Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lind on "Immigrant Intellectuals and American Grand Strategy"

While browsing around looking for grand strategy related articles I came across this piece by Michael Lind from 2003 and thought it was interesting although I'm not sure that I agree with it. Lind is one of those writers that I enjoy reading even though in the end I find myself disagreeing with him:

From the Napoleonic Era until World War I, the United States had its own distinctive mainstream foreign policy tradition. Call it the “American School” of foreign policy.
This American School reflected the values of the United States as the world’s first large-scale democratic republic — and its global interests as a civilian, commercial power.
From Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Americans hoped for the replacement of a world based on a few empires by a world of many nation-states with republican governments. The underlying idea was that all nations would cooperate voluntarily with one another to promote the international rule of law.
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In the aftermath of World War II, however, a new school of foreign policy took root in the United States. It was a transplant from 19th century Europe.
Its founders were émigré intellectuals like Nicholas Spykman, Hans Morgenthau and Henry Kissinger (in his early days as a professor), all of whom had fled Europe in the 1930s.
These Central European academics contemptuously swept aside the old field of “diplomatic history,” which had kept the memory of the historic U.S. foreign policy tradition alive.
Diplomatic history was replaced by the new field of “international relations” — which itself represented an updated version of 19th-century continental European Realpolitik.
As a result, several generations of U.S. students of international relations — I was one — were taught to admire the strategic wisdom of Central European autocrats.
It was only natural that, as policymakers, these Central European realists like Kissinger and Brzezinski would interpret the world through the lenses of Bismarckian and Metternichian Realpolitik.
Because 19th-century Europe had been multipolar, Henry Kissinger identified the world of the 1970s as multipolar. Like others in the Central European tradition, he dismissed concepts rooted in competing international law and morality as sentimental.
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In the 1990s, though, a new intellectual diaspora replaced the previously prominent Central European realist school in interpreting — and guiding — U.S. foreign policy.
While many native-born Americans support this approach, many of the most ardent proponents of a new American “empire” first in the Middle East — and then the world — are émigrés from the former British Commonwealth and Empire.
They include present and former Canadians (such as the journalists Charles Krauthammer and Michael Ignatieff), and Britons such as Paul Johnson — and the editors of The Economist, a magazine which is based in London — but is focused on its large U.S. audience.
There are important differences between this generation of immigrants and their predecessors. After all, the institutional base of the Central European realists was the university: Messrs. Morgenthau, Kissinger and Brzezinski were all professors. The institutional base of the new British Commonwealth Imperialists is the media.
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The goal of the new British Commonwealth Imperialists is to showcase pundits praising the old British empire — and call on the United States to emulate the Pax Britannica in the Middle East and the world.
True, not all of the neo-British imperialists in the United States are from British Dominions or former colonies. But they are all Anglophiles who see Imperial Britain in the 1900s as the model for Imperial America in the 2000s.
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Evidently, both groups of immigrants also have their heroes — but quite different ones. The heroes of the Central European diaspora intellectuals shaping U.S. foreign policy in recent decades were stern, but rational autocrats like Metternich and Bismarck. Metternich, in fact, is the hero of Kissinger’s historical treatise about 19th-century Europe, The World Restored.
The hero of the contemporary wave of neo-British U.S. imperialists is Winston Churchill. Mind you, not the old Churchill who resisted Hitler. But rather, the young Churchill who wrote ecstatically about people machine-gunning Africans in service of the British empire.
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In my view, the Central Europeans’ attempt to apply the rules of the 19th-century central European balance of power to U.S. foreign policy in the 1970s and 1980s was a failure.
Yes, the United States won the Cold War. But that happened in spite of the theories of Kissinger and Brzezinski — not because of them.
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And today’s anachronistic revival of British imperial statecraft by U.S. immigrants from Britain and the British dominions and colonies, along with their American-born allies, will prove to be an even more embarrassing flop.
We live in an age in which American principles — democratic government, national self-determination and industrial capitalism — are eagerly adopted, even by people who dislike American policies. Given that trend, it is folly for the United States to ignore its own successful 200-year foreign policy tradition — and to model its strategy on that of the Habsburg Empire or Imperial Britain.
Instead of sneering at notions like human rights and national self-determination as naïve folly, as both realists of the Central European School and British-style neo-imperialists do, America’s leaders ought to return to the fusion of liberal ideals and realist statecraft that helped to replace a world of empires with a world of nations.

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