Properly Understood

Brian Beutler alterts me to Jonah Goldberg's curious proclamation that "realism, properly understood, demands that we pay some respect to the idea of promoting democracy." Interested to find out what Jonah meant, I clicked through and found:

Andy may not have liked all of the democracy-mongering in defense of the Iraq invasion, but the case for regime change would be beyond impossible without appeals to America's sense of decency and, yes, mission. There's a lot of unrealistic realism on display out there when people talk about how we should have — and could have — destroyed the Saddam regime and then walked away. It's a seductive position, but I have a hard time seeing America or Congress supporting that or being able to stay on the sidelines as America-induced chaos took-over in post-Saddam Iraq.

Now it's probably true that it would have been politically unrealistic to try to sell the war in pure realist terms, but it's also true that that's now what "realism" means in this context. In foreign policy terms "realism" isn't just an adjective meaning the same thing as "practical," it's a school of thought with defined tenets including, notably, the view that the internal political organization of states is irrelevant to international relations.