baseball, poetry, and kim chi

Monday, January 01, 2007

The United States is often accused of acting unilaterally, and, in turn, is called to return to multilateral actions. In this extremly short post, I will assume that the United States is acting unilaterally (not because I necessarily agree with the statement, but because I don't feel like arguing that point right now).

The United States is being asked to return to its multilateral ways. I have seen it said that the reason the United States is acting unilaterally is because there is no other superpower. So, there might be a call to return to the cold war days of multilateral workings. I understand this call, and sympathize with it. However, I don't know that it is a fair offer.

The USSR was aware that an attack on Paris was the same as an attack on Seoul or Los Angles. All countries would respond with full force. All would back the other. They shared a similar interest.

Today we see North Korea making weapons. No one wants this. However, people want it less in degrees. Seoul is not threatened by these weapons. The traditional weapons aimed at her could do the trick. Seoul could be destroyed today just as she could have been destroyed ten years ago.

So, nuclear weapons do not change the way Seoul essentially feels. What Seoul does not want (justifiably so) is to provoke a war. Each country must look out for the interests of its citizens. Seoul and Beijing are not going to do much to stop the shipment of North Korean goods. Will not do much to inspect suspicious cargo.

For arguments sake, let's say that there are bombs in a ship. Where is this ship going to go? Where is the first target going to be? I doubt, just as France does, that it would be Paris. I would imagine, in the hands of North Korean agents, or, much more likely, in the hands of actors without a state, that they would end in the USA. Because of this fact, Paris is not as concerned. They are not as concerned about North Korea. They are not as concerned about Iran. Same argument goes for other European states as well as the EU. They are not going to be the ones directly hit. Trade, for them, is more important.

So this gets us back to multilateral vs unilateral. I do not believe it fair to ask the USA to act multilaterally until all counties involved see the threat in the same light as they used to. A bomb in New York must be just as upsetting to the French as a bomb in Paris. Until that is the case, the USA, in cases of security, should not be expected to act multilaterally.


Anonymous Sean Mac said...

Jim, I'm glad you brought this up, it's a good conversation to be having, and there's sense to your argument where the various invested interests of individual countries affect their foreign policies; but I know you're not so naive to think that the risk of attack against ones country is the only factor (although probably a major one) they weigh in these matters. And to say in so many words that we stepped to the plate when Paris was attacked is a misnomer, I specifically remember a period of US history called "isolationism". Except for the total pacifists no one really complained about the US going into Afghanistan, and had we found a real connection to Iraq few would have probably complained about our actions there as well. We have the right to protect ourselves but particularly not in such a brute manner supported with false pretenses. It's true that a change must occur in the world, we should not tolerate the oppression of human rights, but the fact remains that we have a difficult time maintaining them in The States. When you mention the recent article about Koreans working abroad in the name of patriotism and the juxtaposition between the answers you get with the ones in the article, it occurs to me that the reason is you're an educator working in an education system therefor you're going to get educated answers.

10:26 AM

Blogger JWG said...

Hi Sean,

first, I am that naive. Don't underestimate me. But toward the topic. I was not very clear. I am talking about during the cold war. France developed/borrowed the bomb bc they were not sure where the usa stood (this was not during the time of "isolationism"). No country wants to be dependent on another for security. Every country, in the pinch, wants to be able to act unilaterally. And of course, there are plenty of reasons a country acts unilaterally. I am only arguing that if a country feels threatened, it should not have to wait for others (who have other priorities) to agree with them. At what point is it ok to do a preemptive strike? How certain do you have to be that there is a threat? I am not sure how to measure these things. I am not sure when it is just to go, only saying that at times it is just. If you are certain (what does that mean) that you are going to be hit in a month or so, it is better to hit them first, before they can strike. When you are in that position, you should not have to wait for others, who have an economic and political interest in you not striking, to say OK.

And in this note I am not taling about Iraq (though, was that a unilateral action?). I am just talking about the right to unilateralism in general.

7:34 PM

Blogger JWG said...

Oh, and the article about the students abroad, the writer was just full of it. He had a point to make so he used that example. I've never even heard a Korean call Korea his "motherland". It was just a stupid article by a professor at a top university here now spreading this junk at a top uni in the states.

9:14 PM

Anonymous Sean Mac said...

Jim, I was thinking about you last night, actually remembering how great the energy is you bring to a room. It's missed.

So, no Iraq was not a unilateral action, but it wasn't and isn't supported with great verve from more than a few.

One point to make is that some countries are dependent on others for protecting them, and some of them no one steps in for them.

As for preemptive strikes, I'm of the opinion that this should never happen, to make a possibly oversimplified example, when you walk down the street and see an approaching dark and brooding hooded fellow who is minding his own business, but somehow he gives you the chills and you get scared, you don't punch this guy in the face to protect yourself. You grin and bear it until he either jumps you or you just pass on by.

Hope you're well bro. much love.

11:57 AM

Blogger JWG said...

Again, this is where you decide. If I see a guy coming up to me in a threatening manner, and I can tell he has intentions (and sometimes you can just tell. Ask the bartender in Boulder), then I hit him before he hits me. Good way to lose a fight if you let them hit you first.

Now that we have Pirooz all signed up out here in Seoul, time to start working on you. Seoul needs the Green Appeal.

8:17 PM

Anonymous sean mac said...

I will ask the bartender and he'll say you threw your drink on him, just like I threw my drink on the bouncer. As I remember it, they made short work of us.

9:24 AM


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