Thursday, November 02, 2006

What Are the Assumptions Underlying "Tough" Foreign Policy?

There are a great many important points that Dr. Norton made in the interview on Hizballah in the previous post. However, I want to focus upon one that is at the heart of pseudo-conservative "tough" foreign policy. Pseudo-cons really somehow believe if we (or Israel) are just "tough" enough we will certainly prevail; and if we are too "soft" we will just as certainly not achieve our goals. I often think this approach is so goofy that I have trouble figuring out how to understand it; yet, pseudo-cons just keep on repeating this stuff over and over and over again. This is one of the main reasons I say "Pseudo-Conservatives Can't Do Foreign Policy". And again here.

Norton touches upon this in his interview: "Israelis officials have consistently presumed—in 1993, 1996, and 2006—that if they bomb Lebanon mercilessly the resistance will lose support. That has not turned out to be true. Indeed, the opposite effect is usually the result.... They should have learned by now that this doesn’t work. This was demonstrated yet again in this latest war. Initially, many Lebanese—including many Shi`a—were furious at Hizballah for giving Israel the pretext to attack and said so openly. But as these over-the-top attacks and bombings continued, the national identification solidified. I think that there is a rather extraordinary misreading of political psychology at play here (emphasis added).

What in God's name is so absolutely hard to understand here? Sometimes if you come in militarily and pound people who are nationalistic you don't weaken their resistance, you strengthen it. "They should have learned by now that this doesn’t work." Yes, indeed they should, both the hard-liners in Israel and in the U.S. "I think that there is a rather extraordinary misreading of political psychology at play here." No kidding. This is THE hard-liners most "extraordinary misreading of political psychology". I can't understand this persistent hard-line view except as part of the group psychology of hard-liners. It seems that insecure individuals must gravitate to this foreign policy stance because they operate on a kind of "bully" theory. If they remain "tough" and "resolute" they will intimidate others and dominate them; if they signal that they are "weak" then they will be bullied by their opponent. There may be some human situations where this is true, but pseudo-conservative hard-liners have absolutely no flexibility in applying this approach; they are "one-trick ponies"; they are stuck on one speed and have absolutely nothing else in their foreign policy repertoires.

The United States has the most powerful military and, at least for now, the most productive economy in the world; and everyone in the world knows it. Why are these pseudo-conservative hard-liners so worried about appearing weak? Doesn't our obvious strength give us the flexibility and resources to pursue many different foreign policy approaches?

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