February 1, 2007

The New York Times Says the US Should Ignore Its Enemies and Punish Its Allies. But That’s Nothing New.

Carroll Andrew Morse

To paraphrase Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick, liberals have a distressing tendency to believe that the proper course of American foreign policy should be to punish allies and ignore enemies. Do you think that’s too harsh? Well, here’s the New York Times editorial board arguing for just that concept, explaining how America needs to ignore the actions of Iran while ratcheting up threats against the current government of Iraq in order to make progress in the Middle East (h/t Jonah Goldberg)…

We have no doubt about Iran’s malign intent, just as we have no doubt that Mr. Bush’s serial failures in Iraq have made it far easier for Tehran to sow chaos there and spread its influence in the wider region. But more threats and posturing are unlikely to get Iran to back down....

Iran certainly is helping arm and train Shiite militias. But the administration is certainly exaggerating the salutary effect of any cutoff as long as these militias enjoy the protection of Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. If Mr. Bush is genuinely worried — and he should be — he needs to be as forceful in demanding that Mr. Maliki cut ties to these groups and clear about the consequences if he refuses.

No “threats and posturing” against the Iranians, sayeth the Times. After all, they’re the enemy. Apparently, “forceful” demands with “clear consequences” are only appropriate against an ally!

This is not to say the Maliki government shouldn’t be held accountable for actions (or non-actions) that make the situation faced by ordinary Iraqis and by coalition forces in Iraq more difficult. But shouldn’t a rational American foreign policy be at least as hard on the government that openly says it wants to destroy us as it is on the government that is an ally, at least nominally? If not, then what’s the incentive for anyone to sign on as an American ally?