Outsourcing foreign policy

Thomas Sowell

3/23/2004 12:00:00 AM - Thomas Sowell

Spain's decision to turn tail and run, in response to a terrorist bombing, not only tells terrorists how to get their way in the future, it should also tell us about the dangers of outsourcing our foreign policy to our allies or to the United Nations, as so many on the left want us to do.

In an age of international terrorist networks, perhaps about to be supplied with nuclear bombs by North Korea, foreign policy is a matter of life and death on a scale almost unimaginable. In this grim context, it is all but unbelievable that anyone would want to put the fate of this country in the hands of a grossly ineffective United Nations or in the hands of allies who can flee from the fight without notice.

The sheer repetition of words -- the mantra of "the international community" and the anathema of "unilateral action" -- has become a substitute for examining the hard realities and the track record of those to whom we are supposed to defer when it comes to a mortal threat in a nuclear age.

Even the Soviet Union, with its huge nuclear arsenal, was a threat that could be deterred by the prospect of retaliation. But suicide bombers cannot be deterred. They can only be annihilated -- pre-emptively and unilaterally, if necessary.

The so-called "international community" that the left has so long envisioned consists in reality of disunited nations, too many of whom are short-sighted enough to cooperate with terrorists in hopes of deflecting their wrath toward someone else.

Throwing others to the wolves is a strategy that has been tried before. France threw Czechoslovakia to the wolves in 1938 to try to buy off Hitler. Less than two years later, Hitler's armies invaded France -- using, among other things, tanks made in Czechoslovakia.

Those who are impressed with French airs of sophistication and condescension toward the United States should check out the hard facts about French foreign policy over the past century -- which has been one short-sighted disaster after another. They have been consistently too clever by half -- at Versailles in 1919, at Munich in 1938, and in Algiers and Vietnam in the 1950s.

The only other nation with a comparable track record of self-inflicted catastrophes over the same span of time has been Germany. A hundred years ago, Germany had emerged as a great nation in the forefront of economic and technological achievements, with every prospect of a prosperous life for its people to enjoy.

But the Kaiser could not leave well enough alone. He had to push for military glory.

The beginning of the First World War has been attributed to the assassination of the Hapsburg archduke in Serbia. But we now know that it was the German Kaiser who pushed the Hapsburg Empire into declaring war, knowing that existing alliances would bring in Russia and give Germany an excuse to launch its attack as an ally of the Hapsburg Empire and gain "a place in the sun" as a great military power.

We know how that ended -- not only in defeat for Germany but in devastation for the German economy and the German people, leaving a legacy of bitter disillusionment that set the stage for the rise of Hitler. And we know how that ended.

What an irony that these two countries, with a track record of monumental foreign policy disasters, would be the ones to preen themselves on their superior wisdom in international affairs while impeding the American response to the terrorists' war. And what a pathetic thing that there are some Americans willing to accept French and German presumptions and condescension.

You can always buy time with appeasement -- and end up paying a staggeringly higher price than if you had shown a little backbone earlier. That was the tragic lesson of the 1930s, spelled out in painful detail in "The Gathering Storm" by Winston Churchill.

With North Korea threatening to become a supplier of nuclear weapons to international terrorist networks, we have a storm gathering that could dwarf even the unspeakable horrors of World War II. National unity at a time like this is absolutely crucial -- and yet it is being blithely thrown away by petty politicians panting to regain political power at all costs, and even boasting of foreign support.