The Giuliani Doctrine

Rudy Giuliani's Foreign Affairs essay really is a bit of a revelation. To understand it, I think you need to understand the broader context of the political dilemmas he's facing. One is the simple dilemma all the Republican contenders face -- namely that the conservative base remains fanatically committed to a grandiose view of "the war on terror" that most Americans have grown disillusioned with. Indeed, the conservative base appears to be more committed to this vision at this point than is George W. Bush. After all, while I think the rise of moderate foreign policy in the Bush administration has often been overstated, there's no doubt that the President has softened the edges somewhat. Don Rumsfeld is gone. Rumsfeld's cookiest subordinates are gone. John Bolton is gone. Etc., etc. etc. But the Hugh Hewitt crowd, the Rush Limbaugh listeners, the Glenn Beck fans, and that whole lot still, in essence, want to see a bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy.

The most natural way to finesse the fact that this agenda's become unpopular is to try to stay vague in your primary campaign. Emphasize points of agreement with Bush, emphasize points of disagreement with the Democrats, but leave yourself some of the proverbial wiggle room.

Rudy, though, has another problem. He's got a kinda unconservative record on God, guns, and gays, to say nothing of the baby-killing or his past stances on immigration. Can he really afford wiggle room? Maybe not. That kind of political calculation combined with a gut-level love of confrontation and years of association with the strange faction that is New York City-based conservative intellectual life has produced a striking decision to double down on neoconservative foreign policy.

Giuliani's treatment of the concept of "peace" and the concept of "realism" are striking. He doesn't particularly object that realism might block some do-gooder scheme or another. Instead, he objects that realism would "place too great a hope in the potential for diplomatic accommodation with hostile states" and "exaggerate America's weaknesses and downplay America's strengths." He opposes, in other words, the realist concept of peace in which the United States and other countries choose to make deal that reconcile our interests through positive-sum collaboration rather than through negative-sum military conflict. Lots of people on the left have some qualms about realism, sometimes rightly so, but this core notion isn't something any liberal worth his salt objects to. You preserve peace by seeking diplomatic arrangements that accommodate everyone's interests, thus avoiding conflict. Giuliani doesn't believe that. He believes Bush abandonned "a decadelong -- and counterproductive -- strategy of defensive reaction in favor of a vigorous offense." Counterproductive is key here. Giuliani thinks that "we must understand that our enemies are emboldened by signs of weakness" so any expressed desire to cut deals actually undermines our safety and invites attack.

The result is a chilling vision of a world where peace can only be achieved through American military domination. Giuliani disparages the UN harshly, and puts forward no vision for reforming it. He wants to transform NATO from a geographically limited defensive alliance into some kind of globe-spanning UN substitute -- a sort of formalized coalition of the willing.

This has been the kind of thinking that's animated the Bush administration at its very worst moments. You get the immediate problem that America's military edge can be countered by nuclear weapons. So it becomes very important to prevent countries from getting nuclear weapons. This can't be done through the UN-backed process of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and international law, or even through diplomacy more generally, because that would signal weakness. The only tools available are coercion -- military and economic. Of course, signaling an American desire to invade lots of countries only makes other countries more eager to get nuclear bombs. What's needed, then, is a credible threat to fight a whole series of wars. This, in turn, becomes one of the motives for trying to do Iraq and Afghanistan with super-light forces. We want to signal that we're ready and willing to do this again and again and again until all countries submit to our will.

Needless to say, this approach has already been put to the test and failed. Its advocates -- including Norm Podhoretz -- have treated to this kind of fantasy world where we're going to "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" as a substitute for the invasions we can't pull off. These airstrikes, however, are even less effective than the too-cheap invasions. So, while we're bombing, we're also going to be engaging in a massive military buildup involving "a minimum of ten new combat brigades" along with whatever quantity of "of submarines, modern long-range bombers, and in-flight refueling tankers" he comes up with. Plus missile defense. Giuliani says, astoundingly, that "The idea of a post-Cold War "peace dividend" was a serious mistake -- the product of wishful thinking and the opposite of true realism."

The result of this policy is going to be an endless series of wars, a bankrupt country accounting for way more than fifty percent of world defense expenditures, fewer and fewer countries willing to cooperate with us on key priorities and, perhaps worst of all, more and more nuclear proliferation as countries decide its not safe to live in a world where the Rudy-led USA is the big kid on the block.