Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Readers - please comment on this idea.
Let's suppose Bush made a mess of our diplomatic relations - so what?

Slate is now having a debate over the war between several liberals who supported it. One point that is coming up repeatedly is that whatever the merits of removing Saddam, Bush has handled this clumsily and alienated our allies. My question is if that is necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps an ally needs to be alienated once in a while to stay honest within the relationship.

This is an idea that is still forming in my head, but basically it goes like this - Countries that always seek to make their allies happy in the end become viewed as pushovers at the negotiation table. There is a sense that I have, whether accurate or not, that this was the view of America before Bush came to office. Then Bush takes a hardline on many sensitive issues - Missile Defense, Kyoto, Steel Tariffs, farm subsidies, and finally the Iraq war. He was willing to defy for better or worse "world opinion" and take the domestic/international heat that came with it.

What is the effect of this? Well, it for sure pissed our allies off. But there is an additional effect - it increases the leverage of a future administration at the negotiation table. If an American President says she will do something in the future, other nations will have a diminished opinion of their ability to apply the international pressure/domestic heat card than they would have otherwise had. With more leverage, this future president could have more room to manuver - she'll be taken more seriously.

Those that read this page please let me know what you think of this idea - like I said, it is just forming in my head.

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