In his July 2006 essay, An American Foreign Policy That Both Realists and Idealists Should Fall in Love With, Robert Wright explains the differences between realism and idealism with respect to American foreign policy. More importantly, he presents an alternative ideology which, perhaps, all Americans can together embrace. Traditionally, states Wright, idealists have been, “concerned with the welfare of humankind” and, may appear “bent on spreading democracy and human rights”.
Though the thought of welfare for every person may make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, it is, however, and dangerous place to be. Some form of international governance and control must be in place to allow every nation to flourish. At the same time, we cannot fall into the neoconservative ideology, which according to The Christian Science Monitor (2004), would support preempted military action upon a nation based simply on the suspicion that the nation has a means of acting in violence against us. The realist school of thought is focused primarily on national self-interest.
This cold and somewhat insensitive philosophy – don’t threaten me and I won’t threaten you – has past its prime. We can no longer afford to be a self-obsessed nation, nor can we continue to be naive when it comes to foreign policy. Wright (2006) suggests a new, bipartisan approach to foreign policy. This paradigm is best described, in his words, as progressive realism. Though this new paradigm incorporates aspects of idealism and realism, there are differences which set progressive realism apart. Its name alone suggests the change or progress, of current thinking.
The doctrine of traditional realism is where, according to Wright (2006), progressive realism begins. As a nation we must first agree that “the purpose of American foreign policy is to serve American interests”. Unlike the neoconservative “might makes right” creed and the idealist pursuit of human rights at whatever cost, progressive realism embraces the idea that America should become the example of a good global citizen. America must participate in international governance; contribute its share as a member of an international community without being the world’s army.
Though the label of progressive realism suggests only a modern approach to traditional realism, this new paradigm, truly, is its on entity. By combining the human rights goals of the idealist with the protective instincts of the realists, Wright (2006) has created a new policy. Take away the self-interest and altruism and focus on national interest. With progressive realism the national interest can only be served by jumping into the same proverbial boat with other nations in all matters. Therefore, when other nations flourish, America will also flourish.
When asked about presidential priorities, Alex Sanders, former chief justice of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, suggested a progressive realist view of inspiring in people the need for individual sacrifice for the greater good for all of humankind. By being unselfish in foreign policy we, as a society, will contribute to the betterment of all (cited in The Post and Courier, 2008). In light of recent global events, as Americans, we all should take a step back and revisit our philosophies and perhaps, adopt a new view.
By redefining self-interest as, preserving the interests of oneself as a member of the global community, the heart of a progressive realist can emerge. Let us all grow and benefit together and “meet reality on its own terms,” because as Wright (2006) proclaims, “more and more, doing well means doing good. ” References The Christian Science Monitor (2004). Neocon 101. www. csmonitor. com. Parker, A. (7/20/2008). Presidential priorities. South Carolina: The Post and Courier Wright, R. (2006). An American foreign policy that both realists and idealist should fall in love with. New York: New York Times.