Beware of Meek Multilateralist America Bearing Gifts, or, the Spirit of Raymond Aron

by Kenneth Anderson

I have no idea whether this report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz is accurate:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama’s positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel’s government. 

Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate’s stance on Iran as “utterly immature” and comprised of “formulations empty of all content.”

Accurate or not, the sentiment attributed to Sarkozy reminds us that, as one French friend reminded me a few months ago, beneath the surface, the spirit of Raymond Aron is alive and well in France.  That spirit is Atlanticist and coolly realistic.  What it says is … beware of the moment when the Americans finally become meek multilateralists, bearing gifts of group processes and decisions, of communion with the community of nations, and appear to be setting aside their interests or, worse, humbly declare that they have heard the world community and at last accept the cosmopolitan call and recognize that American interests can really only be those of the rest of the world – as the rest of the world defines them.  Be very afraid.  Meek American multilateralism is really a signal that the United States has given up on the game.  Far preferable is a United States that robustly, brusquely, even rudely asserts its interests and cavalierly assumes that the rest of its allies and enough, at least, of their core interests will be carried in train: only then will one know for what the Americans are willing to expend blood and treasure, and whether it includes … France.  (I paraphrase my friend in a view that I have admittedly adopted as my own (updated).)

For a lovely short introduction to Aron’s Atlanticist thought, see this Bradley Lecture at AEI in 2005 by Financial Times columnist Christopher Caldwell.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/10/29/beware-of-meek-multilateralist-america-bearing-gifts-or-the-spirit-of-raymond-aron/

One Response

  1. I highly doubt the truth of that account.

    Also, why should we take anyone seriously who has such an impoverished understanding of diplomacy? It’s a complete nonsense to regard speaking to one’s enemies as entailing automatic zero-sum loss concessions.

    Diplomacy between two parties can offer anything from a completely neutral effect to positive sum gains – whether they are enemies or allies. Sad to see an international law scholar indulging such a ridiculous view, utterly rejected by realpolik hawks and cosmpolotian doves alike.

    Also, filling a post with a bunch of strawman buzzwords isn’t impressing anyone. Your trite false dilemma between world government and pugnacious, exceptionally-enforced normative triumphalism is pretty old hat. But feel free to get back on your high-horse professor; your deliberate condescension to the liberal intelligentsia certainly isn’t a blatantly obvious case of transference.

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