Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

A few bits on the history of pre-emption that I never heard before.

George W. Bush is not the first incumbent of the White House to have declared on behalf of a strategy of pre-emption. His three-term predecessor Franklin D. Roosevelt represented the same kind of thinking at one point in his career. This becomes clear from the discussion that Roosevelt had with the Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov in May 1942, on Molotov's first visit to Washington DC.

Roosevelt shaped out a world order for the time when the fighting would be over, in which the leading nations of the United States, the USSR, Great Britain, and "possibly China" would act as the world's police force. Smaller nations could be disarmed if they threatened to disturb the peace, and if any of them should refuse to observe the demands of the great powers, then in the last resort they could be bombed into submission. Two days later Molotov reported to Roosevelt that he had received permission from Josef Stalin to state that the Soviet government was in complete agreement on these plans to forestall aggression.

China's nuclear test in 1964 even drove the US and Soviet Union to consider jointly what should be done.

China was not among the signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in July 1968.

Hence in 1969 Moscow considered the possibility of a pre-emptive strike against China's nuclear capability. Soviet diplomats tested the water in Washington to find out whether the Americans would actually turn a blind eye to this move. The Americans had, after all, still not recognised the government of the People's Republic in Beijing.

But the Soviets were too late in getting into the game. The newly-elected US President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger were already planning the opening up of relations with Communist China and they rejected Moscow's overtures.

This is from a larger article about the 'new' US stance on Iraq and how the UN Security Council Members will repsond. Written by Max Jakobson is a former diplomat and Finland's permanent representative at the UN. He concludes.

From the viewpoint of President Bush, however, it is almost certainly more important that he gets the blessing of both houses of Congress than that he receives a mandate from the UN, and right now we can already say with some certainty that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans will soon approve the President's call for authorisation to use force against Iraq.

As a consequence, the power of veto held by the five permanent members of the Security Council becomes little more than a diplomatic formality. If China, Russia or France use their veto to reject the resolution sought by the US and Britain, it will still not prevent the United States from setting its military plans in motion without the blessing of the UN.

Against this backdrop, the governments of those three countries will thus have to weigh up their position primarily on how it will affect their relations with the United States. Playing the veto card would not ultimately rescue Iraq, but it would damage relations with Washington. Hence it is most likely that what will emerge is a compromise that satisfies the United States.

< email | 10/08/2002 03:08:00 PM | link

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