Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 16, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

U.S. UNILATERALISM....As a followup to the previous post, Matt Yglesias remarks today on just one of the potential problems of U.S. unilateralism. Responding to Condoleezza Rice's assertion that other countries should be helping out more with North Korea, he says:

It's worth noting that this sort of free rider problem is the flipside of American unilateralism. When other countries know that whatever the problem, America will solve it in America's preferred way, with or without the help of others, no one really has a reason to offer their help. At some point the US is going to have to decide whether the sort of unconstrained freedom we currently enjoy is worth constantly being left to stand alone.

This is a good point. When we repeatedly tell the UN that it is irrelevant unless it rubber stamps our goals, we send a clear message that advice and help from the rest of the world is unneeded and unwanted. But unfortunately, that's not a message we can turn on and off at will.

The difference between Iraq and North Korea is pretty obvious: we can handle Iraq on our own but we can't do the same with North Korea. So the lesson to our allies is this: if it's an easy problem you should all step aside and let us handle it however we want. But if it's a hard problem, we should all join together and figure out what to do.

Nice work if you can get it. But I suspect that Bush's hawks will eventually learn that in the real world even the United States needs willing allies, not merely sullen layabouts who are occasionally bribed to support us or bullied into standing aside. The only question is, how long will it take them?

Kevin Drum 10:54 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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