Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Legitimacy And Status

I read through former UN Ambassador John Bolton's blast against Barack Obama, and after thinking about it for awhile, I got annoyed with Bolton's use of the word 'legitimacy'. Here are portions of what he wrote:
President Bush's speech to Israel's Knesset, where he equated "negotiat[ing] with the terrorists and radicals" to "the false comfort of appeasement," drew harsh criticism from Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders. They apparently thought the president was talking about them, and perhaps he was.

...When the U.S. negotiates with "terrorists and radicals," it gives them legitimacy, a precious and tangible political asset. Thus, even Mr. Obama criticized former President Jimmy Carter for his recent meetings with Hamas leaders. Meeting with leaders of state sponsors of terrorism such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il is also a mistake. State sponsors use others as surrogates, but they are just as much terrorists as those who actually carry out the dastardly acts. Legitimacy and international acceptability are qualities terrorists crave, and should therefore not be conferred casually, if at all.
No, Mr. Bolton, negotiations confer status, not legitimacy. All nations, movements, and terrorist organizations look elsewhere for legitimacy. Legitimacy is self-generated. Democratic nations gain legitimacy through elections, but even the most ragtag terrorist organization is going to appeal to some mystical connection to a volk, or a religion, or a movement to gain the legitimacy it craves. No group or nation ever gets its legitimacy by talks with the United States government, although it may get recognition and status by doing so.

By confusing legitimacy and status, Bolton once again reveals the contempt the Bush Administration has for the rest of the world. In Bush-world, all nations are subsurvient to the United States of America, the only power capable of doling out legitimacy as it sees fit.

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