Family Affair: "Is Rahm Emanuel Right About Obama?"

When it comes to foreign policy, Emanuel thinks his boss is most like Bush '41.

Posted:
 

Rahm Emanuel thinks Barack Obama's worldview is much like that of George Bush the Older. Nine experts from Foreign Policy weigh in on that assessment. Below is an excerpt from Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace

I will leave it to the self-described realists to explain in greater detail the origins and meaning of "realism" and "realpolitik" to our confused journalists and politicos. But here is what realism is not: It is not a plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons through common agreement by all the world's powers. And it is not a foreign policy built on the premise that if only the United States reduces its nuclear arsenal, this will somehow persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program, or persuade China and other reluctant nations in the world to redouble their pressure on Iran to do so. That is idealism of a high order. It is a 21st-century Wilsonian vision. And it is precisely the kind of idealism that realists in the middle of the 20th century rose up to challenge. Realists would point out that the divergent interests of the great powers, not to mention those of Iran, will not be affected in the slightest by marginal cuts in American and Russian nuclear forces.

The confusion no doubt stems from the fact that President Obama is attempting to work with autocratic governments to achieve his ends. But that does not make him Henry Kissinger. When Kissinger pursued diplomacy with China, it was to gain strategic leverage over the Soviet Union. When he sought détente with the Soviets, it was to gain breathing space for the United States after Vietnam. Right or wrong, that was "realpolitik." Global nuclear disarmament may or may not be a worthy goal, but it is nothing if not idealistic.