2002 October 15 Tuesday
Robert Kagan: Multilateralism, American Style

Robert Kagan argues that the distance between the major two camps in the US debate about whether to seek UN support is not as wide as it is often believed to be. Even the supposed multilateralists in the US foreign policy establishment don't really want the US to treat the UN as an institution that holds a veto on US actions. The debate is more about style:

In fact, despite what many believe, there really isn't a debate between multilateralists and unilateralists in the United States today. Just as there are few principled multilateralists, there are few genuine unilateralists. Few inside or outside the Bush administration truly consider it preferable for the United States to go it alone in the world. Most would rather have allies. They just don't want the United States prevented from acting alone if the allies refuse to come along.

So the real debate in the United States is about style and tactics. Some of the administration's critics, such as Holbrooke and Joseph Nye, say the United States should build goodwill by working hard for Security Council support. When that fails, the United States can go ahead and do what it wants, but the good-faith effort to accommodate allied concerns will have won the United States Brownie points. Some Bush administration strategists believe, on the contrary, that the best way to bring the allies along is by making clear that the United States will go it alone if necessary. They figure that key allies such as Britain and France won't want to be left behind, looking helpless and irrelevant.

I would add that among those claiming an abolute need for UN approval many are really doing so as a cover or their general opposition to a war against Iraq. They don't believe their own rhetoric. They are just reaching for any debating point that sounds like it might be useful.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 October 15 11:57 PM  Europe and America


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