Great piece from Fairfax's US correspondent Nick O'Malley today on those in Washington who are resisting the rush to war in Iraq and Syria, most notably prominent foreign policy realist Stephen Walt, who argues that a large scale US intervention against Islamic State (IS) 'could make the broader regional situation even worse. Even if such a reaction was to work, he says, it would be disproportionate to the threat posed to the US by the IS, which Walt believes is real but limited, and certainly not existential.'
I agree with Walt and I said some broadly similar things last week. This evidently surprised the people at Crikey. In a curious item they posted yesterday which collects the views of various pundits who are sceptical of military action against IS, I am described as a 'usually right-wing commentator' who has 'taken a jump to the Left'.
But of course you don't need to be left-wing to oppose the use of military force. It is true, anti-war conservatism has become marginalised in the US by the neo-conservative faction, but before the 2003 Iraq war, there was a small rump of realist and conservative critics of George W Bush's plans to topple Saddam Hussein, including figures such as Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to George HW Bush.
These are not dewy eyed one-worlders who think peace is around the corner if we can all just learn to get along. They recognise that international politics is fierce and anarchical, and that states need to defend themselves, sometimes with force. But they also insist on a rigorous examination of their country's core interests and are wary of the hubristic tendency to believe that lasting political reform can be imposed by outsiders through force.