terça-feira, 7 de março de 2006

William Ewart Gladstone, 1879, six principles of foreign policy

Interessante artigo de Niall Ferguson:

"One of the unintended consequences of the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution - which prohibits anyone from being elected president more than twice - is that George W Bush will never have to run on the record of his second term. This is fortunate for the Republican Party. It is a tragedy for the Democrats.

If President Bush were to run for re-election in 2008 it is not difficult to imagine the kind of devastating indictment that might be made of his foreign policy, not least because the terms of such an indictment were brilliantly anticipated more than a century ago.

In 1878, William Ewart Gladstone, the only true genius among 19th century British politicians, came out of retirement to reclaim the leadership of the Liberal Party and unleash a lethal rhetorical assault against his arch-rival, the Conservative prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli. Gladstone's campaign to win the seat of Midlothian, is often said by historians to have ushered in a new era in modern politics. Never before had a British politician appealed so directly to the sentiments of ordinary voters.

In a series of marathon speeches to crowds numbering tens of thousands, Gladstone eviscerated Disraelian foreign policy as a disastrous mixture of vainglorious imperialism, cynical Realpolitik and fiscal improvidence. His speech of November 27, 1879, in which he set out his six principles of foreign policy, reads amazingly well today.

Gladstone made it clear - in his sixth and most important principle - that he regarded freedom as the foundation of a correct foreign policy. "The foreign policy of England," he declared, "should always be inspired by the love of freedom. There should be a sympathy with freedom, a desire to give it scope, founded not upon visionary ideas, but upon the long experience of many generations within the shores of this happy isle…" That is precisely what a Democratic challenger to President Bush would want to begin by saying: We share your aspiration to spread freedom.

But Gladstone's other five principles can be read today as an ideal first draft of the case against the practice of this administration's foreign policy.

Gladstone's first principle of foreign policy was, paradoxically but rightly, "good government at home" - to be precise, fiscal stability. By that measure, Bush's second term has been an almost unqualified failure. To cut taxes and run deficits in 2001, in the aftermath of a stock market crash, made sense. But to allow the federal government to continue to run deficits even as recovery has strengthened has left the United States dangerously dependent on foreign capital for its economic stability. A net external debt equivalent in magnitude to more than 20 per cent of gross domestic product is no laughing matter, especially if a very large part of the federal government's share of that debt is held by potentially hostile foreign powers.

Gladstone's second principle was that the aim of foreign policy should be "to preserve to the nations of the world… the blessings of peace". Say no more. His third reads especially well today. It should be to "keep the other powers of the world as far as possible in harmony with one another". And why? "Because by keeping all in union together you neutralise and fetter and bind up the selfish aims of each".

"Even when you do a good thing," Gladstone wisely observed, "you may do it in so bad a way that you may entirely spoil the beneficial effect; and if we were to make ourselves the apostles of peace in the sense of conveying to the minds of other nations that we thought ourselves more entitled to an opinion on that subject than they are… well, very likely we should destroy the whole value of our doctrines." Substitute the word "freedom" for "peace", and there you have the crux of the case against President Bush.

It was a good thing to try to bring freedom to Afghan-istan and Iraq, not only for the sake of American security but for the sakes of their inhabitants as well. It was, and remains, correct that pre-emptive action is legitimate where a serious threat to American security is perceived (even if it turns out that the perception was wrong). But you can, as Gladstone said, ruin the effect of doing a good thing by doing it in a bad way. Seldom in the annals of US foreign policy has an administration been more guilty of inept execution than this one.

Gladstone's fourth principle was a very American one: "To avoid need-less and entangling engagements." "You may boast about them; you may brag about them… But you are increasing your engagements without increasing your strength; and if you increase engagements without increasing strength, you diminish strength, you abolish strength; you really reduce the Empire…"

How I would love to hear someone say precisely those words to Mr Bush and his trusty sidekicks. And then all I would ask would be for that orator to repeat Gladstone's fifth, and for this purpose final, principle: "To acknowledge the equal rights of all nations".

"You have no right to set up a system under which one [nation] is to be placed under moral suspicion or espionage, or to be made the constant subject of invective. If you do that, but especially if you claim for yourself a superiority, a pharisaical superiority over the whole of them, then I say… [that] in undermining the basis of the esteem and respect of other people for your country you are in reality inflicting the severest injury upon it."

I defy you to name another president whose conduct has more closely resembled that which Gladstone condemned in those terms. Indeed, this administration has more than merely undermined "the basis of the esteem and respect of other people". It has blown it apart.
And yet it is highly unlikely that the next Democratic contender for the presidency will be in a position to deliver a modern version of Gladstone's Midlothian speech. Why? For the simple reason that, unless it is collectively stark raving mad, the Republican Party will select a candidate to replace President Bush who subscribes to every single one of Gladstone's principles. The challenge for those who aspire to the Republican nomination will be to create as great a distance between themselves and Mr Bush as it is possible to do without explicitly disavowing him.

The Republicans would certainly be foolish to climb on to what is left of Bush's foreign policy. Nearly all its premises are crumbling before our eyes. The theory of a democratic peace is a chimera; give Muslims the vote and they vote for militants. Regime change in Iraq has not enhanced American security; its principal beneficiary has been Iran. As for the unipolar world, the reality is that the occupation of Iraq and its ramifications in the Greater Middle East now so dominate this administration's agenda that the truly world-shaking event of our times has all but vanished from view. The administration is in at least two minds about the resurgence of China, and the result is a dangerous diplomatic schizophrenia, with half the signals indicating a new Cold War strategy of "containment" (why else help the Indians with their nukes?), and the other half continuing the older policy of conciliation.

After recklessness, ineptitude was the greatest defect of Disraelian foreign policy. Too bad the 22nd amendment will likely prevent us ever hearing a Gladstonian critique of today's inept imperialism."

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