The brilliant conservative journalist Charles Krauthammer has graced the world with another of his tremendously insightful essays (here). In this essay, Mr. Krauthammer gives thanks that neo-conservatism (a curse phrase in some circles) is reaching maturation in U.S. foreign policy, noting that its strongest practitioners (W, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld) came from the realms of the school of realism. He says that they necessarily converted after reality whacked them up the side of the head on 9/11, and that what they brought with them has resulted in a certain richness that was previously lacking.
Mr. Krauthammer notes that the policy of the Bush I administration had many successes, but “suffered from the classic shortcoming of realism: a failure of imagination,” resulting in several significant problems. He says that we still undervalue the worth and quality of Bush’s work in the reunification of Germany.
Krauthammer then shreds the Clinton administration’s policy of liberal internationalism, saying that it was “a waste, eight years of sleepwalking, of the absurd pursuit of one treaty more useless than the last, while the rising threat--Islamic terrorism--was treated as a problem of law enforcement.”
He discusses the many prognostications of last year that neoconservatism was on its death bed and that it would be best to cut our losses in Iraq and run. But then four elections (U.S., Australia, Afghanistan, and Iraq) moved us from panic to sobriety. He criticizes the media for underplaying the Afghanistan election and he is grateful that it was impossible for them to do the same with the Iraq election. Indeed, the Iraq election spawned some tremendous events in the Middle East.
Krauthammer then provides the U.S. with a Middle East to-do list, starting with Lebanon, Syria, and later Iran, using the appropriate strategy in each place. He says that some think that we ought to start with our less-than-democratic allies (Egypt, Saudi Arabia which he calls a “royal kleptocracy,” Pakistan), but suggests this would be a grave mistake. He cites history where we allied with various less-than-free regimes (Chile, the Philippines) to conquer bigger threats, and then worked to help achieve freedom among our allies. He also says that we appropriately use different methods with our friends than we do with belligerents.
Krauthammer articulates some of the attributes of a maturing neoconservative philosophy: “discrimination and restraint, [examination of] both its principles and its practice in shaping a truly governing philosophy.” Then he notes that these attributes are already very evident in W’s administration.
Krauthammer says that rather than breaking apart into “conservative schisms,” W’s party has pulled together. He concludes, “This is not party discipline. It is compromise with reality, and convergence toward the middle. Above all, it is the maturation of a governing ideology whose time has come.”
Being a millennium-believing Christian, I believe that neo-conservatism, like all manmade philosophies, is unable to satisfactorily address all of the ills it aims to solve. However, I think it is proving to be one of our better foreigh policy philosophies, and it is one that we can use with some good results until we can settle on something better.