Thomas Friedman today slams the leaders of Brazil and Turkey for their shameful accommodation of Iran and its “Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing…thug” of a president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What their alleged diplomatic breakthrough actually accomplishes, he correctly observes, is to “weaken the global coalition to pressure Iran to open its nuclear facilities to U.N. inspectors, and, as a special bonus, legitimize Ahmadinejad on the anniversary of his crushing the Iranian democracy movement that was demanding a recount of Iran’s tainted June 2009 elections.”
I’d like to go a step farther, however, and point out that we can expect more of this is the kind of “global leadership” to result from a world in which America tries to shrink back from the role we’ve held for more than 60 years.
You don’t have to believe that we’ve gotten everything right or acted only selflessly since the end of World War II to recognize that we have been the most selfless superpower the world has seen. It stretches the meaning of words like “imperialism” to describe our foreign policy. We act in our interests; every nation does, and would be foolish not to do so. But more so than any other nation, our interests have at their heart the expansion of freedom for other peoples.
It’s always seemed to me that the critics of the mistakes we’ve made along the way have always presumed, very unrealistically, that the next global leader would be at least as altruistic as we have been. That belief is probably strongest among those who favor multilateral institutions like the United Nations, and who believe a “multipolar” world is more desirable than our time as the sole superpower. You know, the kind of institutions that put Iran on their committee for women’s rights even though Iranian adulteresses are subject to death by stoning.
In almost any multipolar configuration, countries like Brazil and Turkey figure prominently. Their performance with the Iranians inspires something other than confidence.
Be careful, critics of American policies, what you wish for.