overwhelming majority of Americans possess a Hobbesian world view of international relations. Americans consistently place realist foreign policy objectives— the securing of energy supplies, homeland security—as top foreign policy priorities. Objectives associated with liberal internationalism—strengthening the United Nations, promoting democracy and human rights—rank near the bottom of the list. On the uses of force, experimental surveys reveal that Americans think like intuitive neorealists; they prefer balancing against aggressive and rising powers while remaining leery about liberal-style interventions. On foreign economic policy, Americans think of trade through a relative gains prism, particularly if the trading partner is viewed as a rising economic power. Surveys and polling do suggest that Americans like multilateral institutions, but they appear to like them for realist reasons—they are viewed as mechanisms for burden-sharing.
It is somewhat more accurate to say that America's foreign policy elites are more hostile to realpolitik -- though even here, things can be exaggerated. The recent TRIP survey, for example, revealed that realism might not be the most popular paradigm among IR scholars, but it still commands a healthy fraction of academics, and commands an even greater fraction of attention in international relations courses.
This might seem like a small point, but it's an important one -- because to be honest I'm fed up with realists whining that everyone is against them. If there is one thing that academic realists have in common, it's a strong, cultivated sense of victimhood. "Our field despises us! Americans don't like us! The foreign policy community hates us!"
Cut it out already. There is a long intellectual lineage in the American academy -- starting with Hans Morgenthau and continuing with Mearsheimer and his students -- that evinces realist principles. There is an equally strong intellectual lineage of policy principals -- starting with George Kennan and continuing with Brent Scowcroft and his acolytes -- that walk the realist walk. Realists advocate a doctrine that genuinely resonates with a large swath of the American mass public. If realists fail to popularize their own ideas, then perhaps they should look in the mirror before invoking the "everyone hates us so we must be right" card.
Ryan Lizza has a 9,000+ word exegesis on the Obama administration's foreign policy decisionmaking in The New Yorker. For anyone who's paid attention to this debate over the past six weeks, there's nothing terribly new -- for those who haven't however, it's a decent summary. The key parts for me:
One of Donilon’s overriding beliefs, which Obama adopted as his own, was that America needed to rebuild its reputation, extricate itself from the Middle East and Afghanistan, and turn its attention toward Asia and China’s unchecked influence in the region. America was “overweighted” in the former and “underweighted” in the latter, Donilon told me. “We’ve been on a little bit of a Middle East detour over the course of the last ten years,” Kurt Campbell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said. “And our future will be dominated utterly and fundamentally by developments in Asia and the Pacific region.”
In December, 2009, Obama announced that he would draw down U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of his first term. He also promised, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last year, that he was “moving toward a more targeted approach” that “dismantles terrorist networks without deploying large American armies.”
“The project of the first two years has been to effectively deal with the legacy issues that we inherited, particularly the Iraq war, the Afghan war, and the war against Al Qaeda, while rebalancing our resources and our posture in the world,” Benjamin Rhodes, one of Obama’s deputy national-security advisers, said. “If you were to boil it all down to a bumper sticker, it’s ‘Wind down these two wars, reëstablish American standing and leadership in the world, and focus on a broader set of priorities, from Asia and the global economy to a nuclear-nonproliferation regime.’ ”....
Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.” (emphasis added)
There's something that's really frustrating about the structure of the essay, and then something else that's frustrating about the content. Both of them involve China.
On the structure - despite Lizza's 9,000 words, and despite Obama's stated intention to reorient American foreign policy to be less Middle East-focused, the essay.... is totally focused on the Middle East. I'm not saying that the Middle East is unimportant, but I'd have liked to have read something about how the Obama administration is dealing with the rest of the world. Indeed, Lizzaa notes that Obama visited South America during the opening days of the Libya operation precisely "to show that America has interests in the rest of the world." Despite this effort, the thrust of the article demonstrates its futility during the start of a war. New military conflicts crowd out attention that should be paid to other arenas of foreign policy. It would have been nice to see how the administration's strategy is playing/affecting the rest of the world.
The problem with the content is that bolded section. To tweak Tom Donilon a little bit, I'd characterize it as a "static and one-dimensional assessment" of the U.S. strategic position. It doesn't allow for the possibility that rising states might experience their own dips in national power, or that attitudes towards the United States might improve as a consequence of shifts in U.S. strategy.
Countries make strategic missteps when they overestimate or underestimate their own capabilities. The Bush administration was clearly guilty of overestimation, but there are ways in which the Obama administration is equally guilty of underestimation.
What do you think?
You know how so many in the blogosphere bitch and moan about the ability of neoconservatives to get their policy proposals published even after screwing up on Iraq?
I'm kind of curious how these people feel about Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett's op-ed in the New York Times today about Iran. I mean, this is a scant few months after they served as apologists for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the controversial June election. I guess the Leveretts know Gwen Pollard well.
Others can debate whether the Leveretts deserve the prime real estate on the NYT op-ed page. I'd like to focus on the fact that the op-ed itself makes no f***ing sense whatsoever.
Let's take a look at it, shall we?
[T]he meeting on Thursday in Geneva of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany with Iran (the “five plus one” talks) will not be an occasion for strategic discussion but for delivering an ultimatum: Iran will have to agree to pre-emptive limitations on its nuclear program or face what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls “crippling” sanctions.
However, based on conversations we’ve had in recent days with senior Iranian officials — including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — we believe it is highly unlikely Iran will accept this ultimatum.
Oh, wow... senior Iranian officials told the Leveretts that they would not concede? Well, I'd definitely take that at face value. I'm sure these were the same people who told the Leveretts that Ahmadinejad was the legitimate victor back in June. Clearly, these are reliable sources with zero incentive to dissemble to regime-friendly pundits in the United States. And it's not like they have anything to hide. Oh, wait....
American officials tend to play down Iranian concerns about American intentions, citing public messages from President Obama to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, as proof of the administration’s diplomatic seriousness. But Tehran saw these messages as attempts to circumvent Iran’s president — another iteration, in a pattern dating from Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal, of American administrations trying to create channels to Iranian “moderates” rather than dealing with the Islamic Republic as a system.
Wow again. See, I would view these exchanges with Khamenei as attempts to talk to the person with actual control over Iran's nuclear program, as opposed to the guy who rants on and on about how the Holocaust was just a big myth.
Indeed, the Obama administration is "dealing with the Islamic Republic as a system" -- and they are trying to talk to the people with genuine foreign policy power. The Leveretts, on the other hand, seem to be convinced that the only way to talk with Iran is through Ahmadinejad.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration was enticed by the prospect of regime-toppling instability in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential election this summer. But compared to past upheavals in the Islamic Republic’s 30-year history — the forced exile of a president, the assassination of another, the eight-year war with Iraq and the precipitous replacement of Ayatollah Khomeini’s first designated successor, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, with Ayatollah Khamenei — the controversy over this year’s election was hardly a cataclysmic event.
Seriously, how did this paragraph get past the op-ed editors? First of all, beyond a rhetorical flourish or two and asking Twitter to hold off on their scheduled maintenance, what exactly did the Obama administration do to foment regime-toppling instability? Second, if the largest street demonstrations since the 1979 revolution don't qualify as a big event, what would convince the Leveretts of the import of the June election? More YouTube videos? Hand puppets?
Instead of pushing the falsehood that sanctions will give America leverage in Iranian decision-making — a strategy that will end either in frustration or war — the administration should seek a strategic realignment with Iran as thoroughgoing as that effected by Nixon with China. This would require Washington to take steps, up front, to assure Tehran that rapprochement would serve Iran’s strategic needs.
On that basis, America and Iran would forge a comprehensive framework for security as well as economic cooperation — something that Washington has never allowed the five-plus-one group to propose. Within that framework, the international community would work with Iran to develop its civil nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities on Iranian soil, in a transparent manner rather than demanding that Tehran prove a negative — that it’s not developing weapons. A cooperative approach would not demonize Iran for political relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah, but would elicit Tehran’s commitment to work toward peaceful resolutions of regional conflicts.
This seems as propitious a moment as any to cave to popular demand that I articulate some thoughts on the sanctions question with regard to Iran. I would expect some somewhat more utility in the sanctions process than the Leveretts. If the U.S. can foster cooperation among the P5 + 1, and the Iranians see the extent of this cooperation, then I think they'd be willing to deal. That's not an easy proposition to pull off, and would require both diplomatic skill and will. That does not mean it should't be tried, however. Even the effort to build momentum in the Security Council might prompt serious bargaining from the Iranians.
I would also like to know how the Iranian opposition feels about sanctions. If they reject them as a policy tool, well, that's a good argument against their imposition. On the other hand, if this is a replay of South Africa, then that's something else to consider.
One final point -- the analogy with Nixon's opening to China makes zero sense in the current context. Nixon was trying to outflank the Soviet Union during the Cold War by cozying up to their most powerful bordering state. What the Leveretts seem to be proposing is a multilateral move to bring Iran in from the cold -- which benefits Russia and China far more than it benefits the United States. In other words, I'm not sure how a Nixon strategy works in the P5 + 1 framework.
I suppose that the Obama administration could attempt secret shuttle diplomacy with Iran to outflank Moscow and Beijing. Such a gambit would infuriate our European allies and push Israel into panicking, however -- and I'm not sure that's worth whatever strategic gains would be had by a rapprochement with the regime in Tehran.
So, to review, I give the Leverett op-ed an "I" -- for being inchoate, inconsistent, and idiotic.
Two interesting articles of note over the weekend. The first is Clive Thompson's essay on Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (otherwise known as BDM) and his
Fabulous Foreign Policy Game Theory Contraption forecasting model-for-hire. Bruce is the leading proselytizer of using game theory as a predictive tool in political science -- and he has quite the forecasting business to back him up.
Bruce seems to merit one of these every two years or so, and Thompson hits most of the same sources and critics of BDM's approach. He does add this nugget of information, however:
Those who have watched Bueno de Mesquita in action call him an extremely astute observer of people. He needs to be: when conducting his fact-gathering interviews, he must detect when the experts know what they’re talking about and when they don’t. The computer’s advantage over humans is its ability to spy unseen coalitions, but this works only when the relative positions of each player are described accurately in the first place. “Garbage in, garbage out,” Bueno de Mesquita notes. Bueno de Mesquita begins each interview by sitting quietly — “in a slightly closed-up manner,” as [U.K. telecommunications company Cable and Wireless Richard] Lapthorne told me — but as soon as an interviewee expresses doubt or contradicts himself, Bueno de Mesquita instantly asks for clarification.
“His ability to pick up on body language, to pick up on vocal intonation, to remember what people said and challenge them in nonthreatening ways — he’s a master at it,” says Rose McDermott, a political-science professor at Brown who has watched Bueno de Mesquita conduct interviews. She says she thinks his emotional intelligence, along with his ability to listen, is his true gift, not his mathematical smarts. “The thing is, he doesn’t think that’s his gift,” McDermott says. “He thinks it’s the model. I think the model is, I’m sure, brilliant. But lots of other people are good at math. His gift is in interviewing. I’ve said that flat out to him, and he’s said, ‘Well, anyone can do interviews.’ But they can’t.”
Patrick Appel links to this essay because of BDM's Iran predictions (according to him, the student protestors will be more powerful than Khamenei by the fall). He notes, "Let's hope his model is right, but I'm skeptical that these questions can be predicted by equations alone." Except as the above quote suggests, it's not just equations alone -- it's knowing what values to plug into those equations. This requires a different set of skills -- and rare is the person who excels at both.
Speaking of brain skills, I found Emily Yoffe's Slate essay on brain chemistry to be kind of interesting. The argument in a nutshell:
Our internal sense of time is believed to be controlled by the dopamine system. People with hyperactivity disorder have a shortage of dopamine in their brains, which a recent study suggests may be at the root of the problem. For them even small stretches of time seem to drag. An article by Nicholas Carr in the Atlantic last year, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" speculates that our constant Internet scrolling is remodeling our brains to make it nearly impossible for us to give sustained attention to a long piece of writing. Like the lab rats, we keep hitting "enter" to get our next fix....
[O]ur brains are designed to more easily be stimulated than satisfied. "The brain seems to be more stingy with mechanisms for pleasure than for desire," [University of Michigan professor of psychology Kent] Berridge has said. This makes evolutionary sense. Creatures that lack motivation, that find it easy to slip into oblivious rapture, are likely to lead short (if happy) lives. So nature imbued us with an unquenchable drive to discover, to explore. Stanford University neuroscientist Brian Knutson has been putting people in MRI scanners and looking inside their brains as they play an investing game. He has consistently found that the pictures inside our skulls show that the possibility of a payoff is much more stimulating than actually getting one....
Actually all our electronic communication devices—e-mail, Facebook feeds, texts, Twitter—are feeding the same drive as our searches. Since we're restless, easily bored creatures, our gadgets give us in abundance qualities the seeking/wanting system finds particularly exciting. Novelty is one. [Washington State University neuroscientist Jaak] Panksepp says the dopamine system is activated by finding something unexpected or by the anticipation of something new. If the rewards come unpredictably—as e-mail, texts, updates do—we get even more carried away. No wonder we call it a "CrackBerry."
I fully recognize the biochemical reward system discussed in the essay, and I've certainly heard this argument applied to bloggers who allegedly lose the ability to engage in long-form writing. But based on my own experience, I don't buy it.
True, blogging, updating, etc. brings excitement. But I get the same thrill from perfecting a longer stretch of prose. When I'm polishing up a case study or trying to refine a theoretical argument, I usually feel the desires for new information that I get when I'm blogging. Indeed, the biggest mental rush I get from writing is tackling a completely new subject and then, 10,000 words later, retackling the first draft with renewed vigor and the promise of molding it into something better. Once I think I have something of merit, oooh, does the dopamine kick in.
But that's just me. Tell me, dear readers -- are your electronic gadgets hampering you ability to do long-form work?
Consider this list:Well.... the thing about that list is that everyone on it is pretty old. And I'm not sure how many yonger realists there are on the GOP side. Hence the title to this post.
The dirty little secret is that all of these pragmatic conservatives have more in common with Obama's world view and that of the progressive community as a whole than they do with McCain and Neoconservatism. Right now most of them are sticking with McCain because of old friendships and loyalties, a desire to stay out of politics, or because they are social and economic conservatives. But don't be surprised if Powell's endorsement will encourage more of these pragmatic foreign policy conservatives to come over to the Democrats over the next few years. But don't be surprised if Powell's endorsement will encourage more of these pragmatic foreign policy conservatives to come over to the Democrats over the next few years.
- Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama.
- Richard Lugar, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has endorsed Obama's approach to diplomacy over that of McCain.
- Brent Scowcroft refuses to endorse either way. Pretty telling for a former Republican national security advisor, especially since he was opposed to the war in Iraq.
- James Baker continues to support direct talks with Iran and has for the past two years. (Actually just read the entire five secretaries of state even transcript from CNN. It's one big endorsement of Obama's foreign policy)
- Kissinger and Schultz are op-eds in the Washington Post and Financial Times calling for a more moderate approach towards Russia.
- Kissinger has also called for direct talks with Iran (At the Secretary of State level).
- Chuck Hagel has traveled to Iraq with Obama and while not publicly endorsing looks to be pretty clearly in favor of Obama.
- Secretary of Defense Bob Gates is giving speeches that sound a lot more like an Obama foreign policy than a McCain foreign policy.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.