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View Full Version : Elections Fareed Zakaria: Obama, not McCain, is the "true realist" on foreign policy.


Direckshun
07-22-2008, 08:53 AM
From one of the leading voices out there in foreign policy:

http://www.newsweek.com/id/147763?from=rss?nav=slate

Obama Abroad
He's been called a naive idealist. But in terms of foreign policy, he's the true realist in the race.

By Fareed Zakaria | NEWSWEEK
Published Jul 19, 2008
From the magazine issue dated Jul 28, 2008

The rap on Barack Obama, at least in the realm of foreign policy, has been that he is a softheaded idealist who thinks that he can charm America's enemies. John McCain and his campaign, conservative columnists and right-wing bloggers all paint a picture of a liberal dreamer who wishes away the world's dangers. Even President Bush stepped into the fray earlier this year to condemn the Illinois senator's willingness to meet with tyrants as naive. Some commentators have acted as if Obama, touring the Middle East and Europe this week on his first trip abroad since effectively wrapping up the nomination, is in for a rude awakening.

These critiques, however, are off the mark. Over the course of the campaign against Hillary Clinton and now McCain, Obama has elaborated more and more the ideas that would undergird his foreign policy as president. What emerges is a world view that is far from that of a typical liberal, much closer to that of a traditional realist. It is interesting to note that, at least in terms of the historical schools of foreign policy, Obama seems to be the cool conservative and McCain the exuberant idealist.

No candidate for the presidency ever claims to have a doctrinal world view. Richard Nixon never said he loved realpolitik. Jimmy Carter never claimed to be a Wilsonian. There's no advantage to getting pigeonholed, and most politicians and even policy folk are clever enough to argue that they want to combine the best of all traditions. So John McCain says he's a "realistic idealist." Former national-security adviser Anthony Lake, who now counsels Obama, calls himself a "pragmatic neo-Wilsonian." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describes herself as an "American realist."

Against that backdrop, Obama has been strikingly honest about his inclinations and inspirations. True, he begins by praising Harry Truman's administration, which in the foreign-policy world is a little like saying you admire George Washington. (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and John McCain have all cited Truman as a model.) But then Obama takes an unusual step, for a Democrat, and praises the administration of George H.W. Bush, one that is often seen as the most hardheaded or coldblooded (depending on your point of view) in recent memory. Obama has done this more than once, most recently in a conversation with me last week on CNN. And he is explicit about what he means. "It's an argument between ideology and foreign-policy realism. I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H.W. Bush," he told The New York Times's David Brooks in May.

Obama rarely speaks in the moralistic tones of the current Bush administration. He doesn't divide the world into good and evil even when speaking about terrorism. He sees countries and even extremist groups as complex, motivated by power, greed and fear as much as by pure ideology. His interest in diplomacy seems motivated by the sense that one can probe, learn and possibly divide and influence countries and movements precisely because they are not monoliths. When speaking to me about Islamic extremism, for example, he repeatedly emphasized the diversity within the Islamic world, speaking of Arabs, Persians, Africans, Southeast Asians, Shiites and Sunnis, all of whom have their own interests and agendas.

Obama never uses the soaring language of Bush's freedom agenda, preferring instead to talk about enhancing people's economic prospects, civil society and—his key word—"dignity." He rejects Bush's obsession with elections and political rights, and argues that people's aspirations are broader and more basic—including food, shelter, jobs. "Once these aspirations are met," he told The New York Times's James Traub, "it opens up space for the kind of democratic regimes we want." This is a view of democratic development that is slow, organic and incremental, usually held by conservatives.

Obama talks admiringly of men like Dean Acheson, George Kennan and Reinhold Niebuhr, all of whom were imbued with a sense of the limits of idealism and American power to transform the world. "In his view of history, in his respect for tradition, in his skepticism that the world can be changed any way but very, very slowly, Obama is deeply conservative," wrote Larissa MacFarquhar in her profile of him for The New Yorker. "There are moments when he sounds almost Burkean. He distrusts abstractions, generalizations, extrapolations, projections. It's not just that he thinks revolutions are unlikely: he values continuity and stability for their own sake, sometimes even more than he values change for the good."

As important as what Obama says is what he passes up—a series of obvious cheap shots against Bush. He could bash him for coddling China's dictatorship, urge him to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics or criticize his inaction in Darfur. In fact, Obama has been circumspect on all these issues, neither grandstanding nor overpromising. (This is, alas, not true on trade policy, where he has done both.)

Perhaps the most telling area where Obama has stuck to a focused conception of U.S. national interests is Iraq. Despite the progress in Iraq, despite the possibility of establishing a democracy in the heart of the Arab world, Obama's position is steely—Iraq is a distraction, and the sooner America can reduce its exposure there, the better. I actually wish he were somewhat more sympathetic to the notion that a democratic Iraq would play a positive role in the struggle against Islamic extremism. But his view is certainly focused on America's core security interests and is recognizably realist. Walter Lippmann and George Kennan made similar arguments about Vietnam from the mid-1960s onward.

Ironically, the Republicans now seem to be the foreign-policy idealists, labeling countries as either good or evil, refusing to deal with nasty regimes, fixating on spreading democracy throughout the world and refusing to think in more historical and complex ways. "I don't do nuance," George W. Bush told many visitors to the White House in the years after 9/11. John McCain has had his differences with Bush, but not on this broad thrust of policy. Indeed it is McCain, the Republican, who has put forward some fanciful plans, arguing that America should establish a "League of Democracies," expel Russia from the Group of Eight industrialized countries and exclude China from both groups as well.

Obama's response to McCain's proposals on Russia and China could have been drafted by Henry Kissinger or Brent Scowcroft. We need to cooperate with both countries in order to solve significant global problems, he told me last week, citing nuclear-proliferation issues with Russia and economic ones with China. The distinction between Obama and McCain on this point is important. The single largest strategic challenge facing the United States in the decades ahead is to draw in the world's new rising powers and make them stakeholders in the global economic and political order. Russia and China will be the hardest because they are large and have different political systems and ideological approaches to the world. Yet the benefits of having them inside the tent are obvious. Without some degree of great-power cooperation, global peace and stability becomes a far more fragile prospect.

Obama and McCain are obviously mixtures of both realism and idealism. American statesmen have always sought to combine the two in some fashion, and they are right to do so. A foreign policy that is impractical will fail and one that lacks ideals is unworthy of the United States. But the balance that each leader establishes is always different, and my main point is that Obama seems—unusually for a modern-day Democrat—highly respectful of the realist tradition. And McCain, to an extent unusual for a traditional Republican, sees the world in moralistic terms.

In the end, the difference between Obama and McCain might come down to something beyond ideology—temperament. McCain is a pessimist about the world, seeing it as a dark, dangerous place where, without the constant and vigorous application of American force, evil will triumph. Obama sees a world that is in many ways going our way. As nations develop, they become more modern and enmeshed in the international economic and political system. To him, countries like Iran and North Korea are holdouts against the tide of history. America's job is to push these progressive forces forward, using soft power more than hard, and to try to get the world's major powers to solve the world's major problems. Call him an Optimistic Realist, or a Realistic Optimist. But don't call him naive.

HonestChieffan
07-22-2008, 08:55 AM
Fareed Zakaria

jeeze

Direckshun
07-22-2008, 08:56 AM
Fareed Zakaria

jeeze
I apologize that my thread doesn't live up to Hot Air's exemplary journalism.

mlyonsd
07-22-2008, 09:32 AM
Fareed Zakaria

jeeze

To be fair I've seen him lots of times on ABC This Week and he seems to be level headed everytime I've listened to him.

Taco John
07-22-2008, 09:33 AM
Fareed Zakaria

jeeze



OH MY GOD! IT SOUNDS MUSLIM!


EVERYBODY! RUUUUUUUN!

***SPRAYER
07-22-2008, 09:34 AM
Fareed Zakaria

jeeze


Newsweek

jeeze

SNR
07-22-2008, 10:24 AM
Newsweek

jeezeIf you get your news from Newsweek... just stop doing it.

BucEyedPea
07-22-2008, 10:24 AM
OH MY GOD! IT SOUNDS MUSLIM!


EVERYBODY! RUUUUUUUN!

LMAO

Direckshun
07-22-2008, 10:57 AM
...

In the end, the difference between Obama and McCain might come down to something beyond ideology—temperament. McCain is a pessimist about the world, seeing it as a dark, dangerous place where, without the constant and vigorous application of American force, evil will triumph. Obama sees a world that is in many ways going our way. As nations develop, they become more modern and enmeshed in the international economic and political system. To him, countries like Iran and North Korea are holdouts against the tide of history. America's job is to push these progressive forces forward, using soft power more than hard, and to try to get the world's major powers to solve the world's major problems. Call him an Optimistic Realist, or a Realistic Optimist. But don't call him naive.

noa
07-22-2008, 11:05 AM
The guy was the managing editor for Foreign Affairs, hardly a publication to sneeze at. My guess is that Newsweek pays a little better than Foreign Affairs, though.

Frankie
07-22-2008, 11:34 AM
FZ is one of the foremost Foreign policy experts out there. Very impressive.

HonestChieffan
07-22-2008, 11:36 AM
and he writes for a failing magazine that is targeted at the loonie left

SBK
07-22-2008, 12:51 PM
Obama "true realist"
Zakaria "true believer"

HolmeZz
07-22-2008, 12:53 PM
Always liked listening to Zakaria.

Direckshun
07-22-2008, 12:55 PM
and he writes for a failing magazine that is targeted at the loonie left
I'm sorry, but what EXACTLY do you think Hot Air is?

Fair?

Balanced?

Aimed at independents?

Prominent in ANY regard?

I'm sorry but you basically did nothing but read Zakaria's name, and the magazine, and lined up your attack based on that, instead of firing your shots at the substance in the article.

And that's why your party will lose in November.

Frankie
07-22-2008, 01:34 PM
I'm sorry but you basically did nothing but read Zakaria's name, and the magazine, and lined up your attack based on that, instead of firing your shots at the substance in the article.


BULLSEYE!

Ultra Peanut
07-22-2008, 02:27 PM
Anyone trying to talk shit about Fareed Zakaria is pretty much confirming that they have no ****ing clue.

SBK
07-22-2008, 02:30 PM
Anyone trying to talk shit about Fareed Zakaria is pretty much confirming that they have no ****ing clue.

The man is above reproach!

Frankie
07-23-2008, 07:28 AM
Anyone trying to talk shit about Fareed Zakaria is pretty much confirming that they have no ****ing clue.

Nobody's perfect. But you are essentially right. The man is quite respected and knowledgable.

Messier
07-23-2008, 07:54 AM
Anyone trying to talk shit about Fareed Zakaria is pretty much confirming that they have no ****ing clue.

I must agree.

alanm
07-23-2008, 09:02 AM
You lost me at Newsweek. :shake: