Wednesday, January 29, 2003[posted by jaed at 8:58 PM]
Multilateralism as a moral imperative
Another "coming into focus" moment, provoked by this week's Stratfor email freebie analysis [side note: is it just me, or is Stratfor getting good again?]. The email analyzes the reasons for European attachment to multilateralism:
Multilateralism -- the creation of multinational institutions and a multinational mode of thought -- is the Europeans' response to their history. It has become a moral category. The United States, however, has a very different history and a very different set of fears. The United States has no historical reason for fearing its own nationalism, but it does have reason to fear inaction.
There is an ethical imperative here. The view is that nationalism is the problem that drove the world to catastrophe in two world wars -- and that multinational organizations are more than simply useful contrivances that serve the interests of various nations; they are moral enterprises whose very existence helps save the world from conflict.
For European leaders, multilateralism is a moral category, designed to restrain the brutal consequences of nationalism.
Interesting. As an American, I tend to view European cries of "unilateralism! Bad! Bad!" as simple whines to the effect of "You're disobeying us!" (Especially when the US has plenty of allies and friends - just not the ones screaming "Unilateralism!") The complaint comes across as both hypocritical and self-interested. But if "multilateralism" means, not "paying attention to the needs of other countries, especially friends" - which is how Americans tend to interpret it - and instead means something like "submitting one's country to institutions that were designed to prevent another lethal outbreak of European triumphalist nationalism", it makes more sense.
(Still not much sense, mind. I somehow don't see the US wanting an empire. But the concept that Europeans are seeing the ghosts of their past in the US unwillingness to be tied down by the UN - it ties together much European reaction for me, from the complaints about "unilateralism" to Pilger's bizarre complaint that the US is actually Nazi Germany.)