Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thought for the Day

One of the most fascinating things about the US foreign policy elite is just how brazen they are - just how ready they are to say, quite openly and explicitly, what exactly they're up to. It's almost as if they're compulsively driven to brag about their real-politik scheming and manoeuvring in the hope of being 'caught' and held accountable for what they have done - in the same way that serial killers leave notes for the police. The fascinating thing, however, about the media and about mainstream political and 'current affairs' discourse in general is just how it manages not to see or hear these brazen pronouncements from the architects of US foreign policy. It's quite amazing, isn't it, that while Kristol, Friedman, Kissenger, Brzezinski (still in the loop) are absolutely clear about the real-politik calculations, risks and (perceived) interests that drive foreign policy in the Middle East, Europe, in relation to military deployment and development, in relation to international economic 'restructuring' and management and in relation to international security structures and alliances, the media manages to remain almost wholly oblivious to these very lucid (and easily obtainable) pronouncements, preferring, instead, to focus on the comforting certainties of democracy vs. authoritarianism, openness vs closed societies, economic 'modernisation' and 'flexibility' vs rigidity, pre-emptive defence vs international law, muscular liberalism vs liberal caution, national 'sovereignty' vs 'special relationship', 'the world is a complex place' vs bold assertion of universal human rights.

Here's one of my favourites (I'm sure you have your own):

Today’s international system is built not around a balance of power but around American hegemony. The international financial institutions were fashioned by Americans and serve American interests. The international security structures are chiefly a collection of American-led alliances. What Americans like to call international ‘norms’ are really reflections of American and West European principles. Since today’s relatively benevolent circumstances are the product of our hegemonic influence, any lessening of that influence will allow others to play a larger part in shaping the world to suit their needs . . . American hegemony, then, must be actively maintained, just as it was actively obtained.

(Robert Kagan and William Kristol , National Interest, Spring 2000).

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