“…Whether you know it or not.” Mark Steyn:
There’s a very basic lesson here: For great powers, studied neutrality isn’t an option. Even if you’re genuinely neutral. In the early Nineties, the attitude of much of the West to the disintegrating Yugoslavia was summed up in the brute dismissal of James Baker that America didn’t have a dog in this fight. Fair enough. But over in the Balkans junkyard the various mangy old pooches saw it rather differently. And so did the Muslim world, which regarded British and European “neutrality” as a form of complicity in mass murder. As Osama bin Laden put it:
“The British are responsible for destroying the Caliphate system. They are the ones who created the Palestinian problem. They are the ones who created the Kashmiri problem. They are the ones who put the arms embargo on the Muslims of Bosnia so that 2 million Muslims were killed.”
How come a catalog of imperial interventions wound up with that bit of scrupulous nonimperial nonintervention? Because great-power “even-handedness” will invariably be received as a form of one-handedness by the time its effects are felt on the other side of the world. Western “even-handedness” on Bosnia was the biggest single factor in the radicalization of European Muslims. They swarmed to the Balkans to support their co-religionists and ran into a bunch of Wahhabi imams moving into the neighborhood with lots of Saudi money and anxious to fill their Rolodex with useful contacts in the West. Among the alumni of that conflict was the hitherto impeccably assimilated English public (i.e., private) schoolboy and London School of Economics student who went on to behead The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl. You always have a dog in the fight, whether you know it or not.
Studied neutrality is met with contempt by the dictators of the world. That is why Obama’s cautiously neutral response over the past week is such a problem. There was at least a somewhat better response from the White House yesterday. It is not enough. The west, especially the United States, has got to stand for something. Liberty would be the right message to be on right now. Denouncing the evil of Iran’s mullahs would be the right thing to do. Publicly refusing to even consider negotiating with Iran for any reason as long as the mullahs kill their own people would be a good place to start.
We cannot be neutral when liberty is at stake. We always have a dog in that race.