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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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On "Realism"

Until 9/11, the realists undoubtedly represented the single most influential school of thought in the world of foreign policy, with all others considered naïve or dangerous or both (though a patronizing pass might occasionally be given to liberal internationalists). It would not be going too far to say that for everyone of any great importance in that world, whether as a theorist or a practitioner, the realist perspective was axiomatic. And being, as it were, the default position, it was almost automatically adopted by George W. Bush, too, in his pre-9/11 incarnation. But on 9/11, Bush’s more or less reflexive realism took so great a hit that it collapsed in flames just as surely as did the Twin Towers.

Bush made no secret of his repudiation of realism, and he did not pussyfoot around it:

For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the sake of stability. In practice, this approach brought little stability and much oppression, so I have changed this policy.
Podhoretz, commentary
The Holy Grail of Stability has been the justification for decades of American foreign policy inertia and failure. The invasion of Iraq was the direct refutation of a stability which created the conditions in which Al Qaeda florished.


it gradually sank in among the realists that they had been wrong in dismissing Afghanistan as a one-shot affair, and that disarming Saddam was not the be-all or the end-all of the invasion of Iraq. Hard though it was for them, they finally had to face up to the incredible fact that Bush had not just been making rhetorical noises when he said that his ultimate strategic aim was to push all the states in the greater Middle East—every last one of them—toward democracy.
Podhoretz, commentary