Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, November 21, 2004
According to some media reports, the message Robert Kagan brought to his Australian audience was that US foreign policy could not be legitimate without the prior endorsement by others of its actions. In fact Kagan was saying something much more intelligent.

Those who criticised the US and its coalition partners over the liberation of Iraq were not the apostles of civilised international cooperation, according to Kagan. They were partisans.
From the perspective of Berlin and Paris , the United States was unilateralist because no European power had any real influence over it. From this perspective, even with a hundred nations and three-quarters of Europe on its side, the United States might still have lacked legitimacy. Today's debate over multilateralism and legitimacy is thus not only about principles of law, or even about the supreme authority of the UN; it is also about a transatlantic struggle for influence. It is Europe 's response to the unipolar predicament.
For that conclusion the evidence is overwhelming, and Kagan sums it up nicely.

Instead of proclaiming 'it won't happen to us until after it has happened to you', or the functional pacifism that now dominates the popular mind in much of Europe, it seems more credible to the Europeans to create a new doctrine, however shallow. Better a false hope of a separate international role than no hope at all, at least as far as Chirac and Schroeder are concerned.

The problem is that those who see themselves as the dominant powers in Europe have convinced themselves that the threats posed by Islamist and other forms of terrorism, supported by rogue states, are less urgent than the US knows them to be.

Kagan's other point, the one the local media found more to their taste, was this:
There are indeed sound reasons for the United States to seek European approval. But they are unrelated to international law, the authority of the Security Council, and the as-yet nonexistent fabric of the international order. Europe matters because it and the United States form the heart of the liberal, democratic world.
Or does it? The position adopted by China in relation to the rogue sponsors of terrorism shows that there is another way.

Of the 'axis of evil' states, China already sponsors the North Koreans, more out of necessity, perhaps, than any greater self-interest. Now China makes it clear that its Security Council vote is at the disposal of two of its sources of oil, the Sudan and Iran, so gazumping the transparent devices through which the Europeans have promised both countries a free 'multilateral' pass for their vicious behaviour. Who knows how many winks and nods all of these connivings have involved, providing the Islamists with further encouragement to focus their assaults on the Great Satan.

It seems highly implausible that Europe now has the stomach to resist with sufficient vigour the assaults of its domestic Islamists. What rogue states have to offer, apart from resources, is their financial leverage with the mendicant jihadis.

Kagan should think again about just how deeply liberal democratic principles have been established on the continent of Europe. The communards at Auntie ABC think Kagan a raving neocon. In truth he sounds to me more like a Pollyanna optimist.