American Swagger in a Dangerous Nuclear World

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Mr Kirstein is a professor of history at Saint Xavier University and the author of "False Dissenters: Manhattan Project Scientists and the Use of the Atomic Bomb," which appeared in the journal American Diplomacy.

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With the end of the Cold War in 1991 many dreamed that a new era of peace and harmony would emerge. Gone would be the nuclear shadow hovering over humankind. Eliminated would be bipolarity in which a geostrategically divided world was fractured by mutual assured destruction and messianic dreams of conquest and domination. Instead of realism--that hardboiled, imperial theory that became the raison d'etre of George Frost Kennan's containment policy and the aggressive fabric of NSC 68--a recrudescence of Wilsonian internationalism would emerge in a world that abandoned imperialism, balances of power, spheres of influence and proxy wars. Indeed, Francis Fukuyama in his dramatic work, The End of History and the Last Man (1991), envisioned in almost millennial terms a new world order in which conflict would be ancillary to an increasingly progressive, pacific interstate system.

As John Lewis Gaddis has noted, no scholar of international relations predicted the end of the Cold War. One should, therefore, avoid too strident criticism of those who demonstrate errancy in their post-Cold War suppositions as well. Yet those on the left, who construe American imperialism as endemic to its national character, were quite skeptical that the sole survivor of the Cold War would reject traditional power maximizing and avoid exploiting its erstwhile adversary's demise as an opportunity for hegemonic domination. Indeed, American elites with unseemly hauteur dismissed the wondrous Gorbachev initiatives of glasnost, perestroika and abstention from both conventional and nuclear arms races as"victory" over the Soviet Union and even hailed President Reagan's malevolent Star Wars proposal (Strategic Defense Initiative) as the coup de grace that frightened an impoverished rival into submission. Instead of the"end of history," U.S."history" has continued with a vengeance in the form of aggressive nationalism fueled by unilateralism and a messianic belief that American exceptionalism entitles it to renounce international treaties and regimes that attenuate its precious sovereignty. From rejecting the Kyoto Treaty on global warming to refusing to accept the war crimes jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the United States plays by its own rules as it repeatedly flaunts international consensus.

Nowhere is this swaggering nationalism more evident than in its approach to nuclear nonproliferation and arms control. It was the United States that created atomic bombs, strategic bombers, thermonuclear weapons (H-bombs), MIRVed missiles, submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and cruise missiles. Since the inception of the atomic age, the United States has adopted a policy of first use of weapons of mass destruction. First use refers to a strategic doctrine that includes the possible initiation of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict. Indeed, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles enshrined this policy in his 1954 Council of Foreign Relations speech in New York when he proclaimed"massive retaliation" that threatened to unleash instantly a strategic nuclear attack even in response to a Soviet conventional attack. This New Look of the Eisenhower administration was somewhat altered under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's Flexible Response, an ambiguous doctrine that NATO adopted in 1967, which appeared to emphasize a mix of conventional, tactical (battlefield nukes) and strategic nuclear war fighting capabilities. Yet first use remains under the Bush administration as nuclear doctrine and as a component of its radical strategy of preemption as contained within its"National Security Strategy" that was released in September. With the subsequent publication of its"National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction" in December, there is an explicit threat to use nuclear weapons even in response to non-nuclear attacks against nations other than the United States. Furthermore, Congress has authorized research in the 2003 Defense Authorization Act to develop nuclear"bunker busters," so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators (RNEPs) that could burrow deeply underground. Perhaps this latest Strangelovian pursuit will create a new preemptive tool of choice: the ultimate nonproliferation dream weapon as it detonates stored underground nuclear, biological and chemical stockpiles!

In addition to first use, America's unilateralist aversion to arms control treaties is having a destabilizing effect in areas deemed dangerous to its national security interests. Although the likelihood of a nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia is remote, America's pursuit of a Pax Americana with unrivaled conventional and nuclear forces has exacerbated nuclear tensions throughout the Middle East and Northeast Asia. Even though the United States has not conducted a nuclear test since September 1992, it has not ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The CTBT would prohibit all nuclear weapons-test explosions. By banning testing, it makes it more difficult for nations with nuclear ambitions--such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea--to acquire, much less deploy, atomic weapons. Although negotiations began in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration and continued episodically for decades, only three years after the CTBT was signed in 1996, the Senate, in an anti-Clinton partisan vote, rejected it. Craig Cerniello, then of the Arms Control Association, tersely described America's rejection as sending"shock waves throughout the world, drawing strong condemnation from Russia and China as well as American allies in Europe and Asia." Last summer, Mayor Itcho Ito of Nagasaki, during the fifty-seventh anniversary of the August 9, 1945 atomic incineration of his city, issued a peace declaration charging America's refusal to ratify the CTBT was a"unilateral action that runs counter to efforts to abolish nuclear weapons."

While the United States is gravely concerned about North Korea's intention to abrogate its 1985 ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and exclude itself from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, America has paved the way toward nuclear anarchy with its unilateral abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. Implemented during SALT I negotiations and hailed by many as the bedrock of strategic stability during the Cold War, ABM was based upon a very basic premise. If neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union developed a nationwide-missile defense system to interdict nuclear reentry vehicles, it would constrain the impulse to produce additional offensive nuclear forces that would overwhelm it.

While the Clinton administration began rhetorically to test the limits of the ABM treaty, for the first time in the atomic age the Bush administration on December 13, 2001 actually abrogated, with six months notice, a nuclear arms-control treaty. While some argue that ABM was outdated due to smaller,"rogue state" ballistic missile threats, the United States used a spurious invoking of Article XV (the supreme interests clause), to gut the treaty and begin deploying by 2004 ground-based interceptor missiles at Fort Greeley, Alaska. Recalling President Reagan's admonition that treaty compliance must not rely on promises but transparency through national technical means--"trust but verify"--the United States demonstrated that even when it's a state-party to verifiable treaties"of unlimited duration," it cannot be expected to honor them.

President Bush's principal war aim for a preemptive invasion of Iraq has rhetorically shifted from regime change-overthrowing a government of a sovereign state- to disarmament of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The United States includes chemical and biological weapons as well as nuclear in its WMD counterproliferation agenda. One could include as a WMD the vicious United States-enforced sanctions regime against Iraq that has probably led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of infants and children. Yet WMD nonproliferation is not applied to Israel that has both fission (atomic) and possibly fusion (hydrogen) weapons with perhaps 100s of warheads. Middle East nonproliferation efforts should not be selectively applied against Islamic countries such as Iraq and Iran, which are nonnuclear states, but directed at nuclear powers such as Israel, who along with India and Pakistan, are the only non-parties to the NPT. Furthermore, our own refusal to accept WMD safeguards suggests an imperial exceptionalism that John Pike described as"demanding one set of rules for America, another for the rest of the world."

Consider the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) that entered into force in 1975. It prohibits the weaponization of biological agents (germs or diseases) and is the first multilateral treaty to ban an entire category of weapons. The treaty is virtually unenforceable due to sweeping changes in biotechnology that require a comprehensive verification inspection regime. The U.S. last July rejected any multilateral attempts at protocol negotiations that would make more difficult the weaponization of biological agents. Given the dynamic changes in biotechnology, American concerns that the protocol might lead to intellectual property violations, particularly among pharmaceutical companies, pales when compared to the threat of biological weapons proliferation. Indeed the U.S. pursues its own robust biodefense research program and yet repeatedly threatens to invade Iraq if there were a material breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 that established an intrusive weapons inspection regime under the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). For Iraq, the U.S. demands unfettered inspections to identify putative WMD stockpiles, but eschews international monitoring of its own facilities.

Bush described Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the"focus of evil" in his State of the Union address in January 2002. Clearly this accusatory rhetoric is hardly a disincentive for would be WMD-proliferators that fear America's wrath and proven ruthlessness in applying military force. Great powers cannot rule through force of arms alone but by moral example. If the United States is serious about pursuing nuclear and other forms of nonproliferation, it must adhere to international law, respect international treaties and join the international community as a participant and not as its imperial chieftain. As Bertrand Russell wrote:"For love of domination we must substitute equality; for love of victory we must substitute justice; for brutality we must substitute intelligence; for competition we must substitute cooperation. We must learn to think of the human race as one family."

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Richard Henry Morgan - 1/22/2003

I beg to differ on both the history and the morals. Jeffrey Amherst is widely blamed for distributing smallpox, though there is some evidence an enlisted man beat him to it. Similar mumblings have surrounded General Phil Sheridan. The Japanese used bacterial bombs at Changte in 1942, sent balloon bombs across the Pacific to the US (though, to this day, the US denies that they included bacteriological bombs, even as the US has classified documents related to Unit 731), and at war's end the Japanese were mounting a program to send a submarine-launched kamikaze strike with bacteriological bombs against San Diego. I'm not sure I would concur in the blanket statement that germ warfare had no history in the Western Hemisphere.

The characterization of the anthrax attacker as probably a US citizen, probably a white Christian, sounds awfully like the profile for the DC snipers -- and may have as slim a basis. And I didn't know the anthrax had been traced to US defense laboratories. That would be interesting. Do you have a source for that claim? As for the supererogation, etc., I find it interesting that people call for the US to commit to a regime of inspections, yet seem not to realize that germ warfare can be a low-tech approach, beyond the capacity for inspections to detect. Witness the ricin gang in London.

James Thornton - 1/21/2003

Yet another excellent article on the American Empire.

James Thornton - 1/21/2003

While the debate has proven to be intellectually engaging I disprove of Mr. Moner's sarcasm and reliance upon rhetoric. I find it so sad that Mr. Moner and Mr. Kirstein believe that the US Government is the "man in the black hat" regarding Iraq and war on terrorism. Militant Islam is a HUGE section of Islam, and the most daunting challenge to face us since Communisim. Furthermore, Muslims are not the victims you romanticize them to be. As an American or Westerner for that matter, you are as a valid target as I am, in or out of uniform. After the war is over and won, history will prove you both wrong on every count.

Peter N Kirstein - 1/18/2003

I agree that flout is preferable to flaunt when meaning treating with contempt, but the latter is acceptable and need not be dismissed as substandard English. Flaunt has reached a stage of comparable use in which perhaps only the purest of purists would object. I believe some "fulsome" praise of my analysis is in order.

I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
No, I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.

Bob Dylan, "Maggie's Farm," Bringing It All Back Home

Gus Moner - 1/18/2003

OK boys, from the Collins English Dictionary:

flout [flaut]
vb. (when intr., usually foll. by at) to show contempt (for); scoff or jeer (at).

flaunt [flnt]
1. to display (possessions, oneself. etc.) ostentatiously; show off.
2. to wave or cause to wave freely; flutter.

Usage: Flaunt is sometimes wrongly used where flout is meant: they must be prevented from flouting (not flaunting) the law.

It appears the most correct usage for 'blowing off', or disregarding, is indeed flout.

Gus Moner - 1/18/2003

Mr Morgan says that taking on additional legal ‘burdens’ to stop the spread of chemical-biological weapons is being supererogatory. I disagree. In fact, the production of these weapons by the USA is the source of the only known chemical warfare to date in the Western Hemisphere, the anthrax attacks in the USA, probably carried out by a US citizen, probably a white Christian. The spores came from US defence laboratories. Can you explain, Mr. Morgan, how producing these weapons is for defence? Are we to believe that an Anthrax attack can be defended with another biological weapon?

It is not about taking on additional ‘burdens’ in order to make others comply. It is about taking on additional commitments to eliminate and cease producing these dangerous weapons. Period.

If Iraq has them still, it will be enough pressure will be brought to eliminate them peacefully, no doubt. If that failed, they could eventually be disarmed forcefully. It’s a bridge we have yet to come to, much less cross.

Gus Moner - 1/18/2003

Flattered and honoured by the compliment, Mr. Kirstein. Thank you. Of course, the reply is yes!

Peter N Kirstein - 1/17/2003

Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the principle of land for peace, were obviously not passed by the General Assembly. Additional UN resolutions that Israel has violated were also passed by the Security Council. Mr Thorton's name is Mr Thornton.

Gus Moner - 1/17/2003

This piece by Mr Thorton is embellished with a great number of truths. However, his comment that “You contend that American “aggressive nationalism”, “unilateralism”, and “exceptionalism” undermines International law, which is an oxymoron” perplexes me.

I need help here, where is the oxymoron? I find the comment coherent, as an oxymoron occurs when “contradictory terms are used in conjunction”, such as living death. Here he has been coherent, these terms labelled as contradictory that he quoted do indeed ‘undermine’ international law.

International law, and there is such a thing, is enforced by international bodies. The UN is an example. On many occasions nations are obliged to enforce international law within their jurisdictions (air traffic, sea ports, etc.) I agree on the need for policing and enforcement, and more so on the analogy that no one can call anyone to rein in the USA when it runs amok as it is now doing. Therein lies the problem.

Mr Thorton clearly paints the problem when Israel has the US veto to blow-off UN General Assembly resolutions in the Security Council. To me, a vote by the General Assembly is more meaningful and representative than by the exclusivist Security Council. It should be the role of the Security Council to create the conditions for compliance with the will of the General Assembly’s resolutions. Otherwise, we haven’t a UN, we have a U-15, or a U-5, as he clearly points up when he says that “The General Assembly has no teeth whereas the Security Council backed by American military might does”. Other nations can and do contribute to the UN besides the USA, and they pay their dues, too!

Finally, the article courteously passed on is a sham and not on par with Mr Thorton’s commentary. Just one example “We do not send out proconsuls to reside over client states”. What exactly did we do in Vietnam, Germany, Japan, and what is the US planning to do in Iraq? What do we do when we set up local dictators but to have them be our Pro Consuls? I rest my keyboard, good evening.

Peter N Kirstein - 1/17/2003

Can I hire you as a speech writer?

Gus Moner - 1/17/2003

Mr. Thorton makes a reasoned case for the US position in the world, including important comments on the goodness of US military activities round the world. I have read the Economist articles, and draw dissimilar conclusions.

I would beg to differ that the use of military power is ever ‘beneficial to the world’, for it merely substitutes diplomacy for terror and violence, from which the most terrorised and victimised are the civilians. Naturally, when attacked, nations usually defend themselves. A so-called ‘peace’ has been restored to the Balkans only through the force of arms Serbs, Bosnians and Croatians resorted to. The use of power in Kosovo is not a success, no matter how many roads and schools have been rebuilt by the US or UN contingent. The Serb and Albanian people there live divided, in hate and spite and are merely awaiting the inevitable declaration of success and withdrawal to resume their horrid war for domination of that land. The NATO bombing only succeeded in getting Serbia out of Kosovo. However, the underlying problem was a half a millennium of conflict between two people with radically different religions and culture. The underlying causes have yet to be resolved, and indeed may never be resolved, for these sort of religious – ethnic conflicts seldom have e clear ‘way out’, as Palestine and N Ireland clearly prove. So, we have a long truce, not peace.

The US has been involved in quite a few more clashes than any other nation on Earth since Vietnam. Clearly more than Mr Thorton outlined; memory seems to have failed Mr Thorton here. What about the provoked clashes with Libya, the Lebanon disaster under Reagan, the Somali adventure under Bush/Clinton, the Iranian hostage rescue debacle? How many has Russia had in the same period, one. The one that led to its collapse in Afghanistan. How many nations has France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Japan, Vietnam, etc. attacked in the same period? It seems to me that being the most belligerent nation on Earth is not unhesitant and restrained use of power, especially when contrasted to other nations’ belligerence. Many nations provide armed forces in catastrophes, many internationally. Yet, we are to believe the ‘hard power’ has been ‘beneficial’. Ask the thousands of dead or maimed and or their families how good that smart bomb was for them. Repairing a school is indeed a worthy and laudable task you ought to be proud of. But the destruction of the school, the infrastructure, basic services. How did it happen? Natural disaster? No, hard power. This is the element missing in all the rhetoric about Iraq. We are told we need to ‘disarm Saddam’. No one says we are bombing Iraq and blistering it with missiles and bombs, with the collateral damage to its citizenry, in order to ‘disarm Iraq’. It sounds so clean, disarm Saddam. No on wants to face or deal with the disarm Iraq means plenty of civilian deaths and the decimation of a nation’s infrastructure. No, because, as Mr Thorton believes, we’ll rebuild it. I doubt the US army feeds needy people better than humanitarian organisations, I regret to have to differ strongly in this mater.

After this initial outburst, Mr Thorton would have us believe that the “US military is a tool for healing and repair of war’s most vulnerable victims as well as the destruction of the enemy”. We cannot on the one hand pretend to defeat the enemy through superior firepower and heal and repair the victims that the defeat causes without being cynical and careless. For they are victims of our attacks and bombs, victims we create and would not have been but for our attacks and bombs. Tragedy is avoidable only when you avoid war.

Perhaps there is an excess of bellicose patriotism in the armed forces and government circles. Killing with zeal is ultimately the fault of those who send men and women in harm’s way. Moreover, the men and women who kill have a choice to make. Will they kill to attack a nation and its people or only to defend the USA? Iraq did NOT have anything to do with the WTC and Pentagon attacks and Mr Thorton’s casual use of these victims to justify a war on Iraq is base, dishonourable and disrespectful. His inside knowledge of the military and their efforts to avoid excess damage is appreciated and comforting. However, as the killing goes on nonetheless, we needn’t get too choked up about it. For if civilians were a real concern, they would never wage the war, for they know well they’ll be the primary victims and bear the mayor brunt.

Why were the western Europeans who disagreed with you the miserable ones, Mr Thorton? You mentioned it without explaining it. Perhaps they have the memory of politicians and wars, 70 million dead and a continent destroyed to fall back on, something the US does not. Please elaborate. If the US ever suffered a similar calamity, heaven forbid, can one imagine any enthusiasm for adventurous war now? The rest of the comment in b) were quite on target. However, the issue remains that we use more resources proportionately than any other nation on earth. For this kind of human injustice to be the result is despicable.

I agree the US needs enemies and its embedded in our psyche. The powerful military industrial complex and dependence on foreign energy require that. Contrasting 9-11 with Pearl harbour is erroneous. One has a nation attacking another, while the other is a small group re-vindicating issues of US interference and manipulation in their society. So, the reaction is bound to be different. Grief was correct, and the enemy is still to be found. The US government has erred in turning the terrorist issue into a war; it’s good politically, wrong for the well being of the nation and its future.

By putting us on a collision course with an entire culture, religion and region when they had little if anything to do with the attack was plain stupid. It’s been turned into a struggle of religious, socio-political and economic dimensions to balance the issues of energy dependence, interference in foreign nations to control it and perception of US policy requirements to maintain the empire inviolable. A huge mess. Militant Islam is a very small force. If we learn to respect the nations and their cultures that make up that world and simply refrain from trying to exercise control, dominate and set up unpopular governments there, while forcing Israel to go back to its 1967 borders and leave Palestinians in peace, we’d have removed most of the causes for hatred and war against us. Then, we could sell burgers and all the glitter of US culture and technology in peace.

I agree that WE may prefer ‘enlightened liberal democracy’. That, however, sir, is NOT the question. It’s what they’d prefer. Why have no more Afghan women shed their Burkhas than when the Taliban ruled? Their culture, traditions, social norms and religion are stronger than Laura Bush’s desire to have them shed it. In time, in peace and with trade and cultural exchanges, these societies will advance and shed their primitive customs and laws. We cannot impose that change. Again, militant Islam is a small, radical cross section of Islam. It’s not the huge force its made out to be by the fear mongers. The struggle needn’t be underway, sir. The US is making too much of it, for economic and political domination of the mayor crude oil areas, and cementing their hold on the US body politic. Global war on terrorism? We are attacking Iraq for God’s sake. What has that to do with terrorism? Meanwhile, terrorists run free elsewhere while we look upon Iraq, and N Korea goes amok while we complain about Saddam. It’s all wrongheaded, disparate in focus and badly thought through. If thought through at all, for within 6 days of the 9-11 attacks we had decided to go after Iraq. Now we are back-pedalling to make up or find the reasons to justify it. Simply brilliant.

The naiveté of the comment “(I hope) when the conflict is over Congress will reverse or amend some of the laws enacted in the post-9/11 trauma” astounded me from someone who makes so many other lucid arguments. This war, Mr. Thorton, as it has been planned and organised, can NEVER be over. Nor would congress have the mettle to rescind these laws. The damage is done and it’s probably irreparable. The attacks on changing these laws will engender diatribe about lowering our defences and paving the way for terrorists. Since there is no political programme to deal with the causes of terrorism, there’ll never be an end to it. And no such programme will ever be forthcoming from this administration. As you say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Yours and mine.

If the Bush mob had the wherewithal to take this terrorist problem and deal with it with something other than war, we might be on our way to creating the conditions for peace. A withdrawal from Muslim lands and a cessation of meddling, clean, neat and respectful economic relationships such as those being practised by Europeans and Asians and a serious Israeli-Palestinian settlement would dissipate most the hate and these people, who would like to have normal lives also, would be worrying about economic development without concerns for their religious, cultural and socio-political survival. We are creating more terrorism than we are ending Mr Thorton. The so-called war on terror, which it is not, is becoming a perennial war on ourselves as we create more enemies.

Finally, I find it exceedingly curious that you counsel “Southerners should work these problems out themselves without outside (Northern) interference that bothers Southerners more than racial tension”, yet advise interference elsewhere on the planet. Might that not be a good strategy everywhere? Or is it just suitable for the area that affects you? It’s a dichotomy that requires further thought from you, sir. Why such interventionism in foreign lands and hands-off the South? Are you an interventionist agitator in foreign lands and a non interventionist in your own?

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/16/2003

You're right, Seutonius, it wasn't ABM but the proposed multilateralization of ABM that could have granted the Russians an advantage -- much like paying the Soviets to enter the UN via the fiction that Byelorussia was independent.

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/16/2003

Here's an interesting link to a story on the slave camps of North Korea -- you remember North Korea, don't you, the bastion of observance of international norms?

Peter N Kirstein - 1/16/2003

Thank you for signing your e-mail with a real name. I believe HNN requests 'Your name' and that should be honored it seems to me when entering public discourse.

ABM allowed both sides two missile sites. One around each national capital and one located at a single ICBM missile field. Despite some of the commentary, there never was a disparity in allowed sites and such a claim, from anyone, demonstrates insufficient knowledge of this treaty. The Soviets built one with the Galosh system around Moscow. Still there but useless. Then two years later at Vladisvostok, Ford and Breshnev modified it with a new modified treaty that reduced an allowable ABM site to one. The US attempted to build one at Grand Forks, ND and Donald Rumsfeld was one of the Ford administration officials that pushed for its elimination in 1975.

Also, the NPT despite some of the commentary does have a supreme interests clause. I think it was Article X. So the PDRK has the right to revoke its accession or perhaps more accurately to give notice of its intent to withdraw. I am not suprised that the national-security elites have failed to draw parallels with the US withdrawal from ABM and the DPRKs stated intention to do so with NPT.

I can't remember which president stated in her farewell address. "Rogue states should not tell rogue states not to be rogue states." Maybe it was Abigail Adams.


Suetonius - 1/16/2003

The United States and the Soviet Union were allowed, under the ABM treaty, to have one (possibly two, if memory serves me) missile defense facility. The Soviet Union based its around Moscow. The United States opted not to build what would in effect have been a useless facility.

If I recall, it was the fact that the U.S. could only build one, and not the (probably) three that it would have needed to cover Hawaii and Alaska in addition to the continental United States, that contributed to the decision to vacate the ABM treaty.

James Thornton - 1/16/2003

The link to the excellent Economist articles is as follows:

It is entitled "Present at the Creation", and can be found on the North America page subset to World if the above link is inoperable.

James Thornton - 1/16/2003

The American Empire is based upon both hard and soft power. The Economist on-line has an excellent series of articles on this very subject.

With the exception of Grenada and Panama, the US has been very hesitant to employ military force since Vietnam. While troop deployments and operations tempo (OPTEMPO) have increased significantly since Desert Storm, the use of American “hard power” has been extremely beneficial to the world. Peace was restored to Bosnia and Kosovo where innocent civilians were being slaughtered, and many of the culprits responsible, including Milosevic, have been brought to justice. The US military has also aided the victims of Hurricane Mitch, and the flood victims in Mozambique. First world medical and dental services are provided at no cost to those living in third world nations where the US conducts joint exercises with host nations such as the Philippines and Nicaragua. One of my most rewarding professional experiences was repairing a school for disabled children in the Balkans during the mid-‘90’s. Of course the latest example is the liberation of Afghanistan from the Taliban where American soldiers are now repairing roads, building schools, and feeding Afghans much more effectively than civilian humanitarian relief organizations were ever able to.

The fact is that the US military is a tool for healing and repair of war’s most vulnerable victims as well as the destruction of the enemy. In combat every consideration for collateral damage is given, but despite Herculean efforts tragedy is unavoidable.

In response to your question regarding our senior leadership I cannot answer for them, but humbly offer my own opinion.

(a) Who kills with zeal? Those who formulate policy or the troops who deploy abroad? The military is a volunteer force. The men and women who make it a career are there because they want to be. They are fervently patriotic and usually love the job they do. Do they kill with zeal? Some most likely do, especially with the revenge factor resulting from the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. Others are extremely sobered by the consequences of their actions and responsibilities. I can assure you that neither group kills with abandon. Target lists are carefully scrutinized with collateral damaged a weighted concern.

(b) Why do we tolerate that most of the world is poor and miserable? By “we” do you mean US society at large? I have traveled the world extensively to include some of the world’s poorest regions, but I did not meet many miserable people (except those in an active combat zone). The more miserable people I encountered were in Western Europe that disagreed with our foreign policy. The people I met in Egypt and Liberia could not even fathom our lifestyle as much as theirs would shock your average American suburbanite. Electricity and indoor plumbing, the availability of medical and dental care, 401K’s, owning a car or television are just some examples of things we take for granted that they consider luxuries beyond their wildest dreams. A hamburger at McDonald’s is their idea of a five-star gourmet meal. As a people we are completely oblivious to the world around us, and I think your average citizen is at best apathetic. This is reflected in the results of our elections. Issues such as prescription drug benefits, the economy, and our standard of living here take a higher priority than that of our neighbors. Therefore, our government is apathetic, at best to the standard of living in other nations until it threatens our security or their tenure in office. American voters do not become concerned until images on the evening news of children bloated with starvation and too weak to fight off flies spoil their dinners.

(c ) Does our nation need enemies? I think the answer is yes, and it is a cultural issue that will be extremely difficult to change. However, I think that change is underway for better or worse. Contrasted with Pearl Harbor, the reaction to September 11th was more grief than outrage. Yet, America has always been a nation and people orientated around goals and challenges. Manifest Destiny while the nation was growing is the legacy we live with to this day. When the frontier closed at the turn of the last century we turned to Empire, and this brought us into conflict with other nations and their ideologues. It was Fascism in the early and mid-twentieth century, followed by Communism, and now militant Islam. Enlightened liberal democracy is much more preferable to those alternatives wouldn’t you agree? If so then how do propose to deal with the tensions in the world today, and can democracy and militant Islam coexist peacefully? If not then I enthusiastically support the efforts of our system to win the struggle now underway, which PC pundits call the Global War on Terrorism.

(d) Who is persecuting those who denounce Pax Americana? What form does this persecution take? Please expound.

(e) The questions you asked here are more pertinent to the historical curbs on civil liberties during war. I am troubled by some of the actions taken here, and hope that when the conflict is over Congress will reverse or amend some of the laws enacted in the post-9/11 trauma. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Here the “liberal left” is doing a valuable service by questioning the government. The present balance between liberty and security is obviously tilted toward security and rightfully so, but should be restored when peace is restored.

(f) I do not understand the question here regarding Senator Lott. I take it as how did he become Majority Leader 58 years after the landmark decision ending segregation. He is a professional politician, and probably reflects the opinions of a substantial amount of Mississippians. Wounds and rifts from segregation still exist in the South. I can verify this as a resident of Alabama. Racial tensions are more opaque in the North and West, however. Cincinnati and Los Angeles are good examples of my point. When was the last time the South suffered from a race riot? Southerners should work these problems out themselves without outside interference that bothers Southerners more than racial tension. I have polled my African-American friends on race relations, the Confederate flag, and slavery reparations, and the discussion is honest and frank. Many do still experience discrimination and prejudice, but most consider the Stars-and-Bars a symbol of southern heritage just as whites do, and are against reparations. Ironically, most of the agitation comes from African-Americans from up North.

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/16/2003

from Prof. Kirstein:

"With regard to ABM termiantion by the US and NPT apparent but not necessarily definite withdrawal by PDRK, I think yours and others are making a distinction without a difference. If the US claims to be the arbiter of world events, the City on a Hill and the greatest nation of the "free world" [free for market capitalism, globalization and a racist death penailty), then its record as the first nation to destroy an arms control treaty hardly confers upon it the moral high ground to criticize others.

Please note dear readers. The US broke ABM to build a missile defense system against the PDRK. PDRK then apparently has broken NPT in order to develop nuclear weapons so that the US cannot threaten it."

As Seutonius pointed out, the arrow of causation apparently runs the other way (apparently, because nobody on this site has the wherewithal to determine the truth of that matter). The US claims it has had intel that North Korea broke NPT years ago (while continuing to gain nuclear expertise and access to nuclear materials by a faux compliance with NPT). Let's be clear. The North Korean regime has a clear record of vicious abuse of international norms, as well of abuse of its own people. It continues to pour money into a lopsided military as its people literally starve. It builds invasion tunnels under the DMZ. Its troops are forward-deployed in attacking position, not deployed for defense. It conducts terrorist operations on South Korean soil, to include bringing down a jetliner. This is the state which is, in Prof. Kirstein's view, "less culpable" than the US.

To achieve this conclusion, the professor aserts that the US "broke ABM", right after conceding that termination was consistent with the treaty. To him it is a distinction without a difference because, if the US claims to be a City on a Hill ... -- a bizarre reading of distinctions of international law based on American metaphors. 'If' marks the territory of the hypothetical. Nowhere in international law does the claim exist that the US is the "arbiter of world events", or that it must have a higher moral ground by supererogation than other states who are signatories of treaties. The idea that North Korean putative violation of NPT is indistinguishable -- no, more justifiable -- than legal US withdrawal from a treaty shows a weird moral sense, quite up to the standard that put Jesuitical casuistry in such ill repute. It's a great rhetorical move, no doubt, but it doesn't touch the ability, nay the necessity, of holding others to their legal obligations. And as I said before, ABM allowed anti-ballistic defenses to the Soviets that were denied to the US.

Suetonius - 1/16/2003

With apologies for a second posting,

As for the North Korea issue, North Korea began its resumption of its nuclear program _before_ the Bush administration began discussing the end of the ABM treaty. In fact, the North Koreans have been working on their program since the early 1990s, well before any serious discussion of the missile-interceptor program and during the previous administration. Thus the casual relationship established in the final paragraph must also be fallacious.

In all seriousness, I do appreciate Mr. Kirstein's rational responses to my earlier comments, which stand in stark contrast to the widespread vehemence of others on this site.

Suetonius - 1/16/2003

The NPT did not stop India or Pakistan from developing nuclear devices. As is widely known, Western intelligence services were unable to determine in advance that such nuclear tests were in preparation, which invalidates your fourth sentence in the first paragraph.

You still have not addressed the reduction in nuclear forces agreement between the U.S. and Russia in the spring of 2002 that accompanied the end of the ABM treaty.

What evidence do you cite as proof that computer-based testing is sufficient alone to ensure continued viability of the nuclear weapons?

Peter N Kirstein - 1/15/2003

Thank you for your comments. Since I am going to be in a documentary commenting on US imperialism and earlier empires, I will save my best for that. However, two points to your many significant and worthwhile comments.
1) I don't believe the US empire is a soft one. I don't think we lead by example but by force. I think a war against Iraq would be a catastrophe for the US in that the world would see us as a rogue state, unconstrained by the UN or world opinion and literally out of control.
2) I do not think it isfair to our children and their children to raise them in a world where there is a lack of creative thinking on the part of our senior officials in the following areas?
a) Why do we kill with such zeal and abandon?
b) Why do we tolerate that most of the world is poor and miserable?
c) Why is this nation so needful of having enemies in order to assert control and domination?
d) Why do we persecute those who denounce and refuse to accept this Pax Americana?
e) Why are we a nation that is willing to sacrifice its free speech, its rejection of due process, its cruelty toward dissenters as it faces the world with the pomposity of American exceptionalism?
f) How did get a Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader fifty-eight years after Brown.

Peter N Kirstein - 1/15/2003

Even the US refusal to ratifty CTBT has not been based upon verification concerns but specious arguments that its stockpile may lose its punch and need occasional testing to verify its robustness. This is merely posturing in that computer simulation is quite capable of determining stockpile reliability. {I wish it were not reliable and that each warhead would NEVER work.) In fact it is most unlikely if not nearly impossible for a nation to test a nuclear explosion and avoid detection. Even low yield nuclear tests are extremely difficult to conceal. Furthermore, the mere preparation of a nuclear-test site is quite transparent to satellite and other detection means. Therefore, without insulting the anonymous e-mailer, I believe your comparisons between CTB and BWC are fallacious.

With regard to ABM termiantion by the US and NPT apparent but not necessarily definite withdrawal by PDRK, I think yours and others are making a distinction without a difference. If the US claims to be the arbiter of world events, the City on a Hill and the greatest nation of the "free world" [free for market capitalism, globalization and a racist death penailty), then its record as the first nation to destroy an arms control treaty hardly confers upon it the moral high ground to criticize others.

Please note dear readers. The US broke ABM to build a missile defense system against the PDRK. PDRK then apparently has broken NPT in order to develop nuclear weapons so that the US cannot threaten it. In that perspective, the PDRK is even less culpable as a rogue state violater than the US. Check out the Weekly Standard next week folks!!!!!!!

Suetonius - 1/15/2003

Mr. Kirstein has committed one of the gravest errors that a historian can make. He has merged historical analysis with a contemporary opinion piece on an issue he clearly feels strongly about, and the result is a train wreck.

Though the overall theme of arrogance as a fatal flaw in contemporary U.S. foreign policy is one that historians will rightly address in time, Mr. Kirstein's argument fails on the merit through omission. A few examples:

On the CTBT, he does not engage the argument that the enforcement provisions are less than satisfactory (the same with the BioWeapons Treaty). How is a signature on a piece of paper supposed to stop a determined nation from detonating its own nuclear device? Those on both sides of the issue have recognized this as a fatal flaw in the treaty.

The Senate's rejection of the CTBT, meanwhile, was a classic case of mishandled Congressional relations, not just "anti-Clinton" revenge. Even the leading Democrats on the issue acknowledged that there was minimal preparation of the Senate for the bill, and the result was egg on the face of the legislative liaison teams in the White House who were not supposed to allow this to happen.

The difference between the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty and North Korea's abrogation of the NPT is so stark as to defy comparison. Nonetheless, if one is to be made, it should be noted that the ABM had a provision allowing for either party to withdraw, and the U.S. followed the proceedures laid down in that treaty for withdrawal. This is at odds with the abrupt withdrawl from the NPT by North Korea, announced after the acknowledgement that North Korea had already broken its international agreements not to pursue construction of a nuclear reactor.

Oddly missing from his analysis, finally, is the remarkable reduction in nuclear arms agreement that Presidents Bush and Putin signed in early 2002. How does this fact play in with the rest of the argument?

Overall, this analysis is poorly done. Would it have been done for a class, it would have earned a very low grade. One hopes that Mr. Kirstein's piece has not received wider circulation than HNN.

James Thornton - 1/15/2003

You contend that American “aggressive nationalism”, “unilateralism”, and “exceptionalism” undermines International law, which is an oxymoron. Who, Mr. Kirstein, enforces international law if there really is such a thing? Just as we would have chaos and anarchy on our streets if it were not for law enforcement, the same is true of the world if it were not for some credible threat of force to keep nations, rogue or not, in line. Society can enact all the laws it wants, but unless there is a man or woman in uniform on the beat willing to make an arrest then anyone would be free to do what they want whenever they want regardless of what the laws say. During the Cold War the Americans and the Soviets jointly policed the neighborhood as cop, judge, jury and executioner. The mutual assured destruction (MAD), a.k.a. deterrence backed by nuclear weapons prevented the two policemen from shooting up the neighborhood over “jurisdiction”. Today, the US is the world’s lone cop. Through a complex system of alliances like NATO and membership in international organizations such as the UN and the WTO, the US engages the citizens of the global community and attempts to resolve disputes by consensus. Just as a motorist who resents the cop that runs a red light or speeds without using a siren or lights, the world resents the US when it exercises its privilege to bend international law when American national interests do not coincide. The difference being that the motorist can call the watch captain, desk sergeant, or internal affairs, but the rest of the world has no such recourse other than to grumble about American hegemony.

Comparing Israel to Iraq is apple and oranges. Sanctions against Iraq are the result of Saddam not complying with international law in the form of UN Security Council resolutions demanding the return of abducted Kuwaitis and their property, restitution for the war, and disarmament. Saddam could have complied at any moment and had the sanctions lifted. Instead chose to divert aid from his own people to provide life support to military, which guarantees his control of the country. In addition, he uses the suffering of the Iraqi people as a propaganda weapon to turn popular opinion against the US.

Without going into the debate on Israel and the territories, the UN resolutions passed against Israel originated in the General Assembly rather than the Security Council where the US would undoubtedly veto them. The General Assembly has no teeth whereas the Security Council backed by American military might does. The UN could not mount an effective police action or peacekeeping mission without some form of American political, economic, or military support. So the General Assembly can huff and puff all it wants, but it won't blow any house done anytime soon.

Finally, you write “Great powers cannot rule through force of arms alone but by moral example.”
I would like to get your thoughts on the included essay by Victor Davis Hanson writing for the National Review Online.

A Funny Sort of Empire
Are Americans really so imperial?

It is popular now to talk of the American "empire." In Europe particularly there are comparisons of Mr. Bush to Caesar - and worse - and invocations all sorts of pretentious poli-sci jargon like "hegemon," "imperium," and "subject states," along with neologisms like "hyperpower" and "overdogs." But if we really are imperial, we rule over a very funny sort of empire.

We do not send out proconsuls to reside over client states, which in turn impose taxes on coerced subjects to pay for the legions. Instead, American bases are predicated on contractual obligations - costly to us and profitable to their hosts. We do not see any profits in Korea, but instead accept the risk of losing almost 40,000 of our youth to ensure that Kias can flood our shores and that shaggy students can protest outside our embassy in Seoul.

Athenians, Romans, Ottomans, and the British wanted land and treasure and grabbed all they could get when they could. The United States hasn't annexed anyone's soil since the Spanish-American War - a checkered period in American history that still makes us, not them, out as villains in our own history books. Most Americans are far more interested in carving up the Nevada desert for monster homes than in getting their hands on Karachi or the Amazon basin. Puerto Ricans are free to vote themselves independence anytime they wish.

Imperial powers order and subjects obey. But in our case, we offer the Turks strategic guarantees, political support - and money - for their allegiance. France and Russia go along in the U.N. - but only after we ensure them the traffic of oil and security for outstanding accounts. Pakistan gets debt relief that ruined dot-coms could only dream of; Jordan reels in more aid than our own bankrupt municipalities.

If acrimony and invective arise, it's usually one-way: the Europeans, the Arabs, and the South Americans all say worse things about us than we do about them, not privately and in hurt, but publicly and proudly. Boasting that you hate Americans - or calling our supposed imperator "moron" or "Hitler" - won't get you censured by our Senate or earn a tongue-lashing from our president, but is more likely to get you ten minutes on CNN. We are considered haughty by Berlin not because we send a Germanicus with four legions across the Rhine, but because Mr. Bush snubs Mr. Schroeder by not phoning him as frequently as the German press would like.

Empires usually have contenders that check their power and through rivalry drive their ambitions. Athens worried about Sparta and Persia. Rome found its limits when it butted up against Germany and Parthia. The Ottomans never could bully too well the Venetians or the Spanish. Britain worried about France and Spain at sea and the Germanic peoples by land. In contrast, the restraint on American power is not China, Russia, or the European Union, but rather the American electorate itself - whose reluctant worries are chronicled weekly by polls that are eyed with fear by our politicians. We, not them, stop us from becoming what we could.

The Athenian ekklesia, the Roman senate, and the British Parliament alike were eager for empire and reflected the energy of their people. In contrast, America went to war late and reluctantly in World Wars I and II, and never finished the job in either Korea or Vietnam. We were likely to sigh in relief when we were kicked out of the Philippines, and really have no desire to return. Should the Greeks tell us to leave Crete - promises, promises - we would be more likely to count the money saved than the influence lost. Take away all our troops from Germany and polls would show relief, not anger, among Americans. Isolationism, parochialism, and self-absorption are far stronger in the American character than desire for overseas adventurism. Our critics may slur us for "overreaching," but our elites in the military and government worry that they have to coax a reluctant populace, not constrain a blood-drunk rabble.

The desire of a young Roman quaestor or the British Victorians was to go abroad, shine in battle, and come home laden with spoils. They wanted to be feared, not liked. American suburbanites, inner-city residents, and rural townspeople all will fret because a French opportunist or a Saudi autocrat says that we are acting inappropriately. Roman imperialists had names like Magnus and Africanus; the British anointed their returning proconsuls as Rangers, Masters, Governors, Grandees, Sirs, and Lords. In contrast, retired American diplomats, CIA operatives, or generals are lucky if they can melt away in anonymity to the Virginia suburbs without a subpoena, media exposé, or lawsuit. Proconsuls were given entire provinces; our ex-president Carter from his peace center advises us to disarm.

Most empires chafe at the cost of their rule and complain that the expense is near-suicidal. Athens raised the Aegean tribute often, and found itself nearly broke after only the fifth year of the Peloponnesian War. The story of the Roman Empire is one of shrinking legions, a debased currency, and a chronically bankrupt imperial treasury. Even before World War I, the Raj had drained England. In contrast, America spends less of its GNP on defense than it did during the last five decades. And most of our military outlays go to training, salaries, and retirements - moneys that support, educate, and help people rather than simply stockpile weapons and hone killers. The eerie thing is not that we have 13 massive $5 billion carriers, but that we could easily produce and maintain 20 more.

Empires create a culture of pride and pomp, and foster a rhetoric of superiority. Pericles, Virgil, and Kipling all talked and wrote of the grandeur of imperial domain. How odd then that what America's literary pantheon - Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, and Alice Walker - said about 9/11 would either nauseate or bewilder most Americans.

Pericles could showcase his Parthenon from the tribute of empire; Rome wanted the prestige of Pax Romana and Mare Nostrum; the Sultan thought Europe should submit to Allah; and the Queen could boast that the sun never set on British shores. Our imperial aims? We are happy enough if the Japanese can get their oil from Libya safely and their Toyotas to Los Angeles without fear; or if China can be coaxed into sending us more cheap Reeboks and in turn fewer pirated CDs.

Our bases dot the globe to keep the sea-lanes open, thugs and murderers under wraps, and terrorists away from European, Japanese, and American globalists who profit mightily by blanketing the world with everything from antibiotics and contact lenses to BMWs and Jennifer Lopez - in other words, to keep the world safe and prosperous enough for Michael Moore to rant on spec, for Noam Chomsky to garner a lot of money and tenure from a defense-contracting MIT, for Barbara Streisand to make millions, for Edward Said's endowed chair to withstand Wall Street downturns, for Jesse Jackson to take off safely on his jet-powered, tax-free junkets.

Why then does the world hate a country that uses it power to keep the peace rather than rule? Resentment, jealousy, and envy of the proud and powerful are often cited as the very human and age-old motives that prompt states irrationally to slur and libel - just as people do against their betters. No doubt Thucydides would agree. But there are other more subtle factors involved that explain the peculiar present angst against America - and why the French or Germans say worse things about free Americans who saved them than they did about Soviets who wanted to kill them.

Observers like to see an empire suffer and pay a price for its influence. That way they think imperial sway is at least earned. Athenians died all over the Mediterranean, from Egypt to Sicily; their annual burial ceremony was the occasion for the best of Hellenic panegyric. The list of British disasters from the Crimea and Afghanistan to Zululand and Khartoum was the stuff of Victorian poetry. But since Vietnam Americans have done pretty much what they wanted to in the Gulf, Panama, Haiti, Grenada, Serbia, and Afghanistan, with less than an aggregate of 200 lost to enemy fire - a combat imbalance never seen in the annals of warfare. So not only can Americans defeat their adversaries, but they don't even die doing it. Shouldn't - our critics insist - we at least have some body bags?

Intervention is supposed to be synonymous with exploitation; thus the Athenians killed, enslaved, exacted, and robbed on Samos and Melos. No one thought Rome was going into Numidia or Gaul - one million killed, another million enslaved - to implant local democracy. Nor did the British decide that at last 17th-century India needed indigenous elections. But Americans have overthrown Noriega, Milosevic, and Mullah Omar and are about to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, to put in their places elected leaders, not legates or local client kings. Instead of the much-rumored "pipeline" that we supposedly coveted in Afghanistan, we are paying tens of millions to build a road and bridges so that Afghan truckers and traders won't break their axles.

In that regard, America is also a revolutionary, rather than a stuffy imperial society. Its crass culture abroad - rap music, Big Macs, Star Wars, Pepsi, and Beverly Hillbillies reruns - does not reflect the tastes and values of either an Oxbridge elite or a landed Roman aristocracy. That explains why Le Monde or a Spanish deputy minister may libel us, even as millions of semi-literate Mexicans, unfree Arabs, and oppressed southeast Asians are dying to get here. It is one thing to mobilize against grasping, wealthy white people who want your copper, bananas, or rubber - quite another when your own youth want what black, brown, yellow, and white middle-class Americans alike have to offer. We so-called imperialists don't wear pith helmets, but rather baggy jeans and backwards baseball caps. Thus far the rest of the globe - whether Islamic fundamentalists, European socialists, or Chinese Communists - has not yet formulated an ideology antithetical to the kinetic American strain of Western culture.

Much, then, of what we read about the evil of American imperialism is written by post-heroic and bored elites, intellectuals, and coffeehouse hacks, whose freedom and security are a given, but whose rarified tastes are apparently unshared and endangered. In contrast, the poorer want freedom and material things first - and cynicism, skepticism, irony, and nihilism second. So we should not listen to what a few say, but rather look at what many do.

Critiques of the United States based on class, race, nationality, or taste have all failed to explicate, much less stop, the American cultural juggernaut. Forecasts of bankrupting defense expenditures and imperial overstretch are the stuff of the faculty lounge. Neither Freud nor Marx is of much help. And real knowledge of past empires that might allow judicious analogies is beyond the grasp of popular pundits.

Add that all up, and our exasperated critics are left with the same old empty jargon of legions and gunboats.

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/15/2003

"I won't flaunt my knowledge even if America flouts and flaunts its international obligations."

I thought that was what was problematic -- that the US "flouts and flaunts its international obligations." I understood the withdrawal with notice from ABM was consistent with ABM, and that Iraq does not enjoy such a right with the UN resolutions applicable to it, as they are mandatory. I realize it is a point of common perception in the Arab street (reinforced by government media monopoly or control in the Arab world) that Israel is allowed to "violate" the resolutions applicable to it, while Iraq presumably is not (though their sanctions busting is quite good, apparently, when it comes to getting what the military wants), but as I said before, this ignores the distinction between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 resolutions. You put great emphasis on "international consensus", as though this created a legal or moral burden on the US, but if such a consensus exists, I persist to see it as reflecting as much the individual self-interest of the other states, or even ignorance, as it is considered judgment. The flouting or flaunting of consensus is not in and of itself a flouting or flaunting of international obligations, or that would make us not a sovereign nation, but ruled by the opinion of others. Words need not distinguish our views, but the ideas behind them certainly do.

Peter N Kirstein - 1/14/2003

Yours is preferred for flout in American Heritage; mine is acceptable in two dictionaries as secondary meaning: AOL Merriam Webster, and Webster's Third International. Unlike some authors, I will respond to any and all comments that are reasonable and related to the article as these were. I won't flaunt my knowledge even if America flouts and flaunts its international obligations. That's it until new person comes on line. Check out the Weekly Standard next week folks!!!

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/14/2003

Weird. My OED says 'flaunt', as a transitive verb, is 'to display ostentatiously". As always, I guess you and I will just have to agree to disagree.

Peter N Kirstein - 1/14/2003

I meant flaunt not flout. A transitive sense of the verb
meaning to "treat comtemptuously."

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/13/2003

You've lost me there. Indeed, the ABM, when in force, demanded the same degree of adherence as mandatory UNSC resolutions -- the difference being that the bilateral ABM treaty specifically made provision for withdrawal, without violation, with notice. Of course, it goes without saying (indeed it isn't mentioned) that the ABM treaty allowed the Soviets defense measures that the instrument denied to the US.

As for Israeli "violation" of Security Council resolutions, and the supposed parity on that score it thereby achieves with Iraq (with implications of American favoritism), I think that collapses the distinction between UN Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 resolutions -- the one mandatory, the other hortatory to encourage negotiated settlements.

As for the claim that "United States plays by its own rules as it repeatedly flaunts international consensus" -- that would seem an oxymoronic statement unless, of course, you meant 'flouts' instead of 'flaunts' (which I'm rather sure you do -- we all make that mistake from time to time).

Peter N. Kirstein - 1/13/2003

I understand your comment. I would posit that ABM was an agreement, a Senate-ratified bilateral treaty, that required the same degree of adherence as UN Security Council resolutions. Israeli violation of the latter is equally as flagrant as that of Iraq's; to many that suggests some unneveness in the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Richard Henry Morgan - 1/13/2003

Yes, the US pursues biological defense and rejects additions to biological weapons protocols, even as it threatens to invade Iraq were it in material breach of agreements Iraq made as a consequence of losing a war of aggression. I don't subscribe to the view that the US has to be supererogatory, and take on additional legal burdens, in order to be in a moral position that others meet their obligations already entered into.