Sunday, July 27, 2003

A principled position

Today's Washington Post Magazine has a great piece on John Brady Kiesling, the US dimplomat who resigned his post with a blistering letter criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq juggernaut.
In his April 25 speech at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, a couple of weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Kiesling made an explicit attempt to rally the internationalists. Princeton, he told the 200 or so students, faculty and foreign policy professionals in his audience, "used to be the heartland of a brilliantly successful foreign policy coalition" that shaped American diplomacy for most of the 20th century. It was a bipartisan alliance between liberal "Wilsonian idealists," with their humanist worldview, and the kind of conservative pragmatists who used international institutions to advance American economic interests. But the coalition now "lies in tatters," he said, and he offered his views on how this had happened:

September 11 offered a golden opportunity for anyone "savvy and unscrupulous enough to manipulate public fears," and the advocates of "hard-nosed neoconservatism" promptly seized it. They adopted "the power politics of the schoolyard as their model of human interaction" and reduced a complex moral universe to a permanent face-off between "the forces of light and the forces of darkness." They used "lies and half-truths" to build a case for invading Iraq as "a step toward a more complete power grab." As the neoconservatives began to drive American policy, old-school internationalists tried to come to terms with them, hoping to retain influence. But accommodation has proved no easy task.

"This is an administration at war, and you are with them or you are against them," Kiesling said.


Among Kiesling's former State Department colleagues you can find a variety of opinions on the need to forcefully remove Saddam Hussein. But there appears to be near-consensus on one point: American foreign policy in general has been dangerously militarized, and the diplomatic point of view devalued. [...] Chas. Freeman, the retired ambassador, is more direct. "We have a national mentality now that says, if you see a problem, shoot it! Because we know that we're very, very good at shooting things."

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