From Cold War
to Holy War
By Henry C K Liu
13 May, 2003
Barely a decade after the
end of the Cold War between the two superpowers, the world has entered
decidedly into an age of Holy War between the sole remaining superpower
and minor states deemed by it as rogue.
The US invasions of Afghanistan
and Iraq, billed as part of a "war on terrorism", were essentially
the remote unleashing of overwhelming military power on defenseless
minor states. One unique characteristic about this new Holy War is that
it seems to be open ended, that while major combats have ended, or never
even took place, victory remains not at hand in the near future. In
fact, the US itself refers to these one-sided military operations as
"battles in an on-going war on terrorism". That of course
is the nature of religious wars. Another unique aspect is that while
many governments around the world opposed or at least disapproved of
US unilateral use of force, none came to the aid of the victim states.
The war against Iraq was
not about oil, or about keeping oil denominated in dollars. These objectives,
while not trivial, can be achieved by means other than war. The war
was about eliminating the will of any state to defy US global intentions,
which neo-conservatives define as faith-based benign hegemony. It was
above all a warning of similar fate to all who would be foolish enough
to follow the footsteps of the Taliban or Saddam Hussein and stand in
the path of America's march toward its strategic objective of establishing
a world order based on US imperium through preemptive war.
Taken at face value, the
war as explained by the White House is part of a US strategy to spread
democracy, to safeguard freedom and to reinstate popular control of
national resources and destiny around the world. Americans generally
understand democracy to mean a representative form of government based
on majority rule with minority rights, administered by elected officials
of fixed terms, with separation of powers between the executive, legislative
and judiciary branches, and the institution of peaceful change of administrations
through general elections. The American notion of freedom focuses on
freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom
to disagree with and oppose government policies through legal means.
Associated with these political freedoms are institutions of free enterprise
and free markets. Any nation deemed deficient in any of these characteristics
is fair game for regime change through the application of overwhelming
military superpower, unless it possesses credible counterattack deterrence.
The Bush administration's
neo-conservative view of terrorism is that it has become the major threat
to US national security. This view is understandable since the September
11, 2001 attacks. Less understandable is its assertion that terrorism
is caused by a lack of democracy and freedom associated with domestic
oppression, and not by neo-imperialism and the poverty it creates. Curiously,
the US domestic recipe for fighting terrorism requires the suspension
of civil liberty. Furthermore, terrorists are deemed to be enemies of
democracy and freedom.
Thus only half the objective
of a preemptive war has to do with the elimination of weapons of mass
destruction from the control of "rogue states", the other
half has to do with the forceful spread of democracy and freedom around
the globe to strike at the root of terrorism. The grand strategy of
US neo-conservatism is to bring the full force of US superpower to bear
on the crusade to spread democracy and freedom around the world, through
regime changes by military force if necessary.
Unilateralism is justified
by moral imperialism. Just as neo-liberal globalization of free trade
sweeps aside economic nationalism, neo-conservative globalization of
democratization and liberation aims to sweep aside national sovereign
and a world order that has operated since the Peace of Westphalia of
Notwithstanding that such
views on terrorism may be simplistic and misguided, that others, including
many Americans as well as previous US administrations, view terrorism
as last resort reaction from the disfranchised, the persecuted, the
defenseless, the exploited and the desperate poor, the political objectives
of the war on terrorism as enunciated by the Bush administration cannot
be accomplished by military operations alone. President George W Bush
himself acknowledged as much when he announced on May 1 that while the
military phases in both Afghanistan and Iraq have essentially been completed,
the war on terrorism is expected to be long and challenging. Winning
the peace is much more complex than overthrowing governments by force.
The US, to make the war on
terrorism legitimate, must now deliver democracy, freedom and self-determination
to the Iraqi people on their terms, a task that cannot be done with
precision cruise missiles and bunker busting bombs released at long
distance by remote control. It is a tall order that the US will find
almost impossible to fulfill, due to its own internal contradiction.
Democracy is compromised when the US occupation authority serves notice
that "there is no way" a Shi'ite theocracy would be tolerated
in the new Iraq, even when 60 percent of the population are Shi'ites,
nor that the Iraqi Communists Party would be allowed to participate
in the formation of the new Iraqi regime.
While US neo-cons embrace
the Straussian notion of the need for theocracy, in direct contradiction
of the US constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state,
they accept only Judeo-Christian theocracy. The Bush faith-based foreign
policy of one world under God is derived from its domestic vision of
"one nation under God", notwithstanding that in the Supreme
Court's 1961 Torcaso vs Watkins decision, Justice Hugo Black wrote in
a foot note: "Among religions in this country which do not teach
what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God
is Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others."
Neo-cons argue that the First
Amendment's religion clauses were intended only to prevent the establishment
of a national church, and to keep the state from interfering with the
church, not to bar religious groups from co-opting the government, notwithstanding
Thomas Jefferson's claim that the First Amendment had erected a "wall
of separation between church and state". The co-oopting of the
US government by the religious right has launched a new religious war,
over which even the Pope, whose church has long since retreated from
the doctrine of Ceasaropapism, has expressed wariness. It takes a theocracy
to start a religious war.
On May 2, Bush, in what is
generally billed as the beginning of his political campaign for a second
term, discussed national economic security in a speech to the employees
of the Ground Systems Division of United Defense Industries in Santa
Clara, California, a defense company that produces military vehicles
and technology that are being used by soldiers in Iraq, including the
Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Hercules Recovery Vehicle. It is not
surprising that the president chose the defense sector as a platform
to discuss national economic security, given that the Bush White House
has reorganized national economic policy under the umbrella of national
security, and given that the defense sector is the only growth sector
in the stalled economy at this time, despite the fact that the US defense
budget is only about 3 percent of the GDP.
A day before, the president
spoke to the American people from the deck of the homeward bound USS
Abraham Lincoln super-carrier off the California coast, a political
stunt that caused Senator Robert C Byrd to comment on the Senate floor,
"I am loath to think of an aircraft carrier being used as an advertising
backdrop for a presidential political slogan, and yet that is what I
saw." The president declared that major combat operations in Iraq
had ended, and that the US and its allies had prevailed. The world has
never doubted that the US superpower would prevail over tiny Iraq, isolated
and emaciated by a decade of economic sanctions. Ironically, the fall
of Iraq sent a clear message around the world that in this age of superpower
holy war, national security lies in the possession of weapons of mass
destruction. The US is concerned with Saddam's team of 1,000 nuclear
scientists, whom defense officials called "nuclear mujahideen".
These scientists, the Defense Department fears, can restart Iraq's weapons
program once the crisis passed. Would any new government in Iraq have
less reason to possess nuclear weapons after what happened?
What was unexpected was the
ease and speed with which the US achieved the military phase of the
invasion. Despite the fact that its prowess was never fully tested on
account of the enemy having failed to put up an expected fight via asymmetrical
urban warfare, the US military is nevertheless an undeniably excellent
fighting machine, one that any nation would be proud to possess. That
US forces suffered unprecedented light casualties, due also to emphasis
on protecting and rescuing soldiers in distress, is professionally admirable.
The morale of the troops has been as high as any commander can wish.
Whether this high morale can be sustained when troops are used as an
occupation police force in a hostile country is another question.
Invoking September 11 as
America's lesson that vast oceans no longer protect it from terrorism
- the threat of the new era, the president said, "On that day,
19 months ago, we also began a relentless worldwide campaign against
terrorists, those who hate freedom, in order to secure our homeland
and to make the world a more peaceful place." He referred to "the
battle of Afghanistan" and "the Iraqi theater" and declared
that "Iraq and Afghanistan are now free". With daily reports
of guerrilla resistance and suicide bombers inflicting US casualties
and US soldiers firing on civilians demonstrating against US occupation,
such a sweeping declaration raises a credibility gap. It is also arguable
that terrorists hate freedom, rather than foreign oppression.
The US military has performed
professionally and is deserving of recognition. The same cannot be said
of the political rationale behind its deployment. Throughout history,
the misuse of the military for dubious political causes has led to the
downfall of governments and empires. It would not be surprising if the
Democrats would separate pride in the military's professionalism from
the political folly of its deployment to support the flawed grand strategy
adopted by a Republican administration captured by neo-conservatism.
About the state of the US
economy, the president acknowledged that unemployment is now at 6 percent,
which he claimed should serve as a clear signal to the US Congress a
bold economic recovery package is needed so people can find work. "We
need robust tax relief so our fellow citizens can find a job,"
the president said in his Santa Clara speech. The original $726 billion
tax package over 10 years Bush sent to the Congress is now pared down
to $550 billion and it may be cut further in the Senate by those who
are worried that the growing budget deficit will lead to higher interest
rates that will stall any hope of recovery. Administration economists
say that the tax cut will create 1 million new jobs by the year 2004,
when Bush will face a second term election. A million new jobs would
still leave 7.8 million people unemployed.
Historically, the Republican
Party prided itself as not being a foreign war party. It was formed
in 1856 by anti-slavery activists and individuals who believed that
government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. Abraham
Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White House in 1860.
The word democracy does not appear in the Republican Oath, a statement
of Republican philosophy published by the Republican National Committee.
As the party of prosperity, the GOP benefited from the boom of the 1920s.
The Great Depression destroyed the Republican majority. After years
of taking credit for prosperity, the GOP found itself branded as the
party of depression after the economic collapse in 1929. By the late
1930s, Republicans in Congress sided with those who hoped to avoid involvement
in any future European war. Most Republicans were isolationists who
supported the neutrality laws and voted against increased defense appropriations.
Their isolationism was supported by some prominent Democrats, including
Joseph P Kennedy, ambassador to England, father of J F Kennedy. By the
end of World War II, most Senate Republicans, led by Arthur H Vandenberg
of Michigan, had repudiated isolationism out of realist pragmatism,
but foreign war remained not a Republican theme.
The surprising loss in the
1948 election to Harry S Truman, a Democrat, again showed how desperately
Republicans, out of power for two decades, needed fresh issues. They
soon found one in the hysterical charge that communists had infiltrated
the Democrat-controlled federal government. In 1950, Senator Joseph
R McCarthy of Wisconsin charged that the State Department under the
Democrat administrations had been infested with communists, which among
other things "lost" China to communism, as if China were America's
to lose. Although McCarthy failed to prove his wild accusations, in
the process of ruining many lives, Congressional investigations gave
Republicans their best issue since the pre-Depression era.
Robert McNamara, defense
secretary under Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, attributed the Vietnam debacle
to the thorough purge of China experts by McCarthyism. He wrote, "The
irony of this gap - Asian experts - was that it existed largely because
the top East Asian and China experts in the State Department - John
Patton Davies Jr, John Stewart Service and John Carter Vincent - had
been purged during the McCarthy hysteria of the 1950s. Without men like
these to provide sophisticated, nuanced insights, we - certainly I -
badly misread China's objectives and mistook its bellicose rhetoric
to imply a drive for regional hegemony."
There are clear signs that
the Bush administration also badly misread Arab political culture and
the root cause of terrorism, mostly as a result of experts on Arabism
who did not tote the neo-con pro-Israel line having been purged from
all US policy establishments. Bernard Lewis, who describes the separation
of church and state as a Western disease, and Fouad Ajami are the neo-cons'
favored Middle East experts who see the Arab World as ripe for liberation
from itself into modernity by the West. The president is not being well
served by the neo-cons around him, nor is the peerless US military being
used to fight for a good and viable cause.
A split between conservative
and moderate Republicans flared into the open during the Korea War.
The conservatives, led by Senator Robert A Taft of Ohio, continued to
oppose the New Deal. Moderates questioned whether this ideological fixation
could win the presidency, and they looked to World War II hero General
Dwight D Eisenhower to carry their standard in 1952. The popular Eisenhower
soundly defeated Adlai Stevenson, liberal governor of Illinois, one
of the great figures in US politics, taking 39 states by promising to
end the Korean War. Republicans also won control of Congress by a narrow
margin. Ironically, the war hero won the election on a pledge to end
Eisenhower's personal popularity
did not carry over to the GOP as a party. Eisenhower continued Truman's
foreign policy of containment of communist expansion, but not Truman's
readiness to deploy US troops overseas. Domestically, he tried to hold
the line on government expenditures, which satisfied neither GOP conservatives
who wanted sharp cutbacks nor special interest groups that wanted more
government contracts and subsidies. In 1956, he won a rematch against
Stevenson, taking 58 percent of the popular vote. But the Democrats
won control of both houses of Congress.
The 1960 election was the
closest of the century. Democratic senator John F Kennedy defeated vice
president Richard M Nixon, who actually won the popular vote if Alabama
had been counted properly. Ballot fraud in Illinois has since been been
established as the reason Kennedy won the electoral vote. Nixon gracefully
accepted the results of a fraudulent election, declining to file a contest,
thus avoiding a constitutional crisis. Al Gore was less graceful in
2000 and the decision was left to a pro-Republican Supreme Court.
A split between conservatives
and liberals again weakened the GOP during the 1960s. Governor Nelson
A Rockefeller of New York emerged as the spokesman for party liberals
and Senator Barry M Goldwater of Arizona as leader of the conservatives.
A narrowly based presidential campaign by Goldwater produced a stunning
defeat for the GOP in 1964. Goldwater took only six states and 38 percent
of the popular vote. But his ideology won control of the Republican
Nixon led a unified Republican
party to a narrow victory in the 1968 race against a Democratic ticket
weakened by a split on the race issue between liberal Democrat Hubert
H Humphrey and racist George C Wallace, who split to run as an American
Independent candidate. Taking only 43 percent of the popular vote, Nixon
was the first new president since 1848 to take office with both houses
of Congress controlled by the opposition party. Nixon won in part by
promising to end the Vietnam War.
Nixon won re-election by
a lopsided margin in 1972 on the strength of his historic opening to
China and his policy of detente with the USSR, but he was forced to
resign in 1974 over the threat of impeachment in the wake of the Watergate
affair, succeeded by Vice President Gerald R Ford. Republicans lost
control of the White House in 1976, when Ford was defeated by Democrat
Economic stagflation under
Carter and American hostages held by Iran led to a Republican landslide
in 1980. The Republican team of Ronald Reagan and George Bush seizing
on Carter's spiritual crisis, ridiculing his "malaise speech",
and promising to reduce federal spending, cut taxes, and strengthen
defense, won 51 percent of the popular vote and 489 electoral votes.
The Republicans gained 12 seats in the Senate, giving them control of
that body for the first time since 1954.
In the 1984 presidential
elections, the Reagan-Bush ticket won overwhelmingly, carrying all the
states except Democratic candidate Walter Mondale's home state of Minnesota
and the District of Columbia, while amassing 59 percent of the popular
vote and 523 electoral votes. The Republicans retained control of the
Senate but did not gain a majority in the House. Reaganomics produced
the largest budget deficit and highest level of national debt in history.
In 1985, the Plaza Accord pushed the exchange value of the dollar down
against the yen to stem the rising trade deficit. As a result, in the
midterm elections of 1986, the Republicans lost not only control of
the Senate but also more ground in the House. This pattern was repeated
in 1988. Although Vice President George Bush and his running mate, Senator
Dan Quayle of Indiana, won the presidential election for the Republicans
with 53 percent of the popular vote, the party lost ground in both houses
of Congress. While Bush took 40 states and scored a 426-to-11 win in
electoral votes, the Republicans lost five seats in the House and one
in the Senate.
In 1992, despite victory
in the first Gulf War, the election turned out to be a referendum on
the economy, and voters expressed their concerns in a stunning defeat
of incumbent Bush by Democrat Bill Clinton of Arkansas. The gradual
erosion in Republican party strength in Congress allowed the Democrats
to control both branches of government for the first time in 12 years.
Bush received only 38 percent of the popular vote and 155 electoral
votes. The Republicans retained the same number of seats in the Senate
and gained nine seats in the House. It was under Clinton that the concept
of dollar hegemony took hold, allowing a rising trade deficit to be
financed by a capital account surplus, making possible the notion that
a strong dollar is in the US national interest.
The 1994 mid-term elections
brought an equally dramatic reversal as the Republican party gained
control over both houses of Congress for the first time since 1954.
Most congressional Republican candidates had signed on to Representative
Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America", a list of conservative
proposals that shaped the congressional agenda under Republican leadership
in 1995. Both parties were focused primarily on domestic affairs.
Except in 1964, Republican
presidential candidates since 1948 have taken most of the votes cast
in growing middle-class suburbs. Since 1952, Republican presidential
candidates have repeatedly captured at least three of the 11 former
Confederate states. Reagan's popularity among young voters was reflected
in a marked increase in Republican ranks after 1980. This trend changed
with the election of Clinton, a southern Democrat, who brought many
young voters into the Democratic party.
As with any political coalition,
the Republican party has had difficulty finding issues that unite rather
than divide its followers. In 1968, Nixon succeeded with appeals to
the "silent majority" for "law and order." Despite
some success in presidential and congressional races since 1952, the
Republican party remains a minority in search of a majority. It was
never successful in attempt to include labor and minorities.
The Republican party originally
built its political majority on state organizations in the northeast
and midwest. The two bases of power in these areas were New York and
Ohio. Twentieth-century GOP leaders have included Theodore Roosevelt,
Charles Evans Hughes, Thomas E Dewey and Nelson A Rockefeller, all noted
liberal governors of New York. Ohio produced five Republican presidents:
Rutherford B Hayes, James A Garfield, William McKinley, William Howard
Taft and Warren G Harding.
After being reduced to minority
status in the 1930s, the Republican party controlled a small number
of largely rural states, such as Maine and Vermont in New England and
North Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska in the West. On the local level, the
strongest Republican organizations have been in rural and suburban areas.
The GOP generally has been unable to elect mayors in the nation's big
cities, except liberal New York City and conservative Los Angeles.
The backbone of the Republican
party was historically composed of eastern businessmen and midwestern
farmers. Big business was attracted by the party's pro-business philosophy
and farmers by Lincoln's successful effort to preserve the Union. Emancipation
and congressional reconstruction also brought black voters into the
party. By 1896, the GOP had a large following among industrial workers
in the nation's growing urban centers. During the 1930s, Republicans
lost their grip on urban industrial states with the rise of labor unions
whose loyalty remained with the Democrats. The Rockefeller liberal Republicans
never captured the midwest because of the problematic history of the
Rockefeller oil monopoly in key states, like conservative Ohio, liberal
Minnesota and progressive Wisconsin.
After World War II, the Republican
party found a new base of support in the middle class suburbs that surrounded
the country's metropolitan areas. This has enabled the GOP to elect
governors and US senators in states such as New York, Pennsylvania,
Illinois and California.
As a result of the Second
Reconstruction, which began in the 1950s, the Republican party has made
increasing headway in the once solid south. Opposition to civil rights
for blacks led a number of southern whites to bolt to the Democratic
party, especially in presidential elections. Although Democrats still
win most state and local elections in the south, Republicans have won
a number of statewide elections in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina
and Texas. The GOP has had less success in the deep south, but in 1978,
Mississippi elected its first Republican senator since Reconstruction.
However, even with its new supporters in the south and increasing electoral
victories, the GOP remains a minority party, trailing behind the Democratic
party in its following until Reagan.
by its bedfellow neo-liberalism, is opposed in current US politics by
libertarians as well as the radical left. Charley Reese, syndicated
paleo-libertarian conservative columnist wrote on June 17 last year:
"Where is George Bush's conservatism? He's taken another massive
step in nationalizing the education system, he's busted the budget,
he shows unwavering loyalty to the military-industrial complex, his
foreign policy is imperialistic, and he is expanding government at the
expense of liberty ... A conservative wishes to preserve the prosperity
and health of both the land and the people, not squander them in unnecessary
wars ... Nor does American business support a free economy. What it
supports and what we have is mercantilism. In its present form it retains
its old core - a strong centralized government that manages the economy,
and a standing army to protect corporate assets overseas. The Taliban
was overthrown not because it supported al-Qaeda but because it opposed
an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea fields." While some aspects
of these views can be better informed, the general thrust does represent
libertarian sentiments against neo-conservatism.
The neo-conservative movement
began to take shape long before September 11. Writing in the Wall Street
Journal on September 15, 1997, William Kristol and David Brooks, editors
of The Weekly Standard, mouthpiece of US neo-conservatism, asked: "What
Ails Conservatism?" It began: "The era of big government may
be over, but a new era of conservative governance hasn't yet begun.
Why the delay? Why isn't a victorious conservatism now reshaping the
American political landscape?
"A barrier to the success
of today's conservatism is ... today's conservatism. What's missing
from today's American conservatism is America. The left has always blamed
America first. Conservatives once deplored this. They defended America.
And when they sought to improve America, they did so by recalling Americans
to their highest principles, and by calling them forward to a grand
destiny. What is missing from today's conservatism is the appeal to
- the nationalism of Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay and Teddy Roosevelt
- has never been European blood-and-soil nationalism. It's true that
in the absence of a real appeal to national greatness, some conservatives
are tempted, a la Pat Buchanan, to turn to this European tradition.
But this can't and shouldn't work in America. Our nationalism is that
of an exceptional nation founded on a universal principle, on what Lincoln
called "an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times".
Our pride in settling the frontier, welcoming immigrants and advancing
the cause of freedom around the world is related to our dedication to
"That's why American
nationalism isn't narrow or parochial. It doesn't believe in closing
our borders or fearing the global economy. It does believe in resisting
group rights and multiculturalism and other tendencies that weaken our
attachment to our common principles. It embraces a neo-Reaganite foreign
policy of national strength and moral assertiveness abroad.
"This American understanding
of greatness is friendly to private property, prosperity and progress.
And it isn't unfriendly to government, properly understood. After all,
as Lincoln reminds us, it is 'through this free government which we
have enjoyed' that Americans have secured 'an open field and a fair
chance' for our 'understanding, enterprise, and intelligence'. Free
government - limited but energetic - is not the enemy. It can be used,
in the spirit of Henry Clay and Teddy Roosevelt, to enhance competition
and opportunity. In sum, national-greatness conservatism does not despise
Thus the foundation of the
Age of Holy War had been laid a good five years before terrorism changed
America on September 11. This Holy War is based on US exceptionism,
unilateralism and the spread of American values. It is the American
version of the Augustian and Napoleonic empires, which unlike the British
empire that kept arms-length tolerance for local culture, justified
its imperialism on the spread of superior universal values. Neo-conservatism
rejects the long tradition of American attachment to multiculturalism.
It also reverses America's tradition of being apologetic for its power.
Pushing beyond Teddy Roosevelt's "manifest destiny" with "speak
softly but carry a big stick", the neo-cons advocate an American
missionary empire with loud shouting and hitting with a big stick.
Lawrence F Kaplan, a senior
editor at the New Republic, and William Kristol, editor of the Weekly
Standard, co-authors of the forthcoming book, The War Over Iraq: Saddam's
Tyranny and America's Mission, described George W Bush, in the Wall
Street Journal on January 29, as "Neither a Realist Nor a Liberal,
W Is a Liberator" who holds a fundamentally different world view
from previous administrations. To them, self-declared "realists"
believe that foreign policy should be grounded in vital interests -
oil wells, strategic chokepoints and most of all, regional stability.
They prefer order over liberty. It was in Iraq that the first Bush team's
realist foreign policy philosophy manifested itself most clearly. Once
Kuwait was liberated, the senior Bush team redirected its energies toward
ensuring Iraqi "stability" - even if it had to be enforced
Kaplan and Kristol criticized
Clinton's Iraq policy as reflecting very different assumptions about
America's role in the world, a world view that reduced a complex and
dangerous world environment to a simple narrative of material progress
and moral improvement. According to the Clinton administration's scorecard,
it was not the integrity of containment or even the value of keeping
Saddam disarmed that mattered. Far more important was the imperative
of avoiding war. As Henry Kissinger, the master of realpolitik, said:
"Peace, too, is a moral imperative."
Kaplan and Kristol see realists
and liberals as approaching the world from different directions, but
when it comes to Iraq, both ended up in the same place: generating excuses
for inaction. Bush, by contrast, does not speak of merely containing
or disarming Iraq. He intends to liberate Iraq by force, and create
democracy in a land that for decades has known only dictatorship. Moreover,
he insists that these principles apply to American foreign policy more
broadly. A century of fighting dictators has finally alerted US policy
makers to the fact that the character of regimes determines their conduct
abroad - their willingness to resort to aggression, their determination
to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and their relationships with
The neo-con commentators
concluded, "Hence, the Bush strategy enshrines 'regime change'
- the insistence that when it comes to dealing with tyrannical regimes
like Iraq, Iran, and, yes, North Korea, the US should seek transformation,
not coexistence, as a primary aim of US foreign policy. As such, it
commits the US to the task of maintaining and enforcing a decent world
order. Just as it was with the Bush team's predecessors, Iraq will be
the first major test of this administration's strategy. It will not
be the last."
The last sentence lingers
in the mind of all the world's governments. Since September 11, Bush
has declared repeatedly, "If you are not with us, you are against
us." There is no co-existence, no neutrality and no non-alignment.
Be part of the American system or be destroyed.
What if the new US task of
enforcing a new world order comes up against a power with nuclear deterrent
or other forms of weapons of mass destruction? In this respect, the
failure of other great nuclear powers to intervene in the US invasion
of Iraq, to preserve the existing world order of nation states, can
be viewed as a new Munich that will lead to another global conflict.
Anticipating World War IV,
Norman Podhoretz, editor-at-large of Commentary Magazine, writing in
February, 2002: How To Win World War IV - the Cold War being World War
III - characterized the first Gulf War as "an act of military and
political coitus interruptus". Podhoretz observed that Bush, who
entered the White House without a clear sense of what he wanted to do
there, now feels that there was a purpose behind his election all along:
as a born-again Christian, he believes he was chosen by God to eradicate
the evil of terrorism from the world. The president himself defined
it from the start in very broad terms. Our aim was not merely to capture
or kill Osama bin Laden and wipe out the al-Qaeda terrorists under his
direct leadership in Afghanistan. The governments that gave terrorists
help of any kind - sanctuary, money, arms, diplomatic and logistical
support, training facilities - would either join us in getting rid of
them or would also be regarded as in a state of war with the US. Bush
was unequivocal. These governments, he repeated over and over again,
were either with us in the war against terrorism, or they were against
us: there was to be no middle or neutral ground.
In defining the war and the
enemy in such terms, the president, seconded by both major political
parties and a vast majority of the American people, was acknowledging
the rightness of those who had been stubbornly insisting against the
skeptical and the craven alike that terrorism posed a serious threat
and that it could not be fought by the police and the courts. Perhaps
most important of all was the corollary of such an analysis: that, with
rare exceptions, terrorists were not individual psychotics acting on
their own but agents of organizations that depended on the sponsorship
of various governments. Thus the war on terrorism is essentially a war
against hostile governments. Bush, with about 90 percent of the people
and a nearly unanimous Congress behind him for a war against terrorism,
had more than enough political support to act on his own, without permission
from anyone, or any other government.
But if the coalition was
unnecessary both from a political and from a military point of view,
and if the inclusion within it of states harboring terrorists undermined
and obfuscated the moral clarity of the war we were determined to wage,
why did the administration devote so much energy to assembling it?
Podhoretz's explanation is
that getting a minimal endorsement from as many predominantly Muslim
states as possible helped create the impression that the war was not
against Islam but against terrorism. The aim is to begin a transformation
of the Middle East that could provide many benefits to the populations
of an unfree region. That will, in the end, make Americans infinitely
more secure at home.
Thus the failure of the oceans
to protect the US from external threat now compels the US to attack
all around the world who are not with it in its war on terrorism. It
is conceivable that the US can prevail over all other national governments
militarily, but it is pure fantasy that the US can spread US-styled
democracy and freedom all over the world, even with a new 100-year war.
Or that true democracy and freedom around the world would support US
national interests. A healthy dose of realism and multiculturalism will
save the world from impending self destruction by superpower theocracy.
Either way, it spells the end of the age of superpower because military
power, as demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq, causes more problems
than it solves.
Henry C K Liu is chairman
of the New York-based Liu Investment Group.