[NOTEBOOK]Worldview of a neoconservative

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[NOTEBOOK]Worldview of a neoconservative

Washington looks poised to wage a major military campaign against Iraq. At the forefront of those arguing for an invasion are the hawkish insiders of the Bush administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of Defense Douglas Faith and Richard Pearl, an aide.

Outside the administration, the effort is buttressed by conservative ideologues. Chief among them is Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Kagan, along with William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, is one of the most vociferous advocates of a war against Iraq.

On the surface at least, Mr. Kagan is an elite scholar. After studying history at Yale University, he went on to obtain his masters in public policy and international relations from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He also has a doctorate in history from American University.

During the Reagan administration in 1984, he entered Washington's policy world as a speechwriter for then Secretary of State George Shultz. He has been spreading the gospel of neoconservatism in America ever since. Mr. Kagan is also a prolific writer on the pages of the Washington Post, which makes him comparable to William Safire of the New York Times.

Mr. Kagan's recent piece of writing has become highly controversial on the other side of the Atlantic. The writing is titled "Power and Weakness" and is printed in the June-July edition of Policy Review. It is so controversial that Javier Solana, the chief external policymaker of the European Union, has recommended representatives of EU member states to read it.

The writing in effect is a declaration of separation between America and Europe in foreign policy matters, as indicative in an opening sentence that reads: "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world." According to Mr. Kagan, Europeans believe the world is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant's "Perpetual Peace."

The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might.

The United States, which is the only nation in the world with the responsibility of maintaining world order as well as a nation that possesses means to attain that goal, cannot help but see the world through the brutal Hobbesian lens. Europe, on the other hand, lacks resolve to police the world and as such, is mired in the fantasy world of Kantian peace and suggests negotiation and compromise as opposed to confrontation even toward rogue leaders like Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Kagan goes on to argue that instead of hesitating to pursue its policy because of frequent European opposition, the United States should act independently and resolutely toward achieving its international interests.

Mr. Kagan's writing is groundbreaking in that it showcases the neoconservative ideology. According to neoconservatives, America's interest is not selfish and narrow-minded but universal because it is based on highly ethical principles.

As such, they argue, the American hegemony is beneficial not only for the United States but also for the world as a whole. However, looking for the means to overcome the Hobbesian chaos in power is a highly risky view. Even Hobbes himself did not preach such a view.

Hobbes saw competitiveness, distrust and self-esteem inherent in the human mind-set as the source of the chaotic world. He said human beings exercise violence because of tedious matters such as a word, a smile, a disputant opinion and other indications of belittling. Mr. Kagan in effect lost his grasp of what is truly important in Hobbesian philosophy even as he saw the world through Hobbes' eyes.

If there is a lonely dove among the hawks, and if there are media that root for that dove, that would be fortunate.


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The writer is the international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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