A book I’d like to read

One of the crooks around Karzai turns out to be on the CIA payroll. So what else is new?

Support Any Friend:
“Realist” Foreign Policy and the “Our SOB” Principle,
from Somoza and the Shah to Mohammed Karzai

Once you start intervening in the politics of corrupt countries, you can’t live without the crooks, and you can’t live with them. I never thought I’d say it, but Michael Moore was completely right about Karzai. The problem with this sort of foreign-policy “realism”is how unrealistic it is in imagining that the victims of the crappy little tyrannies we support won’t come to hate our guts.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “A book I’d like to read”

  1. Ditto, Sadaam Hussein…our only secular propped up trump card in a tinderbox region surrounded by religious zealots. That didn't turn out so well either.

  2. The problem with this sort of foreign-policy “realism”is how unrealistic it is in imagining that the victims of the crappy little tyrannies we support won’t come to hate our guts.

    I think you're missing the point of Realism. Realists don't care if they hate us, as long as it doesn't really hurt us in any significant way. That's the whole point – you do foreign policy out of self-interest, not out of desire to fulfill some ideological goals or to be liked.

  3. One man's realism is another's fantasy. The issue really isn't what you call the policy. It's whether the policy meets goals and expectations. As a nation, we are pretty schizoid in our goals and expectations. Even the most nuanced, sensitive, clear-eyed policy will miss the mark if goals and benchmarks for success remain undefined. Duh. But when we want to get to brass tacks about what those might be, we end up with "promoting democracy" versus "security." But, the idealist would say, global democracy is our security. No, it's really about resources, the realist responds. We never get past this debate. No U.S. foreign policy will articulated as "we're doing this to steal your oil." That contradicts a fundamental self-image. So we try to have it both ways, and maintain a collective willful blind eye to a lot of things. This has gone on for generations, but nadir was it, as always, with the Bushies: we're good fighting evil. At this point, we might as well be saying: "It's a desert topping. No, it's a floor wax."

  4. That realism turned out real well when we supported the Shah and helped evict Mossadegh, eh?

    Most of that can be blamed on the Shah, who was constantly waffling and vaccillating in his reaction to mounting resistance against his regime (which was exacerbated by Carter urging him to go easy on the protesters). Had he come down hard, and quick, on the protest movements (like how the current regime came down on the Green Movement), the revolution likely would have been stopped cold.

    As for Mossadegh, that's a semi-myth. There was a US-British effort to topple him (Operation Ajax), but it actually failed; the Shah left the country. The only reason the Shah got back into power was because his supporters (particularly in the military) toppled Mossadegh*, who was becoming increasingly unpopular and authoritarian (it also didn't help that he alienated the clerics).

    * They weren't the only ones plotting a coup, either. Mossadegh was basically a marked man – if the Shah's men hadn't toppled him, odds are that one of the religious parties would have. Like I said, he was immensely unpopular near the end of his regime, which facilitated his removal.

  5. The way that IOZ put it was that a person who takes foreign intelligence money is already corrupt scum, and only a foolish john is surprised when the pr*stitute has other clients.

  6. Mark, could you please characterize your preferred scenario? I am ignorant enough not to be able to deduce it from your posting.

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