Friday, September 27, 2002

Wednesday, September 25, 2002


Interesting analysis of Iraq debate by
Saletan on Slate,
although I think he misses some rather vital points in


Each school has its problems. If you believe in good will, you
risk being manipulated and abused by foreign governments that don't. Say
you want Russia's help to pass a U.N. Security Council resolution
returning weapons inspectors to Iraq. Russia, which has a huge
commercial stake in Iraq, says it will go along, but only if you remove
the clause authorizing the immediate use of force in the event that Iraq
blocks the inspectors. Russia also wants a free hand to crush Chechen
rebels by means that will probably entail extensive civilian casualties.
The price of good will turns out to be not just a weakening of the
policy for which you seek support, but fear and misery for third parties

I'm not sure that this argument directly applies to the issue at
hand. This situation in Russia exists whether or not one uses Gore's
approach or Bush's. Moreover, if you take the moral high ground with
Gore's approach you can argue that there is a huge discrepancy between
taking out the clause authorizing immediate use of force in Iraq and
giving Russia carte blanche to massacre rebels in Chechnya. With Bush's
approach you run the added risk of pushing Russia further away and
losing all influence. Diplomacy is like that. You can't make omlettes
without breaking eggs. The trick is to break as few eggs as possible.

Saletan goes on to say:

Another problem with the party of good will is its implicit
attitude of passivity and relativism. Describing the resentment of
foreign leaders toward Bush's Iraq policy, Gore stipulated, "Now, my
point is not that they're right to feel that way, but that they do feel
that way. And that has consequences for us." This preoccupation with
consequences others might impose on us, rather than with consequences we
might impose on them, is lazy and self-debilitating. And Gore's
suggestion that we should let that resentment affect our policy without
judging whether it's right or wrong is irresponsible.

I really don’t think that a policy of good will is nearly as
do-nothing as all that. For one thing it’s a misrepresentation of what
Gore actually said. He didn’t say that we should let international
resentment lead the way in dictating our foreign policy nor is he
preoccupied with the consequences that terrorists might impose on us.
What he’s pointing to with these points is that fact that in our history
of waging war in the Middle East we constantly miss opportunities to
build relationships with nations and therefore reduce the risk of
terrorism against us. He specifically points the example of the U.N. as
a case for winning the peace as well as the war. If anything an attitude
of goodwill requires a more active approach to diplomacy and far more
vigilance than a policy of fear. Waging war without fear of consequences
is far more irresponsible.

Saletan does come out more or less on the side of Gore. “Purchasing
the good will of other regimes risks morally ugly consequences,
embracing the exploitation of fear makes such consequences far more
likely.” And he is right in welcoming the debate it opens. But he would
do better to take a more evenhanded approach to Gore’s policy.

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