Thursday, December 12, 2002
David Frum has another excellent Diary, on two subjects: how expensive in policy terms it will be for the GOP to keep Lott as Majority Leader, and how America suffers because it does not appreciate its allies sufficiently. I've blogged on the latter topic before, in the context of a critique of an article about how to deal with North Korea. Here's the key bit (recycling my own stuff is so efficient!):
America has forgotten how to have allies. We have gotten used to thinking of our allies as dependencies, and this has corrupted our relations with them. The Left thinks they are dependencies, and is embarrassed, and so wants us to defer to them, restrain our power, subject ourselves to international institutions where one state has one vote regardless of the relative natures (free or unfree) or power (weak or strong) of the regimes in question. The Right thinks they are dependencies, and expects them to heel, and obey their master. These are both terribly wrong attitudes, and are getting us into more and more trouble.
We do not want weak allies. We want strong allies. Strong allies must be reckoned with in their own right; they cannot be counted on simply to follow our leader. Of course, we will aspire to remain by a fair margin the strongest among our allies as among our enemies. We shall seek to remain the dominant power. But we cannot defend all of our common interests that we share with our allies without our allies' active and vigorous support. Our position on Iraq is weaker than it might be because European nations - who are more threatened than we by the rise of radical Islam - are trying to avoid their responsibilities as they did in the Balkans. Our position on North Korea is weaker than it might be because Japan - who is more threatened than we by a nuclear armed lunatic in Pyongyang - prefers not to assert itself in its own defense, and leaves us seeming silly should we try to assert ourselves in their stead. We need allies who are strong and vigorous, who assert themselves against us some of the time even as they understand that their most important relationship is with the world's superpower, because allies who do not do this are unlikely to be useful to us when we need them.
Here's a good rule of thumb for public diplomacy: assume your audience is patriotic. Assume the Frenchmen you are trying to reach want to do what's best for France, the Germans for Germany, the Turks for Turkey. You're not going to reach someone fundamentally in the grip of ressentiment and anti-Americanism. You could win, or lose, support of geniune patriots. So address them as patriots, and as a patriot. Treat them with dignity and appreciation and with honesty - which doesn't mean adjusting your views of America's national interest in order to avoid ruffling their feathers, but does mean articulating America's national interest in a way that makes it clear that our interests are common. When Bush says that the terrorists have maps of Europe as well as of America, he's making a good and important point in the right way. Ditto when he says that if the U.N. does not enforce its binding resolutions, then it makes itself irrelevant. Couple points like that with appreciation for the genuine contribution of Canadians, Europeans, and others to our common war effort - not America's war, but a war of civilization against barbarism - and you've got a decent foundation for public diplomacy with respect to the war on terror.
Of course, public diplomacy needs to be backed up by substance. America needs to be willing to sacrifice some parochial interests for the sake of the larger common interest. We need Mexico's help in securing our Southern border. We need Canada's help in securing our Northern border. Those interests should have an impact on how forthcoming we are on issues that might divide us - for example, on Mexican trucks and Canadian lumber. We're playing a lot of politics with economic policy right now. Pity we're not playing diplomacy instead.