Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Ranting

This time about world opinion
The most consistent theme on the moderate left has been the "ignoring world opinion" one. Historically, and thus with the aid of hindsight, we know that world opinion has consistently been wrong in its judgments and catastrophically wrong in its morals. From the Munich Agreement of 1938, the pro-Soviet anti-nuclear tone of the postwar era, the "Zionism is Racism" UN resolution of 1975, and on and on, world opinion has been consistently both wrong and immoral. More recently, in the ruckus about the Danish cartoons, world opinion was that the problem was the cartoons rather than the Muslim reaction to them.

Contained within the objection to ignoring world opinion is the implication that world opinion is reasonable and responsible in its judgments, and that it is fair-minded and disinterested. Historically it has been none of those. World opinion is generally neither thoughtful nor mature, and it is generally far more narrowly selfish than American policy. Aside from the Wilsonian tradition in our foreign policy, there is also the sheer breadth and variety of American interests. The US has an interest in peace and stability everywhere because it has interests everywhere. The United States has no hereditary enemies and no inferiority complexes. France and other such countries regularly vote for the vilest and most irrational UN resolutions because they know that the US will ignore world opinion and veto. Being the universal world power we are responsible for lots of what happens and must act responsibly. The French and everybody else in the world have no such obligation - and act accordingly.

Everywhere there is the assumption that we ought to listen at least to the Europeans. Consider what happened in the remnants of Yugoslavia in the 1990's. In Europe itself, on their own soil, the last Soviet-style dictatorship was waging a genocidal war in Bosnia. And again in Kossovo. In both cases, Europe was unable to intervene, not because they didn't have the military force - they had plenty compared to the forces deployed in Bosnia and Kossovo - but because they could not agree on a policy that would be politically acceptable at home. Tens of thousands died while the foreign ministries and public opinions of Europe dithered. Finally the United States, a country three thousand miles away across the ocean, with European acquiescence and relief, intervened diplomatically and militarily to end those conflicts because the Europeans could not form a policy.

The equivalent situation would be if Quebec separatism degenerated into a genocidal war and the US was too petty, selfish and incompetent to be able to decide what to do. If Europeans were forced to send troops to the US border because we could not make up our minds, how seriously should our opinions and policies be taken afterwards? That is what actually happened in the 1990's in Europe. Yet they (and American liberals) get indignant if we do not take them as seriously as Europeans believe they merit.

A foreign policy of institutionalized amnesia is no foreign policy at all. And that is what liberal deference to world opinion amounts to.

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