Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Neoconservative Moral Nationalism in U.S. Foreign Policy

Political scientist Brian Rathbun offers one of the best recent discussions of neoconservatism in international relations theory.

His article, "
Does One Right Make a Realist? Conservatism, Neoconservatism, and Isolationism in the Foreign Policy Ideology of American Elites," dissects the varied orientations in right-wing foreign policy, and argues that neoconservatives are essentially "nationalist surpremacists" in their ideological stress on both power and morals in global affairs.

Specifically, the significance of Rathbun's research is to differentiate the foreign policy persuasions of those on the right regarding the understanding and implications of "realism," which is the paradigm in international politics holding actor agency as egoistic self-interest defined as power (with little stress on humanitarianism as a goal of U.S. global purpose).

The argument is concise and refreshing in its review of theories of international power poltics. Especially good is the clarification of how neoconservatism stands apart from conservative realism or isolationism as a powerful paradigm of good and moral right for America in the world:

Conservatives are realist in the sense that they define the national interest narrowly and materially, treat international politics as amoral, consider force a necessary but not universally appropriate instrument, recognize that a preponderance of power creates as many problems as it solves, and guard sovereignty so as to facilitate rapid adjustment to international realities while recognizing the possible instrumental use of international organizations. Neoconservatives, in contrast, define more grandiose national interests, justified by a belief in American moral authority, often think of force as the primary instrument for realizing international outcomes, advocate the achievement and maintenance of American preponderance, and oppose the involvement of multilateral institutions on principled grounds as illegitimate bodies inherently threatening to American sovereignty. Nor are the neoconservatives idealistic. Their stress on American values emerges from a deep sense of national pride that in its more exuberant form translates into a feeling of moral superiority in international affairs. Neoconservatives refuse to separate the pursuit of American self-interest and those of the greater international good, arguing that serving America’s cause is the world’s cause. They are not idealists or realists, but nationalists. This conceptualization, while it distinguishes between the different rights, also offers an understanding of what unites them. Realism and nationalism both serve as poles on different identity dimensions that separate ‘‘us’’ from ‘‘them,’’ albeit in different ways. In all cases, the right is more egoistic. There are simply multiple ways of being so. The realist dimension concerns how narrowly foreign policy is defined. Realists are not humanitarians. They envision foreign policy as obliging no more than the pursuit of policies benefiting the self. Positions on this dimension capture the degree of distinction made between self and other. The second dimension also involves notions of self and other, but in terms of their rank, rather than their distinctiveness. The right in this dimension, the nationalist or neoconservative variety, pursues a preeminent position vis-a-vis the rest of the world. With this emphasis on position in an international hierarchy comes a tendency to define self-interest more expansively and ambitiously. And a feeling of being entitled to one’s rank serves as a moral justification for egoism. The final dimension concerns the separation of self from other, with the isolationist right seeking to detach itself from the rest of the world.
Here's the heart of Rathbun's argument of neoconservatism's vital ideational power, which he contrasts to the cold "instrumental empathy" of traditional realism:

Neoconservatives find their inspiration in a belief in the greatness of the American nation, which justifies its preeminent rank in the global hierarchy, defined in terms of both military and moral power. Neoconservatism is not a nostalgic patriotism. Irving Kristol, the intellectual father of modern neoconservatism, writes that ‘‘neoconservatism is not merely patriotic—that goes without saying—but also nationalist. Patriotism springs from a love of the nation’s past; nationalism arises out of hope for the nation’s future, distinctive greatness.’’ Nationalism provides the greater purpose needed to mobilize societal virtue and prevent the slide into decadence. Kristol and Kagan argue that such a sense of commitment is necessary even to preserve basic vital interests. This is why the movement so embraced Ronald Reagan. The President vanquished the Vietnam syndrome that had sapped America’s self-confidence and crippled the administration of Jimmy Carter in its dealings with Iran and the Soviet Union. In doing so, Reagan drew a strict moral line that neoconservatives respect between virtuous American democracy and an evil totalitarian empire....

Neoconservatism is not a nationalism of the soil as is the case with American isolationism or other nationalisms across the globe. Rather, it is based on the superiority of American ideals and values, a universal nationalism. As a result, even more than others, American nationalism has a strong moral component that distinguishes it sharply from the amorality of realism. Realism is simply pragmatic, while neoconservatism puts great stress on the importance of American ideas and the strength it derives from them. Neoconservatives take what might be considered a constructivist approach to world politics that is sharply distinguished from the realists’ austere materialism. Hence, they are highly engaged in the media battle over the course of American foreign policy.45 The belief in the superiority and universality of American national values leads them to a vigorous promotion, at least rhetorically, of American institutions and ideals, most notably democracy. However, they do so in a unilateral way, in keeping with their nationalism....

The consequence of this moral self-confidence is a tendency to perceive the world as a struggle for power between good and evil. This was the sustaining force of the neoconservative nationalists during the Cold War, who saw the ongoing competition with the Soviet Union as more than just a realist struggle for power or survival. It was a moral crusade as well The sense of moral superiority shared by neoconservatives is most clearly seen in their repeated insistence that there is no distinction between the national interest and that of the international community.
A key point for Rathbun is that neoconservative evangelical moral nationalism is not new. It can be traced back at least a hundred years, to the administrations of William McKinley and Theodore Rooseelt (for more on this, see, Robert Kagan, "Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism, c. 1776").

This is an important argument, as the purpose of Rathbun's piece is to sort out the forms of "egoism" in conservative foreign policy and offer a roadmap for electoral choice this November.

Crucially, neoconservative nationalism is not to be confused with "neoliberal internationalism," the popular outward-looking foreign policy persuasion of left-wing elites in the U.S.
(a crude example is found in Matthew Yglesias', Heads in the Sand, but see also, Peter Beinart, "Balancing Act: The Other Wilsonianism").

In contrast to liberal internationalism, Rathbun announces, neoconservatism "always begins with the national interest."

That differentiation is key, not just for electoral decisionmaking across variations in conservatism, but for electoral choice between left and right as well.

Leftists, and neoliberal internationalist to a lesser degree, recoil at the deployment of force in the context of power and interest.

It's no surprise that in recent weeks leftists have been vehemently dismissive of the use of force in dealing with international crises in Myanmar and Zimbabwe. But as the Ingrid Betancourt rescue has shown, the deployment of force in the final anaysis represents the true victory of power and morality in world affairs (in other words, "
The Bush Doctrine Is Relevant Again").

We can see, then, some of the theoretical bases for both leftist and libertarian isolationist opposition to John McCain presidential campaign.

Just this week the New York Times found Theodore Roosevelt to be John McCain's ideological predecessor, in "
McCain’s Conservative Model? Roosevelt (Theodore, That Is)," especially with reference to Roosevelt's assertiveness in foreign policy.

Today's antiwar forces, however, would like less assertiveness and dramatically more humility and restraint. And as anyone familiar with today's trends in political polarization know, such desires generally erupt into the most vicious demonizing attacks against neoconservatives and the neoconservative basis for the Bush administration's foreign policy.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

That the nation has turned from our true roots and allowed non-converts, liberals, and the like to slowly worm into the very fabric of this nation and eat at the center of the heart of our great nation. We are now seeing the results of what happens when we do not follow directions, as charged by the Word of God.

The reason why all attempts at bring attention to this movement have failed prior is because of uneducated, abrasive and skinhead tactics that have embarrassed the rest of us. Do you think the liberals came storming in to our branches of government waving rainbow banners and peace signs? No. They creeped in. They used the guise of political correctness to bully otherwise good Christians into compromising their beliefs one iota at a time until they too were part of the liberal blob that has oozed into our government, our schools, our churches, even our own homes.

Now let me clear this up first by explaining...I am not a white power, Nazi, uneducated, shaved-head follower that burns crosses on lawns and throws ridiculous rallies that embarrass everyone involved. I am, however, a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ, true son of God, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under an evil Jewish regime, falsely accused of the crime of treason, was beaten beyond recognition was crucified, died and was buried. I believe that Christ descended into hell, defeated death, sin, and the Devil, and rose again. That He appeared to the women at the tomb, the disciples in the upper room (twice), and to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God until the second coming.

I believe that the Jews were the chosen people that God delivered from slavery, repeatedly sent heroes to save, gave every waking opportunity to follow Him. God even brought forth the Messiah that He had promised to them from their own lineage...and what did they do? They deny him. Jews, to this day, continue to do great harm by opening denying Christ, and leading people astray. So what should be with the Jews? First of all, you should propose to them that they be converted to the Messiah and allow themselves to be baptized, that one may see that this is a serious matter to them. If not, then we would not permit them to live among us, for Christ commands us to be baptized and believe in Him, even though we cannot now believe so strongly as we should, God is still patient with us. Now, here is what the Jews do: daily they only blaspheme and dishonor our Lord Jesus Christ. Since they do this and we know it, we should we should not permit it. Should I permit anyone to be with me, who dishonors, blasphemes, and curses my Lord Christ, I make myself a partner in another's sins. But I have enough sins of my own. However, if they are converted, abandon their usury, and receive Christ, then we will willingly regard them our brothers. Otherwise, nothing will come out of it, for they do it to excess. They are our public enemies. They do not stop blaspheming our Lord Christ, calling the Virgin Mary a whore and Christ, a bastard. Yet, we will show them Christian love and pray for them that they may be converted to receive the Lord, whom they should honor properly before us. Whoever will not do this is no doubt a malicious Jew, who will not stop blaspheming Christ, draining you dry, and, if he can, killing the message of Christ. If they convert, immediately stop blaspheming and whatever else they have done to us, and then we will gladly forgive them. If not, then we should not tolerate or permit them to be with us.

America is the sworn ally of Israel. How very sad. How can a Christian-based country be the protector of those that would bastardize our Savior? Yet we hate Islam? Both are equally sworn enemies to our mission of spreading the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and He is the true Messiah Savior of the World.

Don't get me wrong...I believe that Muslims should be given the opportunity to convert. Islam is particularly dangerous. Islam is the only religion that has it written within their own teachings that if you are not Muslim, you are to be put to death. The teachings of Islam allow men to beat and mistreat their wives and children like chattel. The "prophet" Mohammad was a pedophile and married his wife Aisha when she was only 9. Because of this, in Iran, it is legal to give a girl (as of June 2002) to marry with her parents' permission.

The Dallas Morning News 9/28/03 p.1,10S had a story about the sad plight of Muslim girls who were married very young, got pregnant and had labor before their small bodies were ready. It was actually somewhat of a gross story, basically of many girls who needed C-sections but did not get them. Many survived, but could not have any children due to their perforated uteri. These marriages are not of the girl's choice (what 12 year old girl wants a 40 year old husband?) Even in prison, the men that hurt children are separated from the murderers and other criminals and only they are put on a tracking system after their release...this is because there has never been a known case of recovery from being a pedophile. Despite the sickness and depravity of the Muslim lifestyle, it is their teaching that Jesus Christ is not God, and the Bible is not the infallible Word of God that screams for the segregation of Christians from Muslims.

In summary, where most of your supremacists will scream for separations due to the color of skin, I call for the separations by the lines of faith. The United States was once the strongest nation in the world. I believe the reason for this being the fact that we were once unified as one nation under God...and there was no question what God that was. We were not politically correct about it and we did not apologize for it. Now we are a nation that stand divided, our economy is
in ruin, and our society is one of the most uneducated, spiritually bankrupt and morally unstable...we are quickly becoming a running joke to the countries that sit like vultures waiting to pick at our bones.

There is hope. We must separate ourselves from the unbelievers, return to our roots, and turn to our God. In the Bible, every single time God's people have turned to Him and prayed for forgiveness and deliverance, God has blessed and delivered them.

God's own Word tells us to preach to the unbelievers but not to cohabitat with them in order to remain pure in God's ways and not to be astray....now do you get the point?

Let us pray.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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