Saturday, July 17, 2010

Walter Russell Mead on Obama and Westphalia:
This relative indifference to realist concerns does not make President Obama indifferent to global affairs. Far from it. As laid out in the 2010 National Security Strategy and as President Obama has made clear on many occasions, the United States has a president with a vision for the kind of world he wants to build, and as he made plain in his Oslo Nobel speech, there are things for which he is willing to fight. As columnist Phillip Stevens writes in that excellent newspaper the Financial Times, Strobe Talbott recently gave a speech in the UK that described President Obama’s Wilsonian vision very well...

The consequences of the Iranian nuclear drive for the President’s Wilsonian project are deadly; the Iranian nuclear program can fairly be called an existential threat to the Wilsonian ideal. In particular a nuclear Iran will kill the two dreams at the heart of President Obama’s foreign policy and indeed of his view of the world: the dream that the genie of nuclear weapons can be forced back into the bottle and the dream that the nations of the world can build a post-Westphalian international order in which the world’s governments are bound by deepening networks of laws.

This is something I'm a little less convinced about:
[If Iran gets the bomb,] nobody will pay attention to UN sanctions and other huffings and puffings of an equally vain kind. The birds will have figured out that the scarecrow can’t move; they will perch on its broomstick and poop on its head.

It gets worse. The collapse of nonproliferation will mark the definitive death of the post-World War Two legal regime, just as the League of Nation’s failure to protect Ethiopia from Italy brought an end to the interwar fling with a law-based world...

If Iran gets the bomb, the world will change in ways that are deeply destructive of everything President Obama cares about.

The question is, will it truly change Obama? Or will he shift to a far more realist stance, which is the conventional wisdom? Will the international left just indulge in a round of communal cognitive dissonance, setting up treaties believing that the right thinking people will follow them, and just ignoring the consequences of the rest? If the world is bound for a true clash of civilizations, between East and West, which I don't want to believe it is, this latter course of action is a frightening thought.
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