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The “Anchorless World” Panic

Roger Cohen’s latest column is one long exercise in hyperbole. This passage is especially misleading:

Britain abandons its closest ally at crunch time. The European Union is divided, Germany silent, France left dangling, and NATO an absentee. If there are other pillars of the trans-Atlantic alliance, do let me know.

That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Then you realize that Cohen is judging the state of the “trans-Atlantic alliance” solely on whether or not it can be used to wage war on a country that poses no real threat to Europe nor America. Britain didn’t “abandon” the U.S. at “crunch time.” It’s not as if the U.S. came under attack and then Britain ignored its treaty obligations. Britain opted out of a punitive American war of choice. One might as well pretend that Eisenhower “abandoned” Britain and France when he opposed their attack on Egypt. This sort of thing makes sense only to someone who thinks that alliances require a government to endorse the least defensible mistakes of their allies. Most Americans are grateful that the vote in Britain helped to halt the push for an attack. Of course, the European Union is always divided on foreign policy, which is a function of the EU’s own internal problems and tensions, and NATO is not involved because it has absolutely no cause to be. If most of the world is against military intervention in Syria, Cohen doesn’t take that as evidence that there may be something wrong with intervening, but instead concludes that there is something very wrong with the current world order.

If the most visible issue dividing Western governments at present is whether or not to bomb Syria, that suggests that Cohen’s talk of an “anchorless world” is wrong. Cohen already panicked about the demise of the so-called “special” relationship for the same reason, but now he thinks that the entire postwar order is supposedly coming unglued because the U.S. didn’t attack another country. In other words, he thinks that the postwar order designed to prevent states from attacking other states is in jeopardy because the U.S. has been temporarily stymied in its effort to attack Syria.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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