Thursday, November 30, 2006

Idealism and Moral Imperatives

What is an informed, humane listener supposed to think when a news interview begins with the following statement: "In a new book, two scholars say America's strategy, not just in those countries [Afghanistan and Iraq], but overall has failed because it's based on idealism and moral imperatives?"

NPR introduces these "scholars" as a conservative and liberal who "find common ground in a world view that goes back to the 1940s and 50s. Then, as Anatol Lieven explains, Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower tried to contain Soviet expansion."

The two "scholars," Anton Lieven and John Hulsman, admire the "tough resistance to Soviet expansionism" and the "tough minded strategy" of containment during the Cold War.

I just couldn't help wonder if they admire the quarter-of-a-million toughness of Guatemalan or East Timorese containment, or the multimillion corpse containment of Korea and Vietnam. Yes, those were the days of ethical realism - not like today's saintly approach to Iraq and Afghanistan based on nothing but oil idealism and moral imperatives.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK, i'm going to go listen to this interview now, but I will say now that Anton Lieven definitely is a scholar, no "quotes" required, and one of few honest and insightful foreign policy specialists out there whom I truly admire. I absolutely recommend all of his writings, occasionally to be found in the London Review of Books, as well as his recent books. His is one of the few voices I actively seek out; the US would be much better informed by people like Anatol taking the place of the commonly heard bobbleheads like Zakaria, Friedman, and the rest of the Council of Foreign Relations fluffers.

Mytwords said...

Yes, I looked at some of his writings and other interviews and Lieven seems thoughtful and far better than many guests on NPR.
But this interview was so maddening in the way that the entire discussion was framed in unqualified praise for US Cold War foreign policy and compete acceptance of the "goodness" behind US foreign policy actions (including the current disasters).
Hulsman is interesting, too, in that he had a falling out with conservatives and was fired from the Heritage Foundation (that would be a much more interesting story to hear on the news).

menshevik said...

you need to read more Lieven. His book, "american nationalism, " from last yr. got good reviews in places like the nation. Was very hard on the US-Israeli alliance esp.