The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Soft Power

The Brits, and the EU in general, continue to insist that the application of “soft power” will convince the Iranian thugs to release the kidnapped British navy personal. It may very well work, but only after the British grovel sufficiently. Even if the kidnapped Brits are released, it’s worth considering the results, not just the release itself. The Iranians can reinforce their belief that they can act illegally and with abandon, and will suffer no consequences other than statements of ‘concern’ by the UN, and being jawboned “bilaterally” by the offended party. They now recognize that the Euros no longer have the will or the means to stand up for themselves and that the US is moving in the same direction.

Victor Davis Hanson comments on this new normal:
There are reasons along more existential lines for why Iran acts so boldly. After the end of the Cold War, most Western nations — i.e., Europe and Canada — cut their military forces to such an extent that they were essentially disarmed. The new faith was that, after a horrific twentieth century, Europeans and the West in general had finally evolved beyond the need for war.

With the demise of fascism, Nazism, and Soviet Communism, and in the new luxury of peace, the West found itself a collective desire to save money that could be better spent on entitlements, to create some distance from the United States, and to enhance international talking clubs in which mellifluent Europeans might outpoint less sophisticated others. And so three post-Cold War myths arose justify these.

First, that the past carnage had been due to misunderstanding rather than the failure of military preparedness to deter evil.

Second, that the foundations of the new house of European straw would be “soft” power. Economic leverage and political hectoring would deter mixed-up or misunderstood nations or groups from using violence. Multilateral institutions — the World Court or the United Nations — might soon make aircraft carriers and tanks superfluous.

All this was predicated on dealing with logical nations — not those countries so wretched as to have nothing left to lose, or so spiteful as to be willing to lose much in order to hurt others a little, or so crazy as to welcome the “end of days.” This has proved an unwarranted assumption. And with the Middle East flush with petrodollars, non-European militaries have bought better and more plentiful weaponry than that which is possessed by the very Western nations that invented and produced those weapons.

Third, that in the 21st century there would be no serious enemies on the world stage. Any violence that would break out would probably be due instead to either American or Israeli imperial, preemptive aggression — and both nations could be ostracized or humiliated by European shunning and moral censure. The more Europeans could appear to the world as demonizing, even restraining, Washington and Tel Aviv, the more credibility abroad would accrue to their notion of multilateral diplomacy.

But even the European Union could not quite change human nature, and thus could not outlaw the entirely human business of war. There were older laws at play — laws so much more deeply rooted than the latest generation’s faddish notions of conflict resolution. Like Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance, which would work only against the liberal British, and never against a Hitler or a Stalin, so too the Europeans’ moral posturing seemed to affect only the Americans, who singularly valued the respect of such civilized moralists.

But no worries. The new US Congress now subscribes, I think, to the European model – soft power. Talk with your enemies a la Nancy Pelosi and the Syrians. And as an aside, demonize your own country, a la many in the Congress, just be sure that the world understands that there are many in the US who are on a different and significantly elevated moral plain. That’ll matter a lot to the Islamists.

And when the Islamofascists act with aggression, don’t blame them or do so softly, looking for a Western imperialist scapegoat as the catalyst for their actions. If they demand elements of Sharia law for taxi drivers (who won’t accommodate help dogs for blind people), in schools (where in the UK they’ve stopped teaching about the Holocaust), and in the courts (full face covering), be very, very tolerant. If they behead a journalist, look the other way. If they bomb a school, a church, or a synagogue, talk about the “oppression” they experience. And for larger matters such as WMD, criticize those who worry or try to preempt for their “hysteria.” After all, there is no threat, or at least, no threat that can’t be defused by “soft power.”