Tuesday, November 16, 2004

# Posted 2:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

OUR GLORIOUS HISTORY OF MULTILATERALISM: Over at YFP, Gene Vilensky deconstructs an anti-Bush, pro-UN broadside by Robert Tucker and David Hendrickson, a pair of realist historians. While it is one thing to imagine the Clinton years as a utopian multilateral interlude in the history of American foreign relations, it is amazing to see professional scholars pretend that
Throughout its history, the United States has made gaining international legitimacy a top priority of its foreign policy. The 18 months since the launch of the Iraq war, however, have left the country's hard-earned respect and credibility in tatters. In going to war without a legal basis or the backing of traditional U.S. allies, the Bush administration brazenly undermined Washington's long-held commitment to international law, its acceptance of consensual decision-making, its reputation for moderation, and its identification with the preservation of peace.
Hello? Vietnam? The Contra war? CIA coups in Guatemala, Chile and Iran? The invasions of Panama, Grenada and the Dominican Republic? Even Jimmy Carter got in trouble with the French and Germans for provoking the Soviets by talking about human rights!

My point here is not that the United States' long history of unilateralist behavior provides a justification for anything that George Bush has done. Rather, the point is that apocalyptic predictions about the breakdown of US-European relations have been standard fare for the last sixty years. These predictions crops up every decades or so and they are always wrong.

Why? Because what unites us with Europe is far more important than what divides us. Our democratic values coincide even if we have very different ideas about how to apply them to the world. When transatlantic relations go bad, strong voices on both sides of the ocean demand reconciliation.

That is the ultimate irony of Tucker and Hendrickson's argument. Their heightened fears of a permanent breakdown are what have brought the United States and Europe back together after each of our confrontations.
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