Battlepanda: Quote of the Day


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Quote of the Day

(Posted by John.)

Matthew Yglesias:
To me, though, the last best chance to avoid war with Iran would be to not start a war with Iran. This thing about responding to Iranian peace overtures would be nice, but I think it's impossible to overstate the role that not starting a war with Iran plays in the Yglesias War-Avoidance Plan. Basically, if we don't start a war with Iran there . . . won't be a war with Iran.
Same guy, earlier:
"...Timothy Garton Ash's chilling tale of Iranian retaliation after a hypothetical US/UK military strike on Iran ends on a puzzling note: "But Dr Patrick Smith of the Washington-based Committee for a Better World, which had long advocated bombing Iran, demanded of the critics: 'What was your alternative?'"

My alternative would be, you know, not bombing Iran.
While I think this is an excellent argument, it presumes that American leadership is capable of backing down from a war. I've seen no evidence of this. Even hawkish Democrats seem to accept the idea that it's a sign of weakness not to at least threaten a (thus far) nuclear-unarmed country with nuclear warfare.

Far too many American leaders (sadly, of both parties) have misdiagnosed the symptoms of American power. America's preponderance of military power has led them to believe that might in fact makes right, and that defiance of Washington's demands is by definition suspicious activity. For the Liebermans and Bidens of the world, this means that America gets to act as policeman. This is so, even when those demands and the rights of nations under international law conflict.

Of course, Weber's classical definition of the state was that it had the monopoly on legitimate violence. This is something that no nation-state has. Especially when a nation attacks another nation that has not, as yet, violated the non-proliferation treaty.

(Yes, the NPT has a number of problems, some of which I mentioned here. Whatever else they do, Iran hasn't breached it yet.)

Nobody denies the obvious: America's strength gives it the ability to deal out punishment. However, America does not have the moral authority that real police have. Their authority comes from the state. When America acts without the international community, American authority (lacking an international state to give it legitimacy) comes from simply being the fastest draw in the west. This doesn't make the US the world's policeman, or even the world's sheriff. At best, it makes the US military the worlds vigilante. At worst, the world's outlaw.