Saturday, April 29, 2006

who is this Wally LaFeber and why does he hate Condi Rice?

One of the things that has never ceased to exasperate me about many elements of the right in America is their propensity towards (ready) accusation of personal animus when their figureheads are criticized on substantive matters. This is of course more than a little ironic when you consider how readily the right reduces politics to dubious assertions of personal qualities, like their implied argument that oil family scion George Bush,jr should be president because "he's just a regular guy", a trope that's currently being trotted out for '08 hopeful (and senatorial nonentity) George Allen. (Besides his occasional ejaculations of folksiness, what has this guy actually done?)

But I digress, even before tackling the matter at hand: the matter being your pal and mine, secretary of state Condaleeza Rice. I've been mystified for some time by her apparent ability to deftly manage people's impressions and remain above the muck in which Bush and Cheney and the rest have become mired down. Here is what Cornell prof Walter LaFeber said of her recently(via Eric Alterman):

Rice’s Georgetown speech is less a movement back to the realism and multilateralism exemplified by her old mentor, Brent Scowcroft, than it is a repackaging of failed neoconservative policies that seeks to disguise regime change with the rhetoric of Wilsonian democracy, and that hides a lack of actual multilateralism (and badly needed legitimacy) with such misleading phrases as “coalition of the willing,” or, in this case, “partnership.” If the second Bush administration does understand the historic mistakes made by the first Bush administration, it cannot by proved by Rice’s appearance at Georgetown. Acheson advocated the Marshall Plan and NATO. In stark contrast, Rice advocates nothing that might institutionalize “partnership.” She offers only the suggestion that the United States “localize our diplomatic posture” and create more “virtual presence posts” in which American diplomats can exchange computer messages with the target audience. It is not a bad idea, just irrelevant to the need for rethinking and radically readjusting U.S. foreign policy. To rephrase, the Rice doctrine revealed at Georgetown never confronts the administration’s failed assumptions about human nature, spreading Wilsonian democracy, and what true partnership with allies should mean.

(emphases mine.) Incidentally, speaking of mentors and who the heck LaFeber is, I note that both current NS advisor Stephen Hadley and Sandy Berger studied with LaFeber, and they of course were, respectively, the national security advisors who succeeded and preceeded Rice in that post.