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The Burden
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Here's an excellent article by Michael Ignatieff from the Times Magazine (via Matthew Yglesias).

I still don't agree with the assessment of America as an empire, at least in the sense of an empire as expansionist and colonial, but I agree with damn near everything else this guy says, from our posture toward the Middle East to our relationship with Europeans.

On the U.N. and Iraq:

The United Nations lay dozing like a dog before the fire, happy to ignore Saddam, until an American president seized it by the scruff of the neck and made it bark. Multilateral solutions to the world's problems are all very well, but they have no teeth unless America bares its fangs.


Containment rather than war would be the better course, but the Bush administration seems to have concluded that containment has reached its limits -- and the conclusion is not unreasonable. Containment is not designed to stop production of sarin, VX nerve gas, anthrax and nuclear weapons.

On the moral complexity of using violence to achieve justice and relieve suffering:

The disagreeable reality for those who believe in human rights is that there are some occasions -- and Iraq may be one of them -- when war is the only real remedy for regimes that live by terror. This does not mean the choice is morally unproblematic. The choice is one between two evils, between containing and leaving a tyrant in place and the targeted use of force, which will kill people but free a nation from the tyrant's grip.

On America and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

The issue is not whether the United States should continue to support the state of Israel, but which state, with which borders and which set of relations with its neighbors, it is willing to risk its imperial authority to secure. The apocalyptic violence of one side and the justified refusal to negotiate under fire on the other side leave precious little time to salvage a two-state solution for the Middle East. But this, even more than rescuing Iraq, is the supreme task -- and test -- of American leadership.

On an underlying cause of European disdain for U.S. power:

Sept. 11 rubbed in the lesson that global power is still measured by military capability. The Europeans discovered that they lacked the military instruments to be taken seriously and that their erstwhile defenders, the Americans, regarded them, in a moment of crisis, with suspicious contempt.

And so on...

It's a long, but often brilliant, analysis of the United States' role in the world today and the emerging world of the 21st century.

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