Politics Foreign Affairs Culture

The Madness of “Broken Windows” Foreign Policy Revisited

The worst aspects of Bush's foreign policy are preserved and lauded.

Dan Drezner agrees that a “broken windows” foreign policy is ridiculous:

Anyone who tells you that global order can be maintained via the broken windows theory of policing is selling you something, and that something is a much larger military that acts, such as an expeditionary force.

That is the conclusion I reached last year when I criticized Stephens’ terrible idea. Stephens wants military spending to be increased so that it will be 5% of GDP. That’s not because the U.S. faces such serious threats that it needs a larger military, but because a larger military gives hawks more opportunities to meddle around the world. As I said:

The U.S. doesn’t need to adopt the approach Stephens recommends for any good reasons. He recommends the approach because it creates a “requirement” for the military build-up that Stephens already wanted.

One of the most disingenuous parts of Stephens’ argument is when he claims that his approach would be less ambitious than Bush’s “freedom agenda.” It is really just a different kind of the same absurd overreach. While Stephens says that the U.S. should be the world’s “cop” but not its “priest,” he is just arguing for hegemonism without any of the “idealistic” pretenses of the Bush years. The worst aspects of Bush’s foreign policy–especially unnecessary “preventive” war–are preserved and lauded, and the rest is cast aside. Stephens is also being misleading when he claims that his approach would avoid open-ended military deployments in hostile countries. In fact, if he is taking “broken windows” theory at all seriously, Drezner makes clear that Stephens would have to support committing the U.S. forces to many more places for much longer periods of time:

The idea of quick-hit-and-run enforcement is a chimera, and actually violates the “broken windows” approach to community policing.

Then again, Stephens isn’t trying to make a coherent case for this approach. He slapped the “broken windows” label on some unreconstructed neoconservative bromides and made a minimal effort to claim that it wasn’t just a revival of George Bush’s foreign policy agenda, and the result is a jumbled, dangerous mess. In another related post, I noted that the claim that the U.S. should act as the “world’s policeman” was just a way to permit the U.S. to do whatever it likes in and to other countries:

The so-called “world policeman” role is just the pretext for giving the U.S. license to do whatever it wants to other states, and that’s why Stephens supports it.



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