Crikey psephologist Charles Richardson writes:
The strengths and weaknesses of a “realist” approach to foreign policy are both on display in this piece by Owen Harries in The Australian.
Despite his background on the right, Harries has been a consistent
opponent of the Iraq war, and today he makes perhaps his strongest case
yet for withdrawal.
Harries believes that military power is a tool for advancing national
interests, and his judgments are all about how it can be used
effectively – on which score the Iraq war is a failure. He has no time
for idealistic talk about spreading democracy or preventing human
rights abuse, and he simply fails to deal with those arguments. A bit
of history is useful: the exchange that Harries leads with between
Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell was made in the context of
President Clinton’s (mildly) interventionist policies, particularly in
the former Yugoslavia. The recent commemoration of the massacre at
Srebrenica might remind us that Albright was right and Powell was wrong.
But Bush’s apologists should pause before attacking him for this. Bush
came to office as a champion of realism, even isolationism. He and the
Republicans were on Powell’s side; indeed, the attitude of Bush
senior’s administration had helped encourage Serbian aggression in the
first place. Bush’s enemies were those same impractical idealists who
talked about international law and human rights.
Harries’s former boss, Malcolm Fraser, always maintains that he hasn’t
really shifted to the left over the years, it’s just that everyone else
has shifted to the right. Harries could make a similar claim: that he’s
the same hard-nosed realist he’s always been, but his former friends,
while as contemptuous as ever of international law, have now embraced
idealism. Perhaps the message is that, like a wise Whig and a wise
Tory, a wise realist and a wise internationalist will usually agree.