Yglesias on pop foreign policy

Everyone” now agrees that the surge was a “success” because it helped us avoid “defeat” and David Petraeus is a “brilliant general” because, ultimately, a lot of foreign policy is basically oriented around making people feel good about the hegemonic post-Cold War American military project. In late-2006, Iraq was a feel-bad scenario for Americans whereas by the end of 2008 it had become a feel-good scenario, a fun story of adaptation to circumstances and how gritty determination led to triumph over adversity. But to me it mostly seems like a demonstration of how detached our conversation of about defense policy is from anything concrete.

That the core lessons of diplomacy and international relations seem to be missed by even the most senior political officials is deeply distressing. I am heartened that the educated public seems to understand the importance of controlling weapons of mass destruction.

I am disheartened that they seem to have no other sense of national interest. War has become a gigantic sporting event in which the primary motivation is “victory.” What makes it particularly bitter is that they use the term Machiavellian as a slur, when Machiavelli would have been clearly opposed to this type of senseless bloodletting.

If Realists support foreign policy because it serves the interests of the state, at least it serves some interest.

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