Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I hear a lot that America needs international support for its upcoming attack on Iraq, that to proceed without such support will jeopardize so much else - the successful rebuilding of Iraq, dealing with terrorism, countering the threat from North Korea, and so on.

Isn't it obvious that countries will decide on a case-by-case basis what their policy will be? Germany will decide on whether to continue to cooperate in the war against terror only if it decides it is in Germany's interests to do so - regardless of whether we invaded Iraq. France will decide on whether to support rebuilding efforts based on its assessment of whether it is in France's interests to do so, again regardless of how much they opposed our attack. South Korea will decide whether to support our policy of North Korean isolation, sanction and containment only if it decides that doing so is in South Korea's best interests. And so on and so on. And, in every case, the decision will be untainted by a discussion of whether they 'owe' America their support for our actions in the past. Not will the decision be based on whether America has 'lost' its support because of our supposed unilateral actions against Iraq. Likewise, the US and the British, as the winners on the battlefield, will decide who to invite to the rebuilding party based on our assessment as to whether we felt there would be a benefit to having that country participate. If a country was judged to be bringing enough to the table, we'd give them a seat - regardless of whether they had supported the attack or whether, like France, they had actively sought to prevent the attack.

This is because countries don't carry balance sheets listing the net sum of favors provided by other countries offset against favors provided to those other countries. France's assessment of its national interests doesn't take into account that Americans helped in WWII any more than the our assessment of our national interest takes into account the French having helped us against the British during the American Revolution. Decisions are made by looking forwards, not backwards. For looking backwards allows sentimentality to creep into the equation and no country feels that they can afford to do that.

It's funny how this, for the most part, doesn't occur on an individual basis. Time after time, day after day, people do things for other people based on their historical relationship, whether a good relationship or not, and not just on a 'looking ahead, what's in it for me basis?'. Yet, this behavior doesn't seem to carry over to our governments as a whole. I wonder why?