July 21, 2008

Zakaria - Obama is "the True Realist in the Race"

More evidence that Obama is the candidate of savvy members of the foreign policy establishment (which tends to be populated by George H.W. Bush Republicans). And for good reason.

Obama rarely speaks in the moralistic tones of the current Bush administration. He doesn't divide the world into good and evil even when speaking about terrorism. He sees countries and even extremist groups as complex, motivated by power, greed and fear as much as by pure ideology. His interest in diplomacy seems motivated by the sense that one can probe, learn and possibly divide and influence countries and movements precisely because they are not monoliths. When speaking to me about Islamic extremism, for example, he repeatedly emphasized the diversity within the Islamic world, speaking of Arabs, Persians, Africans, Southeast Asians, Shiites and Sunnis, all of whom have their own interests and agendas.

Obama never uses the soaring language of Bush's freedom agenda, preferring instead to talk about enhancing people's economic prospects, civil society and - his key word - "dignity." He rejects Bush's obsession with elections and political rights, and argues that people's aspirations are broader and more basic - including food, shelter, jobs. "Once these aspirations are met," he told The New York Times's James Traub, "it opens up space for the kind of democratic regimes we want." This is a view of democratic development that is slow, organic and incremental, usually held by conservatives.

And while its nice to see someone of Zakaria's stature and influence point this out, it's unfortunate that he frames this as some sort of discovery and surprisingly fact. The George W. Bush administration wasn't Realist for years, and yet Zakaria still refers to the Idealism of the Republicans as ironic. Would've been nice to see that more fully discussed and critiqued by the media in 2002 and 2003.

Posted by armand at July 21, 2008 11:08 AM | TrackBack | Posted to International Affairs | Politics

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