Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Touting the Wolf-man

David Brooks praised Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz today and he's right.

According to Brooks, here's why Wolfowitz is so different from other foreign policy scholars and architects:

Wolfowitz doesn't talk like those foreign policy blowhards who think the world is run by chessmasters sitting around at summits. He talks about national poets, national cultures and the power of people to bring sweeping change. His faith in people probably led to some of the mistakes in Iraq. But with change burbling in Beirut, with many young people proudly hoisting the Lebanese flag (in a country that was once a symbol of tribal factionalism), it's time to take a look at this guy again.


Besides President Bush, no one has been more maligned by the isolationist right and the nonprincipled left than Wolfowitz. Yet it will be Wolfowitz who will have the historical last laugh if things keep on keeping on in the Middle East. What a crazy thought to believe average, ordinary human beings want liberty and more open societies. What's crazier is that the left has ceded this issue over to the Republicans, who patently don't believe in or practice democracy, even though some neoconservatives, a la Wolfowitz, do believe in and labored to spread it. When the left has historically opposed U.S. meddling throughout the developing world, it wasn't because it believed in non-interventionalism, it was because in opposed the crushing of democratic uprisings for economic and strategic reasons -- the best examples being Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, and Chile 1973. While the war in Iraq was illegal according to international law, it was hard to find laudatory articles or essays about the January 30th elections on Commondreams.org, Alternet.org, Zmag.org, etc. (Two of which I've written for). Why is this? For the foolish reason that it would indirectly support Bush's rhetoric.

And this isn't to say I believe the Bush Administration rhetoric of U.S. foreign policy supporting ever-spreading freedom. I don't. Nevertheless, is it so hard to believe that a man of principle has waged a ideological battle for freedom from within the bowels of the government? Wolfowitz should be the conservative the left can deal with. One who has helped dictatorships like Marcos in the Phillipines crumble after years of U.S. support as well as Hussein in Iraq.

Personally, I don't fear the neoconservatives like others do. Actually, I'm quite interested in them. If the U.S. is to have a foreign policy, and it must, then shouldn't it be a force for democratization throughout the world.(I know presently it's not and really never has been, but isn't this what we on the left want?)While reasonable, the realist school, associated with the likes of Henry Kissenger, is morally vacuous, only concerning itself with matters of national security. Wolfowitz inverts the realist school and argues it is in the interest of national security to bolster democratic sentiments around the world. I'm not saying this should be carried out through military intervention like Wolfowitz does, but I like the idealistic impulse behind it. Naturally, one must stay critical, especially since neoconservative idealism could be a cover for the same old imperial impulse to control strategic resources by keeping pliant regimes in power or overthrowing problem regimes to install new proxies. (And that could, and probably is, the strategy in Iraq. Which raises this question: But will Iraqis allow that strategy to win out?)

Nevertheless, I don't believe from what I've read that Wolfowitz falls into this latter category. I think he believes in liberal, capitalist democracy and thinks the U.S. should support it muscularly. Besides, even if all this is just rhetorical illusions, more and more people in the Middle East are coming to believe it.

And that's an unqualified good.