Preserving the Imbalance of Power [Excerpt]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 17.1 (Spring 2003)

March 2, 2003

"The National Security Strategy of the United States of America"
(Washington D.C.: White House, 2002), 35pp., free

In a conversation last summer with two friends—one an American neoconservative, the other a French intellectual—I was complaining about the drift of U.S. foreign policy and in particular about the projected war against Iraq. Deterrence was a workable method in dealing with Saddam, I said: the Bush administration's new doctrine of preventive war was contrary to international law, and its apparent determination to proceed in defiance of the international community would badly injure the legitimacy of American power. The setting for these observations—an outdoor cafe in the Basque country, in a village perched on the border between France and Spain—was not bad, and the Frenchman to my left, studying his beer was clearly liking the drift of my remarks. I was soon corrected, by the neoconservative on my right: "You're livin' in the past," he said.  

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