The Death of Realpolitik
Nevertheless, it would be wrong to confuse this issue with debates as to what governmental structure achieves this end best. Surely history teaches us that their have been goodly and benevolent monarchs (or dictators), and their have been "democracies" whose stock-in-trade was suppression and oppression (like the "People's" Republics of China and Korea, who have cemented their authoritarian regimes upon the blood of the people). How, then, is it seemingly possible for our nation to assume that the mere introduction of "democratic principles" in mideastern countries that have no context for democracy will have happy results? After all, Hitler was the result of a "popular" election, and retained his power through the acquiescence of a largely silent population.
For some reason, we still look hopefully toward supporting popular uprisings that will ultimately topple these evil oligarchies or dictatorships, casting off their shackles to move into that hopeful sunrise of democracy. We forget that we supported the Fidel Castro, that beloved populist, who has maintained one of the longest surviving Marxist regimes in modern history, assuring equal access to education, healthcare, and poverty for all. I hear politicos waxing hopeful about a popular uprising in Iran, forgetting what happened to the popular uprising in Tianamen Square in Red China.
The United States has been an adept practitioner of "realpolitik". Essentially, realpolitik is the somewhat cynical, if realistic, understanding that ultimately, aside from attempting to re-establish an impracticable 21st century colonialism, we must deal with nations and our own national interest in real, rather than ideal, terms. This situational ethic plays one nation against another in global chess game in order to maintain a relative order by maintaining a "balance of power". Of course, we have marketed our ideal of the "give your tired, your tempest toss'd to me, I raise my lamp beside the golden shore" to such an extent that many around the world look at the United States as the Holy Graal of liberty for all, and are greatly disillusioned when our economic and military might is used to preserve the status quo rather than leading the world into and era of blessed freedom and peace.
This is because we have been marketing a result, the end result of a process nurtured in a specific cultural climate. And one cannot market a result without the process. It cannot simply be transplanted. It is, in many ways, culture specific. The reason the Pax Romana worked was because it was administered by Rome. It fell apart when Rome itself began to decay from within. The strength of Rome was in the cohesiveness of its cultural framework. When its cultural framework was destroyed, the Empire fell into chaos, ripe to be plucked by external powers. Had the church not stepped into the vacuum, much of western culture would have been lost. In these tumultuous times, the ideals of western culture, once protected by the great democracies of the world, have collapsed for lack of a foundation, and echo as a hollow promise to an increasingly tribal world.
I have no solutions for this. Or, at least, not from the realm of "realpolitik." I think that the neo-conservatives are guilty of great error in propogating a Messianic vision based on the United States and its position of strength in the world. Perhaps, during one brief moment during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, there was a conjunction of ideals embodied in the leader of our country that invested the United States with a certain moral clarity. The moment, however, was brief, for we were still engaged in realpolitik. Such moments in history are ephemeral, for they are inevitably fallen and human. This is why Jesus Christ did not come to teach us a way of living, but was, Himself, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." This is why Jesus did not give us a government, but the gospel. As Christians, our government is not of this world, but is over it. And the world will not enjoy the Pax Christus until the Second Coming of out Lord and Savior. Until that time, we are left with a solution far more effective and dynamic than "planting the seeds of democracy." For these are not the seeds that we are to plant in the hearts of men and women. It is only the gospel that will bear fruit tenfold and a hundredfold. It is only the gospel that will change the world.