Saturday, July 26, 2008

Context and Brooks, an Op-Ed

David Brooks has an op-ed in the NY Times pooh-poohing Obama's rhetoric during his recent trip abroad. Brooks sniffs because

The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an
era of global convergence in which politics and power didn’t matter.
What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This
was the end of history on acid.

Since then, autocracies have
arisen, the competition for resources has grown fiercer, Russia has
clamped down, Iran is on the march. It will take politics and power to
address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their
name in Obama’s lofty peroration.

First off, Brooks has a pathetic memory if all he remembers of the 90's is Francis Fukuyama. That text served more as an instructional punching bag then a foundation for policy, it was interesting to think about how and why it was wrong. It was certainly not relevant to resolving the Bosnian civil war, the most prominent foreign policy challenge of that decade.

Second, Brooks' list of what changed since the 90's is garbage. Autocracies have always been around. Chavez now runs Venezuela but Milosevic is dead. Russia has tightened, China has loosened. Iran is on the march now? When was it not on the march? Doesn't seem like they move very fast, does it? Brooks can't bring himself to note the biggest change in the world since the 90's was in America's foreign policy, even as he claims the difference is as stark as an acid trip compared to reality.

What is naive is to think American policy could undergo such a shift without radically changing the rest of the world.

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