Iraq and Georgia

Victor Davis Hanson is predictably furious at suggestions that Americans rightly appalled at Russia’s conduct in Georgia should consider the importance of us leading by example and not mounting unilateral invasions of our own:

Let me get this straight: getting a Senate and House majority to authorize a bipartisan joint war-resolution, going to the UN, assembling a coalition, having a national and world debate on the wisdom of such an operation from December 2001 to March 2003, and then attacking a genocidal dictator, and staying on to foster a constitutional democracy are apparently the same “charge” “example” as an autocracy suddenly invading its democratic neighbor during the Olympics, and staying on to annex some of its territory?

It’s noteworthy that the vast majority of considerations Hanson brings to bear here are plainly irrelevant. House and Senate votes? Olympics? So what? Similarly, the idea that the mere existence of a worldwide debate — a debate in which the vast majority of the world lined up on the “don’t invade” side — legitimizes the Iraq invasion is laughable. The other considerations Hanson has on tap are substantive ones. He thinks, wrongly, that the invasion of Iraq was wise and moral.

That’s an important debate to have. But the procedural issue Hanson tries to skirt with hand-waving references to the Olympics is important as well. To make a long story short, Hanson’s preferred international rule is “the United States can invade weaker countries when it wants to, but other countries can’t.” The merits of that position aside, it’s clearly not going to attract any support in Moscow or Beijing or, for that matter, Paris or New Delhi or Brasilia or Pretoria. In effect Hanson is asking for a world in which the United States invades where we please but Russia and China and other major countries also invade where they please, and then Hanson rages impotently against the injustice of it all. An alternative proposal would be for the United States to try to work with the other major powers on developing a set of international rules of the road we can all live with — probably a procedural rule based on the United Nations Charter or else perhaps a sphere of influence rule — and that also allows us to cooperate on major issues such as nuclear proliferation, climate change, terrorism, economic development, and epidemic disease.