Along the Tracks

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

In the national interest

The international squabble over Iraq isn’t lacking in moral foundations, but those moral foundations have more to do with national goals than universal human rights.

The French have their own interests. The Germans have their own interests. The Russians have their own interests. That is all true.

What’s not often said is the British have their own interests. The Spanish have their own interests. The Italians have their own interests. Each country, whether aligned with the U.S. or opposed to it, has its own interests in mind as it considers the question of Iraq. Each must weigh short- and long-term outcomes in deciding that, yes, military force is justified against Baghdad and deserves international sanction or, no, a war is not necessary and sanctioning it would cause future problems for the country debating the choices.

That is such an important point, and constantly overlooked. France may very well find chronic U.S. difficulties with Saddam are in France’s interests, and therefore seek to extend those troubles. Ditto for other outspoken opponents of war - most notably, Syria, Iran, Libya and other international renegades. North Korea also comes to mind.

Right now, representatives on the U.N. Security Council are balancing their own countries’ interests in deciding whether it is better to have America “looking over its shoulder” at Iraq or to have a regional and potentially world threat eliminated.

In fact, leaks of the discussions indicate the Bush administration is putting the decision more sharply into international terms. “War is inevitable” they are telling the diplomats, so the choice is really whether a) to set a precedent of international sanction of force as the final response to a dangerous, unrepentant rogue state or b) to withhold the legitimacy international sanction would bring, and leave decisions on military responses to perceived threats entirely to each individual nation.

Which future, each must ask, is in our own national interest?

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