Thursday, March 30, 2006

Krauthammer on Democratic Realism

Some of my favorite commentators are those that have a gift for cutting through the fog and presenting clear and coherent pictures of complex situations. Os Guinness, David Wells, and Neil Postman are in that category for me. So is Charles Krauthammer. These are the sorts of writers that are always worth reading--even if you disagree with them.

Two years ago at the American Enterprise Institute annual dinner, Krauthammer delivered an address entitled, Democratic Realism: An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World.

I found it to be a very helpful overview of some major schools of thought in foreign policy. I found his explanation of the foreign-policy principles and presuppositions guiding the Democratic Party to be more coherent than anything I have heard from the Democrats themselves!

Here is a summary of some of his key points.

Krauthammer starts with our utterly new situation, which has not been seen since the time of the Roman empire, namely, "a unipolar world dominated by a single superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe."

So the question questions revolve around what role the unipower should have and what actions it shoudl take.

There are four basic answers, or four schools of thought. The first three are rejected by Krauthammer: (1) isolationism--a marginalized idealogy of fear that hoards the power and advocates retreat (e.g., Pat Buchannan); (2) liberal internationalism--an idealism that favors multilaterialism with the intent of constraining power and with the hope of creating a truly international community (e.g., the Democratic Party and the foreign-policy elite); (3) realism--a conservative view that sees true stability only coming through the overwhelming power and deterrent effect of the US, achieved through preemption and unilaterialism.

Krauthammer then describes his position, favored by the so-called "neoconservatives": (4) democratic globalism--a conservative alternative to realism that defines the national interest not as power but as values, specifically, the overriding value of freedom (e.g., Bush and Blair).

The biggest problem with democratic globalism is its universalism. Which is why Krauthammer proposes a criterion called democratic realism: "We will support democracy everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity--meaning, places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom."

The great security problem we face today is the problem of 9/11 and the roots of Arab-Islamic nihilism. The two greatest problems for the next generation are (1) "the inexorable rise of China" and (2) "the coming demographic collapse of Europe." Both of these, Krauthammer suggests, "will irrevocably disequilibrate the international system." But America will never even face these problems in the mid-21st century if we do not first deal with our problem.