And thus began the rehabilitation of realism, and with it another
intellectual cycle. “Realist” is now a mark of respect, “neocon” a term
of derision. The Vietnam analogy has vanquished that of Munich. Thomas
Hobbes, who extolled the moral benefits of fear and saw anarchy as the
chief threat to society, has elbowed out Isaiah Berlin as the
philosopher of the present cycle. The focus now is less on universal
ideals than particular distinctions, from ethnicity to culture to
religion. Those who pointed this out a decade ago were sneered at for
being “fatalists” or “determinists.” Now they are applauded as
“pragmatists.” And this is the key insight of the past two decades—that
there are worse things in the world than extreme tyranny, and in Iraq
we brought them about ourselves. I say this having supported the war.
I'm not schooled in intellectual history, but I don't completely buy this. He's trying to damn the realists with faint praise. Read Steve Walt today on Israel. Walt's a realist; but Walt condemns the "brutal" Israeli occupation and says the world will not stand by if you perpetrate apartheid. So: no one's excusing tyranny there. The neocons are gone because they do what Kaplan does here, and compare Saddam to Hitler, which is feverish thinking.
The new realists make appeals to international standards of human rights, and lefties cheer them. Because they are now talking with lefties, and we've influenced one another. Anatol Lieven, Francis Fukuyama. There's a social component to all this. I hope Walt explains this on his blog some time. Part of the theory will involve international media, which has made the U.S. accountable in ways that old hegemons were not.
(Thanks to Drubetskoy).