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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Experts From All Sides Agree: Bush Foreign Policy a Disaster 

Oof. "Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy," an ad hoc assemblage of over 650 international relations professors, has released an open letter slamming the Bush administration's "foreign policy":
We judge that the current American policy centered around the war in Iraq is the most misguided one since the Vietnam period, one which harms the cause of the struggle against extreme Islamist terrorists. One result has been a great distortion in the terms of public debate on foreign and national security policy—an emphasis on speculation instead of facts, on mythology instead of calculation, and on misplaced moralizing over considerations of national interest.
There are some important points to be made about this letter. First, this ain't no namby-pamby pabulum-pukin' bunch of liberals (although there are a few signatories meeting this description, perhaps). Many of the most hawkish members of the IR community are signatories, as are some of the field's most prominent names. Kenneth Waltz, founder of "neorealism" and the single most important figure in IR in the past 30 years, has signed. So has John Mearsheimer, known for aggressive, hawkish positions, including advocating a severe reduction in US trade with (and democracy-promotion efforts in) China in order to strangle that country's budding military power. So has Robert Pape, the leading expert on suicide terrorism. So has Jessica Stern, who literally wrote the book on Al Qaeda. The list goes on.

Second, let me offer some (fairly weak) caveats about claiming the letter indicates monolithic IR-scholar opposition to the Bush administration. There are some conspicuously-absent names. Many of the most prominent signatories also signed this earlier open letter (including the legendary Thomas Schelling, who appears not to have signed the SSSFP document), so perhaps the new letter isn't all that surprising. And the footnote-per-paragraph style of the letter probably won't help convince readers that this letter comes from hard-headed analysts rather than tweedy absent-minded ivory tower dwellers.

But after attending seminars and panel discussions with IR scholars from across the political spectrum, after hearing from analysts ranging from reflexive anti-military types to those who see themselves as hard-headed hawks, I can say that there are only a very few security experts who think the Bush administration's foreign policy has been anything but a botched, poorly-thought-out, truly pathetic misadventure. Hopefully the media will report this without pretending that academic opinion, even from hawkish, conservative, Republican-voting security scholars (of whom there are more than a few) is more-or-less balanced: trust me folks, it ain't.

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