Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You Can Always Count On The Nixon Guys

It falls to Paul R. Pillar at "The National Interest," the Nixon Center's journal and blog, to enunciate, from the neorealist's perspective, the perils of a foreign policy rooted in the mentality of American exceptionalism:

It leads to the mistaken belief that the involvement of the United States is indispensable in many endeavors best left to others.

In general, it inhibits appreciation of the limitations to what the United States can accomplish. Those limitations may involve anything from U.S. military forces reshaping a foreign country to U.S. intelligence services trying to figure out what is going on in a foreign country.

All of these tendencies have gotten the United States into trouble—sometimes deep, very expensive trouble—and could do so again.


MK said...

Ha! What you extract from Pillar's piece (the link doesn't work, unfortunately) reminds me of that quote I used yesterday from RN's "Silent Majority" speech about Americans' impatience and tendency to step in and do abroad what others better could do for themselves. Once again, RN understood what others did not.

As I said in another post, natural law doesn't change. If "helicopter parenting" and building a cocoon around ones children leads sometimes to too much dependency or a later "failure to launch" by the kids, then a nation which thinks in terms of Dad or Mom will step in and take care of it may stumble, too. Situational awareness matters, a lot. You cannot "parachute in" to another culture and expect to quickly establish stability based on Western values. (Think of Paul Bremer's startling comment in a Washington Post Outlook column, in which he said he was thinking of postwar Germany as a model when he came to Iraq!) Interestingly enough, not all who argue against a "nanny state" in domestic affairs recognize the nanny traps they sometimes turn around and fall into abroad.

I'm enjoying the first morning of my monthlong vacation at home, btw!

Fr. John said...

Thanks, MK. I think I've managed to fix the link. Pillar's whole post is worth the read.

I've watched with admiration (and at one time participated personally on occasion) as the Nixon Center/National Interest folks have carved out their neo-realist niche in Nixon's name among Washington's think tanks. I've sometimes wondered if they've played the Wilsonian white keys a bit too sparingly compared to the Kissingerian black ones (I imply no value judgments when it comes to piano key colors; it takes all pitches!). But in an era when both liberals and some post-9/11 conservatives have given in to occasionally reckless-seeming fits of world-changing enthusiasm, I think he'd be proud of the way his Washington successors have used the energy of his foreign policy legacy to stake out a sensible middle ground on the issues he cared about the most.

And think about this, during your well-deserved month of leave: Nixon with a blog. It bloggles the mind!