The Unrealpolitiker

Before the neocons came along, the bugbear of good liberals was the older kind of conservative, the practitioner of Realpolitik. We failed to realise how lucky we really were, for from the humanitarian point of view he is probably the best we can get; certainly far superior to the practitioners of Unrealpolitik. The starting point of the Realpolitiker, and the finishing point too, is the national interest and a rational calculation thereof. It has always been the idealists, the romantics, the canters and the fantasts who start the great wars and then proceed to lose them.

“We shall bear any burden, pay any price” – oh, really? Any price? The speaker did not live to see his people run away from the first instalment of “any price, any burden”, which they were quite right to do, since the United States had in fact no pressing national interest in the maintenance of a corrupt client state in Saigon. Anyone who doubts that should simply be asked in what way the United States has subsequently suffered from the existence of a united and independent Vietnam. The Domino Theory was not Realpolitik at all, but merely a hysterical ignorance of real geopolitics. Above all, it assumed that the opponent was a different kind of creature than oneself, in this case a Borg-like monolith, whereas the true Realpolitiker knows that the opponent behaves and reacts in much the same way as we do. Unless, of course, that opponent is a romantic fantast like Hitler.

Another thing the Realpolitiker understands but the neocon does not, is that you simply cannot demonise your opponent, because at the next crossroads he may be your ally. You do not refuse to engage in diplomacy because “We don’t talk to evil”; the Realpolitiker knows of no axis of evil, only states doing what seems best to them in the light of their own national interests, as we do what seems best to us in the light of ours.

Unfortunately, Realpolitik is difficult in a democracy, because the people cannot be moved to fight limited, Clausewitzian, wars in order to restore a balance of power, send a message and so forth. For that you need an international noble class, an unaccountable government, lots of money and a volunteer or mercenary army. The People cannot be mobilised to fight or even support a war except by a grotesque dehumanisation of the opponent. If he commits no atrocities you must invent some; if he unaccountably fails to eat babies, you must provoke him into so doing. In the Napoleonic period the British caricaturists drew the French as monkeys, so that when one day a real monkey was washed ashore from a shipwreck, the common people hanged it as a spy. Motivated by such passions, how will the people then understand the subsequent alliance with yesterday’s enemy against yesterday’s friend that Realpolitik demands?

It is by no means a new observation that America’s best modern practitioner of the black art was born a European. Realpolitik appears otherwise alien to not only the majority of the American population but to most American politicians as well. For all that has been said about the ancient hatreds of Europe, there exists a mentality that is probably even more inimical to a rational foreign policy than Continental ethno-nationalism: namely, the modelling of the international system in terms of the frontier town where everyone joins the posse to catch the “evildoer”. For such an “evildoer” has no legitimate interests, need not be understood, and ought not to be talked to; and so any real understanding of the world is precluded.

Posted on November 24, 2011 at 10:25 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!, The Shadow In The West

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