Wilsonian Or Straussian
Post-Cold War Idealism?

by Mohammed Ben Jelloun

August 2, 2004   


(Swans - August 2, 2004)  Starting from the present-day situation in Iraq, one may wonder whether more reflection really needs to be devoted to the Wilsonian influence upon the US foreign policy idealism being embraced since the end of the Cold War -- I personally doubt it very much. Searching for the bigger picture behind US foreign policy goals, turning to masters in suspicion, I found that Nietzsche's modernity diagnosis made sense not only of the lies about weapons of mass destruction and human treatments, but the entire discourse of invading Iraq. It made sense also of Professor Shadia B. Drury's much controversial findings about the Straussians and the neo-conservatives. And it made sense of the idealist rhetoric of the whole post-Cold War foreign policy discourse.

Appreciating the answers, however, requires that a connection be made between post-Cold War US foreign policy discourse and postmodernity as such, a connection thus contrasting with the modernity of the Cold War and pre-Cold War discourses. It requires, secondly, that post-Cold War US foreign policy discourse be viewed as expressing postmodernity's nihilistic ironism, considering thereby the Cold War and pre-Cold War discourses two expressions for modernity's metaphysical heroism. Thirdly, implications in the above-mentioned assumptions should be acknowledged, namely that a dramatic reversal in traditional idealist/realist foreign policy rhetoric must have occurred and that qualitatively different idealist and realist schools of thought must be prevailing by now. That is, while Cold-War realism merely corrected pre-Cold War Wilsonianism or more accurately supplemented its metaphysical heroism, in the post-Cold War Wilsonian idealism is merely simulation concealing nihilistic ironic realism -- before power politics was in the service of moralism, now idealism is in the service of realism.

The resultant new theoretical predisposition would already enable our answer-seeker making some sense of the quite paradoxical fate of idealism and realism in the aftermath of the Gulf War: the practically disappearing Kissingerian conservative realism and rise in neo-conservative realism; the progressive abandonment of collective security and multilateralism or decline in the would-be "soft" Wilsonian doctrine, on the one hand, and rise in "hard" Wilsonianism, on the other hand, with Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as its most prominent champions inside the administration today (see the self-definition of one so-called neocon in Max Boot).

Thus, by the time -- spring 1991 -- Henry Kissinger was still criticizing the usual Wilsonian suspects, his doctrinal adversaries barely existed:

"Domination is now beyond the reach of the US resources. They must therefore redirect towards the art of balancing. The problem is that the US has no theory for that and has always rejected the notion of balance of power. We need only look at how the Gulf War has been justified: the appeal to international law. [...] Europeans are concerned with the balance of power, Americans emphasize collective security. Europeans care for shifting conditions. Americans want to find peace through the universal spread of democracy." (Kissinger, 1991 April, cited in Joxe, 1992: 119.)

Kissinger's traditional idealism-critical rhetoric -- his bravado with hawkish realism not withstanding -- must have then simply missed the then-emerging foreign policy idiom and the subtleties of the new rhetorical language game.

Up till then Kissinger could still make recommendations and gain a hearing for them in the White House, as with those proposals -- not without relevance for today's circumstances -- expressed in his deposition before the Committee on Armed Service in November 1990. In these circles, Kissinger agreed in particular that, if it was to contribute to the objective of stability in the Gulf laid down by President Bush Senior, any solution to the crisis should see to reducing the offensive capacity of Iraq. But he also warned:

"It wouldn't be desirable to bring back Iraq's forces beneath what is necessary to maintain balance with its neighbors, particularly if we consider that their past actions testify to the fact that there is on their part a very low threshold for resisting to the temptation to fill military voids (Kissinger, 1990, November 28: 262, cited in Joxe, 1992: 265). [...] America has no national interest in weakening Iraq to the point where it would become a tempting object for its greedy neighbors. America has no interest in overwhelming Iraq to the point of being obliged next to stay involved physically in the region in order to fill itself the void which it would have created and maintain the balance directly." (Kissinger, 1990, November 28: 296, cited in Joxe, 1992: 266.)

President Bush's successors must have had subsequent Kissingerian recommendations turned down and classical realist political analysis ignored in the White House.

The last Kissingerian-realist success was no fresh start for Wilsonian collective security as one could expect; it was instead a launching signal for the current Bushian doctrine of pre-emptive strike. Or, in the wording of Richard Perle last year, the end of the 1991 Gulf War was a "defining moment" for the neo-conservatives. Pentagon adviser Perle reported to the American Public Broadcasting Service that Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Pentagon "believed then that it was a mistake to end the war, as we did under the circumstances."

In a recent speech, Senator Edward M. Kennedy too argued that the debate about overthrowing Saddam began long before the beginning of the present Bush Administration. Its roots, he said, began 13 years ago, during the first Gulf War, when the first President Bush decided not to push on to Baghdad and oust Saddam. Kennedy doesn't go as far back in the past as to remind us of the Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who has been instrumental in persuading President Bush Senior to start the first American war against Iraq. He doesn't mention the secretary who has been thereby overcoming Colin Powell's view that the United States should wait for sanctions to work -- the same Powell who later helped convince the president to stop the war after liberating Kuwait (MSN Slate Magazine). He did, however, remind of a Paul Wolfowitz, top advisor to Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney during the first Gulf War, who disagreed strongly with the decision by the president to stop the war after driving Saddam out of Kuwait. He also reported in more detail on how Wolfowitz spent the last decade lobbying for the United States to finish the job in Iraq.

Fourthly, insofar it is postmodern ironic and nihilistic, we should expect post-Cold War realism to be extreme power politics and striving for supremacy; we should expect it to be sharply contrasting with the Cold War realism that was merely ideologically correcting and supplementing for idealism. (According to a high NATO-official, Zachary Selden, strictly national interest and balance of power oriented old-conservative realists would never seek to take risks to extend liberal democratic ideals or take on an enormous and protracted mission such as remaking the Middle East.) Thus, strategist Albert Wohlstetter, who proposed a "staggered deterrence" accepting limited wars that would eventually use tactical nuclear weapons with high-precision "smart" bombs capable of striking at the enemy's military apparatus, who has been also Wolfowitz's personal guru in strategic matters, is very likely to have been a pivotal figure between classical and post-Cold War realism.

This analytical predisposition would enable us to make sense of the whole discourse of invading Iraq, from Wolfowitz's instigating document "Defense Planning Guidance," 1992, via the PNAC think-tank creation (Project for a New American Century), 1998, to the George W. Bush administration's own National Security Strategy (NSS), 2002. It would make sense of the entire so-called new military and political strategy for a post-Cold War world that, rejecting containment as a relic of the Cold War, urged that America should instead talk loudly, carry a big stick, and use its military power and pre-emption capabilities with a view to ensuring American hegemony; the new direction asking also that the US should never allow its military supremacy to be challenged as it was during the Cold War and be ready for acting alone when necessary.

In particular, this would make sense of Shadia B. Drury's suspicion of neocons. It would also increase the plausibility of a Straussian mutation in realist foreign policy discourse and, if not the plausibility of the ambition of some individual Straussians, at least in a Foucauldian fashion the will of a certain "discourse," for planetary rule. In any case, we shouldn't exclude from the outset the likelihood of the post-Cold War realist discourse being shaped by such Straussian "philosophers" as those exposed in Drury's depiction: "The wise are the lovers of the harsh, unadulterated truth. They are capable of looking into the abyss without fear and trembling. They recognize neither God nor moral imperatives."

Fifthly, insofar it is postmodern, we should expect post-Cold War idealism to be either an "idealism" of liberal ironists ("the vulgar" in Straussian idiom) or an "idealism" of liberal impostors (i.e., Strauss's "gentlemen"), thus an idealism that is contrasting sharply with the still credulous and rather self-deceiving liberalism of Wilsonian inter-war years.

This would make sense of the liberal public's predilection for Clintonian politics in the 1990s and its typically moderate satisfaction with the Kosovo bombing war -- a public happy in general with no less than 15 000 feet high morality ground. It would make sense also of the neocons or would-be "hard Wilsonians" and the business about weapons of mass destruction, al Qaeda's fictitious connections with the Iraqi regime, and the crocodile tears shed over the fate of democracy in the Middle East, when not over humanity in Abu Ghraib.

In particular, this would make sense of the accusations brought by Drury against the neocons of being Straussian liars and impostors. It would mean, however that may be, that the likelihood shouldn't be excluded of the post-Cold War idealist discourse being the (exoteric) way of the Straussian "wise" when addressing the neo-conservative "gentlemen," these latter being as in Drury's portrayal:

"[...] lovers of honor and glory. They are the most ingratiating towards the conventions of their society - that is, the illusions of the cave. They are true believers in God, honor, and moral imperatives. They are ready and willing to embark on acts of great courage and self-sacrifice at a moment's notice."

This leaves us with a new and vertical relationship of an outward (exoteric) idealism and a basically subterranean (esoteric) realism. Drury notably contends that "the tensions and conflicts within the current administration reflect the differences between the surface teaching, which is appropriate for gentlemen, and the 'nocturnal' or covert teaching, which the philosophers alone are privy to."

Sixthly, once the connections are made between post-Cold War foreign policy discourse and postmodernity, a post-Cold War Wilsonian idealism, including "hard Wilsonianism," must be considered as quite unlikely; hence, Wilsonian pretences, whether it be neo-conservative, or Republican, or Democratic, should be met with equal suspicion.

Naturally, an approach to US foreign policy that is informed by a Nietzschean philosophy must be extremely critical; it mustn't relapse into modernistic metaphysics; it warns instead against any Wilsonian nostalgia. For example, for all her suspicion of the Straussians and her insights into manipulated religious and liberal idealistic behavior, Drury doesn't question her own modernistic normative stance -- viewed from a Straussian world, her criticism is rather anachronistic. In other words, credulous and self-deceiving liberal idealists too should be blamed, not only the maneuvering Straussians or Leo Strauss's teaching, let alone Nietzsche's philosophy.

A return to some "normal" idealistic foreign policies, or some "genuine" liberal politics for that matter, must be something of an absurdity; that is, as long as these are part of the (nihilism) problem, part of the (modernity) crisis. It must be an absurdity to flee into even more comforting lies, into what Strauss excused and accommodated but Nietzsche denounced as liberal-Christian-Platonic swindle and fraud -- both knew; there was no back exit to early modernity.

Politically speaking too, the adapted Nietzschean modernity diagnosis mustn't spare anyone. Because, as one NATO high-official rightly says,

"Although the so-called neocons may in general be Republicans, their ideas have a fair degree of approval within the ranks of the Democratic Party as well. In my own recollection, the first two individuals to promote the idea of military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power were both Democratic Party figures--one a retired congressman and the other a former Clinton administration official. It also bears repeating that 81 Democrats in the House voted in favor of authorizing the president to use military force in Iraq." (Z. Selden.)

Putting, thus, the blame for all warmongering only on the Bush administration cannot be so "fair." The part played by the Democratic opposition party (see Barry) and the preceding Clinton administration should be also brought into the open.

Investigation should be extended to the discourse of invading Iraq as such, possibly to a post-Cold War Straussian discourse, to relevant statements and institutions independently of their being neo-conservative, Republican or Democratic -- notice that the Clinton administration included Straussians and that so too did the Democratic Party. (1) In any case, a genealogical investigation would certainly make more sense of significant episodes such as: (A) The Clinton administration's abandonment of classical Wilsonian doctrine and its relapse into a neo-conservative-like foreign policy; (B) the Democratic-Republican enduring foreign policy "consensus" since the mid 1990s, as well as the enduring truthfulness to the strategic path charted by Wolfowitz and his collaborators since 1992; (C) the similar style of manipulating the public in the Kosovo and Iraq interventions.

(A) By the time of the Balkans, indeed, the Clinton administration was shifting away from collective security into primacy ambitions, through selective engagement and European priority strategies. A case can be easily made that the Democratic administration, after having started from classical Wilsonian premises and tested with very little luck indiscriminate intervention, relapsed into neo-conservative-like positions (cf. Walt, 2000: 77-78). (2) By 1996-1997 for example, the administration was perceived as drawing opportunistically on three grand strategies -- Cooperative Security Idealism, Selective Engagement Realism, and Primacy Realism. Defense experts say:

"The Clinton administration came to office strongly inclined to pursue a cooperative security policy. Several of its senior national security officials were identified with the development of cooperative security ideas before the 1992 election. The international and domestic constraints that the administration has encountered in its efforts to execute the strategy have forced both real and rhetorical compromises. A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement (February 1996), the most complete statement of the administration's grand strategy vision, prominently contains within it the language of cooperative security and selective engagement, plus a dash of primacy." (Posen and Ross, 1996/97: 53.)

The 1996 NSS document promoted "cooperative security measures," but it also acknowledged "limits to America's involvement in the world -- limits imposed by careful evaluation of our fundamental interests and frank assessment of the costs and benefits of possible actions." The drafters declared: "We cannot become involved in every problem ... our engagement must be selective, focusing on the challenges that are most important to our own interests and focusing our resources where we can make the most difference" (Posen and Ross, 1996/97: 44-45).

By the time of Kosovo, primacy was no longer a strategic "dash." For example, by 26 February 1999, in the San Francisco speech considered to have foreshadowed the decision to bomb Serbia, former President Clinton said: "We cannot, indeed, we should not, do everything or be everywhere. But where our values and our interests are at stake, and where we can make a difference, we must be prepared to do so" (The Nation). (3) Thus, Wilsonianism alone could no longer do as an explanation, as a rationalization for the new "humanitarian" targeting; bare Wilsonianism could no longer answer the public's then embarrassing questions -- "Why Serbia, not Turkey or Rwanda?"

Actually, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz's "self-testimony" asserts he had been first skeptic about Clinton's Somalia and Haiti policies, then pushing for support for the administration's Bosnia and Kosovo policies:

"Question: [...] you have been skeptical about Clinton's, the sentimental liberalism in his ideas, his approach to foreign policy, right?
Wolfowitz: Well, yes [...] But on two of the key things they did, namely Bosnia and Kosovo, Bob Dole supported Clinton quite strongly and I would say courageously on Bosnia and I'm proud to claim some credit in having advised.
Question: You did too.
Wolfowitz: I did too, [...] on Kosovo, when Bush was deciding whether to support it or not, I was strongly urging him to do so. When some Republicans tried to undercut Clinton on Kosovo, it was Bush and McCain together who told them don't do that. It's wrong. So it's not that everything they did was wrong, but I think things like Haiti and Somalia were over-reached and generally there was, I think, a difficulty in distinguishing what was American interest from what were sort of vaguely seen as international community preferences."

Former President Jimmy Carter's observations by then were by far more true to the Wilsonian premises: "While the war in Kosovo rages and dominates the world's headlines, even more destructive conflicts in developing nations are systematically ignored by the United States and other powerful nations." Cold-shouldered by the steering Democrats, Carter had remarkably Euro-decentred criteria for intervention:

"Although formidable commitments are being made in the Balkans, where white Europeans are involved, no such concerted efforts are being made by leaders outside of Africa to resolve the disputes. This gives the strong impression of racism."

(B) The goals that have dominated the Clinton administration's foreign policy were "hardly controversial." Indeed, according to one foreign policy analyst, they were "virtually identical to the foreign policy priorities of Republican frontrunner George W. Bush" (Walt, 2000: 66-67). In any case, since the mid 1990s foreign policy and European priority have been "consensus" policies, which fact was reflected in the selective approach prevailing at the expense of democracy promotion in the 1996 NSS document. Indeed, for the drafters of that document according to analysts, "some parts of the world and some countries, particularly the states of the former Soviet Union and Eastern and Central Europe, mattered more than others" (Posen and Ross, 1996/97: 45).

Most remarkable in this context, however, is Wolfowitz's own claims to have literally shaped the so-called "consensus" as well as Clinton's defense policy:

"Wolfowitz: He's [Pat Buchanan] correct in saying that what was considered by the New York Times [the 1992 so-called Wolfowitz Memorandum or Defense Planning Guidance] to be such an outrageous document was U.S. consensus foreign policy, but during the Clinton Administration, not in this Administration. That is that these alliances needed to be retained, that NATO could be enlarged successfully, that we could downsize our military but we needed to retain a capability to deal with two major regional conflicts, which, by the way, is something that needed revision by the time I got back here. But it was the defense policy of the Clinton years, ironically.
Question: In fact John Louis Gaddis said that.
Wolfowitz: Who?
Question: John Louis Gaddis has said that, that if you look at Clinton's policy it actually does come out of the '92 guidance to some extent.
Wolfowitz: Not to some extent. It's pretty much verbatim.
Question: But you're...
Wolfowitz: ...without acknowledgement."

Also, had he only been given time to do it, Clinton would have done in Iraq precisely or almost what Bush did. To be sure, this particular view has not been expressed by Senator Edward Kennedy for example. It is nonetheless Professor Philip Bobbitt's, a distinguished American Democrat who thinks the Bush administration would have done better to insist more openly on the pre-emptive nature of its assault on Baghdad -- to prevent the acquisition of rather than destroy Iraqi nuclear weapons. It should have also appointed some distinguished Democrats to Cabinet positions, to manifest national unity in the war against terrorism.

Bobbitt, in addition to being a nephew of Lyndon Johnson, served successively as Associate Counsel to the President under Carter, Counsel to the Senate Iran-Contra Committee under Reagan, Counselor on International Law at the State Department under Bush Senior, and Director of Intelligence on the National Security Council under Clinton. His writings make clear that the major ideological innovations powering American imperial interventions to date are the creation of the Clinton, not the Bush presidency, innovations such as the proclamation of the legitimacy of military intervention-regardless of national sovereignty or absence of aggression -- to defend human rights, to stamp out terrorism, or to block nuclear proliferation. (4)

By the same token, but inversely, Bush too would have done in Kosovo what Clinton did, had he only been president by then. The fact is that Texas Governor Bush did back the decision to intervene against Serbia and even considered it a Clinton's "mistake" to give up the option of using land troops -- his only complaint about the war on Serbia actually is that he would have liked it more "ferocious" (Schmitt). It is a fact too that he took Wolfowitz's advice on the issue (Lancaster & Neal). (5) It is a fact, finally, that American presidential voters were left there with no real choice; they were left with the dilemma of idealist and realist, moralizing and egoistic, motives for foreign intervention:

"In Gore versus Bush from a noninterventionist perspective, we are faced with the choice of sanctimony and fear-mongering. Either we invade and occupy the rest of the planet for their own good, or we do it for our own good -- these are the Democratic and Republican alternatives, respectively." (Raimondo)

(C) Democratic and Republican styles may be even more converging than they look. Consider, for example, the introduction to a long debate article Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter had recently (8 February 2004):

"Mass expulsion and genocide in Kosovo have been established as legitimate reasons for NATO's bombing war against Serbia. However, no such things existed before NATO's attacks. Everything has been made up and was part of US propaganda seeking support for war contribution. The bluff should have been seen through, but this never happened."

Then retired Swedish colonel Bo Pellnäs, who has been peace-negotiator in the Balkans and the OSCE's representative in Belgrade, gave Swedish public a new picture of the prelude to NATO's bombing war against Serbia. "It is naive to believe in the US made genocide myth," he said. "The US legitimated the bombing war against Serbia with false statements about mass expulsion and genocide in Kosovo," he added. Also, "This propaganda should have been seen through, but this never happened." He was positive; "the situation in Kosovo by March 1999 did not motivate any war," and complaining; "Sweden criticizes Bush and the Iraq War while Clinton's actions are presented in more favorable light. Yet both presidents made reality up to an equally large extent."

The testimony says in substance that former President Clinton did in Kosovo just what present president Bush did in Iraq. What is more generally admitted about this conflict, otherwise, is that the United States most likely provoked what could have been an avoidable war by issuing an ultimatum at the Rambouillet conference that Serbia was certain to reject. Also, that NATO's bombing campaign led Milosevic to accelerate the expulsion of Albanians in March 1999. And finally, that eschewing a ground option in the early stages of the fighting compounded the expulsion (cf. Walt, 2000: 76). If true, Pellnäs's revelations would establish similitude in the styles of Clinton and Bush administrations.

Seventhly and lastly, I would like now to make the claim that a Nietzsche inspired suspicious view of US post-Cold War "consensus" foreign and defense policies makes considerable sense of Drury's view of the American Straussians. That, to do so requires only that the post-Cold War Republican and Democratic moves be accounted for as alternating modes in a Straussian rhetoric, Bushian discourse being in this case the way "the wise" address the "gentlemen" and Clintonian discourse the way "the wise" address "the vulgar." (This makes our "consensus" look more like the Gramscian idea of a "historical bloc.") Let us then consider only two textual illustrations that have been both unanimous on the significance of popular mood and expenses in blood and treasure to Clinton's policy.

The first textual comment, by Neo-conservatives William Kristol and Robert Kagan, complaining about Clinton's populism, is from 1996:

"Civilians should learn to appreciate the sacrifices of the military. [...] President Clinton has proved a better manager of foreign policy than many expected, but he has not been up to the larger task of preparing and inspiring the nation to embrace the role of global leadership. He, too, has tailored his internationalist activism to fit the constraints of a popular mood that White House pollsters believe is disinclined to sacrifice blood and treasure in the name of overseas commitments. [...] His administration has promised global leadership on the cheap, refusing to seek the levels of defense spending needed to meet the broad goals it claims to want to achieve in the world." (Kristol and Kagan, 1996: 27, 30.)

The second comment, by a foreign policy analyst, rather satisfied with the realism of what he termed Clinton's "disguised calculus" of power, was written four years later:

"Clinton may cloak US policy in the rhetoric of 'world order' and general global interests, but its defining essence remains the unilateral exercise of sovereign power. This tendency to disguise power calculations is hardly surprising. Americans do not like to think of themselves as practicing realpolitik, but they do like being number one. At the same time, Americans do not want to expend blood and treasure if they don't have to. Perhaps Clinton's greatest achievement is that he has done so well at so modest a cost to the United States. Clinton's strategy is hegemony on the cheap, because that is the only strategy the American people are likely to support. [...] Bill Clinton is nothing if not sensitive to the vox populi, so he has given his fellow citizens the foreign policy they wanted -- something they have clearly recognized and appreciated." (Walt, 2000: 78-79.)

What these two comments show is that the interventions in Kosovo and Iraq have been, after all, rightly reported as witnessing to a certain homogeneity in style. On the present account, Bush-Clinton "differences" in the Kosovo issue were a matter of tactics, precisely. Our Straussian may thus push the adventurous and the religious fundamentalist, while managing the incredulous, the hedonistic and the licentious who accept no other threshold than zero-casualties -- "the wise" need equally the "gentlemen" few and "the vulgar" many. That is what happened probably in the case of Kosovo: Clinton's "air-strikes-only" doctrine was neither particularly in line with neo-conservative strategic style nor with Bush Junior's urge for ground engagement in Serbia, it proved nevertheless both "mobilizing" for the American public and tactically rewarding.


Is post-Cold War idealism about the familiar Wilsonianism of the inter-war years coming back? Is it really about the Wilsonianism prematurely greeted by Charles W. Kegley (Kegley, 1993) and then re-greeted by John Lewis Gaddis only two years ago, when he considered there was compellingly realistic reason then "to complete the idealistic task Woodrow Wilson began more than eight decades ago"? I personally suspect something Straussian Francis Fukuyama announced by the end of the Cold War -- the end of (modernistic!) history, the "Last Man" (title reference), the future crusades against the "still-historical" world, and the author's irony above all! (6) Fukuyama's hardly veiled Straussian discourse may well have been an opening address.

· · · · · ·


1.  Professor William A. Galston (Galston, 1999) is one among the most distinguished Democratic Straussians. He is a DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) strategist, former Clinton White House advisor and political philosopher. From 1993 to 1995 he served as Deputy Assistant to President Clinton for Domestic Policy.  (back)

2.  The following is S. M. Walt's comment:

"As for Clinton's pledge to rely more heavily on international institutions, both he and his team seemed genuinely committed to 'assertive multilateralism.' But this policy was soon abandoned, and Clinton has generally acted precisely as one would expect from the leader of the world's largest power -- relying on international institutions when they suit US purposes but criticizing or ignoring them when they do not. [...] Clinton also used force against Serbia without specific Security Council authorization, thereby undermining his rhetorical commitment to international law.
President Clinton's handling of international institutions and multilateralism illustrates the central irony in his handling of foreign policy, namely, the degree to which he departed from his initial idealism and embraced realpolitik. In 1992, candidate Clinton declared that 'the cynical calculus of pure power politics is ill-suited to a new era,' but his policies as president have shown an ample appreciation for the realities of power."  (back)

3.  The Nation magazine commented on the speech as "an important statement that clearly foreshadowed the decision to bomb Serbia," considering that "president Clinton's decision to use military force against the Serbs was not simply a calculated response to Slobodan Milosevic's intransigence," and finding that "a careful reading of recent Administration statements and Pentagon documents shows that the NATO bombing [was] part of a larger strategic vision."  (back)

4.  According to the New Left Review editor commenting on this, the current Republican administration has essentially operated within the same framework: "The principal difference has been tactical -- the lesser extent to which it has concerted with its European allies -- rather than juridical: the degree to which it has cast aside previous constraints of international law."  (back)

5.  Wolfowitz is said to have been a "leading light" of a certain Balkan Action Council, which functioned as the major Washington-based American front group for the Kosovo Liberation Army, and to have lent his name to its propaganda, which had been advocating an all-out war against Serbia since June of 1998, including a statement issued in January of 1999, calling on Clinton to use NATO air power and ground troops against Serbia (Raimondo).  (back)

6.  For example, Fukuyama (Fukuyama, 1992: 251) dissociates himself from Wilsonian idealism, acknowledging that:

"Realism played a large and beneficial role in shaping the way Americans thought about foreign policy after World War II. It did so by saving the United States from its tendency to seek security in a truly naive form of liberal internationalism such as primary reliance on the United Nations for security."

In any case, Fukuyama's is an ironic Idealist, as so many have emphasized from the outset the ambiguity of his message and the doubletalk of his narrative that was referring to Hegel and Nietzsche at the same time. Thus, commenting on Fukuyama's "mask," Frenchman Pierre Hassner (Hassner, 1989: 474-75) said: "In reality, he [Fukuyama] believes neither in history nor in its end." And, as journalist James Atlas (Atlas, 1990: B3) asked him whether he really believed in everything he said, Fukuyama answered: "I prefer not to answer this question, let this be ambiguous. All I can say is that in case people can't take a joke..."  (back)


Atlas, James (1990, February 25) "Västvärlden ensam herre på täppan," trans. Otto Mannheimer, Dagens Nyheter (Swedish daily, originally published in The New York Times): B3.

Fukuyama, Francis (1992) The End of History and the Last Man. London: Hamish Hamilton.

Galston, William A. (1999) "A Student of Leo Strauss in the Clinton Administration," in Kenneth L. Deutsch and John A. Murley (eds) Leo Strauss, The Straussians, and The American Regime, pp. 429-38. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield.

Hassner, Pierre (1989) "Fin de l'histoire ou phase d'un cycle?" Commentaire Fall: 473-75

Kegley, Charles W. Jr. (1993) "The Neoidealist Moment in International Studies? Realist Myths and the New International Realities," International Studies Quarterly 37 (2): 131-146.

Joxe, Alain (1992) L'Amérique mercenaire. Paris: Éditions Stock. Kissinger, Henry (1990, November 28) Deposition in Crisis in the Persian Gulf: US Policy Options and Implications, hearings before the Committee on Armed Service, 101st Congress, 2nd Session, 11, 13 September; 27, 28, 29, 30 November; 3 December 1990, US GPO, Washington, 1990 [S. Hrg. 101-1071] 765 p.

Kissinger, Henry (1991, April) Conference at IFRI, Paris, cited in Joxe (1992) L'Amérique mercenaire. p. 119.

Kristol, William and Robert Kagan (JUL-AUG 1996) "Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs 75(4): 18-32.

Posen, Barry and Andrew L. Ross (Winter 1996/97) "Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy," International Security 21 (3): 5-53.

Walt, Stephen M. (March/April 2000) "Two Cheers for Clinton's Foreign Policy," Foreign Affairs 79(2): 63-79.

[ed. Swans' Resource: Leo Strauss, by Milo Clark - July 5, 2004.]


Mohammed Ben Jelloun is Moroccan-Swedish. He is a Ph.D. student, formerly in political science (Stockholm University, Sweden) and now affiliated with EHESS -- Groupe de Sociologie de la Défense et Etudes Stratégiques, Paris, France. He is writing a dissertation on the idealist/realist discourse of US foreign policy. His research interests include self-determination theory, theories of US foreign policy discourse, theories of Iraqi democracy, and a postcolonial Nietzsche project. His website is at http://medlem.spray.se/benjelloun/

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