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A Dissent From The Dissent

I've had some nice things to say about conservative David Frum in some recent posts. Those comments had to do with his efforts to reform and moderate certain aspects of contemporary conservatism, primarily in domestic policy. On foreign policy, well, I think he overdid things more than a bit in this book and has never (to my knowledge) backtracked from its arguments. Let's just say I look elsewhere for wisdom on international affairs.

But Marty Peretz and James Kirchick must disagree, since they've both endorsed Frum's highly critical take on Obama's Cairo speech. I've spent the weekend trying to find a way to explain why I think all three are wrong to respond so negatively to the speech, which I think was a rhetorical masterpiece. But now I see paleocon blogger Daniel Larison has done a good part of the job for me. Here he is, making a very smart point contra Frum.

What critics such as Frum keep missing . . . is that [Obama] is making it much more difficult for other nations to oppose the United States without marginalizing themselves internationally. With respect to the Cairo speech, it does not legitimize or empower fanatics to acknowledge concerns that they have traditionally exploited to their advantage. On the contrary, acknowledging these concerns deprives the fanatics of their monopoly on . . . defining the appropriate responses to these concerns. Better still, acknowledging a past event, such as the U.S. role in ousting Mossadegh, steals the power from those who have made use of a real grievance for their own ends.


Sweeping denunciations and ringing declarations of democratic principle have their place, but after two terms of bluntly ineffectual moral posturing from George W. Bush, I, for one, am happy to see our foreign policy being conducted with a little cunning for a change.