The debate over the Iraq War that was held in the United Nations, and in academic and foreign policy circles, could be broken down as the question whether it was Iraq or the United States that was the rogue nation. On the one hand, Iraq had defied multiple UN resolutions, but so had the United States. Iraq had gone rogue, but, by talking about a unilateral invasion, so had the United States, and, in the moral calculus of the international community, all that mattered was being a team player.
The Iran debate is a resumption of the same old argument. Is Israel or Iran the rogue state? Both have defied the United Nations, which apart from any of the moral issues, makes them rogue states. If the only value that matters is cooperation within the international community, then Iran and Israel are on the same level.
Every now and then we wonder why we can’t win wars anymore. The answer is that we don’t fight wars, we fight endless police actions in the name of stability. Nearly every war we fought in the last hundred years was about stabilizing a region in an endless game of domino theory. Most of the wars were morally right, not so much because we fought them for the right reasons or in the right ways, but because our enemies were genuine monsters.
Our defense plan and foreign policy for generations has depended on maintaining an international order that would provide for common defense and common markets, and that most of all would allow for international stability. Stability has been the absolute good, instability the absolute enemy. It’s not right or wrong that we care about, but the regional stability that maintains stable markets and keeps us from having to send peacekeeping forces to another hellhole.
This is the Pax Americana. This is why we did something about Iraq and Libya, countries out of step with the Arab League. It is why we will almost certainly bomb Syria and why we pressure Israel. It is also why we have done nothing about a genuine genocide in Sudan, whose regime has the support of the Arab League. It is why we will keep on pushing Taiwan into China’s embrace, while trying to checkmate China’s expansionism. It is why we will keep putting money and troops behind the United Nations.