Skip to comments.Battle Splits Conservative Magazine
Posted on 03/13/2005 3:29:07 AM PST by Pharmboy
FOR the decade since its founding by the neoconservative thinker Irving Kristol, The National Interest has been a central forum for the most influential conservative foreign policy thinkers of all stripes to hash out their differences. It launched ideas that entered the public policy vernacular, like "the end of history," "the West and the rest," and "geo-economics," and for the last six months it has played host to a closely watched intramural conservative debate over the wisdom of the war in Iraq.
Now, however, a philosophical disagreement within its editorial board has put its future in turmoil. On Friday, 10 well-known board members, including the conservatives Midge Decter, Samuel P. Huntington and Francis Fukuyama, announced their resignations, saying they disagreed with the narrowly realist foreign policy of its new owner, the Nixon Center.
At issue is the perspective laid out in the most recent issue by Robert F. Ellsworth, vice chairman of the Nixon Center, a "realist" foreign policy research group that acquired sole control of the journal last year, and Dimitri K. Simes, president of the center and co-publisher of the journal. In an editorial headlined "Realism's Shining Morality," they wrote: "Overzealousness in the cause of democracy (along with a corresponding underestimation of the costs and dangers) has led to a dangerous overstretch in Iraq," arguing that United States interests may sometimes require cooperation with undemocratic regimes.
The mass resignation is the latest round in a fierce debate on the right over the invasion. It is also the latest high-profile fight picked by Mr. Fukuyama, a prominent neoconservative and the author of "The End of History."
Last fall, he helped set off that debate with an essay in The National Interest calling his fellow neoconservatives "strangely disconnected from reality" for their continued celebration of the Iraq occupation as a success. Foreign policy realists, who question the necessity of the war, cheered his apparent defection.
In leading the defections from The National Interest, however, Mr. Fukuyama is aiming in the other direction: he is accusing its publishers of squeezing out liberal or neoconservative arguments about the universal appeal of democracy and the importance of spreading democracy to America's self-interest.
"What we liked about the old National Interest was the variety of viewpoints that it published," Mr. Fukuyama wrote in a letter signed by all 10 departing board members. "We do not have confidence that this kind of editorial policy can long be retained by a magazine with a mandate to represent the interests of the Nixon Center."
Upon receiving the letter, the publishers of the journal sent their own letter dissolving the advisory board, which had two remaining members, the neoconservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and Daniel Pipes. "I think this group, frankly, belongs to the past, and we wanted to have some changes," said Mr. Simes, adding that there was no plan to narrow the range of contributors.
Mr. Simes accused Mr. Fukuyama of self-aggrandizement, saying he had previously offered to bring new financing to the journal if he could take control. "To me, it looks like a failed takeover," Mr. Simes said.
In an interview, Mr. Fukuyama said that, to carry on the debate about the war in Iraq and American foreign policy, he now planned to start another journal, The American Interest, with three others from the National Interest board: Zbigniew Brzezinski, a liberal and President Carter's former national security adviser; Eliot A. Cohen, a military scholar and neoconservative, and Josef Joffe, a leading German editor.
"In the wake of Iraq, I think there is going to be this fight over what a certain conservative foreign policy is, and I personally don't want to see the realists walking about with a lot of moral authority at this point," Mr. Fukuyama said.
But he said the new journal would not hew to any ideological line; instead, it will try to look at American actions in a global context. "It's about America in the world, how it ought to behave and what the consequences of its actions are," he said. "Everyone in the world is preoccupied with the United States, and they feel they don't understand it, and we want to help them with that."
He said the new journal, which will initially be financed by a Boston venture capitalist, will also publish perspectives on American policies from foreigners who may feel the effects of American actions.
William Kristol, editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard and son of Irving Kristol, said he welcomed the planned journal. "My father said many times, the more journals, the better," he said. "Soon there are going to be more neoconservative magazines than there are neoconservatives."
All the propaganda of the Left has us down as mindless, clueless boobs. To report a conservative debate at high moral and intellectual levels is to shatter their own silly myth.
Well said. The fact is though that The National Interest is finished now with the new direction it will be taking. It's not surprising that the "realists" wanted it. They've been losing in policy fights and influence and their losing on the ground in the real world. Hence, what kind of "realists" are they? They're not going to inspire anyone anywhere to live in a world where America espouses high morals but won't lift a finger or a voice for democracy. Their view is the view of the past. They're all unprepared and unwilling to wage the ideological battle that can secure America as much as our weapons.
Perhaps even cromagnum gravitas a few times, just to drive home the point. ;)
2) This quotation: "Foreign policy realists, who question the necessity of the war, cheered his apparent defection." Huh? I'm a "foreign policy realist" and I know we've TRIED every other approach to the Middle East and so far this one is working better than any. That sounds pretty realistic to me.
3) I don't read everything, or even all conservative mags and journals, but I do read more than probably 90% of the public because of my job, and I didn't even know the "National Interest" existed. I can't recall the last time it ran any kind of influential article or opinion (was it "The End of History???" Don't know). But people talk about NRO or American Spectator or Rush or Sowell or even FreeRepublic all the time.
Nixon/Kissinger foreign policy was one of assuming American decline and managing that decline. Thus the opening to China, which widened the split among the Communist powers, detente with Russia, idiotic wheat deals and the rest. Nixonian realism lead to Carter moralism and the commie takeovers of Afghanistan, Nicarauga, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola, Grenada and the strengthening of totalitarianism around the world. We're paying for this today. Dmitri Simes was dismissed under realism as a insignificant dissident in the old Soviet Union. To bad he doesn't want to help others now.
We need both realism and idealism to work together.
I don't think I've seen the term "neoconservative" bandied about quite so many times in one article. A new record, it seems.
They could however devote two pages of the Sunday Book Review to a discussion among leftwingers of how to rescue the 'Rat Party.
He spread his cheeks so wide for Brezhnev he was the original ez-pass
I'm with you--I've never heard of it. Must be read by about 200 people and probably 50 of them are left wingers who are monitoring it.
Bingo. Other than find new ways to make the gummint bigger, the left hasn't had any new ideas since collectivization of the farms. And NO good ones that STAY good...
To be fair, journals come and go in their popularity (like bars). I remember when "Public Interest," "American Spectator," and the Heritage Foundation's magazine (forget the exact title) used to be the "big three," with National Review having badly slipped in the 1980s. Then Tyrrell got totally obsessed with Clinton and ignored economic, cultural, and foreign policy issues. He sold "American Spectator" to George Gilder, who was likewise narrowly focused on technology. The mag declined in influence until it went to the web version, and now is making a comeback. "Public Interest" pretty much disappeared as an influential journal by the early 1990s. And the Heritage mag, which used to be very good, basically died when its short, punchy articles were replaced by things on the web.
This one will have me wandering about today with a "?" above my head and muttering to myself.
"Realists" seems to be a Brave New World construct.
Don't know how influential such an obscure magazine can be or how being so out of touch can give it any credibility.
Parts of this debate I can barely understand. As far as I can tell:
Realists - Leaning towards the staus quo so completely that they would continue providing virgins for sacrifice to appease the oil and "old Europe" gods.
Wilsonian - Muddied beyond belief. Either the worship of one world government for some obscure mindless purpose, or in order to hide corporate and other interests behind the continued redistribution of wealth. Scary, in all its incarnations.
In summary, this seems like a battle between the peanut farmer mentality which empowered 911 and current terrorist activity and the "Marines" mentality of our early history which declared, "Millions for defence; not one cent for tribute!"
And not a peep about which side the 'Rats are cheering on. As if we didn't know.
In (some) defense of Washington and Adams, the tribute they paid was due to the fact that the U.S. didn't have a navy; and in the Adams administration began constructing one . . . just in time for the "small government" and "gunboats" Thomas Jefferson to use it in defeating the Barbary Pirates. I'm sure had Washington had four frigates, there would not have been even a "cent" for tribute.
Even liberals have "agonizing reappraisals." They are going through one today, before your eyes, with a question unthinkable to them two months ago: Was Bush right about Iraq?