Why the U.S. needs the U.N. et al.

Science, evolution, and politics explained.
Feb. 14 2002 6:15 PM

Friends as Flak Jackets

(Continued from Page 1)

And, even leaving aside the need for flak diffusion, he would be more mindful of the need to nourish ties to our allies, precisely to capture the long-term benefits that Applebaum emphasizes. He might even go so far as to nurture international bodies—under the auspices of, for example, the United Nations—that could take over the thankless job of tracking down stray weapons of mass destruction. Or would Bush prefer that America eternally assume the job of invading any country that shows signs of possessing these weapons? The Bush people talk as if the war on terrorism will be a long one, but they don't play the game that way.

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During my recent dialogue with Robert Kaplan (to which this is my last postscript—I swear!), Kaplan at times seemed to paint me as a one-worlder of the Wilsonian-idealist sort. I admire idealism, and I'm all for pursuing international understanding on moral or spiritual grounds. But my boilerplate argument for encouraging the evolution of world governance is one of simple national interest. The argument (as made in my most recent book) is that various developments, including ever-more-terrifying terrorism, will make relations among nations more and more non-zero-sum. So simple national interest, if pursued wisely, should lead the United States, along with other nations, into the sort of institutionalized cooperation that Hugo Young favors. If America ever does follow this logic, and Young then wants to call Americans magnanimous and credit us with noblesse oblige, that's OK with me. In the post-9/11 world, especially, the more highly people think of us, the better.

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