Friday, December 11, 2009


places him squarely within the realist and liberal internationalist thinking
"evil does exist in the world" and that "there will be times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified", Obama echoed the realism long favored by Republican policymakers
the importance of building
international institutions designed to prevent war
to "protect human rights, prevent genocide, restrict the most dangerous weapons", echoed the liberal internationalist creed
His quotation of John F Kennedy
the two schools' fusion
working "on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions"
"A gradual evolution of human institutions," he repeated
an extended defense of using realist means in the service of liberal internationalist ends," wrote the conservative New York Times columnist, Ross Douthat.
a "corrective to some of the more hubristic elements of [George W] Bush's foreign policy".

half of the speech was devoted to defending the use of force
his repudiation of key elements of the so-called "Bush Doctrine"
He also repeatedly rejected the kind of "exceptionalism" the Bush administration used to argue - that the US should not be constrained by laws, treaties and other international conventions that bind other nations,
"America - in fact, no nation - can insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves,"
while acknowledging Washington's status as the "world's sole military superpower",
critical of Europe's reluctance to take on a greater defense burden that the world is no longer unipolar, if ever it was.
America alone cannot secure the peace.
difference with the "Bush Doctrine", Obama strongly defended his strategy of diplomatic engagement with foes and abusive governments
the importance of promoting human rights, noting that "only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting".

there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists - a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world," he said. "I reject these choices."
Confronted with repressive governments, "there's no simple formula. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time,"
Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, with China and the Soviet Union, respectively.
the battle for human rights should not be confined to civil and political rights, he said, in a further nod to the liberal internationalism
and another slap at the "democracy" mantra of his predecessor.
"A just peace must encompass economic security and opportunity," he said. "For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want."

But that pragmatism, and particularly his extended defense of the use of force, proved very disturbing to others, particularly in light of the impending escalation.
"Much of his highly militarized speech could have been given by George W Bush without blinking," said Tom Engelhardt, whose website is among the most popular for progressive foreign-policy critics. "Though invoked repeatedly, the Martin Luther King who opposed the Vietnam War would have rejected it out of hand."

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