Perspective and Geopolitics

Ok, the dog’s stopped running all over the damn place, the music’s gotten a little lighter, and the train of thought is a bit more serious.

It turns out that Russia responded to Iran’s recent missile test by pointing out that it disproved a crucial US rationale for missile defense systems expansion in Eastern Europe. To wit:

“The tests in Iran have only confirmed that Iran at the moment has missiles with a maximum range of 2,000 km. That confirms what we have said before,” Lavrov said after a meeting with visiting Jordanian Foreign Minister Salaheddin al-Bashir.

    “That is the current idea of deploying a U.S. … missile shield in Europe, with its parameters, is not needed to monitor and react to those missiles with this range,” he added.

My initial reaction here, and my chief concern for broader US policy long term, has nothing to do with the Iranian missiles, they’re nothing new and it’s merely defensive posturing on Iran’s part, and everything to do with the broader extension of US demands and actions. To wit, we seem to have totally forgotten that other people in the world are just that, people. They have their own interests, their own biases, and they want to maximize their own benefits and interests. Perhaps it’s the expected trappings of hegemony, but we seem to have fallen under the impression that we can accomplish anything with “rational” actors simply by writ and because we’re America damnitt. But other great powers, especially those who are facing increasingly hostile rhetoric from our political leaders, don’t particularly like it when we move military equipment into their backyard, anymore than I suspect we’d like it if China moved a bunch of missiles into Mexico to protect Canada from the Honduran missile threat.

I’m not gonna lay all of this on Republicans, because I think a lot of it took root in the 1990’s, at the height of American hegemony, when rather than work towards a sustainable system of multi-polarity with America holding deep worldwide respect, the Clinton administration opted to use American power for interventions in various corners of the world. Which is not to say that they weren’t well meaning, or even worthy, ventures, but they certainly gave China, Russia, and others reason to suspect we wouldn’t be shy about our hegemony, and as a general rule, you don’t live forever trusting that the biggest fighter is going to ignore you forever. The result of American policy as a whole since the end of the Cold War is pretty clearly, I think, not the multi-polar world rooted in shared interests and mutual respect it could have been, but rather a multi-polar world of diverging interests, distrust, and heavy arming in places like Iran and North Korea that might otherwise have been moderated and modernized diplomatically with broad global support. The Bush administration has certainly been by far the chief accelerant for that, but the Clintons don’t get off scot-free either.