Blogs > HNN > The New Axis of Evil: 'International Fora, Judicial Processes and Terrorism'

Apr 20, 2005 12:35 pm

The New Axis of Evil: 'International Fora, Judicial Processes and Terrorism'

International fora, judicial processes and terrorism. Not three terms usually associated with each other. But according to the recently released "National Defense Strategy of the United States" together they constitute a core set of strategies used by America's enemies to counter its unquestioned position as the most powerful and important nation on earth.

This new report specifically argues that the United States' continued leading position in world affairs depends on a two-pronged strategy. Not surprisingly, the first part centers on having "no global peer competitor and remain[ing] unmatched in traditional military capability." As important, at the same time, the US must "maintain important advantages in other elements of national power-e.g., political, economic, technological, and cultural."

Of course, these various sources of power are intimately linked together. Without its military might, the US would have a harder time convincing (or compelling) other countries to adopt economic policies that accord with its interests, while its military dominance can only continue so long as the economy is powerful enough to sustain massive defense spending. Yet if the latter is one of the main lessons of history as far back as (at least) Rome, the reality today is that culturally and technologically, the US is quickly falling ever farther behind Europe and Asia. As Thomas Friedman described it the other day in the NY Times, on "innovation and technology President Bush is actually "disarming, unilaterally" through policies on research and innovation that are disastrous to its future.

Perhaps, like the later Roman emperors, the Bush Administration is wagering that the US can compensate with its military power for what Americans can no longer achieve by sweat, determination and ingenuity. If so, it is a wager that has rarely been won, no matter much blood and money is spent backing it up. The Defense Department seems to be aware of the difficulty of the task, for in analyzing America's "weaknesses" it explains that, "our leading position in world affairs will continue to breed unease, a degree of resentment, and resistance. Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism."

Let's look at this last sentence in a bit more detail. In the view of the Pentagon (and through it, President Bush) international fora, judicial processes and terrorism are all interrelated, and together constitute the newest "weapon of the weak" to attack America. In more than a decade of studying US policy I have never read a more frightening sentence; or one that helps us make as much sense of US policy today. Want to know why Bush nominated John Bolton to the UN post? Because the UN itself is little more than a terrorist organization where the weaker nations of the world can attack the US under cover of "international fora." Want to know why Bill Frist and Tom DeLay are going all out in the war against so-called "activist" or "liberal" judges at home while the entire Republican establishment hates the International Criminal Court almost as much as it does the UN? Because all judicial processes and judges not controlled by the US Government (for example, the military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay)—more specifically, the Republican Party—are by definition part of the terrorist (or at the very least anti-American) strategy to weaken the USA.

In fact, it's not hard to see why international fora or courts that are open to the entire world community and can't be scripted or otherwise controlled by the US (such as the World Bank, or the Davos economic summits) would terrorize President Bush and his subordinates—that is, scare them and push them to change their policies; precisely the definition of terrorism. But let's take the strategy seriously. What it seems to suggest is that the Bush Administration is not so much worried about terrorism as about the "weak peoples" of the world challenging its unquestioned dominance of world affairs at every level. Yes terrorism is bad and must be combated; but so must the ability of peoples across the globe to plan and act in concert either to resist US power or to create alternative economic, political or cultural systems.

And so any "defense strategy" of the United States must be able to handle all three challenges at once. And it must do so in an increasingly chaotic international environment which on the face of it is increasingly difficult for the US to manage. As the report argues, "Uncertainty is the defining characteristic of today's strategic environment... We contend with uncertainty by adapting to circumstances and influencing events. It is not enough to react to change. This strategy focuses on safeguarding U.S. freedoms and interests while working actively to forestall the emergence of new challenges."

The notion of uncertainty is key here, and is only the latest term for describing the "chaos" of the post-Cold War global system. Indeed, already a decade ago leading neocon thinkers such as Paul Wolfowitz and Robert Kaplan were describing the near future as one of "the coming anarchy". This situation would force the US to adopt a much more aggressive posture vis-à-vis the rest of the world in order to protect and promote "American interests," including—not surprisingly—the "protection of the integrity of the international economic system."

In such a situation, what I have previously described as "sponsored" or "managed" chaos in places like Iraq and the former Soviet Union create precisely the environment in which the US can use its massive military might to pursue policies without having to bother with or worry about those annoying and even frightening international fora and courts. In fact, the more the US uses violence to solve its problems, the more irrelevant the fora and courts become. And so, America's Defense Strategy protects "US freedoms" and "interests" against all challengers—armed and dangerous or merely representative and (so even more) dangerous.

Indeed, according to this latest explanation of American military-political doctrine, the US must remain "committed to the active deterrence of aggression and coercion." This is done first and foremost by "prevent[ing] attacks" through such actions as "destroying terrorist networks." But while we can all support the objective of destroying terrorist networks, the logic of the fora-courts-terrrorism matrix means that "preventing attacks" against the US can only be done by waging preemptive war against and destroying not just al-Qa'eda but also against institutions such as the UN and the International Criminal Court as well. After all, whether it's a suicide bomber blowing himself up in Baghdad or Nablus, or a union or farm activist taking challenging US policy at any one of dozens of international fora or courts, both threaten the "international economic system" and US full spectrum dominance of world affairs. Lest we think this is an exaggeration, remember that one of the first targets of Administration attacks after 9/11 were the members of the global peace and justice movement, who were accused by Cabinet officials of aiding terrorists.

The dynamics involved in the policies outlined by the Defense Strategy become clear when we look at how conservatives have tried to spin the debates over Bolton's nomination as UN Ambassador, which if we look at the ads on the website, shift the focus from his abusive and ideologically fanatical mindset to an all-out war against the "blame America firsters" (which goes with an image of the UN General Assembly Hall and UN logo with a red line through it and the words "HAD ENOUGH?" written above). And this is little different from the accusations that Democrats are "against people of faith"—which means, by definition, real Americans—because they won't approve all of Bush's judicial nominations.

Americans would do well to remember that while international fora and courts are seemingly inconsequential (and as portrayed by conservatives, even inimical) to their well-being or interests, the attack on democracy and the rule of law abroad represented by Bush Administration's policy towards them (and especially their equation with terrorism) is mirrored by the nearly complete conservative takeover of America's political and judicial systems. With conservative supremacy in the legislative and judicial branches of government nearly complete and an economic system that is increasingly skewed against the working and middle classes, Americans might one day soon look toward the very international institutions the Bush Administration is busy destroying as a refuge against a system that can no longer provide for their most basic political and economic needs.

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