bacevich and the limits of American foreign policy

a couple nights ago, professor bacevich lectured about the US needing to re-think their approach to foreign policy.

Since the end of world war 2, we've kinda been in a cold war mentality where our goal has always been to change the way others live. this is an extension of Wilson's famous 14 points for his vision of democracy/peace for the whole world.

Bacevich says that now, we should reconsider whether or not this "changing the lifestyle of others" is an effective policy to secure American security and foreign policy interests. It was effective for Germany and Japan after WWII, where both countries within 20 years became effective players in the market economy. But when it comes to the Middle East, Bacevich points out, forcing them to modernize will not help at all, in fact it will lead to more Anti-Americanism.

International Terrorism whether with or without religious impetus is a threat to US interests, but its true threat to American interests/world security has to be reassessed. Rather than the US adopting this Bush Doctrine of Open Ended War on Terror, Bacevich suggested that we conjure up an international police force that does James bond business and has a special ops wing that can study threats and nip them at the bud.

Much of what Bacevich said was no surprise, its been told before by most academics, but what differentiates Bacevich from the rest is that he's an American conservative. For me this means an American Patriot who has the best interests of this nation at heart, without necessarily entangling himself into the affairs of other states.

He stated pretty emphatically that Islam must conform to modernity (whatever that means) and that the US and other 1st world nations should assist in doing so. Reads kind of like a RAND report, where a pluralist, globalized tending Islam is in the best interest of the US in the MENA (middle east north africa) region.

This begs me to ask, what other trends of Islam are out there? I think most people (including myself initially) thought the only other option was this firebrand, revolutionary, Shariah only Islam (ie our stereotypes of Iran fulfilled). But upon further consideration and some parsing of report on political Islam in turkey, another brand of Islam that wouldn't be in the best interests of the west is a "transnational Islam". Think like the EU for MENA. What this would mean is that all the countries would be one economic/political bloc, with synching interests and better capability to play the open market for its own interests, rather than remain as the source of raw good and primary materials for the 1st world to play with. The biggest no no would be a Turko-Syrian-Iranian alliance and that would be a major no no for US, China & Russia due to geo-political concerns.

Call it what you like, North vs South, 1st world vs 3rd world, haves vs have nots; but this is what the conservative world view (in my perception atleast) boils down to. Its all about maintaining a free market world economy; in which the most capable nation-state is the one that can exploit (and i mean it in the economy 101 sense, not your colloquial "child exploitation" way) resources and yield a good standard of living and GNP.

A conservative state is essentially declaring every country for itself, if along the way you receive residual benefits (aid, growth of certain sectors) good for you, but in order to be the most successful, you can't rely on anyone but yourself.

I know this paints me as a complete socialist, because in principle it sounds terrible that every person should strive for their individual success and only care about the others when it can help you. Socialism does reflect a legitimate concern that people should value the general welfare instead of their own. But I am also trying to be real; and I understand the extreme efficiency, ingenuity and acquisition of knowledge that a capitalist world order has to offer. But there must be a balance.

Steering back to Bacevich and conservatives, his redeeming value is that he is through and through an intelligent conservative, he doesn't seem caught up in the socio-political wargame of the Neo-cons, "the clash of civilization" folk and what have you. Though he did drastically down play the Israeli Lobby and the actual impact of neo-conservative thinking and politicians on this nation; and the more i think he did it for pragmatic reasons; as in he was short on time. Here's to you Prof. Bacevich and sucks to my camera phone:

Bacevich at Metcalf

I'll end with this quote, which I am learning has quite a storied history as to who really said it:

If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart.
If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.