Thursday, July 27, 2006

John, Enemy of Freedom

In collusion with Nicholas Gvosdev:
I believe in evolutionary change for sustainable societies, not hey-presto! sudden revolutions.

I believe that you have to set priorities in relationships with other states, especially when you don't have leverage. If the US wants to be a force for freedom, move to energy independence and cut back on wasteful consumer spending. Otherwise deal with the real world as it is....

Criticism has to be part of a larger strategy and has to be weighed against other objectives to be coherent. Grandstanding never seems to work, especially when we are vulnerable to charges of double standards....

I do not believe that words speak louder than actions, or that intent is better than results.
I count myself among the many people I know who, in the calm waters of January 2001, called himself a liberal internationalist. By, oh, March of 2003 I was listing heavily to port away from idealism and humanitarian wars. In three years, my sense of international justice has taken repeated blows below the waterline. By July of 2006, I've stopped even trying to bail out the waters.

I honestly don't know why I decided to go with a clumsy nautical theme, but I did. Moving on...

The point about leverage is an important one. In the fall of 2001, America was running over with leverage. All over the world, America could compel countries to obey, for fear of what Colossus would do when enraged. Even before 9/11 America had incredible power to compel, and more importantly convince, countries to join with America.

It turns out that leverage can disappear in a few years. Like any resource, it needs to be harvested sustainably. And a few years of drought and all your leverage is gone. (Man, I'm all about the odd metaphors tonight.) It's bad enough that large countries like Russia and China don't even pretend to cooperate with Washington anymore - but Venezuela? Seriously? America can't push around Venezuela anymore?

It's odd that this even needs to be said, but our enemies aren't ever going to judge us based on our intentions. It is impossible to prove to bin Laden that, even though we've made cesspools out of multiple Muslim countries, we meant well. But that's what we're trying to do - if not convince bin Laden, we're at least trying to convince those who would follow him.

Even I get tired of making arguments about equivalence - for example, would our Prime Minister have been so cruel and stupid if Hezbollah, and not Israel, had killed one of our soldiers in a blue helmet? But there's an important point to make about the other side, in whatever war we're fighting: They're just like us. Yup. Get over it. Nazis? Like us. Japanese? Like us. Vietnamese? Like us.

In any case, they're still people, and basically motivated by the same motivations we all have - patriotism, family, God, etc.

So however you think you'd react to Canada or America being attacked by a vastly superior force (the Martians?), there's probably someone in Lebanon right now doing exactly that. And if you don't think you'd hand over your brother, son, or father to the enemy, why in God's name would you expect the other side to?

We need to stop imagining that the enemy can be compelled if only we kill enough of their family. Not even the US Army believes that shit anymore.


Nikolas K. Gvosdev said...

Welcome to the club!

Leverage is a critical point. There is also the power of example. It is quite telling that the United States has fallen in the rankings of countries that people see as the most desirable place to live--UK, Canada and Germany generally top the list. The only major outlier at this point is India, where surveys still put the U.S. at the top.

Your later post about the belief in a "domino theory" about the destruction of Hizballah leading to major positive changes does put its finger on some of the thinking here in DC. It is right up there with the assertions made about how the U.S. can help Lebanon's military defeat Hizballah to protect Israel's northern border--and how this will happen when the rank and file of the Lebanese army is 50-60 percent Shiite is left unexplained.

john said...

We need t-shirts for our club. You can be President, I'll be treasurer. [insert evil laugh]

What's it like being in the vortex of insanity that is Washington?