Monday, April 30, 2012

Score one for Constructivist theory?

My thoughts on Obama and Democrats playing up the Osama bin Laden killing for the campaign very closely mirrors these by Digby:

I get why the Democrats are doing it. I'm sure it's extremely satisfying to land those punches on the right wing blowhards after all the years of taunting and jeering about liberal cowardice. To be able to say they killed the evil mastermind where the swaggering codpiece failed is probably too much of a temptation for them to pass up. I get it.

But I hate it. I hated it when the Republicans did it and I hate it now. I don't believe the most powerful nation on earth should be running its democracy via schoolyard power plays. This is how we ended up stuck in Vietnam and how we have found ourselves floundering about in Afghanistan and elsewhere. It's why we can't stop spending trillions on useless weapons systems, why we "have" to continue to fund ridiculous programs like Star Wars and why everyone in the political establishment assumes that the only answer to budget problems is to cut the so-called "entitlements."

I know we live in a dangerous world. But this nation is extremely rich and extremely powerful and its most important assets are morality and mystique. I'm not going to argue about the morality of killing Osama bin laden, but it should be remembered that our unilateral wars, torture regimes and insistence on imperial prerogatives have already taken a toll on America's reputation for moral behavior.

I'll take a quick shot at the question of the morality of killing bin Laden. It wasn't justice. It was vengeance. And as Rachel Dawes pointed out to Bruce Wayne, they aren't the same thing. But the US constantly conflates them and Obama/Democrats are playing into the feeling people get when they think justice has been served.

The question I ask in the title is in regards to International Relations theory. While I don't think the Obama administration pursued and killed bin Laden for purely cultural reasons relating to our society's need for vengeance, I would bet it played a part in their decision to go through with it. And it's absolutely the reason why they are playing it up in the campaign. I don't think realist theory does a great job at explaining this, mostly because one of the actors isn't a state actor and it doesn't account for terrorists very well in regard to power politics. Also, not to mention I don't think realists would predict spending the resources we have trying to fight a bunch of terrorist groups that don't threaten our sovereignty. And I'm not seeing much from liberal theory that would explain Obama's actions in regard to invading sovereign airspace in order to kill someone without a lot of due process.

What's odd is that I would have thought constructivist theory, or one sect under that large umbrella, would have predicted the Bush administration being more aggressive in trying to find and kill bin Laden. As Digby points out, the whole masculine vengeance thing is really their bread and butter. And they would have been doing the same sort of chest-beating that Obama is doing. Perhaps they had exhausted their animal desires on Iraq and Afghanistan and didn't have enough testosterone left for bin Laden. Anyway, I just wanted to go poli sci nerd on you as an excuse to call out Obama and Dems for this ploy and give some props to constructivists.

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