November 19, 2004

The Unipolar Predicament

More from Robert Kagan on the US/Europe divide, with an emphasis on "the genuinely elusive and malleable concept" of legitimacy:

Discovering where legitimacy lies at any given moment in history is an art, not a science reducible to the reading of international legal documents. That is a serious challenge for the modern liberalism that animates the United States and Europe alike. Recent crises such as those in Kosovo and Iraq have shown that the search for legitimacy creates a fundamental dilemma for liberalism and liberal internationalism.

The problem is that the modern liberal vision of progress in international affairs has always been bifocal. On the one hand, liberalism has entertained since the Enlightenment a vision of world peace based on an ever-strengthening international legal system. The success of such a system rests on the recognition that all nations, big or small, democratic or tyrannical, humane or barbarous, are equal sovereign entities. On the other hand, modern liberalism cherishes the rights and liberties of the individual and defines progress as the greater protection of these rights and liberties across the globe. In the absence of a sudden global democratic and liberal transformation, that goal can be achieved only by compelling tyrannical or barbarous regimes to behave more humanely, sometimes through force.

Posted by Dr. Frank at November 19, 2004 02:40 PM | TrackBack

Mwahaha..."bifocal"...nice choice of words.

Ain't no glasses involved, Dr. Frank, it's Blind Man's Bluff.

Posted by: JB at November 19, 2004 07:58 PM
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