DOUG BANDOW The United States once aspired to be a shining city upon a hill, an example to the world. What an example it has become. Today Washington is the place for other governments to go when they want a competitor roughed up. No one wants to do the dirty work themselves. Instead, they ask the US to bomb, invade and/or occupy their adversary. At least, thats what the WikiLeaks cables suggest. Foreign governments routinely and shamelessly urge America to go to war for their benefit. Other nations long have urged the US to defend them. In World War I the entente powers, including despotic Czarist Russia and colonial governments which collectively subjugated hundreds of millions of people, pressed Woodrow Wilson to go to war for democracy. Alas, Americas maladroit intervention resulted in everything but democracy. In World War II France and especially Great Britain pressed for Americas entry on their behalf. Here, at least, there was a truly evil and threatening enemy. South Korea wanted and received US aid when attacked. The Hungarian revolutionaries hoped for the same and were disappointed. South Vietnamese, Kuwaitis, Bosnian Muslims, Somali warlords and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo later won Washingtons military support; ethnic Karen guerrillas in Burma and the Georgian government did not. Some of these cases are complex. For instance, evidence indicates that Tbilisi started the conflict with Russia. Nevertheless, its natural for endangered countries or people to call on another nation to aid their defence. Most of the time doing so isnt in Americas interest. But the request is understandable. However, WikiLeaks suggests that foreign governments have moved a step beyond. Even when there is no pressing, let alone imminent, threat, they now ask Washington to loose the dogs of war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has openly urged the US government to take military action against Iran. The WikiLeaks cables included warnings from Israeli officials that Tehran was hardening its nuclear sites, as well as a claim from Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak that action was needed now, since in a matter of at most eighteen months any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage. Yet Tehran currently possesses nothing and will not soon possess anything. While theres good reason to be suspicious of Irans activities, evidence of a serious and successful nuclear weapons programme remains illusive. Moreover, Israel is the dominant regional military power and possesses 150 or more nuclear weapons. Presumably Israel developed nuclear weapons for just this contingency, to deter attack by a neighbour. There is no evidence that the Iranian leadership is suicidal; indeed, Israeli security analysts with whom I have spoken believe Tehran desires the bomb for deterrence and status, not aggression and self-immolation. Yet Israel wants the US to set fire to the Middle East, initiating the third war in less than a decade. From Israels perspective, Washington is not a friend or even ally, but just convenient muscle on call. Several Arab nations obviously look at America the same way. Thats not really surprising, but the dismissive assumption that Washingtons job is to eliminate a regional rival remains disturbing. Theres Saudi Arabia, well-armed by the US and in line for a new $60 billion arms package. Under sanctions and suffering from a divided political leadership and popular opposition at home, Tehran is not well positioned to threaten Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states. Yet US diplomatic cables indicate that Saudi King Abdullah frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme. The Saudi Ambassador to America, Adel al-Jubeir, recalled the kings frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and the kings admonition for Americans to cut off the head of the snake. Although not necessary for Riyadhs defence, wrecking Iranian society would turn the Saud dynasty into the dominant Muslim power in the Persian Gulf. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain took a similar stance, telling an American diplomat to terminate their nuclear programme, by whatever means necessary. That programme must be stopped. Abu Dhabis crown prince, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed, urged an early attack on Iran: They have to be dealt with before they do something tragic. In 2003 he advocated that action against Tehran be taken this year or next year. Zeid Rifai, head of the Jordanian Senate, said simply: Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Officials in other nations, such as Egypt and Qatar denounced Iran as evil and a threat. Theres good reason to work against an Iranian nuclear weapon, but the cost of war for America would be very high, especially with so many troops still deployed in Iraq. But other than Israel none of these allies is willing to publicly back Washington in war. And all would expect America to protect them from Iranian retaliation. Iran is the most common target of other nations hoping Washington will eliminate a potentially threatening rival. But it is not the only one. Chinas increasingly aggressive conduct has caused unease throughout East Asia. Its obvious that Washingtons allies, both formal (Japan, South Korea and Australia) and informal (Taiwan) expect American protection in the event of attack. But Canberra recently went further in pressing the US to act against Beijing. While advocating engagement with China, then-Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd urged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to prepare to deploy force if everything goes wrong. Exactly what he intended isnt clear. Perhaps he only meant if Beijing assaults an American ally. But the US government considered preventive war against the mainland in the mid-1960s. Moreover, Rudds comment could involve something more like the blank cheque which many Taiwanese believe they enjoy. Engage in provocative behaviour, but dont worry about the outcome, since Washington will be there if things go badly. War is sometimes a tragic necessity, but not nearly as often as Washington attacks or threatens other nations. Theres a reason other governments have come to regard America as a high-class street thug, available to take out bothersome neighbours. It is bad enough when the US government gets involved to help other countries defend themselves when doing so is contrary to Americas security interest. It is far worse to go to war at another countrys behest when the latter faces no imminent threat. Washington policymakers should learn to resist the Sirens call to war, no matter how often or insistently it is repeated. The National Interest