Liberalism vs. realism
Nathan Chan (“Guess Again,” 1/23/07) makes some valid points in his interesting, but deeply flawed, editorial. The Iraq War is not the first overseas debacle in U.S. foreign policy history, but it is arguably the first that was primarily driven by a desire to spread democracy and liberal values in order to cultivate allies more amenable to the U.S. American interventions have frequently been justified by liberal rhetoric, but their rationales have been grounded in realism. This is what makes neo-conservativism different from realism: Spreading democracy is its end, not its means.
The U.S. has used liberal arguments to justify foreign policy in the past, but these were simply public rationales for conflicts rooted in maintaining American economic and military power. Americans abhorred the morality of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany during WWII, and the government used this as a rationale for going to war. But even before 1941, the U.S. sought balance against Japan and the German Reich because of its fear that these states would dominate East Asia and Western Europe, limiting American access to markets and the material resources necessary to prevail in a future great-power war. Similarly, after WWII, the U.S. made a commitment to Western Europe to prevent the USSR from dominating it, thus cutting off the U.S. from its markets and possibly giving the Soviets a material advantage in future wars. In short, its moral commitments provided the window dressing for these military conflicts, which were rooted in the desire to maintain American power.
The U.S. will no doubt justify future overseas adventures with liberal-sounding rhetoric, but it is unlikely that the government or the populace will go along with another Iraq-like mission that is premised on spreading democracy for some time to come.
Class of 2007
I wanted to add an opinion to the discussion that is oftentimes overlooked in the abortion debate discussed in Matt Barnum’s article “The Upside of Being an Anti-Choice Extremist” (1/30/07). Being “pro-life” is about far more than just abortion. A true pro-life position recognizes that all life is sacred, at every stage. This means that bringing an end to war, relieving poverty, opposing the death penalty, and protecting and promoting the fundamental dignity of other people should be central to anyone who has a “pro-life” position. This respect for others should also extend into the debate over abortion, although it rarely does.
Sadly, Matt Barnum’s article is an example of a needlessly inflammatory piece that will do little to cultivate the respect for others who should be at the heart of the pro-life movement.
Class of 2009