Play by the rules

Posted in: Jefferson Today, Thomas Jefferson

"A nation, by establishing a character of liberality and magnanimity, gains in the friendship and respect of others more than the worth of mere money." --Thomas Jefferson, Special Message, January 13, 1806.

Jefferson's words deal with a current debate among scholars of international politics -- namely, the relative merits of "hard" and "soft" power. For realists, all that really matters is military economic strength. Jefferson, and many analysts who have seen the limits of America's current unilateralist efforts to transform the Middle East by force, would argue that reputation matters as well as power. If nations feel that they can trust one another, if they discover mutual interests and a willingness to play by the rules, as modern Europe has done in recent decades, they can build security communities that do not depend on the law of the jungle. This is the important insight that Jefferson's quote embodies, and it is one that President Barack Obama seems to share. Diplomacy will be given more weight in the incoming administration, and Jefferson, who served for years as a diplomat in France, would doubtless approve.

WILLIAM QUANDT is Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.

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says

Make no mistake about it, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans approach foreign policy with a "meddle not" approach. For too many years under too many administrations we have bullied the world into our way of thinking. Obama may be a bit better on foreign policy, but neither do you see him pulling out of nations where the U.S. has no business.

says

"America’s current unilateralist efforts to transform the Middle East by force..."
What a crock!
America attempts to build a coalition to protect itself and free democracies everywhere against a dictator whom all the other nations believed possessed or soon would possess nuclear weapons, and the coalition efforts are stalled because one or two European countries are engaged in covert financial arrangements to support said dictator and enrich their own businesses -- and you call that a "unilateralist" effort.
America tries to rally other countries to prevent militant Islamists in Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and again efforts are blocked by Europeans who benefit from the status quo.
What you want is subordination to French and German interests, and you'd no doubt call that "multilateral."

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