Friday, November 19, 2004

Too legit to quit

From a speech titled “The Crisis of Legitimacy: America and the World” by Robert Kagan (by way of Arts and Letters):

It is difficult not to conclude, therefore, that when Europeans and American critics call the war in Iraq unilateral, they do not really mean that the United States lacked broad international support. They mean instead that the United States lacked broad support in Europe , and more specifically, in France and Germany . The Bush administration was "unilateralist" not because it lost the support of Beijing , Brasília, Kuala Lumpur , Moscow , and dozens of other capitals but because it lost the support of Paris and Berlin .

In the end, what Washington 's critics really resented was that it would not and could not be constrained, even by its closest friends. From the perspective of Berlin and Paris, the United States was unilateralist because no European power had any real influence over it. From this perspective, even with a hundred nations and three-quarters of Europe on its side, the United States might still have lacked legitimacy. Today's debate over multilateralism and legitimacy is thus not only about principles of law, or even about the supreme authority of the UN; it is also about a transatlantic struggle for influence. It is Europe 's response to the unipolar predicament.
Kagan goes on to say that American foreign policy will lack “legitimacy” unless we can secure the blessings of the Europeans and “The United States ' liberal, democratic sensibilities make it difficult, if not impossible, for Americans to ignore the fears, concerns, interests, and demands of their fellows in liberal democracies.” I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. Outside the salons of Washington and the coffee shops in San Francisco, I don’t think 95% of America gives a damn about what the Old World thinks or believes that American policy suffers from an attenuated “legitimacy” because of European opinion.

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