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    Sunday, July 22, 2007

    Movement Conservatives are "two degrees from Francisco"

    On March 13th of this year, Nathanael Blake wrote in his Human Events blog that he proposes "a new parlor game for conservatives: two degrees from Francisco "Cisco" Gonzales, a great fellow who every movement conservative seems to know (and if they don’t, it’s a cert they know someone who does)."

    Nathanael mentioned me because of Elizabeth Kantor's citation of me in her "Conservative Book Notes" blog, when she cited a quote of T.S. Eliot that she first heard from me.

    I thank Nathanael for his compliments and perhaps keen observation - an observance that even I am starting to take notice of every time I venture into D.C. or attend a conservative conference... Although I am going to start betting that many conservatives could claim the same of our mutual friend, Brendan Steinhauser, of FreedomWorks. Let the vast-right wing conspiracy continue... (vast?)

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    ABC News: Brownback Quietly Courting Conservatives

    This recent article by ABC News details how the Kansas Senator, Sam Brownback, is sticking to "a well-honed strategy, waging a classic grass-roots campaign away from the glare of the media spotlight by mingling with activists in living rooms, parks and churches. He's made repeated trips from his neighboring state to campaign in Iowa, where he underscores his cultural ties."

    Read more about how Brownback may surprise everyone, including the media, in Iowa:

    Also, check out this YouTube video where "Brownback rides in on a tractor" to an Iowa event held in a barn:

    This conservative is loudly supporting Brownback.

    Sunday, July 01, 2007

    Owen Harries: The Perils of Hegemony

    This blog is in a series of posts from my readings of THE RIGHT WAR? THE CONSERVATIVE DEBATE ON IRAQ. Please contribute your comments. The following is a discussion of Chapter 10, a republished article by Owen Harries, June 21, 2004, The American Conservative.

    When the Cold War ended, the United States found itself as a global hegemon, writes Owen Harries. Throughout history, there have been plenty of regional hegemonies, but "there has never before been one that dominated the whole system."

    According to Harries, when hegemons form, normally other "strong states" have typically joined with one another against the prospective hegemon. So his comments beg the question, should the United States be wary of other such powers today joining forces to oppose us as the only global hegemon? History tells us that we should. To strengthen his argument, Harries goes back to Thucydides' discussion of the causes of war between Athens and Sparta. "What made war inevitable," said Thucydides, "was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in the Spartans."

    Why the fear? Because unchecked power creates its own motives and sets its own agenda. So, it seems that Harries is saying - through Thucydides - that whether we like it or not, our own power needs to be checked, or others will ally themselves against us through fear and check it in perhaps a more dangerous way.

    "America's emergence as a hegemonic power came not by deliberate effort, but inadvertently, by the default of the Soviet Union," Harries reminds us. The U.S. dominates the world economically and militarily, but mostly with "soft power" as a cultural hegemon.

    Harries takes a swipe at Charles Krauthammer's suggestion that between the end of the Cold War (roughly 1990) and September 11, 2001, the United States took a ten-year "holiday from history." But Harries reminds us that during the 1990s, U.S. military forces were more active than during any other time since Vietnam - in the Gulf and in Iraq, in Somalia, in Haiti, in Bosnia, in Afghanistan, in Sudan, in Colombia, and in Kosovo. "Far from thinking the United States was on vacation during these years, other countries were increasingly aware of its dominant presence."

    Harries then suggests that what he thinks Krauthammer really meant by his notion that the U.S. took a "holiday from history" during these years, was that the U.S., having become the sole remaining superpower, had failed to develop a grand strategy. Most countries might not feel the need for such a thing, but Americans do. We have had the Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine, and the Reagan Doctrine. While our forces were deployed many times for various operations under George H.W. Bush and William Jefferson Clinton, neither administration had outlined any kind of post-Cold War grand strategy doctrine. And, George W. Bush had campaigned against the idea of nation-building. But then 9/11 happened. "How the Bush administration's foreign policy would have developed in the absence of the Sept. 11 attack, we shall never know," writes Harries. "But in an instant the terrorists gave the country the clear purpose it had previously lacked."

    The effort that has been pursued since 9/11 has become too ideological for Harries. A global grand strategy to combat the enemy on various battlefields may have been appropriate, but the heavy emphasis on the ideology of spreading democracy has perhaps led us with too high ambitions and goals that are not realistic. The post-9/11, 31-page National Security Strategy of the United States of America was a document that was supposed to outline a "strategy," but as Harries points out, "for a document concerned with strategy, it puts an extremely heavy emphasis on ideology in defining America's purpose."

    Harries points out some keys to this new doctrine: (1) it invites a "double standard" mentality, where the U.S. enforces arms control on other nations, but strengthens its own; (2) it abandons the policy of deterrence, which Harries suggests was vital to dealing with the Soviets; (3) it is unilateral in its insistence that "we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary."

    Given the whole history of international politics, Harries points out how foolish it is to think that other nations will be willing to accept the double standard that the U.S. says it must live by. Will other states make the U.S. the exception in all of history simply because we claim to be a "benign hegemon?" Highly doubtful.

    So, back to Iraq. Harries does not think our high goals for Iraq will be successful. If it is, the current struggles will be seen as a learning experience and a "breaking-in period" for a revolutionary new doctine. But if this project is not successful, if the U.S. finds that bringing about a decent political order is beyond its capacity - then the limits of U.S. power will be made evident, and the inclination for other powers to resist the U.S. will be greatly strengthened.

    In some further arguments about the idea of exporting democracy and nation-building, Harries echoes the conservative comments made by James Kurth. He then points to building economic institutions as a better solution to helping a democracy grow. Military implementation will not be the answer for "democracy cannot be exported ... to be viable, political institutions and political cultures require a long, organic, indigenous growth ..."