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Behind the Curtain

July 29, 2004


Here are two pieces on what a John Kerry foreign policy would be like, one in The New Yorker, the other in The Atlantic, two liberal, Eastern Establishment magazines. They both contend Kerry's foreign policy would be a return to what is called realism, or RealPolitik, the belief that American security and interests can be best leveraged in a web of alliances, in which countries are drawn together by mutual self-interest. It's called cynical by its critics, who want to spread American democracy around the globe, by force if need be.

Bear with us, because there's a payoff of rich irony.

Here's Josh Marshall, writing in The Atlantic:

"George H.W. Bush has receded into history. But his Administration's traditional if unimaginative attitude toward foreign relations lives on through his National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft, who re-emerged two years ago as one of the most unabashed and difficult-to-dismiss critics of the buildup to war in Iraq. Democrats once viewed Scowcroft as the champion of an amoral and shortsighted foreign policy that sacrificed American values in order to achieve stable relations with great powers and avoid trouble in hot spots like the Balkans (a view, incidentally, shared by many of the neoconservatives who surround the current President). It was Scowcroft who secretly traveled to Beijing shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre to reassure the Chinese that government-to-government relations needn't suffer despite the bipartisan indignation of the American public. But in 2002, lacking a consistent criticism of the drive toward war, many Democrats eagerly took shelter in Scowcroft's high-profile opposition."

After listening to Dan Feldman, a high level Kerry adviser, talk about Kerry's foreign policy, Marshall describes the conversation:

"'What you're describing to me sounds a lot like what I'd expect from Brent Scowcroft.'

'Yes,' he said. 'I think a lot of what you'd see from a Kerry Administration might be like that. I think there'd be a lot of similarities.' When I later made the same suggestion to Kerry's chief foreign-policy adviser, Rand Beers, he agreed."

In other words, Kerry is running as Bush's father -- on foreign policy, anyway.

The New Yorker story quotes Kerry as being incredulous that President Bush has ignored the foreign policy lessons of his father and Scowcroft; he then speaks of the lessons of Metternich and Henry Kissinger, two more purveyors of RealPolitik.

Another great irony here is that John Kerry got his political start testifying in front of Congress against the Vietnam War, being prosecuted at the time by Richard Nixon and his national security adviser -- Henry Kissinger.

Posted by J. Patrick Coolican at July 29, 2004 11:34 AM

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Behind the curtain would like to thank Rich Meislin of The New York Times for compiling much of this list. The views expressed on the following web sites are not those of The Seattle Times, and The Seattle Times is not responsible for the content expressed on them.

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