Rudy, the Anti-Statesman
Giuliani's loopy foreign-policy essay.
Rudy Giuliani's essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, laying out his ideas for a new U.S. foreign policy, is one of the shallowest articles of its kind I've ever read. Had it been written for a freshman course on international relations, it would deserve at best a C-minus (with a concerned note to come see the professor as soon as possible). That it was written by a man who wants to be president—and who recently said that he understands the terrorist threat "better than anyone else running"—is either the stuff of high satire or cause to consider moving to, or out of, the country.
The article contains so many bizarre statements, it's hard to know where to start, so let's begin at the beginning and go from there.
"Confronted with an act of war on American soil, our old assumptions about conflict between nation-states fell away."
Why? The biggest worry about al-Qaida after 9/11 was that it had essentially taken over a nation-state, Afghanistan. Giuliani's (and President George W. Bush's) stated fear now is that it might take over Iraq. The rise of transnational terrorist movements adds a twist to the system of nation-states but hardly supersedes it or nullifies the main assumptions about conflict. Giuliani contradicts his own point halfway into the essay when he writes, "There is no realistic alternative to the sovereign state system."
"Much like at the beginning of the Cold War, we are at the dawn of a new era in global affairs, when old ideas have to be rethought and new ideas have to be devised to meet new challenges."
Let's say this is true. What are Giuliani's "new ideas"? He never says.
"[Our enemies] follow a violent ideology: radical Islamic fascism, which uses the mask of religion to further totalitarian goals and aims to destroy the existing international system. … The purpose of this fight must be to defeat the terrorists and the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The "terrorists and the insurgents"? Are they the same? President Bush has recently (if belatedly) discovered that they are not; that alliances of convenience can be formed with the latter to combat the former. One such alliance, with the Sunni insurgents in Anbar province, has led to the war's most encouraging development in some time. By equating insurgents with terrorists, and by lumping all Islamic radicals into a monolithic threat akin to global fascism, Giuliani not only exaggerates their strength and cohesion but also overlooks—declares impossible—any opportunities for playing the various movements off one another. A statesman looks for ways to unite allies and divide enemies. Giuliani, in this sense, is the anti-statesman.
"America must remember one of the lessons of the Vietnam War. … Many historians today believe that by about 1972 we and our South Vietnamese partners had succeeded in defeating the Vietcong insurgency and in setting South Vietnam on a path to political self-sufficiency. But America then withdrew its support, allowing the communist North to conquer the South. The consequences were dire, and not only in Vietnam: numerous deaths in places such as the killing fields of Cambodia, a newly energized and expansionist Soviet Union, and a weaker America."
Does he really believe this? What books have his advisers been giving him? The "South Vietnamese partners" were as corrupt and illegitimate as they come. The Khmer Rouge came to power amid a political vacuum that was spawned as much by Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia as by anything else. As for the "expansionist" Soviet Union, things didn't end very well for the Moscow Politburo. America, it is now widely agreed, was weakened by the Vietnam War, not by its termination. And, by the way, how about that "domino theory"? You'd think from his description that Southeast Asia has subsequently all gone Communist.
Fred Kaplan is Slate's "War Stories" columnist and author of the book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter.
Photograph of Rudy Giuliani by Chris Hondros/Getty Images. Photograph of Giuliani on Slate's home page by Brett Flashnick/AP.