Monday, February 20, 2006

Messiahs and Imperialists

Some notes on why a state of "minimum and permanent level of international tension" is desirable to U.S. policymakers: Messiahs and Imperialists:
... the main differences among the different schools are tactical—liberal internationalists, for example, tend to value multilateralism and a sense of prudence, they believe in the magical healing powers of global capital, and they don't usually descend into the trance-like messianism of George W. Bush...

... a president with a divine sense of purpose is hardly the scariest religious impulse in American foreign policy. That honor belongs to the various forms of millennialism in the United States, which can hold that it's America's duty to bring about the millennium...

... the standard bearer of a "non-apocalyptic view of means and ends, capabilities and challenges" tends to be the "realists" within the foreign policy establishment—those, like Jeanne Kirkpatrick or Condoleeza Rice, who believe that America must remake the world in its own image, but should be cautious about how to do so. ... But even if these "realists" don't drink from the same millennial Kool-Aid as the neoconservatives, they very much serve their own master: namely, American militarism.

On the one hand, there's the widespread, quasi-religious idea that America is the chosen nation called on to transform the world, with all the genuinely noble and appallingly ugly impulses that brings. On the other hand, there's a security establishment that doesn't buy into these millennial fantasies, but still remains committed to the endless "maintenance and expansion of U.S. global military power." Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is held in high regard by the Democratic establishment, sees the world as a "Grand Chessboard," which gives a sense for what that's all about. If this is all correct, then any hopes for a sensible foreign policy in the near future are probably foolish.

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