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Next?

For the opinion pieces I mentioned yesterday [1], “worth reading” only means that I think the pieces are challenging and well written, not that I completely agree with them. The thesis that some of the writers are developing is that human rights repression and threat to the United States tend to go hand in hand. I’m open to the idea that a sufficiently totalitarian regime or movement is in and of itself a security threat: a government (or movement) that brooks no opposition and sets no limits on its ambitions is one that will eventually need to seek its victims elsewhere.

Nevertheless, my view about Iraq was fairly specific to the circumstances: there were supporting UN resolutions, the dictator involved had a history of aggression and non-deterrability, international cooperation in containing him was breaking down, and ending the atrocious repression in Iraq was a good to be weighed against the costs of the war.

I don’t support extending that war to any and all totalitarian regimes. The problem is agreeing whether a given regime is 1) “totalitarian” enough, and 2) threatening enough to the United States or our allies to warrant military action, with 3) low enough expected costs. To keep this short, I’ll set aside the need for international approval and how to go about gaining it, other than to say the greater the threat, the less the need for that approval.

My personal answers to the above three questions for various “next?” countries are currently: North Korea: yes, yes, no (Seoul). Syria: yes, no, yes. Iran: no, unsure, no. So far, I feel like what’s next is that we should try to get Iraq right, and not look around for another fight. That’s not to say I’m against exacting some pledges from these countries to mend their ways while the iron’s hot, so to speak.