Bush Is No Cowboy: But If He Were, It Wouldn’t Matter (Jonathan Rauch, Nov. 3, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Bush is not going it alone. He is setting his agenda and then looking for support, rather than the other way around. That is what presidents and countries typically do. It is certainly what France does — and how. France’s intransigence on farm subsidies has been the single greatest impediment to progress at the World Trade Organization. France’s determination to set up an independent European military-planning center risks splitting NATO. France’s refusal to comply with the European Union’s fiscal rules may result in the rules’ collapse. France freely uses its E.U. clout to bully dissenting European countries. It does not shrink from calling on them to “shut up.” It did not shrink from announcing it would unilaterally veto any Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Iraq, “whatever the circumstances.” This is not exactly team playing, although critics of American unilateralism rarely see fit to mention it.
America, a stronger country than France, should behave more responsibly, and does. The root problem, however, is substance, not style. The problem is that much of the world resents America’s dominance and disagrees with many of Bush’s policies, especially the Iraq war.
The reality of American dominance is not about to change, and few Americans would favor changing it. Signing up for the International Criminal Court and other global ventures is no answer, because America would still be at odds with other member countries over the goals such organizations would pursue — witness the U.N. and the WTO, among others. People who say that Bush should tie the United States into a web of stabilizing alliances and global organizations, as Presidents Roosevelt and Truman did, miss the point. The old alliances worked not because they were multilateral but because of the West’s common interest in resisting Communism. That common interest is gone.
The only way to placate today’s angry Europeans is to change the ends, not just the means, of U.S. foreign policy. And the only way to have avoided the trans-Atlantic falling-out over Iraq would have been for Bush to condition America’s use of force upon the approval of the Security Council (read: France). No responsible American president, of either party, would have done that.
We might render “the means” as exclusively a concern for the sovereignty of any action–the technical right to do something–and “the end” as concern about the legitimacy–the question of whether the action is morally right. Transnationalists, like the Europeans, don’t particularly care about morality, only about whether you’ve been given permission to exercise power. In effect, the means justify any and every end. That must be intolerable to Americans.
In what must be regarded as the one tragic aspect of his otherwise brilliant papacy, John Paul II has aligned himself with the means crowd, What the War Revealed (David Quinn, September 2003, Crisis):
If anti-Americanism was one source of Catholic opposition to the war, and doubts about its justness another, there was a third that was overlooked by most observers: Vatican foreign policy. In the diplomatic battle that has raged ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall between multilateralists and unilateralists, the Vatican has placed itself firmly on the side of the multilateralists.
The extent to which the Church has done this was well demonstrated by the pope’s latest annual message for World Peace Day. In his message, the pope commented on John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), which had been released 40 years before.
He noted that since then, “the world has become more free, structures of dialogue and cooperation between nations have been strengthened, and the threat of a global nuclear war—which weighed so heavily on Pope John XXIII—has been effectively contained.”
Then he turned his attention to the negative side of the ledger. “There remains a serious disorder in world affairs, and we must face the question: What kind of order can replace this disorder so that men and women can live in freedom, justice, and security?”
Part of the answer, he suggested, lay in nothing less than a new “constitutional organization in the human family.” The pope didn’t explain what he meant by this seemingly radical proposal, but he made clear that he didn’t have in mind some kind of global superstate. Rather, his “constitutional organization” would “strengthen processes already in place to meet the almost universal demand for participatory ways of exercising political authority and for transparency and accountability at every level of public life.” At face value, this call seems unobjectionable enough…like the spread of democratic forms of governance throughout the world. This, of course, is exactly what the United States is working toward.
But the pope’s reference to an “international political authority” is telling. […]
Why this attitude? Surely it cannot be for moral reasons. There’s nothing in the doctrinal or moral teachings of the Church that requires faithful Catholics to sign up for the multilateralist agenda. Therefore, its reasons must be prudential. Evidently, the Vatican believes that it will better promote international peace and order if nations take actions that affect the world at large only after first seeking the permission of organizations like the UN.
This elevation of order, peace, and multilateralism above the moral question of what was being done to the people of Iraq is such a drastic departure from his usual concentration on the inviolable dignity of the human being that one wonders what the Pope can have been thinking.