Friday, 4 October 2013

Prestige matters. People are going to die while the US plays Pals with World Bullies.

Contra Obama, style points DO matter.  "Prestige and Power in Statecraft" is a sober little write up from Bruce Thornton.  The schoolyard bullies are taking over and there will be hell to pay.    Thucydides is quoted saying that fear, honour and interest govern international relations.  Only the third is remotely objective.

"History teaches us that nations must always respond vigorously to an enemy’s challenge, a lesson the U.S. should remember in Syria.
President Obama, responding to widespread criticisms that his handling of the Syrian chemical weapons crisis was clumsy and ad hoc, said, “I’m less concerned about style points, I’m much more concerned about getting the policy right.” For the president and many politicians in both parties, problems, whether domestic or foreign, are about policy solutions; perceptions of the policy or its implementation, what Obama calls “style,” are irrelevant. As he said about Syria, “The chemical weapons issue is a problem. I want that problem dealt with.”
This idea that foreign policy crises are about finding and applying the right objective formula in order to solve problems, just as one does in engineering or mathematics, is a peculiarly modern prejudice. For most of history, those who thought about the rivalries and conflicts among great powers knew that the subjective perceptions that states and leaders develop about one another, and the prestige they granted or refused, rational or not, are critically important factors in the relations among states and must be taken into account during a crisis. And the most important perception that creates prestige is of a state’s power and willingness to use it."
The link is to Bruce Thornton's 1500 word essay at the Hoover Institute.
h/t Instapundit.

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