Monday, November 01, 2004

Foreign Affairs: The Sources of American Legitimacy

Of the many Bush legacies that would make me pick Kerry (if I could vote), the decline in legitimacy abroad is the most significant:
Throughout its history, the United States has made gaining international legitimacy a top priority of its foreign policy. The 18 months since the launch of the Iraq war, however, have left the country's hard-earned respect and credibility in tatters. In going to war without a legal basis or the backing of traditional U.S. allies, the Bush administration brazenly undermined Washington's long-held commitment to international law, its acceptance of consensual decision-making, its reputation for moderation, and its identification with the preservation of peace. The road back will be a long and hard one.
I believe this is the single most important reason we (i.e. citizens of the West) have been at peace for over 50 years:
Just as civilization itself is distinguished by the insistence that conflicts be settled by means other than brute force, so U.S. postwar leaders insisted that international relations be ordered by the same principle.
I can understand why Bush wants to preemptively strike our enemies -- that's what people under threat have done for tens of thousands of years. But a truly gifted and wise leader with a keen sense of history would know unity and consensus matter more to peace in the long run.

Unfortunately most Americans of all persuasions appear incapable of appreciating this point. I was against the war in Iraq for one very simple reason: The rest of the world was against it. If Bush had managed to bring them around, I would have been for it. To most Americans that sounds like "flip-flopping" which is really too bad.

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