Thursday, June 16, 2005

what did hiatt really say?

From atrios, a pointer to elton, who characterizes Fred Hiatt's view in this op-ed as "Might makes right." I don't see it.

When Hiatt says
The premise of this highhandedness is that the United States is, on balance, a force for good in the world -- a superpower that uses its might not to subjugate others but to allow them to live freely. This is a premise that The Post's editorial page on the whole accepts -- to the dismay of many readers.
he does not say that the Post accepts high-handedness, but that the Post believes that the United States is, on balance, a force for good in the world. That's a judgement on the effects of US policy, not the propriety of the means. Indeed, his final point
Do we behave as well as we claim, as we should, as we expect of others? That's the beginning of the right conversation...
is that right is necessary to justify might, not the other way around.

Hiatt does not explicitly condemn US unilateralism, and it could be that such unilateralism is enough on its own to outweigh any good a nation could do, however spotless it's record. A policy may need to pass the "net benefit" test to be considered, but that test may still not be sufficient justification for the exertion of power. Hiatt's piece is silent on such issues, and it is fair to criticize that silence. Criticizing the claim that might makes right is not, because that claim was never made.

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