The American Conservative, 22 Sept 2008

In this issue. John Laughland describes the Saakashvili regime in Georgia, quoting along the way gushing praise that various Western media outlets have lavished on that grubby little dictatorship.  Faced with the contrast, Laughland provides an intriguing psychological theory to explain why media and policy elites in the USA and the states ranged with it so often form passionate attachments to unappealing foreign states and leaders:

The Georgian president has indeed achieved extraordinary success in presenting his fiefdom as a Jeffersonian paradise.  This is partly due to Georgia’s use of operatives in Washington, such as John McCain’s foreign-policy advisor Randy Sheunemann, and a PR firm in Brussels.  But more importantly, it is the result of a virulent form of Western self-delusion.  Faced with seemingly intractable domestic problems, in which different political actors have to be balanced, Western states like to indulge in occasional but dangerous flights of foreign-policy escapism.  We imagine that we can free subject peoples with our bombs.  The image of a victim nation has now become an easy psychological trigger that can be applied indiscriminately to Bosnian Muslims, Iraqis, and now Georgians.  These unknown peoples and nations are but a blank screen on which we project our fantasies.  Our image of them says much more about us than it does about reality.    

Tony Smith analyzes the foreign policy teams and statements the presidential candidates have made and concludes that neither is likely to conduct a significantly less warlike administration than the current one.  Both candidates are committed to the major tenets of the interventionist consensus: democratic peace theory, the notion that states governed by democratic institutions are unlikely to make war on each other (Smith mentions thinkers Bruce Russett, Andrew Moravcsik, and John Rawls as advocates of this theory); democratic transition theory, the idea that liberal democracy could be established in any of an extremely wide variety of social contexts (here Smith cites Larry Diamond); and “R2P,” the notion that a state forfeits its sovereignty unless it meets its “responsibility to protect” its population (Smith cites Thomas Franck and Anna-Marie Slaughter.)  “With these three concepts, a witches’ brew has been concocted.”  America’s wars against Serbia in 1999 and against Iraq since 2003 have bubbled up from this unholy concoction. 

Septimus Waugh reviews Gerard deGroot’s The Sixties Unplugged: A Kaleidoscopic History of a Disorderly Decade.  Waugh mentions an article deGroot wrote for The Journal of Mundane Behavior, wherein he argued “that the writing of history is too influenced by what is interesting and newsworthy to be a true reflection of the past, which is made up of the boring and humdrum events of survival.  By concentrating on extraordinary events, historians, he complained, were pandering to myth, though to tell the true tale of the past would be boring.”  So Waugh sets out to explode the myth of the 60’s as a time of extreme behavior, letting people into his story who spent the decade minding their own business.

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