GIVE PRAGMATISM A CHANCE


**Author’s note: This column was originally published on January 11, 2017. It is being republished on realnewsrevolt.com for archival purposes.


The back and forth between Senator Marco Rubio and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson during the latter’s Senate confirmation hearing wasn’t merely copy/paste politi-speak. It was no less than a battle for the soul of Republican foreign policy; a contest of pragmatism vs idealism that will shape our collective world view for the foreseeable future.
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 Rubio is much like myself just a few short years ago; hopelessly idealistic and arguing for a foreign policy based on exporting American-style democracy across the globe. Human rights are for everyone, after all, and democracies tend not to fight one another. I found neoconservative philosophy very appealing, as it sought to merge national security and morality in a way I found to be uniquely American. If those two massive birds could be killed with one idealistic stone, surely I’d found my ideological home. Like so many doctrines before it, neoconservative thought could be lauded for its ambition if nothing else.
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 I regret to inform Sen. Rubio that, at whatever point his pride cedes permission, he’ll have a hard pill to swallow. He’s going to have to accept the fact that we are not nearly as powerful as his philosophy requires. Yes, our military is powerful, as is our economy. But no matter how big we become – how much influence we wield over foreign governments – true democracy will not be delivered at the end of a foreign gun.
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Democracy in Muslim lands, if it’s to be established at all, must come about organically. And whether the John McCains of the word like it or not, even those that take root may work against our interests; a lesson taught in no uncertain terms by the sweeping electoral victories of groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. For a country who wishes for others to have a say in their own governance, it would behoove us to listen to what they’re actually saying.
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  Our constitutional republic has survived because we, the natives, have fought for it. The political fates of all countries – dictatorial and democratic alike – begin and end with the native population. It’s a brute fact that must be reckoned with if we’re to have any hope of an effective foreign policy moving forward. It’s why Middle Eastern countries have yet to establish liberal democracy even with the help of a superpower, whereas we defeated a superpower with a small, rag-tag army to establish democracy.
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Largely thanks to my beloved United State Army, I had to swallow the pill that awaits Senator Rubio and his ilk. My God, was it awful. It’s never easy to admit when one is wrong, but “wrong” is the most charitable descriptive my ego can offer. It’s one thing to theorize about democracy and human rights from a first world ivory tower, but quite another to meet the people you seek to change.
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That’s not to say all Muslim cultures are doomed to 7th century theocracy so long as their nations exist. History shows ideas to be powerful things with the capacity to spark revolutions.  But as I type this, some cultures fundamentally differ from our own and, whether we like it or not, that matters. Some are closer to our view of enlightenment than others. Some even give me hope for the future of Western values. To the extent that their revolutions will come, though, they will not be spurred from the offices of Pentagon planners or speeches by Ivy League poli-sci majors, but from the booming voices of charismatic locals rallying countrymen from atop the rubble of a civil war.
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As for those locals, our new Secretary of State has met a few.
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 As a private sector leader in a major industry, Tillerson hasn’t had the luxury of high-minded gestures and holier-than-thou diatribes. He’s had to deal with world leaders as they are, in countries that didn’t ask his advice on life. Rubio, conversely, lives in a world of politics; where bad results take a back seat to good intentions so long as you have the name recognition to get reelected. Tillerson’s world is one of success and failure, of shareholders and bottom lines, and along the way he’s learned a lot. He learned things that can’t be taught on a university campus, like picking battles according to ones own interests. And that’s exactly what America wants right now. More importantly, it’s exactly what we need.
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 Rubio’s lectures on moral clarity would be more useful given on the stage of a Miami public school. It’s time to look inward and address our own issues before we can be that shining city on the hill the world seeks to emulate. To do so is not to become isolationist, nor turn our backs on the world. It’s merely a reflection of where we are in history, what we’ve learned and desperate need for a change in path screaming so loudly that it can be heard by even the most highly-educated among us.
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The prioritization of our own interests above those of the outside world is certainly no more immoral, apathetic or selfish than the use American servicemen as tools of an unproven ideology. Yet here we are, defending our honor against the moral critiques of those who would spill even more of our blood and treasure just to avoid acknowledging their own fallibility.  Bill Kristol, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and everyone like you, please understand this: you are not only fallible, you’re wrong. Dead wrong.
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 “America First” only became a rallying cry of the People when it ceased to be common sense to our government. In the final analysis, the ivory tower enjoyed by Senator Rubio and his ideological bedfellows is reduced to nothing more than a moral high horse; naivete masquerading as forward thinking. Bill Kristol’s father, Irving, famously described neoconservatism as “liberalism mugged by reality.”
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 It appears that reality has met with neoconservatives once more in that dark alley known as inconvenient truth. But this time around, the gun is pointed at all of us, and that simply won’t do.
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If neocons will not succumb to the reality on the ground, we’ll have to use a weapon of our own. It’s called pragmatism. Mr. Tillerson is well-versed in its uses. It’s time we allowed him to end this mugging for good.

 

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1 thought on “GIVE PRAGMATISM A CHANCE

  1. Excellent observation & analysis.

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