Thursday, September 11, 2008

Motives and the quality of Foreigh Policy


You have written, “Since you do not indicate being supportive or even tolerant of any of these [i.e. your idea of what would be diplomatic in this case] ideas, I think that I will continue to view you as being pro-war.”

What I say in response to that is that any approach that achieves U.S. objectives short of actual war or punitive strike, even if it involves the threat of war, must be considered diplomacy.

You also wrote, “I also think that some (though by no means all) of the US policy in the past has been wiser than that. After all, the US did not launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks on the USSR or PR China to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons.”

Don’t forget that while Political Realism may not have been the official posture in any administration other than Nixon’s, Realistic considerations are difficult to avoid when considering the courses of action you describe. What you say would be decisive if we placed some form of legalism (e.g., enforcing the NPT unilaterally) above National Interest, but that has not been the case. Our main contention with China had to do with Taiwan with whom we had a treaty. If China attacked Taiwan militarily, we would come to its defense. China’s having the bomb or using it could threaten our allies (South Korea, Taiwan and Japan) but practically speaking China seems to be doing their best to mount a creditable threat in case we came to blows over Taiwan. And as much or more was their worry about their border concerns with India and Russia.

As to North Korea, the Clinton Administration agreed to South Korea’s “Sunshine Policy,” in which they (primarily South Korea and the U.S.) would give NK all sorts of things in return for NK giving up their nuclear ambitions. It was in the nature of the Sunshine that no one would check to see if NK was really doing what they promised to do. All of that Sunshine baggage was in the way of the Bush Administration’s trying something else, even if it wanted to. China, Japan and South Korea have more of an interest in the activities of North Korea than we do. That is, more of a National Interest in the Morgenthau sense of the term. Only if you apply a non-Realistic criteria does it seem as though America is being inconsistent.

In regard to Iran, our National Interests have been threatened by Iran-inspired and financed terrorist activities, direct threats to America’s allies (Britain and Israel), an avowed desire to destroy the U.S. (Khomeini’s “Great Satan” speeches the effect of which are included to a certain extent, as I understand from reading Robin Wright, in the Iranian constitution), and Iran’s potential, given their belligerence, for preventing the free flow of shipping through the Straits of Hormuz should that suit what they conceive to be their national interests. Our inclination to tolerate Iran’s threats lessened after we had evidence that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran has backed off a bit on the weapons, but is still pursuing the development of skills and materials which will shorten the time needed to build nuclear weapons should they decide to eventually go ahead with them. Since we are overextended in Afghanistan and Iraq we are not in a position to do anything about Iran, even if we wanted to. And it I haven’t heard that Iran is at present sponsoring any terrorist acts against us. Whether this is a positive sign remains to be seen.

Lawrence Helm

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