Via Yglesias, I see that Fred Kaplan is appropriately horrified by Rudy Giuliani’s Foreign Affairs essay, but Kaplan’s reaction suggests that the essay reveals a policy view markedly worse than other major candidates’ views.  In fact, while his essay is a more undiluted form of neocon madness, his proposals are not really that much more unrealistic and arrogant than what we’ve heard from Obama, Romney or Fred in recent months.   

Edwards’ essay, which was paired with that of Giuliani in this issue, is no prize, either.  Apart from a few points about the effects of the “war on terror,” with which I basically agree, I find the essay unnerving and worrisome.  Consider this line from Edwards:

We need to reach out to ordinary men and women from Egypt to Indonesia and convince them, once again, that the United States is a force to be admired [bold mine-DL].

But you don’t admire a force.  I think we should persuade other nations that we are a nation to be admired, and we should try to make sure that our government acts admirably, or at least justly, in the world to that end.  To cast “reengagement” in the way that Edwards does confirms for me that he is not in the least concerned with the excessive overreach and abusive relationship that a hegemon has with the rest of the world, but rather that he wants to find a way to perpetuate hegemony through more subtle means.  What he says later makes this clear:

Iran has been emboldened by the Bush administration’s ineffective policies and has announced plans to expand its nuclear program. Meanwhile, other powers are benefiting, too. China is capitalizing on the United States’ current unpopularity to project its own “soft power.” And Russia is bullying its neighbors while openly defying the United States and Europe. 

That last bit is amusing, as if the U.S. and Europe are Russia’s masters that the latter should be obeying and Russia’s neighbours are our protectorates to be guarded against so-called Russian “bullying.”  This comes in a paragraph that refers to what “our enemies” are doing.  In Edwards’ eyes, not only Iran and China, but even Russia is an enemy.  As he sees it, Russia is not a potential enemy or rival, but already an enemy right now.  This will be popular with Cathy Young and The Wall Street Journal, as these already regard Russia as an enemy of our country.  They seem eager to encourage anti-Russian sentiments whenever possible to make supporting policies of renewed hostility between our two countries a more popular and politically viable option.

Of Iran, Edwards says:

Iran cannot be allowed to possess nuclear weapons.

To speak of allowing or disallowing is to claim the power and right to control something, and even Edwards must know that Iran’s nuclear program is beyond the control of the U.S. and the “international community.”  In any case, what does he propose to do about it?  He says:

For example, right now we must do everything we can to isolate Iran’s leader from the moderate forces within the country. We need to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions through diplomatic measures that will, over time, force Iran to finally understand that the international community will not allow it to possess nuclear weapons. Every major U.S. ally agrees that the advent of a nuclear Iran would be a threat to global security. We should continue to work with other great powers to offer Tehran economic incentives for good behavior. At the same time, we must use much more serious economic sanctions to deter Ahmadinejad’s government when it refuses to cooperate.

Which leader?  Does Edwards think Ahmadinejad is “the leader” in Iran?  That is incorrect, and it is unfortunate enough that he does not even understand this much about a country he is willing to attack.  How would additional sanctions on Iran help to separate “the leader” from “moderate forces,” when sanctions inevitably strengthen the hand of hard-liners and despots?  How does Edwards think that “the leader” can be undermined by challenging the Iranian government over the development of nuclear technology, when this is something that most Iranians believe they have a legal right to develop?  How does he propose to prevent the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons?  He remains open to starting a war with Iran–and he is allegedly the progressive “peace” candidate!  What a joke.

What of the other major candidates?  Over the years, McCain has been the neocons’ favourite and, as we all know, holds comparably dangerous views.  HRC is still supportive of the activist, aggressive foreign policy of the DLC/PPI, which is consistent with how her husband governed.  We can look forward to essays from McCain and Clinton in the future, and I expect that both of them will be filled with much of the same dreary excess and bombast. 

I would be willing to grant that Giuliani is the most dangerous out of seven dangerous candidates, but this is a matter of a few degrees and not a massive difference in substance.