HB V

is older than it's ever been and now it's even older

4/07/2003

American Nationalism, continued


American neoconservatism is a very idiosyncratic creed. Its pitiless view of human nature, its refusal to countenance a social contract, its belief in the raw exercise of power -- "full spectrum dominance" -- its attachment to Christian fundamentalism, its attitudes towards abortion and capital punishment, and its deification of liberty of the individual are a mishmash of ideas that have no parallel anywhere. It is an outlier within the Western conservative tradition, and it has taken very special circumstances for it not to be more seriously challenged intellectually, culturally, and politically within America. Without the collapse of American liberalism, the openness of American democracy to the influence of corporate money, and the continuing resentments of the distinct civilisation below the Mason-Dixon line, this neoconservatism would never have come to have the influence it has. Will Hutton


Europeans have moved to a stage in their development where they increasingly believe that the use of military force is unnecessary, inappropriate, and illegitimate, and Americans have not moved in that direction. Americans still believe that military power is an essential tool of international relations. This is what Iraq has exposed, this great difference. Robert Kagan



Why is the United States currently attacking Iraq? Is it really because we’re concerned about their weapons of mass destruction? Oil? A “decade of defiance” against UN resolutions? Regime Change? My take is that the United States appears to be making the decision that we can decide who rules a country, and if we make the decision that a regime is inimically against US interests, we will remove them. I puzzle over the support for the war because it is so far against the pale of the usual US pattern of going to war. The approach to the Iraq war has been much closer historically to the pretextual attack on Serbia by Austria-Hungary that started the first World War (except without the pretext), or the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936, or (the most inflammatory position I could take, I suppose) the aggression against Poland by Germany that started the second World War. In my defense, I note that each of these wars began by a claim that the aggressing country was defending itself. The fact that the people of that country actually believed that position doesn’t change the position of history, and I firmly believe that history will bear me out.


So what’s really going on here? The new Bush Doctrine supports the idea that the United States can preempt threats in the future. The people in the Bush administration honestly believe that the United States has the power to do so (military power, certainly not diplomatic power) and the international community has no power to restrain us. Indeed, the United States went to the United Nations to seek approval without the outcome being in doubt. We would attack Iraq regardless of whether the UN agreed or not. This is not that out of character, especially if you consider the landmark case of United States v. Nicaragua in the World Court in the 1980s (never heard of that? Not surprising, I suppose. Damned liberal media.) However, the scale of the disregard to the world opinion, and the fact that this is the first naked assertion of unilateral aggression since the end of the Cold War raises the basic question of what sort of country we want to live in.


The basic fact is that the United States consciously chose to abrogate accepted international law in going to war. And the people of the United States should not be surprised that the rest of the world sees it that way: As Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia stated, “The rule of law no longer exists because the very people who coined this term are themselves the violators.” We as United States citizens need to recognize that this is our path and think very carefully if we want to continue down this road or get off of it and move back to having friends, to building multilateral institutions, and towards preserving our ability to convince the rest of the world instead of having to bully them with our military power. Frankly, I am worried sick about where we are going.
In other news

Time to start thinking of the summer! The annual ice-out watch has begun; Maggie and I took a brief canoe through a partially iced-out Lake Phalen last week. Only six weeks until our first canoe camping trip, to Cow Lake. By then, this semester will be over. Good riddance.

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