Friday, March 7, 2014

19th-century behavior in the 21st century

Charles Krauthammer has a op-ed in the post recently in which he criticizes the Obama administration for, among other things, calling Putin's behavior "19th-century behavior in the 21st century" and  saying that “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” Now, I'm surprised anyone would disagree with this, but CK manages to find a way.
This must mean that seeking national power, territory, dominion — the driving impulse of nations since Thucydides — is obsolete. As if a calendar change caused a revolution in human nature that transformed the international arena from a Hobbesian struggle for power into a gentleman’s club where violations of territorial integrity just don’t happen.
And on the claim that nations should not try to dominate one another he asks "on what planet." Answer: this one.

What CK seems to be ignoring is that we fought a pair of World Wars in the 20th Century - mostly against the seeking of national power, territory and dominion - and we decided not to allow that any more. Whereas in the past, a country could invade another and annex part of it and much of the world shrugged it off; since World War II we have been more likely to oppose that. Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan (Soviet invasion), West Berlin, South Ossetia etc... the world has - sometimes with war and sometimes with actions short of that - stood up to oppose that. We've been better at opposing that than we have been at stopping genocide. In fact, I can't think of a time that another country has successfully invaded and annexed foreign territory since the end of World War II. [Caveat: You could count the invasion of South Vietnam by North Vietnam and their eventual reunification as such an event. But since everyone in the world was agreed that reunification was something that should eventually happen, it's not quite the same. South Vietnam was not 100% foreign territory.]

And part of that is because very few countries have tried. Other than the Soviets/Russians, none of the major world powers have tried. None of the G-7 countries. So, yeah, on this planet, for the last 70 years, this kind of behavior has not been done by G-8, major-nations and when it has, it has been opposed by the international community.

Interestingly, the statement that CK is upset about it almost an exact quote of President George W. Bush when Russian troops went into Georgia "Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century" he said. His response to that invasion was less severe than Obama's has been so far. It consisted almost entirely of humanitarian aid.