The debate over the Iraq War that was held in the United Nations, and in academic and foreign policy circles, could be broken down to the question whether it was Iraq or the United States that was the rogue nation. On the one hand, Iraq had defied multiple UN resolutions, but so had the United States. Iraq had gone rogue, but, by talking about a unilateral invasion, so had the United States, and, in the moral calculus of the international community, all that mattered was being a team player.
The Iran debate is a resumption of the same old argument. Is Israel or Iran the rogue state? Both have defied the United Nations, which apart from any of the moral issues, makes them rogue states. If the only value that matters is cooperation within the international community, then Iran and Israel are on the same level.
Every now and then we wonder why we can’t win wars anymore. The answer is that we don’t fight wars, we fight endless police actions in the name of stability. Nearly every war we fought in the last hundred years was about stabilizing a region in an endless game of domino theory. Most of the wars were morally right, not so much because we fought them for the right reasons or in the right ways, but because our enemies were genuine monsters.
Our defense plan and foreign policy for generations has depended on maintaining an international order that would provide for common defense and common markets, and that most of all would allow for international stability. Stability has been the absolute good, instability the absolute enemy. It’s not right or wrong that we care about, but the regional stability that maintains stable markets and keeps us from having to send peacekeeping forces to another hellhole.
This is the Pax Americana. This is why we did something about Iraq and Libya, countries out of step with the Arab League. It is why we will almost certainly bomb Syria and why we pressure Israel. It is also why we have done nothing about a genuine genocide in Sudan, whose regime has the support of the Arab League. It is why we will keep on pushing Taiwan into China’s embrace, while trying to checkmate China’s expansionism. It is why we will keep putting money and troops behind the United Nations.
United States governments have lost the ability to think of national rights and interests, apart from the international order. The two have become one and the same. It is presumed that what is good for the international community is good for America, even when that clearly is not the case, because it is presumed that the infrastructure of international law and stability is an overall good.
The United Nations was not simply inept, like the League of Nations, it was a relic of another age even as its delegates trooped into the modern glass and steel building on Turtle Bay. It had been built to counter the wrong threat. The problem no longer lay with rogue industrialized nations on a conquering spree, but with an international ideology determined to subjugate civilization with its own worldwide alliance.
American power and wealth made the international order possible, but aside from the Korean War, it proved to be of very little use against Communism, which simply infiltrated it and took it over. The international order was a dream of Western liberals, and their sympathies inevitably lay with the barbarians at the gate, not with the civilization within. Their dream of inclusiveness filled the UN with legions of Third World dictatorships, giving us a choice between allying with monsters or letting the Soviet Union ally with them.
The same story is repeating itself with Islam, except we didn’t spend the Cold War pretending that the Warsaw Pact were our allies, while our enemies were a handful of Communist terrorists who needed more moderate influence from the Mecca of Moscow. We bombed countries to overthrow Communist dictatorships, we did not bomb them to install “moderate” Communist dictatorships– as we keep doing now.
The international order was useless against Communism, it is even more useless against Islam, which is not a rogue state acting outside the body of international law, but nations and non-state actors bound together by a common religion with the aim of subjugating those it considers inferior. The international community cannot do anything about Islam, because Islam is a sizable part of the international community. Nor does the international community want to do something about Islam.