The U.N., American Power and Fareed Zakaria

One interesting debate with implications for post 2008 is already occurring. Many of you, Dear Reader, may have already been following it. This one centers on the proper role of American power, particularly under the U.N.

Not a new subject on its face — controversy predates floridation, ‘black helicopters’ and Kofi Annan. The current impetus is a new Fareed Zakaria tome coupled with something called the “Princeton Project”. A brief recap can be found here.

The Princeton Project (now out some two years) proposes an alternative mechanism to the U.N., a ‘coalition of the willing’-esque ‘Council of Democracies’ should Russia and China not surrender their Security Council vetoes. Should the U.N. (China or Russia) balk at ‘regime change’ or other use of force, this alternative mechanism could be used for official sanction. At the core of this new concept is the still simmering notion of American imperial exceptionalism. The Stiftung is hardly the 10,345 th to note the Neocon nature of it all.

Michael Lind in the link above quite appropriately disabuses TPM Cafe readers of some intellectual sleight of hand. He correctly notes that the American liberal tradition embodied by Roosevelt’s intended post-war vision (starting with the U.N. Charter in S.F.) assumed a legal international order with cooperation among the powers on the security council. A Stiftung family member attended the UN Lake Success meetings. All of this very much in the liberal tradition.

That plan, as Lind notes, fell to the wayside after 1945 for a couple of reasons. First, concern over Soviet expansionism/Communist gains in Europe. Second, Washington oddly did not realize how feeble Britain had become. Not only in 1947 Greece but across the empire. Hence the Marshall Plan, etc. And finally, overt conflict at Berlin, the fall of China and the Korean War. (Note that U.N. sanction for that was possible only because the Soviets boycotted the Security Council vote).

Even so, if the U.S. tried to move to as Lind labels it from traditional American liberalism to an ad hoc and improvised “Plan B”, it was not an easy go of it. Contrary to what many think today, the U.S. military demobilized astonishingly fast from Europe in 1945. The Marshall Plan and money to Europe (offered even to the Soviets) alone was not an easy sell. We couldn’t disagree more with David Reiff’s response to Lind that continuity marked U.S. post war policy more than the discontinuity. What Reiff et al. simply overlook is the context and importance of how and why Paul Nitze wrote NSC-68, perhaps the most famous and influential document fixing U.S. Cold War policy (and often mistakenly seen as a frenetic intellectual riposte to Foreign Affair’s ‘X’ (Kennan) argument for limited containment).

NSC-68’s very existence proves Lind’s point about a discontinuity. Nitze wrote NSC-68 with the language and structure literally in his words to “bludgeon the mass bureaucratic mind of Washington.” Nitze needed to created Crown Prince-like change. In other words, a truly radically new way of thinking, preparation and acting. This has nothing to do with continuity. Moreover, the Stiftung doesn’t need a foot note in a book to tell him this. We spoke with Nitze about it all, and the whole era, etc. (even a bit about walking in woods).

For a while, the Western Europeans on their own attempted defense against both a future resurgent Germany and the existing Soviet Army. One example is the 1948 Brussels Treaty. Unlike much one might read on the Internet, the truth about the Brussels Treaty is that Britain tried to play it’s traditional role as balancer and “guarantor” with Montgomery in command. Britain, however, did not have clout, money, power or will to pull it off. This only underscored the European resolve to bring American power back into the Old World. NATO from its birth was designed to “keep the Americans in, the Germans down, and the Russians out.”

Why the U.S. should maintain the same distortive strategic and foreign policy commitments absent the Soviets is as relevant today as it was circa 1994 because of the Warlord’s regime. The fora or forum which should decide matters — should the U.N. be reformed and remain the final arbiter on use of force? Should the U.S. turn to the Princeton Project’s Necon ‘Council of Democracies?’ Ad hoc but long standing organizations like NATO? Lind is quite right to note how a cynical Neocon regime Part Deux under McCain could manipulate the Princeton mechanism. He also honestly raises situations like Kossovo.

The primary challenge for us today as it was in 1947 is how to understand the world around us and align U.S. power and commitments wisely. The Stiftung has long argued the need for a substantial realignment before it is forced upon us by circumstances. One thing we hope all have learned from the Warlord’s regime and its rotting, terminal carcass? Process indeed does matter. To avoid a ‘meet the new boss’ knock on the forehead, Neocon-esque bullshit should be called at its earliest inception. If the Demos once again falls for manipulative tricks like hard sells of alluring abstraction, constant elevation of specifics to general, and cases based on emotive semantics — well then, things won’t have changed much at all.


  1. Comment says

    The heavy US military presence in W. Europe is bizare in many ways. We were just going thru some diaries of people stationed in Italy and Germany in the 50s and you could see the logic back then. The dollar went very very very far in Europe back then – reflecting a reality. But that’s all changed now – Imagin if we did not have bases there now and we tried to propose installing them? It would seem absurd?

    There is a delusion of power that accompanies the draining presence in Europe.

  2. Comment says

    Just a point of privlidge – we were always taught in basic history classes and thru ordinary reading that Kennan’s X and NSC-68 were complimentary. The Marshall Plan was more controversial back then than people recall now. The hard left and the USSR opposed it and they had symp on the right and the left. We always thought of NSC-68 as a follow up to the Kennan spirit – Nitze as hard Kennanism.

    Slaughter et al – They ignore the decline of British and French power. Reif seems correct when he sums up Kagan’s Badass Nation. We’ve discussed that before – Kagan just takes the left critique and dusts it off and co-opts it with some modifications.

  3. Anon says

    Also – in that link, Fareed suggest Russia and China now obey the rules. But then he says he has some problems with Russia. What a joke. China rubbles its opposition, persectes Mulims, Bhuddists, and Christians. But Fareed just has some quibbles with Russia. Do you see the point, here? This hypocracy is built into these arguments because the arguments they make – in the foreign policy community – are all cover arguments. Do they really want democracy in Lebanon? They won’t even allow a new census to take place because it will upset the confessional balance. Also, Putin is popular = That may be unfortunate, but that’s democracy for you Ms. Slaughter.
    Here’s a better slogan – Democracy is good when we like it and when we don’t like it, then it’s bad.

  4. Anon says

    Leo, maybe we’re missing something, but this Anne-Marie Slaughter link exemplifies the problem alluded to earlier. Slaughter (Isn’t she amazing?!) seems to make some bad faith bogus distinctions in Lind’s argument – Then she introduces more nonsense. This fictious liberal international order of hers is based on superficial similarity.
    She fails to recognize that many of the ideolgues that she is alligned with are actively seeking to undermin the EU in all sorts of ways. Though this has abated of late as American power has been relatively weakened by Bush.
    But the point is that Slaughter assumes a domestic US consensus exists that respects EU laws and unity. This consensus does not exist – try to imagine a Congress allowing Europe to try Bush admin officials for War Crimes using exsisting treaties. So Slaughter seems ignorant in her elite little shell in Princeton. She is unaware that most Americans do not respect what she claims to respect. So she uses this delusion of democratic consensual unity to call for an even greater fictious unity.
    But the world does not care. Nitz/Lind is a recognition of power as a fact. Slaughter ignores that willfully so she she can spin this hypocritical cocoon.

  5. Anon says

    Oh – speaking of Cher Condi – Recall on this blog a while back when all sorts of diplmatic initiatives were announced re Lebanon and all sorts of Covert Findings were announced with so much fan fare? The UN res was gonna be enforced (when it was actually a face saving measure for the west) and Hez was gonna be disarmed? Almost ever defeat since then can be blamed on Condi and her feckless policy of telling people to do the impossible and acting surprised when they fail

  6. Comment says

    Lind is very much correct, IMO, that the post war world had two creation events. Too bad he is hobbled by having a impolitic Kaiser Wilhelm/Leave It To Beaver political approach that makes him vulnerable to instant maginalization.

    Oh wait – wrong Lind! Yes, this Lind is correct. But his passion for winning debating points often loses when it comes into conflict with the easy slothful hypocracy of the AM Slaughters and others in theh foreign policy consensus.

    They prefer the original Creation Story of Post War policy – Because it contains a secular fall from Eden and a possibility for redemption. It is simplistic. Whereas the Miltonic Satan of Nitze is harder to explain to the media.

    re Scotts – They seemed to us to have been the TV sponsor of OIF – When the bombs fell in Iraq and Afganistan in 02 and 03, Scotts commericials dominated the news coverage on Cable.

    The metaphore of chemical suppression of weeds to the suppression of insurgency is there for all to see. Petreaus is trying to Till Iraq now. But is it too late?

  7. Comment says

    Do we think Obama will conduct such a purge? No. If he did, he would unleash too much opposition and sink himself. But we think he represents a begining of a beginning. We hope he can initiate some things and begin a process that will lead to the creation of some countervailing force againt the current darkness. We think he has been steadfast in his opposition to Bush’s war policy and that the only time he went wobbly was when, out of political charity for Kerry in 04, he allowed that he may have done what Kerry did had he been in the government at the time. But he was just giving Kerry rhetorical cover for Kerry’s cynical seeming vote to authorize the war. In fact, HRC knows this because some of her team said the same thing before they decided to reinterpret his words four years later for Hill’s benefit.
    McCain – we’ve always like McCain, but we also know he cannot be President – He believes too much in war and fake strength (bases, saving face) McCain can’t even admit to reporters that he was the beneficiary of socialized medicine for most of his life. He’s too proud to admit that – even to a a teasing admiring reporter in his fan club.
    Maybe he’ll be a good President by accident – Mayve The madman theory will be vindicated. But we doubt that – Hamas has benefitted greatly from Bush – as Condi’s I&R warned – Evene though St. John says he will be Hamas “worst nightmare” We suspect they will benefit from McCain too and they will have a laugh as McCain confuses them with Hezbollah and Qaeda and calls the Sunnis Shia and the Shias Sunni and blusters about bombing Iran etc etc etc

    Leo, do you have any doubt that McCain will somehow wind up putting troops in Lebanon?
    Hillary is too clever for that and we doubt Obama would make any foolish move along those lines.

  8. Dr Leo Strauss says

    re tilling, that’s a good point — I have just been in a law care frame of mind recently. Digging up the roots usually is a good idea in heavily contaminated lawns.

    On another point, I have always said here repeatedly that the Dems must mount a sustained and relentless purge into the very marrow of government to remove the tiniest vestiges of the Warlord’s reign. Perhaps you see something in the Crown Prince that convinces you he has the understanding, vision, will and commitment to commence such a purge let alone see the knife fighting through. We haven’t. Maybe he can hire someone.

  9. Comment says

    re dandelions – Doc, you have to dig them up or til the lawn (til, rake, replant – TRR). The Scotts chemical approach is tempting (or ok when the prob is small), but it just creates ferocious survivor roots that come back in fierce force next year at the latest

    Btw – comment above is a different comment than Comment.

  10. Comment says

    We saw Jerry Bremer on Leon Charney last week – he was taking a victory lap
    – Bremer did what he had to do. He gets too much of the blame. But he doesn’t really care, does he? Too many Powellian eyebrows get raised over his disbanding the Iraq army. That’s like potential problem #6100 on the list. Most of this is Packer types claim a good idea was botched in the process of Iraq. Bremer was wrong, imo, on Charney, when he said there was noting inevitiable about ethnic conflict in Iraq and that it was cause by that Zarqaqi strategy. That’s just bs.
    re Princeton
    McCain’s on top of all this with his similar proposed Alliance of Democracies – If you’re a skeptic of it, then take heart because it will inevitably contain many non democracies and/or non-free nations. Also – any further alliace with existing democracies will not be aqble to prevent putting too many Bush admin figures at greater legal risk in an era of universal and/or broader jurisdiction. McCain fails to grok that many people in the civilized world regard his current domestic allies as war criminals. But that will come to the fore in the even this goes forward.

  11. DrLeoStrauss says

    It’s an interesting pairing, for sure. The nexus is their Princeton affiliation and then stature. Of the two, Shultz is by far the more interesting, not only re the fingerprints you noted, but also his memberships on the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and the revived Committee on the Present Danger.

    Given Nye and Lake’s involvement, one does have to wonder how much of this thinking would be at least in some way DNA for the post-coronation world view.

    It’s all very odd. Today, for example, we ran into Jerry Bremer and had a very brief conversation. And for those wondering, he looked very much in the pink as they would say at Oxbridge (i.e. looked well). And as we’ve discussed elsewhere here, Kagan is getting invitations from Oppositionist groups we’ve belonged to expound on his 2008 world views, he still gets published seemingly everywhere . . .

    Perhaps it is simply Spring. But they do seem like dandelions. Someone should place a call in to Scotts before it is too late to save the lawn (again).

  12. comment says

    Speaking of Crown Princes, though from another realm, I see that the Princeton Project is “[u]nder the stewardship of honorary co-chairs George Shultz and Anthony Lake.”

    I barely have a grasp on the depth of meaning in your post other than to say I seem understand the importance of finally realigning our foreign policy strategy left virtually unattended after the Soviet regime ceased to exist. That Shultz and Lake are steering the Ivy ship into unchartered, dangerous waters seems significant, most especially considering Lake is a senior advisor to the Crown Prince in waiting.

    Please expound on the importance, if any, of this relationship and perhaps why Shultz, whose unseen hand leaves prints all across the ME, would suddenly appear in this seemingly pivotal role.

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