Thursday, September 11, 2008

Morgenthau: the Struggle for Peace

On page 3 of Politics Among Nations, The Struggle for Power and Peace, 6th edition, 1985, Hans Morgenthau wrote,

“The history of modern political thought is the story of a contest between two schools that differ fundamentally in their conceptions of the nature of man, society, and politics. One believes that a rational and moral political order, derived from universally valid abstract principles, can be achieved here and now. It assumes the essential goodness and infinite malleability of human nature, and blames the failure of the social order to measure up to the rational standards on lack of knowledge and understanding, obsolescent social institutions, or the depravity of certain isolate individuals or groups. It trusts in education, reform, and the sporadic use of force to remedy these defects.

“The other school believes that the world, imperfect as it is from the rational point of view, is the result of forces inherent in human nature. To improve the world one must work with those forces, not against them. This being inherently a world of opposing interests and of conflict among them, moral principles can never be fully realized, but must at best be approximated through the ever temporary balancing of interests and the ever precarious settlement of conflicts. This school, then, sees in a system of checks and balances a universal principle for all pluralist societies. It appeals to historic precedent rather than to abstract principles, and aims at the realization of the lesser evil rather than of the absolute good.”

Morgenthau, I suspect, would put the exportation of Liberal Democracy as well as Militant Islam in Category Number One. If indeed the Bush Administration intended to export Liberal Democracy and not just Democracy, one can see why Fukuyama would want to distance himself from it. In calling himself a Realistic Wilsonian Fukuyama is now giving the nod to Morgenthau. He is implying that his true theory of The End of History is not in category One but in category Two. It isn’t a system that is going to be promoted by education reform or the use of force. It is in human nature, but not as Morgenthau believes as something that “can never be fully realized, but [only] approximated through the temporary balancing of interests.” Instead Fukuyama as a Kojevean Hegelian believes that from this human nature his end of history will inevitably develop.

Fukuyama wouldn’t be guilty of linking his end of history to what Taylor (Sources of the Self) describes as a “religious or nationalistic ideology,” but he seems to believe that the Bush administration has done that, and that it has stolen his Neocon concept in the process.

In one sense the Bush administration has not done what Fukuyama fears. It is settling for mere Democracy in Iraq and not pushing for “Liberal” Democracy. However, the Administration (and not just the administration) is probably hoping that Iraq’s democracy will grow into a Liberal Democracy. And in that sense a set of principles is being held as a presumptive ideal, putting the Iraqi Democracy tentatively into Morgenthau’s Category One.

If the Bush administration did start out with a Neocon Liberal-Democratic ideal as something to be exported, it would seem that its ambitions for dealing with other Middle-Eastern nations have been curtailed and that it is moving more toward Morgentahu’s category two. How else describe its normalizing of relations with Libya days after Ahmadinejad’s letter? By normalizing relations with a nation that in no way lives up to a Democratic ideal, let alone a Liberal-democratic ideal, the administration is announcing that it is willing to be Realistic. If the U.S. is willing to be Realistic and normalize relations with Libya after it abandoned its nuclear program, surely it will be equally Realistic if Iran should do something that can be described as acceptable by some clever speech writer – for either McCain or Obama.


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