The American Conservative: Tom Switzer- ‘Dean of the Realists’

TAC-Owen Harries

Source:The American Conservative– “Owen Harries/ photo courtesy of the Lowery Institute.” From TAC.

Source:The New Democrat

“When the first issue of The National Interest was published in 1985, its editor, Owen Harries, proclaimed an affinity between realpolitik and conservatism. By this he meant that realism—a foreign policy that respected the primacy of self-interest as a motive and of power as a means in an anarchic international system—reflected a conservative temperament. After all, both realism and conservatism put “their stress on what is, rather than what should or might be.” Both “emphasize the importance of circumstance and are suspicious of abstract theory and general principles as bases for action.” And both are “aware of the intractability of things and the difficulties and dangers involved in attempting sweeping changes.”

For Harries, realism was not incompatible with the pull to incorporate moral principles into foreign policy; democratic values simply had to be treated as one among many interests. Looking back to George Washington’s Farewell Address of 1797, Harries pointed to the first president’s clear-eyed assertion that U.S. interests must not be compromised by “permanent alliances,” which in turn might undermine America’s diplomatic flexibility. Harries also reminded his readers that John Quincy Adams warned that freedoms at home would only be tarnished by wars abroad. In Adams’s words, America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Were she to “become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” Not for Harries any ideological crusades or grandiose plans for global social engineering.

Yet when the foreign-policy journal he edited was officially launched at the Sheraton Carlton (now St. Regis) in Washington on October 9, 1985, guests were a Who’s Who of leading neoconservatives, including Irving Kristol, editor of The Public Interest; former UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick; former chairman of Council of Economic Advisers Martin Feldstein; Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams; Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz; writers Gertrude Himmelfarb and Midge Decter; and the rising 35-year-old star columnist Charles Krauthammer. Writing in the Washington Post to mark the event, future Hillary Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal adjudged: “In an effort to influence the foreign-policy agenda, a group of neo-conservatives is rolling out what its members consider their ultimate weapon.”

From The American Conservative

About Rik Schneider

Blogger/writer on a lot of different subjects.
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