Saturday, August 13, 2005

Live and don't learn...

The Opinio Juris blog is always worth reading; perhaps even more so in recent weeks, as professor D'Amato has been featuring as a guest blogger, contributing many interesting and provocative posts. One that particularly caught the eye, however, was his stark (and approving) prediction that a US military strike, with little or no notice, will be carried soon against either North Korean or Iranian nuclear installations.

Cue, a day or two later, Bush's insistence that the use of military force against Iran remains a real option, if only as a last resort. I find it difficult to believe that this is being seriously considered; and this not merely because US forces are severely stretched at present. Not only does the Iraqi adventure remain a contentious political issue in the US domestically, but many of Bush's allies in this are stil paying the price for supporting him. It is not easy to imagine a course of action that would more polarise the world than a unilateral military strike against Iran, in particular; for proof of this, we need look no further than German Chancellor Schroder's pointed recent comments: "Let's take the military option off the table. We have seen that it doesn't work".

Of course, Schroder's remarks must be read in the context of the election campaign that he is now fighting; however, this is far from beign the only possible example. The UK press also reported recently that Gordon Brown, almost certainly the man to succeed Blair as UK Prime Minister, is under pressure form members of his own party to categorically rule out military action in Iran if and when he takes over. And this is merely the European reaction.

The US (and European) line, of course, is that a diplomatic solution is being sought. The US thus means to suggest that it is happy to give the international rule of law a chance, but will reserve its right to act militarily and unilaterally should this path "fail". However, giving the international rule of law a chance cannot be done a la carte; it must be part of an honest and sustained commitment to multilateral problem solving in the global sphere. The effect of such interventions as those in Kosovo and Iraq, coupled with the very public reservation of the "right" to use force, may well be to turn the "failure" of the international rule of law in dealing with the Iranian issue into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Seen in this light, the almost inevitable hawkish "We told you so" must appear hollow indeed.

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