The View From 1776
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Return to Foreign Policy Reality
The UN’s futility in confronting Russia’s invasion of Georgia was a repeat of the toothless remonstrations of the League of Nations and the UN in past crises of this sort. Only when the United States took military or punitive economic action, unilaterally or with token backing from other nations, was aggression rolled back.
Russia’s invasion of Georgia is a wake-up call reminding us that international relations have returned to historical norms. The liberal-progressive “international community” regulated by soothing conversation has vanished like a fog yielding to sunlight.
Robert Kagan’s Weekly Standard essay compares actual conditions in foreign relations to liberal-progressives’ dangerous infatuation with the illusion that the world that can be talked into disarmament and universally peaceful and harmonious cooperation.
The rise of these two great power autocracies is reshaping the international scene. Nationalism, and the nation itself, far from being weakened by globalization, has returned with a vengeance. There are the ethnic nationalisms that continue to bubble up in the Balkans and in the former republics of the Soviet Union. But more significant is the return of great power nationalism. Instead of an imagined new world order, there are new geopolitical fault lines where the ambitions of great powers overlap and conflict and where the seismic events of the future are most likely to erupt…
International order does not rest on ideas and institutions alone. It is shaped by configurations of power. The spread of democracy in the last two decades of the 20th century was not merely the unfolding of certain ineluctable processes of economic and political development. The global shift toward liberal democracy coincided with the historical shift in the balance of power toward those nations and peoples who favored the liberal democratic idea, a shift that began with the triumph of the democratic powers over fascism in World War II and that was followed by a second triumph of the democracies over communism in the Cold War…
The great fallacy of our era has been the belief that a liberal and democratic international order would come about by the triumph of ideas alone or by the natural unfolding of human progress.
The plain fact is, and always has been, that political groups, from tribes to nations, always lack some sorts of resources that they want to take from other tribes and nations. So long as we live in the imperfection of human life, there never will be a time without international aggression and military conflict, unless the world succumbs to a universal dictatorship such as George Orwell’s Big Brother.
Either we remain always prepared to go to war to protect our liberties, or we shall surely be crushed by foreign aggressors.