Thoughts after Reading Mark Steyn in the Post
This week the National Post has been running excerpts from Mark Steyn's new book, America Alone. The book is one of the few out there that remains supportive of the mission of the Bush Administration and the United States that actually receives some media coverage. The writing is insightful and interesting, if not strictly academic, which can be very refreshing if you're someone who is remaining supportive of the Bush Administration and the United States and have written a 100+ page thesis doing exactly that. As usual, I've got some comments to make after reading Steyn, something which I'm hoping to do at greater length in the short future (yes, I'm giving out hints for Xmas presents).
The nature of the international system--unipolarity--means that regardless of America's benign intentions and status as the greatest force for good in the history of the world, it will face considerable opposition from other states. In this type of system, states seek to balance against power instead of bandwagon with it; it is a tenet of political realism dating back to Machiavelli that a state should not seek an alliance with a greater power, and instead should pursue alliances with relatively equal states to balance against the larger power.
One reason for this is the pursuit of stability. Defying the norm of a superpower, the United States after 9/11 became a revolutionary power in the very system it legitimized, seeking to alter the political systems of an entire region--the Middle East. Realizing that the status quo produced not stability but rather violent hostility and a powder keg of Islamist extremism, the Bush Administration sought to remove the sources of the region's worst pathologies by initiating regime change in Iraq and supplanting it with a democratic system. Part of the underlying rationale for opposing the Iraq war on the parts of France, Germany, et al. was that any American intervention would help enhance American power because the newly-established democracies would turn to Washington for future security and guidance, thus further expanding America's sphere of influence and keeping "Old Europe" out of the equation. Destabilizing the Middle East runs counter to realist interests, yet the pursuit of freedom must ultimately trump those calculations if we are to assist in creating a better future for the people of that region where they may live without the oppression of their current dictators.