January 28, 2003

Wavering Europe, think again

The role of internationalism in a world dominated by the American "War on Terror" is an ambiguous one. International terrorism is diffuse because of its ability to ignore borders and jurisdictions. The U.S. foreign policy of "going it alone" and ignoring the views and objections of our allies in favor of unilateral actions to theoretically protect America's national security is an untenable one. However, this doesn't mean that America should ignore its unique position as superpower and the responsibilities that entails, nor should the U.S. be asked to act in accordance with all the rules binding other nations.

It is absurd that the most powerful nation in history should adhere to the same guidelines of international behavior that apply to Luxembourg. The United States is beyond the ordinary rules because it must be if it's to accomplish anything with its unparalleled strength. Expressions of American arrogance notwithstanding, the United States can use its power to change the world.

Any argument that the United States has no right to do this, that with our own domestic problems it is hypocritical for the United States to impose its views of right and wrong on the rest of the world, is ludicrous. Logically, it is akin to saying that anyone who has not achieved Buddha-like enlightenment has no right to interfere in another's affairs, even to offer aid. In an ideal world every individual would respect the human rights of all, every nation would listen to reason and diplomacy, and every dictator would read Amnesty International pamphlets. The world we live in, however, is one in which brute force is often necessary to effect change.

Our generation must see the failures of the Bush Administration's policies to accomplish anything but destruction not as a failure of American interventionism, but a failure to match this willingness to become involved with a desire to help fellow human beings. Ensuring national security, which the "War on Terror" is supposed to accomplish, should be secondary to a larger American priority to extend the freedom, health, and prosperity we enjoy to as much of the world as possible. Military force cannot remain a tool used to protect American power and interests, but must be reinvented as a means not only of overthrowing rogue dictators, but of enabling humanitarian aid. This new American mission will be to use all of its power to improve the plight of the world's huddled masses.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for an American foreign policy of toppling dictators and building prosperity out of poverty lies in Europe, which could present either a strong ally in such an endeavor or an irritating complication. Not that an interventionist America would be happily greeted by the world outside of Europe, but the goodwill of our historical European allies has been strained by Bush's acrimonious stance on U.S. unilateralism. These cross-Atlantic debates have brought to the foreground the gulf in ideology between the U.S. and Europe. The inclination in Europe towards a "soft-touch" approach to global problems, utilizing diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions in crisis situations, is just as foolhardy as Bush's American-militarism-without-point. The liberal "Euro-weenies" that guide this sort of foreign policy are skipping into tomorrow without any serious efforts at improving the sick and broken world of today.

The middle ground between European pacifism and the U.S. policy of preemptive, unilateral military action lies in a willingness for the United States to engage the world's problems, even with military force, but with the goal of improving our world and securing the future of all nations.