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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

3/23/2004

Good Enemies

Writing at TechCentralStation, Ilya Shapiro notes the scorn with which the United States is treated by the intellectual elites throughout the world,
In the end, anti-Americanism boils down to the timeless disgust with America's daring to export its idea of liberty to the four corners of the globe. Whether via gunboat diplomacy, realpolitik, humanitarian intervention, or the current blend of preemptive strikes and trade liberalization -- despite intermittent rollbacks at the behest of groaning industrial-age unions and its John Edwards demagogues -- it is anathema to the Old World mind (and its Rousseauean influence in the New World) that a nation would choose to pursue other than parochial mercantilist interests. This is why French companies violated the sanctions against post-Gulf War Iraq while the chattering class decried the Yankee drive to trade blood for oil. It is why Vladimir Putin is a supposedly faithful partner in the war against Islamic terrorism while selling nuclear reactors to Iran. And it is the reason that, unfortunately, Europeans consider the United States to be the second-most dangerous country in the world -- second only to the sole democracy in the Middle East.
One of the interesting questions which the American Presidential election will bring up is the gulf between those who care about what the European and other intellectual elites think and those who don't. My sense is that Bush loses not a second's sleep over the world historical views of Harold Pinter or Noam Chomsky. Senator Kerry? Given that he keeps talking about internationalizing assorted conflicts it is reasonable to assume he is more concerned.

It comes down to a matter of vision: Kerry seeks to restrain American power by arguing that America can't do what needs to be done on its own and that, therefore, it needs allies. Which means it needs to pay attention to the views of those allies which will tend to redefine "what needs to be done". To take the obvious case, if Kerry were to have been President a couple of years ago it is a pretty safe bet that Saddam would still be in power in Iraq as America would have listened to France and Germany and Russia and so on. One of the threads in the American political debate seems to be that the unilateralism which lead to Saddam's removal is a bad thing (although the removal itself tends to be seen as good.) Kerry appears to want to avoid ever again making a geopolitical move without the support of the Europeans and the United Nations.

Of course, practically, this means that America might as well stand down its armed forces and recall its diplomats as the Europeans and the United Nations will never agree to the exercise of American power. While there would be a good deal of chat, it is difficult to imagine the French or the Russians or the Chinese not taking advantage of a situation in which America voluntarily agrees to international supervision of its foreign policy. They would be idiots not to take such advantage.

Which is, of course, why the idea of internationalizing control of American power is so appealing to the Left. If there is a single issue which needs to be decided in the forthcoming election it is simply which of the competing visions of American power the American people feel most comfortable with.