Wednesday, May 11, 2005

GWB: not a Wilsonian, a Niebuhrian 

President Bush's foreign policy gets attacked from many different quarters. Realists off all political stripes argue that it is too idealist and too naive. The increasingly isolationist left deems Bush's foreign policy hypocritical (why Iraq, and not North Korea or China?) and too realist in a sense that underneath all the lofty rhetoric it is really motivated only by the base commercial and power-politics considerations like control of oil supplies.

In fact, Bush is a realistic idealist, or idealistic realist, and his foreign policy faithfully translates into cold hard realities of international politics a simple prayer attributed to the theologian Dr. Rheinhold Niebuhr. I'm sure you know it - framed, it adorns many a kitchen wall from Poland to Portland, or dangles from many key-chains around the world:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
This is it, in essence: there's plenty we would want to do - every autocrat in the world deserves to be deposed and his people given freedom and democracy - but for various reasons we cannot make it happen everywhere at the same time, so for the moment we'll only pick those fights we can win.

Iraq took courage. North Korea and many other places require serenity. Fortunately, W has got the wisdom.


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