20 June 2006

Principles for American foreign policy

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has a terrific post worth reading in its entirety, which starts from pundit Peter Beinart's failure to see that the Iraq war was a bad idea. Quoting Beinart, Hilzoy says:
If you were to go from the Gulf War through Kosovo and Iraq, you would find that a large number of people in every facet of the liberal Democratic universe were wrong, on at least one of those wars. Very, very few people were right about all three of them.
This is just one more piece of evidence that Peter Beinart and I do not hang out with the same kinds of people. He (and other opinion writers) seem to find it obvious that almost no one whose opinions were worth taking seriously was right on all three wars. Among the people I know, however, that's not true: almost everyone I know whose opinions on policy I take at all seriously was right on all three; and so was I.

This is not because I and mine are right all the time. We aren't -- along with many people I know, I was very wrong on welfare reform, for instance. But we were right on these three wars. And I think, contra Beinart, that the reason for this is that being right on all three just wasn't all that hard, given certain basic principles.

What are those basic principles? Hilzoy has prepared a list.
    On epistemology:
  1. It is not true that being realistic always requires taking the toughest option.
  2. Every war is itself, and not another war
  3. On international relations:

  4. We have to be involved with the rest of the world
  5. It is very important that other people trust us
  6. It is very important to retain the good will of other peoples and nations
  7. We should do whatever we can to foster the development of effective international institutions and norms of conduct
  8. On war:

  9. War is not the worst thing in the world
  10. While war is not the worst thing in the world, it's really, really, really, really bad
As Hilzoy says, this stuff just isn't all that hard.

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