Wolfowitz v. Perle?

A mostly political Weblog.
March 3 2003 5:23 AM

Neocon Schism Ahead?

Plus: Don't Rush Me V

(Continued from Page 2)

Saturday, March 1, 2003  

The Washington Post again raises an outrageous charge of dual loyalties!

For many of those troops, serving in the U.S. military is a source of pride, but also of deep personal conflict. They wrestle with the weight of culture and a tradition in which Mexican nationalism has long been measured by opposition to its powerful northern neighbor. Mexican public opinion is overwhelmingly against a war with Iraq. President Vicente Fox has said Mexico, which holds a seat on the U.N. Security Council, will oppose unilateral U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein. In a country with a deep reluctance to get involved in conflicts outside its borders, the antiwar sentiment is raw and passionate.

Obviously, Lawrence Kaplan's work is not done. ... 11:25 A.M.

Friday, February 28, 2003  

Likudnik update: Veteran neocon Elliott Abrams, now in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio at the National Security Council, is firming up the neocon/Likudnik presence there, according to this UPI report. Three NSC staffers appear to have been moved out. ... 3:39 P.M.

You can't say WaPo's Dan Balz didn't think the Shrum/Kerry story was important. ... Have I mentioned that kausfilesscooped the world on this epic event? ... 1:47 A.M.

Don't Rush Me V: Michael Kinsley's latest column helps clarify the Iraq issue, in my mind, by defending the hack, popular  view of "'I'm for it if we have U.N. approval, but not if we act unilaterally.'" Call it the proceduralist position -- where "unilateral" is defined as acting with allies but without the Security Council's explicit blessing. As Kinsley notes, this proceduralism is profoundly annoying to hawks -- if the war's a good thing to do, they argue, are you really going to let France stop it? Well, yes, maybe:

The test of a country's commitment to international law—and the measure of its credibility when it accuses other countries of flouting international law—is whether that country obeys laws even when it has good reasons to prefer not to.

Just like specific instances such as the rule against using human shields, the general regime of international law depends on a willingness to sacrifice short-term goals that may even be admirable for the long-term goal of establishing some civilized norms of global behavior. It sounds naive, and maybe it is. But you're either in the game or you're not. You can't pick and choose which rules to take seriously.

In this case, the rule is you generally don't attack another country across a border without Security Council blessing. (Sure, self-defense wins in a case of imminent danger -- but Iraq doesn't seem to present an imminent danger so much as a danger that needs to be dealt with over the next several years. If self-defense justifies an attack on any nation that might pose a grave threat a few years down the road, the result could be just as destabilizing as if there were no general rule against trans-border attacks.)

But hasn't Saddam repeatedly violated UN resolutions, violations that are ongoing? Yes. The U.N. should act to enforce its resolutions, as President Bush says. But the issue is what we do if, thanks to a French veto, the U.N. backs off an immediate, direct attack as a method of enforcement. Do we then enforce the U.N.'s resolutions ourselves by going outside the U.N.? It would be an odd thing to wage war to defend the edicts and honor of an institution that we are, by the very act of defying it to wage war, effectively derogating as "irrelevant" and obsolete.

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