Foreign policy is always difficult in a democracy. Democracy requires openness. Yet foreign policy requires a level of secrecy that frees it from oversight and exposes it to abuse. As a result, Republicans and Democrats have long held that the intelligence agencies--the most clandestine of foreign policy institutions--should be insulated from political interference in much the same way as the higher reaches of the judiciary. As the Tower Commission, established to investigate the Iran-Contra scandal, warned in November 1987, "The democratic processes ...
Who's next? As Saddam Hussein's regime crumbled this week, that was the question being asked by commentators across the globe. And, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took to his podium to declare that the United States would hold Syria "accountable" for its weapons shipments to Iraq—a charge backed up by Secretary of State Colin Powell—it seemed the Bush team had finally provided the answer.
In the six months since North Korea began publicly threatening to build nuclear weapons, two of its largest trading partners-China and South Korea have largely buried their heads in the sand. When Kim Jong Il admitted last fall that North Korea was developing highly enriched uranium, a violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States, South Korean leaders were not discouraged from pursuing then-President Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine policy" of engagement.
Just when it seemed we had heard the last from the United Nations on the subject of Iraq, the battle of Turtle Bay resumed last week. An army of European statesmen regrouped and declared that, having been defeated in their efforts to constrain U.S. power before the war, they intend to pick up where they left off as soon as it ends. The European Union issued a formal statement insisting that "the U.N. must continue to play a central role" in Iraq, and the EU president, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, exhorted "the U.N.
"Ideas have consequences," the conservative intellectual Richard Weaver wrote half a century ago. The truism comes to mind as another group of conservative intellectuals, this one guiding foreign policy inside the Bush administration, prepares to launch a war in the Middle East--not for oil or geopolitical advantage but on behalf of an idea. The idea is liberalism. According to President Bush, "Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause," and, as such, he routinely casts the impending war as an effort to bring democracy to a land that has known only dictatorship.
So far America's war on terrorism has converged nicely with the regional interests of the world's leading sponsor of international terrorism: Iran. After September 11, 2001, the United States worked with Tehran's mullahs to help oust their Sunni rivals to the east in Afghanistan, the Taliban.
Last week, in the middle of the Battle of Gardez, theater commander Army General Tommy Franks expressed his condolences to the families of American soldiers who lost their lives “in our ongoing operations in Vietnam.” It was a strange slip. In truth, recent ground operations in Afghanistan have had exactly the opposite resonance: Never in the past 30 years has the specter of Vietnam been further from the minds of American military planners. The involvement of sizable numbers of conventional Army forces in sustained combat is a remarkable development in itself, one not seen since the Gulf war.
The Bush foreign policy team is not, as its members delight in pointing out, the Clinton foreign policy team. Which is why it is so odd that they have been repeating one of the Clinton era's favorite mantras. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Colin Powell angrily demanded that Iraq readmit the U.N. weapons inspectors it expelled in 1998.
These are heady times for conservatism. The last 20 years have seen a decisive shift in the West toward market economics and away from statist intervention. The welfare state as it has historically been understood is an endangered species. Culturally, the importance of family structure, religious faith, and personal responsibility is affirmed by a wider array of people than for a generation. And with September 11, the bedrock conservative insight that the world is an inherently dangerous place has been decisively proved once again.
Of all the new security measures adopted by the Bush administration since September 11, the most draconian involve the detention and interrogation of aliens. In his dragnet effort to uncover evidence of terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft has authorized the detention of some 1,100 noncitizens. Some have been held for months and--thanks to recently passed legislation--may be held indefinitely. Critics call the Ashcroft detentions unconstitutional.