Monday, November 03, 2003

In a speech that's collecting a great deal of praise from the lefty blogsphere, Zbigniew Brzezinski begins by recounting Dean Acheson's trip to France at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis:

The former Secretary of State briefed the French President and then said to him at the end of the briefing, I would now like to show you the evidence, the photographs that we have of Soviet missiles armed with nuclear weapons. The French President responded by saying, I do not wish to see the photographs. The word of the President of the United States is good enough for me. Please tell him that France stands with America.

Would any foreign leader today react the same way to an American emissary who would go abroad and say that country X is armed with weapons of mass destruction which threaten the United States?

Given some recent UN votes going strongly against us, as Brzezinski recounts, the answer is pretty clearly not. But his policy prescription for Democrats in the light of this state of affairs makes me raise an eyebrow:

I think in the heat of debate Democrats should not be nay-sayers only, criticizing. They certainly should not be cheerleaders as some were roughly a year ago. But they should stress a return to fundamentals in so far as American foreign policy is concerned. Above all else in stressing these fundamentals, Democrats particularly should insist that the foreign policy of a pluralistic democracy like the United States should be based on bipartisanship because bipartisanship is the means and the framework for formulating policies based on moderation and on the recognition of the complexity of the human condition.


Bipartisanship helps to avoid extremes and imbalances. It causes compromises and accommodations. So let's cooperate. Let's cooperate and challenge the administration to cooperate with us because within the administration there are also moderates and people who are not fully comfortable with the tendencies that have prevailed in recent times.

It is difficult for me to see how any amount of bipartisan accomodation on the part of Democrats, in Congress or elsewhere, will materially change America's diplomatic position so long as the Republicans in charge keep lying their asses off. More generally, bipartisanship has to be based on each side's trust in the other's good faith -- which has to be justified by acting in good faith on both sides, or the whole game falls apart. Which means that when one side tells obvious whoppers, and the other doesn't call them on it, that's not "civility" (to use a favored trope of the right these days). It's letting the bastards get away with it. And so long as the bastards can keep on getting away with it, any attempt by other parties to accomodate them in the spirit of bipartisanship will be self-defeating...


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