The new world imperial order
Despite the claim of the Bush administration that its foreign policy seeks to restore national sovereignty against the encroachments of multilateralism, the whole conduct of its ‘war on terror’ has been a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of other countries. And with the success of right-wing hardliners in securing a tight grip on the administration’s foreign policy and extending the war to Iraq, it is clear that the US is set to continue on this dangerous course.
ALMOST lost in President George W Bush’s triumphs in the 5 November Congressional elections and at the UN Security Council on 8 November were two events that offer a glimpse into the new world imperial order (NWIO) being built by the administration.
While senior officials have long insisted they want to rejuvenate a global system of strong nation states that exercise full sovereignty over their borders as the preferred alternative to ‘global government’, the two incidents help illustrate how far Washington will go in interfering with that sovereignty to further its own interests.
On 3 November, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched a laser-guided Hellfire missile from an unmanned Predator reconnaissance plane at a car travelling in a remote region in northern Yemen, instantly incinerating the vehicle and its six occupants, who reportedly included a senior operative of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda group, Qaed Senyan al-Harthi.
The attack marked the first time that Washington had used an armed Predator drone to attack suspected terrorists outside of Afghanistan and in a country at peace with the US. While Washington insisted it had permission from the Yemeni government to carry out the attack, Yemeni officials declined to confirm that.
The second incident took place two days before the attack, when Mauritius’ ambassador to the UN, Jagdish Koonjul, was abruptly recalled by his government after Port-Louis received a complaint from Washington that Koonjul was not lining up with sufficient zeal behind Washington’s latest draft resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq at the UN Security Council.
It had apparently been pointed out to the Mauritians, who export most of their textiles to the US, that, by signing a preferential trade agreement with the US in 2000 under AGOA (the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act), they had agreed not to ‘engage in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests’.
The not-so-subtle message was that if they failed to support Washington at the Security Council, their trade interests would suffer.
In many ways, neither event was terribly surprising.
The use of economic pressure by one state against another for political ends, for example, is nothing new in the history of interstate relations. On the other hand, making a trade agreement explicitly conditional on a state’s surrendering control over its foreign policy on issues deemed important to a more powerful trading partner, not only narrows the definition of sovereignty, it smacks of 19th century imperialism.
More dramatic, of course, was the attack over the Yemeni desert. The incident, which sparked outrage in Arab countries, immediately drew questions about parallels with Israel’s policy of ‘targeted killings’ of suspected Palestinian terrorists, a policy condemned even by the Bush administration.
While Yemen, like the Philippines, Georgia, and Pakistan, among others, has taken up offers by the administration of US military advisers to provide intelligence and train their own troops to track down alleged terrorists, this was the first time Washington had unilaterally killed a target far from the battlefield in Afghanistan.
Hawks in the offices of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld exulted over the operation, which they called a foretaste of what was to come. ‘We’ve got new authorities, new tools, and a new willingness to do it wherever it has to be done,’ noted one administration source quoted by the New York Times.
‘This is an extraordinary change of threshold,’ a former intelligence officer told the Washington Post.
Indeed, just 13 years ago, a major controversy erupted when the Justice Department under former president George Bush Sr. asserted a unilateral US right to arrest a criminal suspect in a foreign country without the consent of the host country. That notion, which was overruled by the State Department, seems quaint in light of the Yemen attack.
But the larger question raised by the incident is how such an attack furthers the administration’s stated goal of building an international order based on strong nation states that exercise sovereignty over their territories.
The Bush government has long made clear that it opposes any system of ‘global governance’ in which multilateral institutions could, in its view, compromise or encroach on US sovereignty.
As an alternative, the administration and its supporters have argued that world order is best secured by rejuvenating the nation-state system created by the 354-year-old Treaty of Westphalia, which ended Europe’s calamitous Thirty Years War. That treaty, which codified the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, was explicitly invoked by Bush himself in the same West Point speech last June in which he first announced his intention to maintain unequalled military superiority into the future.
Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who exercises a not inconsiderable influence on the thinking of several of the president’s top aides, particularly national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, first argued last January that the war on terror’s main aim should be to ‘revitalise’ the nation state’s authority, which had been undermined by globalisation.
That aim has been explicitly endorsed numerous times by administration officials to justify policies that rejected multilateral solutions to problems.
In announcing Washington’s renunciation of the Rome Statute to create the International Criminal Court, for example, US Ambassador for War Crimes Issues, Pierre Prosper, argued that much more emphasis should be put on building national judicial systems capable of handling crimes against humanity and genocide.
‘Complete intervention for everyone’
Similarly, when the UN and the European Union (EU) and even the US-installed Afghan government called for expanding the peacekeeping force (ISAF) in Afghanistan beyond Kabul, Washington argued that such a step would only prolong the government’s dependence on the world body. Better, it said, to focus on building the country’s own army, however long that might take.
However appealing the notions of restoring sovereignty and state responsibility may be from a theoretical point of view, they bear little relation to the way in which the US is pursuing its war on terrorism. On the contrary, sovereignty - the right and power of the nation state to regulate its internal affairs and external relations without foreign dictation - is clearly being subordinated to the will of the US.
‘Complete sovereignty for us; complete intervention for everyone else,’ said French foreign-policy expert Pierre Hassner about the administration’s worldview several months ago. ‘This is typical of empire.’ - IPS
Right-wing hardliners tighten grip on foreign policy
RECENT events have given further evidence that control of President George W Bush’s foreign policy is now held by a coalition of several interlocked forces. Its centre is based in the Pentagon’s civilian leadership, with support coming from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, and, to a lesser extent, among the staff of the National Security Council.
Their worldview, according to Washington’s former UN ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, marks ‘a radical break with 55 years of bipartisan tradition that sought international agreements and regimes of benefit to us’.
The coalition consists of two highly ideological forces: neo-conservatives, a predominantly Jewish movement whose adherents are strongest in the Pentagon and Cheney’s office, and the Christian Right, a key Bush constituency that also dominates the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives.
These two forces agree on several fundamental principles: they love Israel’s Likud Party and hate its Arab and Islamic enemies; they scorn multilateralism, the UN and Western European ‘elites’ that criticise Israel or the US; they consider a confrontation with China inevitable; they fervently believe the US is an ‘exceptional’ nation and a morally redemptive force in the world, which justifies active intervention in the affairs of other nations and the country’s unilateral pursuit of its own interests. They also believe that this country, as the ultimate arbiter in international affairs, must maintain its unquestioned military dominance.
The third component of the coalition is guided by more material interests. Major weapons manufacturers stand to reap a bonanza from the huge rise in military spending that the administration’s increasingly ambitious and open-ended ‘war on terrorism’ and eventual confrontation with China promise.
Outside the administration, the connections between these forces - particularly within Congress, the media, and especially in various think tanks - have become clearer since 11 September.
The umbrellas they gather under include several think tanks - the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and the advisory boards of the Center for Security Policy (CSP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and Empower America (EA). All of these organisations - none of which has mass appeal - have inter-locking directorates and staff. It was announced in July, for example, that PNAC’s deputy director, Tom Donnelly, has been hired by giant arms-maker Lockheed-Martin, which also is a major CSP and AEI backer. Richard Perle, a ‘scholar’ at AEI, is a co-founder of JINSA, sits on the CSP board, and also serves as the chairman of the Pentagon’s defence policy board, a top-level advisory body that has championed the invasion of Iraq.
These organisations also work quite deliberately to co-ordinate and amplify their common messages through smaller front organisations and like-minded media, including the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Rupert Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard, The National Review, the Unification Church’s Washington Times, The New Republic, and, perhaps most prominently in the electronic age, the Murdoch-owned Fox (Television) News.
From the moment Bush took office, those messages have been aimed against Secretary pf State Collin Powell and the classic foreign-policy realism that he and, for that matter, Bush’s own father represent. Even before 11 September, the coalition was behind a series of public and internal administration assaults on Powell’s positions: they chortled when Bush assailed South Korea’s ‘sunshine diplomacy’ with North Korea the day after Powell extolled it; they declared Powell’s settlement with China over its detention of a US spy-plane crew a betrayal.
But the 11 September attacks gave the coalition incomparable leverage against Powell and the realist positions promoted by the State Department and even Bush Sr’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft.
Just one week after the attacks, PNAC drafted an open letter, published in the Washington Times and the Weekly Standard, calling for Bush to extend the ‘war on terrorism’ to Iraq, Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.
Considered ludicrous and potentially disastrous by the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) experts, that manifesto has essentially become policy, over Powell’s objections. - IPS