No world order that elevates one nation or group over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.
-President Barack Obama, in a speech to the United Nations
Here we have, in a nice and concise form, President Obama's foreign policy. If it sounds the least bit treacly, well, it should. It is a variation on what has now become the old theme of why can't we all just get along. It is an assertion that all nations, just like all people, you know, are at heart the same. Yet before any of you begin to dismiss this as a preamble to a rant on the glories of America, let us toss out for you to consider two examples of world nationhood: Canada and North Korea.
Is there anyone willing to argue that those two countries are of equal stature in the family of nations? Can anyone, seriously, and with a straight face, assert that each has the same moral validity? Do they each deserve an equal say in world affairs? Oh, sure, we may have to deal with the one simply as an exercise in practical politics. Yet the Canadians seem a reasonably reasonable people.
We do hope that that went over as the wry, humorous comment in the spirit of which it was intended. Because, of course, it is much easier in reality to deal with our northern neighbors than it is with the despotic regime in North Korea. Which is, of further course, the point. The nations of the world are no more equal in form and substance than individual human beings are. It is silly to act as though they were, and contrary to any rational foreign policy aims. Of any given nation, not only of the United States.
Seeing nations as moral equals merely by the evidence of their nationhood is bad policy. Even the United Nations doesn't believe it: how often has that body authorized foreign interventions when it saw fit?
We must make judgments about the actions of nations in the same way as we must make judgments about the actions of people. Some people will simply refuse to do the right thing. So will some nations. The difference is that the former don't have the capacity to threaten entire regions, if not the entire world. We will have no security until we take off the rose colored glasses which see a false equality among nations.