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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

23 June 2006

Think through before attacking

Following news that North Korea is planning to test-fire a Taepodong ICBM, there appears to be some momentum building in favor of striking North Korea’s missile while still in the launching pad. This reminds me of the furor created a few months ago about using military strikes against Iran’s nuclear program. Surprisingly lacking in those advocating such actions is a willingness to examine seriously what comes next—after destroying North Korea’s missile or Iran’s nuclear installations, then what?

For the most part, advocates either take the best-case response and accept it as the most likely; or they conceive of the military action as an act in itself, which will recast the political environment in which negotiations will take place, presumably such change being for the better. For a country that has invaded two others after being attacked on September 11, Americans have surprising faith in the torpor and inertia which with countries will react if attacked by America.

The most sensible commentary I have read in a long time comes in a column by David Ignatius: he turns to Henry Kissinger for advice: “I asked Kissinger this week what lessons he would draw for the new U.S. engagement with Iran from his own diplomatic experience. Kissinger said he didn't want to give public advice to Rice, but he said that as a general proposition, the United States should seek to find common security interests with Iran -- stressing that a strong and prosperous Iran doesn't threaten the United States so long as the Iranians refrain from reckless and destabilizing actions.”

And this, in a nutshell, is the prime drawback of a foreign policy that makes democracy promotion its ultimate target and chief benchmark: such a policy often refuses to examine countries based on what they do—and the compatibility with American interests; treating a country by what it is, rather than what it does, is a poor basis for any relationship.

References:
Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard, “No, Don’t Blow It Up,” Washington Post, 23 Jun 06 (link); Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, “If Necessary, Strike and Destroy,” Washington Post, 23 Jun 06 (link); David Ignatius, “Talk Boldly With Iran,” Washington Post, 23 Jun 06 (link)

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