Saturday, November 20, 2004

No War for Oil

I just came across an interview Radek Sikorski had with Paul Wolfowitz; here's part of his response to a question about the 'American empire:'

The premise of your question is that we're out to run an empire, but there is no American empire. Look at Japan and Korea. They were part of this so-called empire in the cold war. After the Second World War and the Korean war, we invested heavily in the defense and economic systems of countries like Japan and Korea - hardly an imperial undertaking. I would submit that we have benefited enormously from their strength and their ability to stand on their own feet. They're now contributing to the rest of the world. We're so much better off with a Japan as a strong trading partner than a Japan as a basket case. If people want to redefine the word "empire" to mean this as an empire, then it's just semantics. We are not trying to control these countries so we can exploit their resources. We're trying to enable these countries to stand on their own feet and our experience says that when they do so, we're better off. It's back to the absurdity of saying we're trying to impose our ideas on other people when we want to help them become democracies.

But it's a funny empire that relies on releasing basic human desires to be free and prosperous and live in peace.

Iraq has far greater natural resources than Japan or Korea, and though we'll never convince the no-war-for-oil crowd of this, we don't want to commandeer them. It is much more beneficial for our national interest if Iraqis are free to run their own country.

Americans do not want an empire. We want first of all to live free, and secondly to live in peace (which means sometimes going to war).

Belmont Club has a good analysis on this piece, contrasting Wolfowitz's position with that of Jacques Chirac. Here's the gist of his observations:

History may remember Jacques Chirac as one of the most prolific institution builders of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The European Union and the United Nations are but some of the multilateral projects he sought to strengthen in the belief they would serve as a prototype for the future ordering of the world. Wolfowitz's vision seems altogether more complex. He seems unwilling to speak of institutions outside the context of empowerment, as if to speak of instruments of governance without freedoms was tantamount to prescribing tyranny. Their difference of opinion may be rooted, not so much in an argument over bureaucratic arrangements, but in their view of the nature of man himself.

Our Nation was founded on the premise that man should live free, and our leaders are right to stand up for freedom around the world, no matter response of the Chiracs of the world.

We seek the empowerment of the individual, not the institution.

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