Saturday, March 22, 2008

Subjective Orientation

Matt Yglesias and Rob Farley made a point yesterday about how liberals and conservatives are looking at foreign affairs that I hadn't thought of. Here's Matt:
It's striking how much of conservative thinking about national security these days centers around subjective factors -- determination, emboldening, "claiming victory" -- rather than on objective assessments. Objectively speaking, withdrawing from Iraq would cut off a major line of recruiting for al-Qaeda while simultaneously freeing up vast quantities of American manpower and other resources. How "bold" that makes al-Qaeda leaders feel (and you've got to figure these fuckers were pretty "emboldened' already when they blew up the twin towers, right?) has nothing to do with anything.

Farley goes on to argue that this is actually a rather common thread in America. Personally, it reminds me a lot of the so-called Green Lantern Theory of American foreign policy (that America, as the hegemon, can accomplish anything it wishes so long as the Will of the American People stands behind it). But insofar as these terms take primacy in our discussion of such issues as the war in Iraq -- such that we're more concerned about showing "resolve" than we are about actually creating a safer and more democratic role -- we begin to run into trouble.


Unknown said...

Green Lantern theory? Great name. But now I'm wondering if the US is supposed to be Kyle Rayner or Hal Jordan.

Jack said...

Yeah, it took me a second to realize it was a Great Gatsby, not DC Comics reference.

PG said...

It's not a Gatsby reference -- the light at the end of Daisy's dock wasn't identified as a lantern. And Yglesias is much more a DC Comics than F. Scott Fitzgerald type.