"Sometimes, your posts are pure genius."Thanks!
"Other times, they are laughable."Up yours.
"Your last post about Libya belongs to the latter category."Well, you win some, you lose some.
"If you suggest going to war over a small-scale terrorist act, you just don't understand international relations very well. "I understand that there was a time when sovereign nations considered the treatment of their citizens abroad to be a matter of serious importance. To be a proper test case, we'd be looking for
a) mistreatment of a consul and a subject of the sovereign nation
b) indifference or hostility by the local government, where
c) the sovereign nation had recently supported the independence of said nation.
Interestingly, history furnishes us precisely such an example, when Great Britain dealt with mistreatment of a consul and subject by no other than Greece itself in the Don Pacifico affair back in 1850.
The Don Pacifico Affair concerned a Portuguese Jew, named David Pacifico (known as Don Pacifico), who was a trader and the Portuguese consul in Athens during the reign of King Otto. Pacifico was born in Gibraltar, a British possession. He was therefore a British subject. In 1847 an antisemitic mob that included the sons of a government minister vandalised and plundered Don Pacifico's home in Athens whilst the police looked on and took no action.
In 1848, after Pacifico had unsuccessfully appealed to the Greek government for compensation for his losses, he brought the matter to the attention of the British government.
In 1850 the British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, a philhellene and supporter of the Greek War of Independence of 1828-1829, took decisive action in support of Pacifico by sending a Royal Navy squadron into the Aegean to seize Greek ships and property equal to the value of Pacifico's claims, which had been decided by British courts, and were exorbitantly high. Palmerston did not recognise Greek judicial sovereignty in the matter, as the case involved a British subject. The squadron eventually blockaded Piraeus, the main port of the capital, Athens
The blockade lasted two months and the affair ended only when the Greek government agreed to compensate Pacifico.
That, my friend, is what a serious foreign policy looks like. You think I'm crazy to threaten military action over an embassy invasion? These guys actually went through with it over a civil case! And yes, in reply to your suggestion, I understand very well that that's not how the west rolls any more. More's the pity.
Back to Athenios:
"Hint: US embassy officials have been killed by Greek terrorists in the recent past. Does this mean that the US should go to war with Greece?"I presume you're referring to this. Should the US go to war now to avenge murders from 20-30 years ago? No, that would serve no purpose at all. Should it have done more at the time? Perhaps, I don't know the full details of how that went down.
But yes, in answer to the point, a firm message needs to be sent that killing US officials will result in disproportionate pain.
A large part of the question in international relations terms is whether the local government is a) supporting the actions, explicitly or implicitly, or b) powerless to stop them.
If the government is going to seek out and punish the offenders themselves, there is less of a need. I'd still want to see something done to make a strong point, but if it turns out that some nutjob shoots at the US embassy in Ottawa, no, the US shouldn't nuke Toronto. If I didn't say that, it's because I thought it was obvious.
But in the case here, you had the local police looking on as the mob attacks. That's a little bit different, no? In the case of Iran, the actions were carried out by the representatives of the new revolutionary government, which is very different. It is, in other words, a declaration of war. And there is no principle in war that one only attacks the enemy in the same manner and extent that he attacks you first.
If the local government is powerless to stop them, then the US has the responsibility to avenge the attacks themselves. A government that does not control its own territory may be a government de jure, but it is not a government de facto.
To return to the Greek 17 November organisation, I understand that the Greek government at the time hated the group too, and was working to eradicate it. Greece was, and is, an ally, and an important one at that. Libya is at best neutral, and may turn out to be actively hostile, and its entirely unclear how much support the government has for the objectives of those who attacked the embassy.
But in the end, there's more to it than realpolitik. A self-respecting country ought to consider it a personal attack on the dignity of the country to have its embassy stormed and its ambassador killed. Maybe you're willing to just throw your embassy staff to the wind as a cost of doing business. Maybe you've disavowed any aspects of collective punishment, and think that unless you can isolate the punishment down to the exact individuals involved, you should err on the side of doing less (or nothing at all).
But the symbolism you send to the rest of the world is atrocious. And the world pays attention to symbolism. You may think it's unimportant, but Osama Bin Laden didn't. Don't be so sure that you're saving lives in the long run by not responding with firm force. Other countries thought twice about trying to push around British subjects after 1850.
Lord Palmerston (who, I have it on very good authority, was England's greatest Prime Minister), had this to say, in defence of his actions in the Don Pacifico affair, and his foreign policy more generally:
"As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say, Civis Romanus sum, so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him from injustice and wrong."
I hope that's still true.