The following is a discussion between Tom and myself concerning the article The Case For War by Jonah Goldberg.
Tom's original response to the article is in italics with my response to him embedded.
Jonah has a way with words and this is a funny article... even though the arguments are almost all wrong and dangerous as far as international relations are concerned. The view that the US is the good person on a playground and needs to stand up to bullies and teach them a lesson by punching once in a while is obviosly a oversimplification that simply cannot have parallel to international relations. Every country in the world thinks and sells itself as good - it is the only way the governemt can appear legitimate to its people. Once countries start taking this philosophy to the international arena the rules change however because different countries are now competing for the title of 'good'. Historically, in a conflict the good country tended to be the one who won, because they were the ones who wrote the history.
But Tom, in the case of the US against its enemies in the last century, the US are the good guys, and anyone short of some radical nut would have to agree. The US fought against Nazsim, Facism, Communism, etc... every radical ideology that was presented as an alternative form of governement. Regardless of who writes history, the US has always found itself on the right side of a conflict. FACT! Does the US get involved in some places that it probably shouldn't, of course, given its responsibilities, its inevitable. So what, the US is one of the few nations on this planet that has a national conscience. Very few countries in the world feel that they have a moral responsibility to risk blood and treasure for other peoples. Name one other country today that would do that? Tom? There are none. Some will talk big, but lets see France, Belgium, Finland, whoever, send its army to a far off corner of the globe so that it can put an end to a murderer's control of a country. Your thinking is relativism at its worst.
So every powerful country tends to view itself as a force for good that stands up to evil (or bullies or whatever you want ot call it). Internatioanl relations tend to stabilize when treaties are formed that elimnate this sort of language and instead alliances are formed on mutual benefit. When countries realize that it is not in their best interest to go to war and start looking at the situation in an international context with international consequences then peace can exist.
Are you smoking crack young man! International treaties and peace can exist? Shit! The League of Nations didn't prevent WW2. Fact is the UN and all the paperwork it has produced has done little to nothing to prevent conflict. Over 400 conflicts since the creation of the UN. And nations do not join alliances for mutual benefit. They join for their own benefit. Period. Did the UN prevent the US and Soviet Russia from going to war. Certainly not, the nukes took care of that.
And quite frankly you're thinking is totally wrong here. Name one period in human history where conflict has subsided because of a treaty. It may sound like a wonderful ideal but it is not true and history is proof of that. There are no such periods of history where a piece of paper has prevented nations from going to war and ensured a prolonged period of peace. Unless you can name one I suggest you stop using this way of thinking.
The US's policy, which is examplified by Jonah's article has taken a step back lately because they have chosen to ignore this treaty based system, most likely because they think that they are too powerful to be tied down by it - a classical mistake of the powerful. So the way the US looks at it is this - there is a system of treaties and international organizations but they only apply to the weak nations. This creates an extremaly dangerous situtation because than other nations start thinking the same way and what you have is a world that existed before WW1 and WW2 - full of treaties that start meaning less and less and countries who start forming blocks to protect themselves.
So basically you think international relations should boil down to the lowest common denominator (ie. the UN). You seem to assume that the UN is a moral guide through international relations. It most certainly is not. Fact is the US is the only nation in the history of the UN to ask for its approval before becoming involved in a conflict. No other country has done this. And quite simply, as each conflict arises, you must judge it on its merits. In the Iraq-US conflict, do you think the various members of the UN opposed the war with Iraq due to humanitarian reasons. Certainly not and you should know this. Quite frankly I think the US's motives were purer than the UNs.
The only difference now is that the we have nuclear weapons and they change the equation. In any case, if the US truly wanted to do something good then it would establish a system of international relations that it would enforce AND be the first ones to follow as an example instead of doing what they do now - follow the internationl rules when it suits them and ignore them when it doesn't by dismissing organizations sauch as the UN as ineffective and vetoing everything in sight. The sign of goodness is the the willingness to sacrifice your own good for the benefit of the whole. What Jonah proposes is just old realpolitic - do what's in your best interest, which is nothing new or innovative or good.
What do you mean the US would establish a system of internation relations. They've already done that, its called the UN. Simple fact is Tom is that not all nations have altruistic intentions. And just 'old realpolitic'. Thats the problem, other nations (ie. France, Russia, Arab countries) are risking the stated goals of the UN for their own benefit.
You seem to be taking the stand that what the UN does is automatically 'good'. And that an agreement on a piece of paper is automatically 'good'. Thats crap and you know it. A law may look good on paper, but without police to enforce it, its useless. Fact. All the agreements and principles of international relations don't mean shit without someone to enforce compliance. Guess who has the responsibility of enforcing that compliance, yes sir, the US.
So tell me this... without the threat of US force. What would make Kim il Jong, or Saddam Hussein, or Communist China follow the established rules of international behaviour. What would have made Nazi Germany? Facist Italy? Soviet Russia? Their good consciences? The threat of UN military force? The moral judgement of France? What? Just give me an alternative...