Believe only to a point

I can only stomach so much conservative rhetoric before cracking up.

Halfway through Condoleezza Rice’s cover story “The New American Realism” in Foreign Affairs, I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help myself; a quote, amid arduous banality, was simply too ironical.

“Democracy, it is said, cannot be imposed, particularly by a foreign power,” said the Secretary of State in her ill-titled article. (There is nothing new about the piece.)

After the weapons-of-mass-destruction reason was debunked, liberation and democracy were the No. 1 initiatives for the U.S., a foreign power imposing its beliefs.

I have a bumper sticker that reads, “Don’t believe anything until it has been officially denied.” I’d like to expand that phrase to include, “Don’t believe blatantly obvious assertions.” And Rice wrote many in Foreign Affairs.

“But if America doesn’t set the goal [of democracy], no one will.”

There were two words aptly chosen for Rice’s title — American Realism. (Read: Imperialist Ignorance.)

“We Americans engage in foreign policy because we have to, not because we want to, and this is a healthy disposition — it is a republic, not an empire.”

The words after the dash fall into the “don’t believe blatantly obvious assertions.” Rice’s State Department helped negotiate no-bid oil contracts in Iraq with western companies. That move is one an empire conducts.

“No cultural factor has yet been a stumbling block [to accepting democracy] — not German or Japanese ‘militarism,’ not ‘Asian values,’ not African ‘tribalism,’ not Latin America’s alleged fondness for caudillos, not the once-purported preferences of eastern Europeans for despotism.”

Yet, democracy is the foundation of American patriotism. It is OK for Americans to have a political system that becomes part of its cultural identity, but it’s not justified for other nations to do the same.

“[The U.S. allies] still want a confident and engaged United States, because there are few problems in the world that can be resolved without us.”

Foreign policy begins and ends with national interests, but we should draw the line between patriotism and blind nationalism.



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