In the age of the Cold War, ideological choices were rather easy one was either pro American or anti socialist, or anti-American and pro-socialist, and only a few woolly-headed intellectuals and most Third World counties were non-aligned. The end of the Cold War was also the end of easy ideological choices, and all sorts of people were deprived of ideological certainties and forced to embark on the hazardous journey of thinking for themselves.
As a result of this development, Americans have to accept that the world community now watches them with apprehension, not because of an instant dislike of them but because they are so powerful that any policy they embark upon has a great impact on the rest of the world. There is no doubt that this apprehension has grown into hostility since George W. Bush came to power. Gone are the days, when the flagship of the French media, the national daily Le Monde, declared in the wake of the attack on the Twin Towers that .
Now we are all Americans!. Such empathy has almost universally been replaced by suspicion and disgust. American leaders react to world scrutiny of their policies by dismissing any criticism, even if it is constructive, as . anti-Americanism. According to President Bush people are anti-American because they envy the Americans their wealth and their political institutions. However, envy is not a strong enough emotion to prompt people to sacrifice their lives in suicide missions against American targets.
Moreover, this line of argument fails to explain why countries richer than America are spared the envious terrorists. Nor does the notion of envying the political institution of the USA carry much conviction. Some two hundred years ago the constitution of the United States of America might have been the idol of political progress, but the system has in the meantime been corrupted so effectively that no constitution-builder in search of inspirations would nowadays turn to the USA. Most utterances of Bush turn to jingoism.
While this is popular in America not everyone is impressed. For instance, the American diplomat George Kennan has openly criticised the flag-waving, the sententious oratory, the endless reminders of the country’s greatness, the pious incantations of the oath of allegiance, and the hushed, pseudo-religious atmosphere of national ceremony (and) the self-righteous intolerance towards those who decline to share in these various ritualistic enactments. (quoted in Pfaff 1993, 161n) All features of Bush’s style of government.
What is irritable or the American Kennan is ridiculous for America’s allies, and objectionable to non Western civilisations. There are circles within America who are aware of the problem but unwilling to spell it out. A recent Council on Foreign Relations report bluntly expressed its concern: “There is little doubt, that stereotypes of Americans as arrogant, self-indulgent, hypocritical, inattentive, and unwilling or unable to engage in cross-cultural dialogue are pervasive and deep rooted”. (http://www. nicholaskralev.
com/WT-pew-global. html) It is not a stereotype, but typical behaviour, as illustrated by the words of a high-ranking American official, namely the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who declared openly, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see farther into the future. ” (http://www. washingtonpost. com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/09/AR2007030901884. html) The insensitive arrogance of this statement amazes even the friends of America.
What nowadays causes particular resentment even in Western democracies is the re-emergence in the USA of imperialism, the application of military power in support of political ambition and economic exploitation . the disregard for the legitimate points of view of smaller nations, the hypocrisy, and the boundless self-adulation trumpeted by American politicians. As Albright has reminded us, none of these features are new, but they have hardened into a doctrine since the election of George W.Bush.
He has used the al-Qaida attack on America to design a new foreign policy. In January 2002 he invented the axis of evil which designated certain countries, including Iraq, as enemies of the USA. He then accused Iraq of possessing WMDs which could be passed on to Islamic fundamentalists for use against America. Since he provided absolutely no evidence for either of his allegations, the UN Security Council refused to endorse an attack on Iraq, and the world at large opposed his war-mongering.
Bush responded by warning the UN that the USA may come to regard the body as irrelevant. Despite intensive searches no WMDs have been found and the chief American weapons inspector, David Kay, has resigned, suggesting that the allegations of Iraq possessing these weapons were a groundless fabrication. Facing the electorate in 2004, Bush has ordered an inquiry into the functioning of the American intelligence services which, however, is to submit its findings only after the election in November 2004.
He now talks about the USA having “identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities”. (Guardian Weekly 2004a) which could mean as little as an undergraduate course on nuclear physics taught in a Third World university. Such a loose definition of a possible threat allows Bush to construct a justification for war against any country he wishes to invade. “Furthermore, in his 2004 State of the Union Address he declared that . America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people”.
(The Australian 2004b) However, according to the UN Charter every country has already the right to self defence. But in the context of other Bush utterances it means that America may attack, without regard to the UN, any country it wishes to attack. America only needs to assert, without providing any proof whatsoever, that another country may have weapons of mass destruction, declare this to be a threat to the USA, and without further ado despatch the marines.
Consistent with the contempt Bush has for the rest of the world he has since he came to office broken international treaties, ignored world opinion, assaulted the fragile international legal system, embarked on an aggressive stance in international relations, and insisted that Americans are exempt from international justice. And yet, it may still be argued that the fight against terrorism is not progressing well. The protection measures taken against terrorist attacks require considerable expenditure.
The occupation of Iraq cost about $US 100 billion per annum and the deployment of 130,000 American troops (Guardian Weekly 2004b). Moreover, the domestic protective measures are inconveniencing the public whether terrorists take any actions or just sit back and enjoy watching the defences being built up by the West without costing them one cent. Probably where the terrorists enjoy their greatest success is in the erosion of the Western, and particularly the American, legal systems. America keeps in strict confinement some 600 men in Guantanamo Bay, a US military base on Cuba.
The people held in the base stockade include members of al-Qaida, soldiers of the Taliban regime, and a motley assembly of suspected terrorists and even children. They are treated by the Americans not as Prisoners of War because the detention of POWs is guided by the Geneva Convention. Rather, they are detained persons who enjoy neither the limited rights of the Geneva Convention nor the rights guaranteed to ordinary criminals. They have no access to lawyers; they have been held even without being charged with an offence for two years or more.
If they are to be tried at all, they will have to face a military commission with serving US military officers acting as their defence lawyers, and there is no appeal against the decisions of such a court. Clearly, the most powerful argument for the continuation of terrorism is that it is not only beneficial to its perpetrators but can also be of great advantage to the governments of countries under terrorist attacks. This, as we have pointed out already, is very obvious in the case of the George W. Bush administration in the USA.
For Bush, who conquered the White House by such questionable means that his legitimacy has been in doubt (Wittes 2001), “the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 on the World Trade Towers was a God sent gift: the militant stance he adopted resulted in massive support in the US electorate for his policies”. It is not only the USA which has discovered the utility of being afflicted by terrorism. A primary example is, of course, Israel, America’s principal ally in the Middle East. The Middle East conflict could easily be settled but this is not in the interest of Israel.
First of all, without the threat perception from Arab terrorism Israeli society, volatile as it is, may lose its social cohesion. Probably more important is the fact that if the UN guaranteed the peace in Palestine it would have to be physically present there. And while having UN forces patrolling the border between Israelis and Arabs may provide the Israelis with security from Arab attacks, it also assures the Arabs with security from Israeli attacks. But it is the policy of Israel to seize Arab land in the West Banks for the purpose of creating Jewish settlements.
This policy of robbing Arabs of their property would not be sustainable if the UN peacekeeping forces were to keep both sides apart. The only way to end terrorism and the misery it brings to many people is for citizens to hold their leaders responsible. Solutions to problems can be found if the will to finding them exists among the leaders who have the power to opt for sincere negotiation. Those who initiate terrorist acts because the powerful and mighty refuse to listen to them, would like nothing better than reasonable negotiations.
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