Alex Massie

The Temptations of the Leader Page

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In an editorial written, judging from its cadences, by Leon Wieseltier, welcoming the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, The New Republic argues that:

Whatever one thinks of the war in Iraq, it is impossible to deny that it has had the effect of delegitimating "humanitarian intervention" for a new generation. This new diffidence must be resisted. It is what the mass murderers and the mass rapists are counting on. You cannot be against the genocide in Darfur and against the use of force to end it. Otherwise your opposition to the atrocity is purely gestural, and merely a display of your admiring sense of yourself. It makes no sense to be opposed to a problem and to its solution.

There may be something to this. But it might also be said that arguing for the use of military force when you know there is absolutely no prospect of that force being applied is itself  "purely gestural" and "a display of your admiring sense of yourself."

This, of course, is one of the weaknesses of editorials. And editorial-writers. It's always easier to make a case for a perfect something that has no chance of being done than for an imperfect, messy, less than entirely satisfactory, policy that could, with a dollop of luck, be followed to some kind of semi-acceptable outcome...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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