Who Wants to be a Yankee?

"Arguing in My Spare Time," No. 4.27

by Arnold Kling

September 14, 2001

I am going to speculate about the strategy that the Bush Administration is following in the war against terrorism. They are trying to deal with the challenge of figuring out who is the enemy.

The thinking appears to be that they can figure out who the enemy is by giving every country an opportunity to show itself to be a friend. Then, whoever is left is the enemy.

It is as if when the President or the Secretary of State gets on the phone with a world leader, he starts the conversation like this:

Everybody is choosing up sides for World War III. Our team is the Yankees. If you're interested, I'll give you all of the details about what the countries on our team do. Basically, it comes down to cracking down on terrorists and hate groups in their own countries, and co-operating with forces that fight against terror.

Would you like to be on the Yankees?

Some countries may pay lip service to wanting to be Yankees, but their actions may show otherwise. Our strategy has to be to make it clear that our policies toward other countries will be based on their actions, not on their words.

Some countries may want to be on the Yankees, but only if we give them something in return. They are going to expect to go through a process of negotiation. I hope that our response is something like this:

Let's not make this into something more complicated than it needs to be. It's really quite simple. The Yankees are the best team. Keep in mind, this is World War III we are talking about. You can choose either to be on the winning team or the losing team.

Would you like to be on the Yankees?

Finally, there may be countries that say, "We are a fragile, despotic, Arab regime. We could not possibly do everything that you Yankees want without risking being overthrown. Then someone worse may take over."

To these countries, I hope we respond,

I am afraid that we cannot make up a different set of criteria for fragile despots. If you are overthrown and someone worse takes over, then we will have to invade and install a military government to oversee a transition to democracy, as we did under General MacArthur in Japan after World War II. We can arrange that right now, if you do not want to play with us.

Would you like to be on the Yankees?

The end.