The unreal realist

Charles Krauthammer:

...

This cold-bloodedness is a trademark of this nation's most doctrinaire foreign policy ``realist.'' Realism is the billiard ball theory of foreign policy. You care not a whit about who is running a foreign country. Whether it is Mother Teresa or the Assad family gangsters in Syria, you care only about their external actions, not how they treat their own people.

Realists prize stability above all, and there is nothing more stable than a ruthlessly efficient dictatorship. Which is why Scowcroft is the man who six months after Tiananmen Square toasted those who ordered the massacre; who, as the world celebrates the Beirut Spring that evicted the Syrian occupation from Lebanon, sees not liberation but possible instability; who can barely conceal a preference for Syria's stabilizing iron rule.

Even today Scowcroft says, ``I didn't think that calling the Soviet Union the `evil empire' got anybody anywhere.'' Tell that to Natan Sharansky and other Soviet dissidents for whom that declaration of moral -- beyond geopolitical -- purpose was electrifying, and helped galvanize the dissident movements that ultimately brought down the Soviet empire.

It was not brought down by diplomacy and arms control, the preferred realist means for dealing with the Soviet Union. It was brought down by indigenous revolutionaries, encouraged and supported by Ronald Reagan, a president unabashedly dedicated not to detente with evil, but its destruction -- i.e., regime change.

For realists such as Scowcroft, regime change is the ultimate taboo. Too risky, too dangerous, too unpredictable. ``I'm a realist in the sense that I'm a cynic about human nature,'' he admits. Hence, writes Jeffrey Goldberg, his New Yorker chronicler, Scowcroft remains ``unmoved by the stirrings of democracy movements in the Middle East.''

...

These others -- the overwhelming majority of Iraq's people -- have repeatedly given every indication of valuing their newfound freedom: voting in two elections at the risk of their lives, preparing for a third, writing and ratifying a constitution granting more freedoms than exist in any country in the entire Arab Middle East. ``The secret is out,'' says Fouad Ajami. ``There is something decent unfolding in Iraq. It's unfolding in the shadow of a terrible insurgency, but a society is finding its way to constitutional politics.''

...

It is not surprising that Scowcroft, who helped give indecency a 12-year life extension, should disdain decency's return. But we should not.


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