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Will Hillary's Gambit Work?

Author: Peter Beinart
July 16, 2009
The Daily Beast


Near the beginning of her big foreign-policy speech at the Council of Foreign Relations, Hillary Clinton took a shot at the "balance of power." It may have been a good concept in the 20th century, she explained, when we faced the Soviet Union, but it's outmoded today.

That spoke volumes. George W. Bush's foreign policy was all about the balance of power. As he saw it, there were bad guys (terrorists and their state sponsors) and good guys (us and our allies). The goal was to isolate, if not eliminate, the former and strengthen the latter. He wasn't seeking a balance of power in the sense of equal power between America and its enemies. But no country ever does. He was seeking the kind of "balance" you want in your bank account, a positive one. As Condoleezza Rice liked to say, "A balance of power that favors freedom."

Commentators often called Bush a Wilsonian because he talked about promoting democracy. But that was mostly nonsense, because the beating heart of Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy was his desire to abolish the balance of power, to replace a world divided between hostile alliances with a world united against common threats. To replace "us vs. them" with "we're all in it together.


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