Unilateralism: The Unknown Ideal

So Spain is pulling out of Iraq, and Poland may be close behind. So what? What have Spain, Poland, or any of the other coalition countries besides the United States and United Kingdom done, anyway?

This may only be my inner chauvinist talking, but I doubt that Lithuania’s airspace or Tonga’s enthusiasm brought down the Ba’athists. The non-U.S./UK troop contribution to the war and occupation has been minimal (and please spare me any jive about Azerbaijani technical expertise). Hell, subtract even the Brits, and Saddam would still be a has-been. Let’s not hold back: America kicked ass. Not Spain. Not Poland. Not Kazakhstan. America. Woo hoo!

Why, then, have so many spit so much venom at Spain for withdrawing? Like a football coach blaming his losing season on the fourth-string punter, or a dictator flogging his conscripts for their lack of élan, our imperialists have shown themselves to be tacky and authoritarian. Noblesse oblige is apparently not among the values they plan to force on the Muslim world.

But one can understand their despair. They want to be unilateralist bad boys, they really, really do, but most of them just don’t have the brass for it. Put more gently, their imperialism must be multilateral, or else it loses all meaning. You’ll recall that George H.W. Bush spoke of the “New World Order,” not “America Uber Alles.” Oh sure, the jingoes at Free Republic delight in being ugly Americans; even highbrow warmongers sometimes indulge in such nostalgie de la boue, but they know better. That’s why America’s fights must be everyone else’s, why the values we export must not be merely American, but “universal.” Hence the hatred for Spain. Spanish voters stabbed several globalist fantasies in the back when they rejected a supposedly collective burden in Iraq and asserted their own national interests. Ironically, in so doing, the Spanish became what American jingoes only think we are – tough unilateralists who beg no one’s consent to defend themselves.

Of course, the poor dumb jingoes who still believe the war on Iraq was self-defense must wonder why the White House never stops yapping about multilateralism. If Iraq attacked us or was about to, who cares what Kofi Annan thinks we should have done? My approach to self-defense is likely pretty close to that of the average Bush voter: if someone breaks in my house, I’m not going to dial 911 – at least not until after I’ve shot the intruder. It may offend my liberal readers (and Tony Blair), but I plan to be standing when the police arrive to bag evidence. Similarly, though the conquest and occupation of Afghanistan made no sense, tracking down bin Laden is perfectly justified. As Justin Raimondo wrote shortly after September 11, “Kill ’em – and get out.” The aggressive nature of the war on Iraq, however, has led to a policy of “Kill, die, and stay forever.”

Unfortunately, this multi vs. uni blather threatens to become the foreign-policy debate of the campaign, and it’s utterly beside the point. For what does it matter whether one behaves badly with allies or alone? Are gangs morally superior to loners? In fact, a peaceful foreign policy is inherently unilateralist, avoiding those entangling alliances the Founders warned us against. So stop using the u-word pejoratively.