Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Two good posts from Rich Lowry in The Corner today, the first about the perfidity of the French, and how it is more related to their ambition than to their weakness, and the second about multilateralism, why it is still a good thing, but how it should be based on the NATO model rather than the UN model. I think both posts are right-on. Unfortunately, they refute one another.
Remember the purpose of NATO: keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down. Well, the Russians are down and the Germans are up, sort of, and the heartland of Euroland - France, Germany and the BeNeLux - wants America out. Whither NATO?
A defensive alliance, which is what NATO is, requires a common enemy, or at least a common objective. I've been arguing for some time that a successful strategy for collective security in Asia has got to involve the creation of a NATO-like structure for the Pacific, encompassing Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, hopefully Taiwan, maybe Thailand, one day Vietnam. Without such a structure, the dynamics of our bi-lateral alliances will become increasingly unstable, and that works to the benefit of China, whose central foreign policy goal is to drive America out of the Western Pacific. The crisis over North Korea is demonstrating in real-time just how bad our current architecture for collective security is. A NATO-like structure could deal much more persuasively with North Korea, could contain China, could deal with the potential future implosion of Indonesia, etc. far more so that our current system of bi-lateral alliances.
But what is happening instead is that NATO is collapsing, leaving our European relationships looking more like our Asian ones. Cast Britain as Australia, Turkey as Japan, and the European periphery as a collection of smaller Asian states and you'll see what I mean. (You can cast Germany as South Korea, I suppose. I'm not sure who that makes France. So sue me.) We've got strong relationships, based on interest and/or affinity, with a number of states. But we don't really have collective security, not anymore. So how can NATO be a model for a muscular multi-lateralism when NATO itself is falling apart?
The Administration's recent foreign policy bible - the one that caused such a stir about preemptive war and all that - was, in fact, over-the-top utopian in its multilateralism. The core assumption of the document was that the Great Powers have their fundamental interests in common, and hence can cooperate to manage problems from rogue states and non-state actors like terrorist groups. This assumption is wildly wrong. Not only do historically hostile Great Powers like China actively seek to weaken American power, but even putatively friendly and democratic powers like Franco-Germany see their interests as fundamentally conflicting with America's. This is a big problem - much bigger than the institutional fecklessness of the UN.