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