April 15, 2011

Gates's Version of "Realism" in Middle East

Propaganda straight from the Voice (of America):
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has sounded a cautious tone on the United States’ ability to help democracy advocates in the Middle East. Gates used what was expected to be a routine speech at a library opening Thursday to send a message about the difference between moral support for the activists and what the United States can and should do based on its national security interests.

It is a thin line many U.S. officials have been trying to walk for months now, since people in several Middle Eastern countries began marching for freedom.

President Barack Obama has made clear the United States supports the spread of democracy, and has urged leaders in the region to accept reforms, with mixed results. Some analysts and members of congress have criticized him for not doing enough to help the demonstrators, while others have criticized him for putting U.S. interests at risk by encouraging the fall of allies in the war on terror, including Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

On Thursday, speaking at the opening of a library at the home of the first U.S. president, George Washington, Secretary Gates tried to explain what he called the persistent "dilemma" U.S. leaders have faced for more than 200 years between the desire to promote America’s values and the need to protect its interests.

"It is vital that we speak out about what we believe and let the world know where we stand, even as we do what we must to protect our interests and our security," said Gates. "The most successful leaders, starting with Washington, have steadfastly encouraged the spread of liberty, democracy, and human rights. At the same time, however, they have fashioned policies blending different approaches with different emphases in different places at different times."

Gates acknowledged that doing "what we must" has sometimes meant working with what he called "some of the worst violators of human rights," even as American leaders made protection of human rights "the centerpiece" of their foreign policy. And regarding today’s democracy movements in the Middle East, he said, U.S. moral support for demonstrators who are risking their lives for freedom and democracy does not necessarily mean support for quick, destabilizing change throughout the region.

"When we discuss openly our desire for democratic values to take hold across the globe, we are describing a world that may be many years or decades off," he said.

Gates said while the United States would like to see "democratic values" take hold across the globe, achieving that ideal "may be limited by time, space, resources or human nature."

Secretary Gates - who is expected to retire in a few months - has been in government for 40 years and held numerous senior positions at the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency under eight presidents. He is known as a "realist" on U.S. foreign policy. That refers to someone who believes the United States must identify and defend its most important national interests, even if that sometimes involves dealing with dictators or not helping people in need. "Idealists," on the other hand, believe the active promotion of U.S. values is more important, and will serve the country’s security interests in the long term.
Typical doublespeak from Gates, but we do not disagree that realism acquired the "interest" definition - our exact intention is to counter this false realism plaguing Washington. Realism gauges the geopolitical landscape as is and acts accordingly, amplifying rather than limiting positive effects. Thus “realism” can be warped into idealism and idealism becomes realism. Realism isn’t “dealing with dictators or not helping people in need,” but a pragmatic idealism that cannot sustain itself. The VOA’s definition of realism is especially nonsensical considering that it’s aimed at foreign markets, and that its objective is to express a positive image of America.

True realism resolves the seeds of conflict instead of nurturing them. Gates’s “realism” has, in his own admission, made America less safe from Yemen’s threat. Nor is much realism found in an "orderly transition," which have already proven anything but.


  1. Gates' degradation of language goes back a long way. It is interesting as pointed out in this article that Obama is harping on the phrases around realism and 'in our national interest'. He seems to be targeting as his audience those (mainly republicans and their mouthpieces)who see the excursion into Libya and the support for 'democracy' movements as potentially harmful to US interests. But it has been the thoughtless and inept pursuit of these interests in the crassest of fashions which is at the heart of US foreign policy problems in a number of areas, principally AfPak. Obvious from outside the US. But O and Hillary don't get it. They are playing to a gallery on Capitol Hill, Fox News and their own political opponents rather than the outside world. A dialogue turning in on itself. Always a prelude to a fall.

  2. Yes, the Obama administration is playing away from its "liberal" base and to the right during the Middle East revolutions. A perverse but predictable outcome given his "National Security" team. VOA isn't the sharpest tool, but nevertheless (briefly) surprising to actively see U.S. policy expressed as support for dictators.

    So does Obama actually share in Gates and Clinton's false realism, or is he simply being drowned out by higher powers?

  3. O never really had a foreign policy vision.
    His Cairo speech, and his Noble Peace {War] prize were nothing more than props.
    His whole demeanor changed after he became the President elect.
    When he got a briefing from the [for your eyes only] boyz.
    O is no JFK.

  4. Sounds like you've been reading this:


    Sometimes rhetoric can truly transcend, and other times it's just words.

  5. Here is an interesting exchange.


  6. I saw the post head line on his blog, so I had to go and comment. :-)


    All of this rhetoric came straight from Dennis Ross.
    Yet not one mention of this in the article.
    I believe all Presidents should divulge who wrote their speeches.

  7. I suppose it's naive to wish for orators who actually write their speeches. But Obama's AP interview revealed much of these shadows - getting to that ASAP.

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