School Yard Foreign Policy

One thing that’s so remarkable about the underlying philosophy of neoconservative foreign policy is how succinctly it can be refuted. Matt Yglesias, on the “weakness invites aggression” theme on which the McCain campaign has been recently capitalizing:

The entire “weakness invites aggression” worldview is something that’d really be worth looking into at some length. Presumably the truth of these dictum explains why Canada has been subject to so many more terrorist attacks than has the United States. Or it explains why France took advantage of the ongoing political crisis in Belgium to invade and conquer the Walloon portions of that country. And, conversely, it explains why Bush’s belligerence and militarism have managed to convince North Korea and Iran to give in to our non-proliferation demands. I dunno.

In defense of this school yard interpretation of international relations, conservatives often raise the specter of appeasement. This argument can be refuted on historical grounds, but the analogy doesn’t even merit serious consideration. Terrorism exists outside the state system and its weaponry and tactics are completely unconventional. Why is an analogy hinged on 1930s conventional military forces at all relevant? Is there any reason to believe that having a larger standing army or invading countries at random would have stopped 18 zealots from crashing airplanes into buildings? Am I on crazy pills?

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