Hobbes Was Right

Demosthenes takes exception to my post on the anti-war arguments for Iraq from yesterday. I want to deal with his points more specifically on the site, as he does make some valid arguments about war in Iraq that don’t involve conspiracy stories or spurious allegations of empire.

But first I want to address the issue of the international community. Demosthenes says that:

By the way, we aren’t living in a Hobbesian state of nature. That’s the entire point of the international system in the first place. Nations that try to free-ride that system or disrupt it face serious consequences. Including Iraq. Including the U.S.

Unfortunately, we are. The United Nations is no longer willing or able to be an effective arbiter of international disputes. The actions of the United Nations in the past few years bear this out. The situation in Zimbabwe grow more and more desperate as Robert Mugabe starves his people and grabs land from white Zimbabweans. Iraq has spend the last five years violating UN resolution after UN resolution, and nothing was done. Mummar Quadafi has been named to a UN human rights post, an action that is tantamount to making Joseph Goebbels head of the Anti-Defamation League. The list goes on and on.

The UN appears to be a group that is more interested in bashing the United States and Israel than it is in dealing with famines in Zimbabwe or nuclear weapons in Iraq.

But more importantly, the UN is a paper tiger. As Hobbes himself said, "covenants without swords are but words." The UN requires the United States to act as its primary fighting force, all while trying to ensure that the US military is weakened through UN resolutions. If the US decided not to participate in any further UN operations, the UN would be almost completely impotent.

We live in an international system that is exactly that described by realism. State actors are the primary actors, despite the wishes of those who view transnational actors as having the upper hand. If the UN wants to move towards becoming a real force for international change, they must fully support their actions, which means truly and completely unfettered weapons inspections and weapons destruction backed up fully by the threat of force. Unfortunately, what we’ll get are ineffective inspections that will be blocked and delayed at every turn by the Hussein regime and will do little to delay Iraq’s development of a nuclear device.

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