Think we’re something special? Historian David Kaiser is more even-tempered than I am, so let him tell it:
“For at least the first 30 years of the nuclear age, our diplomatic positions reflected sound and impartial principles. . . . [But no longer.] The Bush administration has not only called the accession of North Korea and Iran to the [nuclear] club unacceptable on numerous occasions, but has also publicly threatened to overthrow any hostile regime that seeks nuclear weapons. Everyone seems to have forgotten that we have no legal basis for making claims like this. . . .
“Three huge problems, it seems to me, come out of this position.
“First of all, we have abandoned the dream of establishing rules for every nation to live by (as we have also done with respect to torture), and substituted the old Athenian rule (which did not save Athens from catastrophe), ‘the strong do what they will and the weak do what they must.’
“But the second problem is more practical: no other nation is likely to accept this in the long run. While our European allies on the one hand, and our Asian allies on the other, have agreed that Iran and North Korea should not develop nuclear weapons and have tried diplomatically (that is, in a manner that acknowledges those nations’ freedom of action) to dissuade them from doing so, they have not agreed that we have a right to make war to stop them.
“And the third problem is similar to the one that has emerged in Iraq: we cannot carry out grandiose schemes for remaking the world without real coalitions such as the one George H.W. Bush put together in 1990-1 to liberate Kuwait.
“In short, our new policy fails as an impartial moral guide to behavior, lacks significant international support, and cannot, for those very reasons, be successfully executed.”