To follow up briefly on Judah’s post on realism vs. idealism in Obama’s policies and character, I just wanted to point out the passage from the Berlin speech that perhaps provides the most cause for worry that an Obama administration might fail to recognize that, as Judah says, now is a moment for restraint in American foreign policy:
Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?
Here (via Andrew Sullivan) is Reason’s David Weigel on that passage:
Daniel Larison of the American Conservative (also via Sullivan) doesn’t think this is going to play well with voters fatigued of American adventurism:
I’ve expressed worry about this strain of meliorism in Obama’s foreign policy before. What I have not yet determined is whether this stuff has really been thought through thoroughly by Obama, or whether on foreign aid and humanitarianism in particular he’s being influenced significantly by his team of advisers. Most of those advisers seems to be kind of orthodox liberal internationalists, and being suckers for the transformational possibilities of humanitarian projects has, IMHO, been a weakness of liberal internationalism in recent years.
What makes me sometimes, when I’m feeling generous, suspect that this is largely adviser-driven, and that Obama’s policy if elected won’t be so utopian as his rhetoric, is that the evidence of his pragmatism keeps piling up. Although foreign policy is not much mentioned much, Ryan Lizza’s profile of Obama in the New Yorker provides more evidence for that kind of pragmatism. Granted, Obama’s pragmatism seems most often to be purely political in its motivation. But if the mood of Americans really is one of foreign policy restraint, political pragmatism will serve as a break on the meliorist temptation.