Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nuclear War: Not Your "Independent" Right

Biden’s attitude that Israel, as an “independent country” has the right to decide on war or peace on its own represents the policy of piracy raised to an international principle. It is about the most irresponsible attitude a superpower official could adopt.

The subject of course concerns launching a war of aggression against Iran, on the pretext that it might someday pose a threat. That his mindless rambling might raise the likelihood that Iran would someday decide to pose Israel a threat perhaps did not occur to him. In any case, the subject did not deal with some potential future war but with Israeli nuclear aggression today against a non-nuclear state.

That cannot by any rational human conceivably be considered a reasonable decision to be made independently. To suggest that a decision about nuclear war is “independent” violates every principle of the common good and international law, not to mention common sense. There is no such thing as a private nuclear war. Your neighbor does not have the "independent" right to choose nuclear war: it affects you! First comes the issue of the nuclear fallout that would encircle the globe. Second is the political fallout that would immediately blow back on the American superpower that created the Israeli military monster in the first place and could therefore never escape responsibility for its behavior. Third is the precedent of using nuclear weapons for short-term political gain against non-nuclear states posing no “clear and present danger.” Would it be overly emotional to suggest that an Israeli (or American) nuclear attack on Iran would return the world to the moral equivalent of the late Roman empire?

But there is also another way of looking at Biden’s remarks: they were degrading. Representing the world’s last remaining superpower, Biden said that superpower takes a hands-off attitude, has no advice to give, no guidance to offer, no interest to defend. If some little country somewhere wants to start a little nuclear war for its own private purposes, why should that concern the ruler of the world? Why should the patron that armed the client take any responsibility for the client’s behavior? Why should the city on the hill care what the natives in the swamps below are doing?

It is too trivially obvious to merit mentioning that Biden’s remarks were oozing hypocrisy. He would never have offered Iran or China or North Korea the same rights as an “independent country.” Everyone knows the last thing a U.S. decisionmaker wants is countries all over the world making their own independent decisions about nuclear war. But Biden committed a further sin – he made his country look like the land of idiots.

When the occasion calls for statesmanship, long-range thinking, and a global perspective, the politicians we are saddled with give us sound bites worthy of “Saturday Night Live.” When there is a crying need for philosophy, we get short-sighted partisanship and cheap political maneuvers that sell out America in favor of a foreign militarist clique.

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