Friday, November 2, 2007

Neocon Dream, American Nightmare

I've got a tendency, in my reading and blogging habits, to focus on emerging hotspots and crises. I'm aware of it, and really do try as best I can to resist being overly alarmist about them. So instead of doing a post about the fact that the situation in Pakistan is getting dicey and deserves some urgent attention, I'm going to instead discuss the ways in which the situation in Pakistan illustrate the limits of the Bush/neocon world view and foreign policy approach.

Perhaps the defining characteristic of the emerging pattern of crisis and conflict around the world is the increasing overlap of the phenomenon of failed and "rogue" states with that of rampant nuclear proliferation. In the past, the very characteristics that put a state in danger of failing, or that isolated it to the point of adopting "rogue" or irresponsible policies, also dramatically reduced the likelihood that it would develop a nuclear weapons capacity. The technological and industrial requirements for such a capacity demanded a level of stability and wealth they just didn't have.

With the windfall of oil revenue, the widespread diffusion of technical know-how, and a few irresponsible proliferators, all that has changed. The neocons are right when they argue that the stakes of any worst-case scenario are dramatically higher now than they were even five or ten years ago. Their response -- to insist upon American primacy and the suppression of rival powers -- is misguided.

Something needs to be done to ensure that Pakistan remains a stable and responsible nuclear power, in the same way that something needs to be done to dissuade Iran from its nuclear ambitions. Something needs to be done to achieve a longterm solution for stabilizing Iraq, and the same goes for Afghanistan. There's no question that something needs to be done. The question is, who needs to do it?

The advantage of a multipolar world is that it by definition distributes the responsibility for regulating crises. By allowing other powers -- notably Europe, Russia and China -- to expand their spheres of influence, we at the same time oblige them to expand their definition of what constitutes a threat to their interests. We've already seen how China's growing global influence has contributed to its more active role in the North Korean nuclear negotiations, and to a lesser extent in Darfur.

By unilaterally invading Iraq (and continuing to occupy it), we turned the Iraq question from a regional problem into an American problem. The same goes for the Iran dossier. The Russians have absolutely no interest in a nuclear-armed Iran to its south. But as long as we're generously offering to shoulder the entire burden of the problem via a unilateral strike, they have no incentive to make any meaningful efforts to contain Tehran.

There are only two reasons America even considers these problems exclusively her own. One, we have the ability, at least in theory, to do something about them. And two, we've adopted the posture that letting another power do something about them is inherently a threat to America's national security. Neocon dreams to the contrary, the first is only possible to the extent we renounce the second.

Posted by Judah in:  Foreign Policy   

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