Monday, July 21, 2008

Are Republicans and conservatives naive idealists?

Fareed Zakaria, writing the other day in Newsweek, for some reason thinks so:

"...the Republicans now seem to be the foreign-policy idealists, labeling countries as either good or evil, refusing to deal with nasty regimes, fixating on spreading democracy throughout the world and refusing to think in more historical and complex ways."

That's very much a distortion. "Labeling countries as good or evil"? I don't think the irritating, nagging, weak, so-often-wrong French government is evil, but neither do I necessarily see it as "good." And who would see the government of Saudi Arabia, cowed by Islamic extremists who go around demeaning women, including foreigners, as "good"? Yet we must deal with them.
"Refusing to deal with nasty regimes"? Look, it's the Bush administration trying to make deals recently with North Korea and looking to establish a diplomatic presence with Iran. I don't know any conservative who says we should never deal with a "nasty" regime, ever. On the other hand, there are times when moral statements must be made, and times when negotiations just won't work and/or send the right message. At such times, don't talk. It's liberals who think nations must talk with everyone, endlessly, and that that is somehow a good in itself. "Fixating on spreading democracy throughout the world"? Really? Like in China? Every conservative realizes we can be a friend of democracy there, but can do little to "spread" it in that Far Eastern giant. "Refusing to think in more historical and complex ways"? False; rather, it's been Republicans and conservatives trying to get our opponents to learn something about history--opponents who, when the Iraqi terrorist insurgency wasn't immediately defeated, wanted to give up and go home; opponents who, when democracy didn't instantly take root in Iraq, again wanted to give up and go home. It was we who had to remind them of their history--remind them that democracy after World War II didn't instantly take root in Germany or Japan, for example. But given time, it did.

Mr. Zakaria is usually a bit more sensible than this.