The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Michael Totten wrote a post that savaged John Kerry's disinterest in foreign policy. Several commenters complained that George Bush acted unilaterally and did not consider world opinion. (One of them quoted Kerry: "President Bush [has] taken America off onto the road of unilateralism and ideological preemption.")

This is a common Democratic talking point. It's also a losing one. For George Bush has built an international coalition of some 60 countries. How can this possibly be construed as unilateral? Totten himself called out one of his commenters on this point:

If you think the US should not act unless we have unanimous approval, then you need to just come out and say that. Also, please explain why this radical and unprecedented policy proposal should be adopted now for the first time ever in history. What has changed, aside from the fact that a Republican is in the White House, that the left is suddenly concerned about this?

Claiming that the US must solicit unanimous approval for its strategies and actions in war is ludicrous on the face of it. In the case of Iraq, would it have been necessary to solicit the opinion of fellow Baath state Syria? Libya? North Korea? Even if you somehow exclude those states -- and it's not clear on what grounds you would -- what of, say, countries in South America or Africa that have plenty of their own problems and don't really give a damn? (When Peru fought the Shining Path, did it have to consider the opinion of Denmark? Of Indonesia?)

When people complain about the Bush administration's "unilateralism," they do not really mean that the US should make every single country in the UN happy. What they object to -- and both of the anti-Bush commenters in Totten's post were clear about this -- is that our alliance does not include France, Germany, or Russia. I have never seen a coherent explanation as to why France, Germany, and Russia are such vital allies that they must be given veto power over American foreign policy. I'm not saying that such an explanation could not exist, but the sanctimony involved in the typical anti-Bush temper tantrum does not lead itself to introspection.

I get the feeling that if events had worked out differently and Bush had obtained the approval of Germany and Russia instead of Spain and Poland, that the anti-Bush crowd would be calling Bush a unilateralist and citing the exclusion of Poland, Spain, and France as evidence. (And similarly, when people complain that Bush should be concentrating on, say, Saudi Arabia rather than Iraq, it's tough to take that criticism seriously either. If Bush had gone after the Saudis and left Iraq alone, how much do you want to bet that they would be complaining that the Iraqis were the true threat?)



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