For example, in the "Yugoslavia question" the democratic leaders of the most important European powers expressly gave up their original standpoint that rearranging the states in the Balkans had to be taken care of as an internal European affair by them alone. They soon saw the need for America, with its diplomats and soldiers, as the indispensable and ultimately decisive power for establishing and guaranteeing order. These same leading European nations did not even assume responsibility for suppressing the endless border conflict between their closest partners Greece and Turkey. The latter have on occasion escalated their conflict with an eye to Washington, and then at American orders backed off again. Israel and the Palestinians turn directly to the American president for support of their incompatible security interests and punishment of the opponent. And so it goes on, all around the globe. Likewise with the diverse "internal conflicts." When the Algerian state violently prevents a seizure of power by its Islamic opposition, it first consults with Paris ... and then with Washington. And when the French president has the notion of intervening with his own troops in a bloody feud over tribal boundaries in central Africa, he considers the great transatlantic power when making this decision as well. He can be sure that the United States will be alerted, perhaps not by a slaughter of such little import to world politics, but definitely by a French intervention. And since agreement with America cannot be avoided, it would be wise to get it. And so on...[Note 1]
There are good reasons why all states look to Washington when planning any important use of force. Whenever violent political disputes are started, continued, escalated or resolved, American participation is certain. There is no need for an invitation, a call for help or such---America is always there and involved in the way it deems appropriate. When it acts merely as an onlooker in a matter of force, letting the parties fight it out and even allowing other powers to intervene, it does so on its own decision which it can revoke at any time, and not because the matter is simply of no concern to it. And when it intervenes, it will never accept a repudiation--þit insists on settling the dispute with the outcome it wants.
Enumerating all relevant cases would amount to a complete chronicle of current events: from the Gulf War to the peace process in Northern Ireland; from the peace process in and, in fact about, Israel to the pacification of Bosnia; from the struggle of Afghani mujahadin to China's threat of violence against Taiwan; from a hostage-taking in Peru, which for once didn't even involve American citizens, to the war over who gets to rule Zaire. Special mention should be made of Albania, since here the United States waived the supreme command of one of those armed intervention forces for distributing donations and controlling firearms, forces that are apparently deemed necessary more and more often in the united world of boundlessly victorious capitalism. It would naturally be absurd to suspect (and no one did) that America was somehow eliminated politically by the Italian command. Also worthy of mention are two recent cases in which the American government assumed responsibility for the internal use of force by other sovereign states. [Note 2] In Serbia it granted its own very special protection to the opposition who were demonstrating day and night and remarkably without disturbance, by issuing emphatic warnings and threats of embargo against the Serbian government. In China, America looks after the dissidents (almost like in communist times of yore) making it quite clear that the "normal" treatment desired by the big country is still a concession that has to be earned. Finally, in America's own hemisphere one finds countries whose internal conflicts between the illegal mafia and the ruling one only come about through the intervention of American narcocops in the first place... So, a matter that America turns its attention to automatically stops being the "internal affair" of another sovereign state which might otherwise protest against "interference."
The United States therefore confronts the rest of the world of states with its standpoint of being the worldwide superior political power which is affected by every use of force between states, and many a use within one too. As a power with claims to global control and management, it interferes in everything, since every use of force by or against any political sovereign anywhere shifts power relations and thereby affects America's power relation to the rest of the world. And this relation must not be altered; or, if it is, then only in favor of the United States. This is the ultimate imperative which the sole world power asserts with its need for universal control. It is out to maintain the superiority that allows it to be so demanding of the rest of the world that even the remotest violent actions fall within the scope of its own interest in self-preservation.
When the United States decides to intervene in some foreign altercation, it naturally always supports one side and opposes the other one, making itself also a party to the conflict. Its politicians furthermore always have their own heap of particular and limited national interests which could be furthered by intervention. But these two aspects do not constitute the standpoint of the intervention. America needs neither a partisan viewpoint, nor the lure of specific material gain, to make the political use of force anywhere in the world its own business and join in as the decisive party. And when it does take sides it is not as a political supporter of its protégé's ambitions. It's the other way around: whenever force is used somewhere, America sees this as a challenge to join in, measuring the political intentions it comes upon by its need for control. It is in this way (i.e., in accordance with what it thinks necessary and expedient for maintaining or consolidating its superiority in international relations of force) that America takes sides and sets itself the task of implementing a "solution" useful to maintaining its power to control. This objective is achieved when all participants see an inescapable need to respect the American decision, whether out of calculation or out of weakness. Then they are once again functioning, as sovereign powers ensuring a reliable order of rule inside their country or countries, and adhering to the international order of things around them and to their position in the hierarchy of powers.
Whether or not this happy state of affairs actually comes about is a different matter. The United States, the only world power, by no means succeeds in everything it resolves to do. In fact, by its own estimation as well as in the eyes of a rather begrudging world public, it fails incredibly often, at least more often than all the other nations. But this overall account testifies more than anything else to the tremendously high level of the demands the United States makes on the rest of the world.
For example, the Vietnam War left a "national trauma," allegedly still felt, simply because the many American casualties were not rewarded with unconditional capitulation by an inferior foe. The war against Iraq, on the other hand, cost the United States practically no casualties but left the Iraqi dictator, supposedly some kind of new Hitler, still in office and even in command of the remaining bit of military might the victorious alliance neglected to take away from him. In the chaos of Somalia, the American forces did not manage to install any kind of national order at all, despite their marvelous weapons, and even failed the substitute mission of apprehending the warlord made out to be the archenemy. For this result, even one dead soldier was too much and called for a pullout, which admitted failure but at least kept the failure within bounds. Where the American military has not intervened, things are even worse. In Cuba, the last Third World Communist is still in power against America's declared will. In spite of American pressure, India did not sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Chinese government treats its democratic dissenters worse than Congress and the American President want it to. And so on...
Looked at this way, America is constantly failing. But at what?
At one time, America had fulfilled this dream with the atom bomb, but only in a negative sense. This weapon guarantees indiscriminant annihilation of the enemy, but not subjugation of a functioning state under American control. With nuclear war too little remains of the political sovereign that one wants to bring into line. And not even guaranteed annihilation ever really worked properly, i.e., to provide the desired monopoly on the free use of war, because America's great opponent all too quickly acquired the ability to destroy the United States with atomic weapons itself. Thus, America's military power was weighed down for four decades by an "atomic stalemate." But this unbearable situation at least had the beneficial effect of spurring American military ingenuity to the craziest of efforts: both in developing ever new equipment intended to ensure the desired military success at all "levels" below all-out nuclear war, and in trying to gain control over events and obtain the freedom to escalate one-sidedly in the difficult field of atomic warfare. For the latter purpose the United States ended up tackling the rather tricky project of creating a sufficient arsenal of space-based weapons to defend against a hostile missile attack. Thanks to the capitulation of the Soviet enemy, this "defense initiative" has now lost its urgency. But the project has by no means been abandoned. It continues in view of the nuclear arms Russia still has and other enemies might conceivably have in the future.
The other effort, to close the "gap" between "conventional" means of war and the capability for atomic annihilation, has apparently yielded quite useful results for the "normal case" of a conflict with an inferiorly armed state. In its campaign against Iraq, for example, a state which was out to increase its power through conquest, the United States came very close to its ideal of a technically made-to-measure, absolutely certain, but at the same time precisely dosed victory over a "conventional" medium-sized military power.
The world's greatest military power has always supplemented its
own extensive armament efforts by continuously checking the arsenals procured
by the other nations around the globe. It is not prompted by any fear of
missing some advance in arms technology, although it spies on both friends
and former enemies with exacly this in mind. For the most part, though,
American experts are already participating in whatever research and other
work is being done to promote the development of war and its equipment.
What actually prompts the United States is its need to know the precise
armament level in every nation to be able to judge whether they are appropriate.
The criterion here is not how sovereign states assess their own needs,
but how American politicians conceive of a proper hierarchy of military
powers and appropriate relations of power. If some country's armament disturbs
these proportions, that is synonymous for the United States with an attack
on the existing distribution of power and thus on its own superiority.
It regards this illicitly acquired ability as hostile intent, and reacts
by imposing a ban on armament. Disobeyal is sufficient reason for a precautionary
disarming strike, which gives the Navy and Air Force a nice opportunity
to try out their newest capabilities in practice.
Western strategists of American military power used to regard its most important function as ("mere") deterrence precisely in those decades when it was not able to perform this service as intended. Against a Soviet Union having its own atomic means of destruction, the threat to prohibit a disapproved use of force by whatever means necessary was cerainly not without effect, but it was not absolutely credible either. Strangely disregarding the enemy, American politicians specializing in military affairs referred to this deficiency as the contradiction of atomic "self-deterrence" (and probably even felt "self-deterred"). During this time the democratic public was encouraged to minimize the situation by making the mistake of separating the deterrence function from the actual action of armed forces, as if a deterrence effect could be had without the serious will to wage war. In fact, deterrence can only come from the definite will to wage war. Meanwhile, America's military actions in the Gulf and, on a smaller scale, in the Balkans presumably have at least made it clear that no such distinction exists, and that when America officially utters a threat to intervene this should be taken quite literally.
It is sometimes hard to say exactly in which cases these threats have worked, because these are precisely the cases where conspicuous military activities do not have to occur. In the case of the Chinese army's maneuvers against Taiwan's efforts to gain autonomy, America's mobilization of aircraft carriers was definitely an important contribution to the turn of events. What precisely America is aiming at with its repeated threats of war against Iran cannot be determined as closely. The threats are supposed to deter the "mullahs" in general, i.e., from building up their state to be the dominant regional power. This national project is tempting for Iran since the United States nullified the Iraqi's corresponding project and decimated its power, very wisely without destroying it completely. Therefore America has to keep pretty busy on the Iraqi front as well. An effective regime of control over Saddam Hussein's power and machinations must be occasionally freshened up by demonstrative rocket strikes.
This relation of power becomes drastically apparent when extortion goes beyond the limits set by diplomatic agreement. The United States does not have to worry about being the target of an embargo, especially one accompanied by another state's demands. But no adversary of the Americans is safe from a boycott instigated by the United States, which occasionally goes so far as to cut off not only its own, but all civil relations with a nation, putting a whole country under political quarantine, so to speak. This is the civil way of declaring war. As in real war, it forces all other states to take part, or to find themselves in opposition to America's action, with appropriate consequences. There is a humanitarian objection that such boycotts are the international version of hostage-taking, since they hold the whole civilian population liable for their rulers' mistaken policies. And an equally hypocritical objection is that boycotts are simply useless (in fact they actually do fail to deprive the targeted sovereign of power). The United States reserves these objections for itself when it chooses to reject other states' requests to extort a "despotic regime" by such means. It has the monopoly on the business of identifying "rogue" states and deciding what to do with them, and will never relinquish it.
For decades the United States imposed an extensive political quarantine on the Soviet Union, its former war ally, which immediately after the war was declared the new archenemy. The Soviet Union along with its allies could stand up to this quite well, though. In any case, what ruined the Soviet Union's "bloc" was more the trade that was later permitted rather than any embargos.
Since then the United States has found some new opportunites to apply its strongest civil weapon.
In the case of Iraq, the United States uses a total embargo to continue its work of destroyting that nation's military potential. This is how it practices its irreconcilability against the power that dared to give it a real war, albeit one waged from a hopelessly inferior position.
Against Iran, the boycotts that America enforces serve to escalate already bad relations toward a future military action which they in no way replace. The United States is thus outlawing a state which it considers to be drawing the same wrong conclusion from the destruction of Iraq as Saddam Hussein did from the liberties he was permitted in his war against Iran's "state of God."
In the cases of Libya and Cuba, the quarantines respectively imposed or demanded establishes a clear intermediate between war and peace. Here, too, it serves to put America's irreconcilability into effect without a need for waging war, yet.
Somewhat differently, the international boycott campaign against Serbia was calculated to have a limited practical effect. It was the preliminary substitute for military strikes against the state accused, not of waging war directly, but of resisting the European-American claim to regulate the wars of secession being fought on the territory of former Yugoslavia. And this campaign produced the desired effect by making the opponent give in, so that the civil substitute for war was enough.
The United States cannot prevent this competition, but it does not tolerate it either. And it has developed a method for combating it (in fact initially developed in its confrontation with its great world opponent, the Soviet Union). It invites these "Western" nations, so similar to itself, not to exercise their competing claim to responsibility and power of intervention on their own, but rather at its side: as allies. In exchange for giving up competing alone and on their own authority in the business of international extortion, the United States promises them guaranteed success for joint undertakings, and regards that as an unbeatable offer.
It can indeed count on its rivals' opportunism, as well as on the fact that its offer becomes more and more attractive with each partner it gains, since that diminishes the prospects of success for competing ventures or plans. Conversely, it must constantly expect the partners it has signed up to submit only on the basis of their own conditions (which is a contradiction of course, but a very routine one in the world of states) and to seek allies among their peers themselves. And the same opportunism that stabilizes the partnership can just as easily undermine it. That is, one partner's unwillingness to toe the line can prompt others to reexamine their own gain from toeing the line. In any case, the alliance the United States has achieved with its most important rivals is not an institution fixed for all time, but a continuous effort on the part of the "leading power" to prove how irresistibly attractive America's deterrence power is for all similar and like-minded nations, and to quash any doubts about whether competing efforts might succeed.
It is no coincidence that the United States managed to rise to global power as the leading power of a victorious world-war alliance: not alone against the rest of the world, but with the help of most of the other states existing at the time. These either had no choice but to trust in America against Germany's and Japan's fascist war machinery, or found it easy to see that joining the alliance with America meant being on the winning side. The result was a whole lot of dependent allies, along with former enemy countries that were defeated and occupied by American troops and thus likewise destined and willing to be dependent helpers. That would have made a wonderful worldwide Pax Americana; the United Nations would have been the perfect diplomatic instrument. But the mightiest ally then acted rather too autonomously, founding its own "camp" committed to socialism and independence from America. This gave America's alliances a new pattern and new purpose: to "contain" the new Soviet archenemy and "deter" it by ever larger threats of war. Under this objective, America's old partners and new satellites were redefined and prepared to be players in a global strategy which viewed the globe in appropriately confrontational categories such as "island power" versus "continental power." Germany got to be (re)built as an anti-Soviet "front-line state." Italy, which was likewise kept under control by Christian democrats, performed the honorable function of being an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" for the United States and home port for its fleets in the Mediterranean. And so on. The political basis for this alliance was the "situation" the United States managed to establish by concentrating all forces on the struggle with the Soviet enemy. Under the pressure of America's threat to wage a third, this time nuclear, world war against Moscow's world-subverting activities, the world of states lined up to form the Cold War front. At the head were those capitalist powers which intended to once more play a crucial role in this world. Their ambitions would have been harmed by resisting America's confrontational politics; withdrawing from the strategic partnership America offered would have meant certain defeat. And this became increasingly so with each neighbor that joined. The member states' free and sovereign opportunistic calculation to choose to be on the stronger side of the front rather than on the wrong side or ultimately caught between the fronts, ensured America its following, stabilized the Free West, and made NATO the stronger side in the global struggle once and for all. The threat of world war on this basis, including its increasingly gigantic nuclear options, acted, conversely, as a material pressure to be part of the alliance. Even France with its lasting political opposition to American domination did not resist. Its own nuclear option never really broke through the strategic "logic" of NATO's nuclear war scenarios, but was only halfway useful and practicable in military terms on the basis of, and within, this concept. France's emancipation from the alliance was in fact calculated merely to give it greater influence on the alliance (i.e., to enable France to force the transition to nuclear war on its own decision if need be) and it was not even good enough for that.
When the anti-Soviet premises for world politics ceased to exist, the
alliance logically underwent a real crisis, and not only in its ideology
of being defensive. However, this did not mean the end of the institutionally
strengthened and objectified relations of cooperation in NATO. Nor did
it stop the allies from calculating with the advantages of being partners
with the world's most successful and strongest power. And it wasn't long
before the United States took the opportunity of exemplifying the need
to renew its joint deterrence policy. It violently updated its no-alternative
invitation to its old allies to take part in the "new world order" in cases
such as the following:
At present America is investing a lot of strong leadership in the big
strategic enterprise of NATO's eastern expansion, and quite effectively
too, as far as relations with its most important partners are concerned.
The United States is uniting the strategic interests and military power
of its potential opponents in Europe in this scheme, which is of profit
to them all. The idea is to strategically occupy the principal western
countries of the former Warsaw pact and integrate them in military terms,
thereby making the alliance the sole order-keeping power on, and for, the
Old World. This at the same time puts the new, democratically liberated
Russia in its place as a neutralized outsider to NATO's Europe, no longer
capable of exerting international influence.
However, this system does not work all by itself. Although the national interests and calculations of cooperating partners may coincide with the American point of view, they are never identical with it. Even when an ally is being armed, there are usually considerable discrepancies between what it claims to need and what the world power thinks it should have, so that one side constantly feels betrayed and the other left in the lurch. Such inevitable tiffs are also so many starting points for other powers with world-wide interests and activities to try to gain influence, perhaps even whole spheres of influence, by making better and more accommodating offers in the way of weapons themselves. After all, the fact that these powers are tied constructively into the great alliance does not mean they have abandoned their competing claim to a say in how political power is used throughout the world. The United States is therefore greatly interested in convincing every ruler (and would-be ruler) in the world, and keeping him convinced, that the pay-off from making common cause with America against others is better than vice versa, even if it doesn't leave too much room for one's own national cause. Alongside its deterrence regime, and in order for it to take effect everywhere, the United States must wager on national rulers' opportunism and give them the certainty that being America's partner will put them on the winning side. Conversely, every shift of power somewhere, every setback for a proven friend of America's, and every success a nation achieves and holds on to against the status quo, impairs American dominance over political power relations: in the country in question, in that region and ultimately...
So it is not enough to equip cooperative regimes with means of power. The United States must also make continuous efforts to keep their political intentions in order. It goes without saying, in view of the magnitude of the task, that there is no instrument the United States could do without to achieve this goal. A world power's spy service, for example, absolutely connot confine itself to strictly informative activities.
The United States perfected these (diplomatic and other) techniques in the course of its global Cold War against the Soviet Union, applying them with lasting success. To combat the "Communist peril," suspected to be everywhere, it sought and found or created helpers, violently ended or in- stigated internal power struggles, and also waged proxy wars between states when its interest in deterring the U.S.S.R. and some nation's need for power coincided in defining a common regional enemy. These actions were not defensive in the sense of warding off "world revolution" even then. What the Americans were defending from impending danger was their need to keep ahead of the rival world power, in this case by fighting over functionalizing third-class powers for one's own side. With its "domino theory" the Americans propagated a fear that if one country "fell away" from the right side it would knock down other candidates as well and lead to the loss of control over the states outside the Soviet sphere, and ultimately to the downfall of the world power upholding freedom and democracy. This was the justification for the universal reach and the totalitarianism of America's fight to prevent "erosion" of the power relations it established and supervised. Now that the fight with the great rival has been won, and tending to world order has lost its anti-Soviet simplicity, America can of course still not afford to leave power relations to themselves. There are new tasks to perform and new alliances and plots to hatch for America's global politics. For example, when the Christian rebels in the south of Sudan now suddenly start to win in their decade-old "civil" war, the reasons can easily be traced to America's decision to cause the governing Islamic fundamentalists in Khartoum to suffer a defeat as an example for black Africa. And that is only one minor example of the general need to adapt the frontiers for defending American superiority to the new situation arising from the successful termination of the Cold War. Problem cases must be identified and helpers won or created for America's supervisory regime, especially in that part of the world previously withheld from it, from the Baltics to Central Asia. Other old tasks for America's alliance policy continue to exist in the new world situation. A classic and exemplary case, and still one of the most important, is supporting Israel. Pretty soon after the Jews won their state-founding war in 1948, the United States recognized that Israel's need to gain respect and assert itself by force in its hostile surroundings was congruent with its own need to stop the Arab states from trying to found a great power of their own beyond American control, a power with a pro-Soviet orientation as it happened. Israel offered a good opportunity to make the Arab countries pay for their anti-American high-handedness by suffering military defeats. The several wars that followed reinforced the close agreement between Israel's rather generously defined security needs and America's will to curb, limit and partially destroy Arab power. But again, this did not mean the two parties' interests were identical. Logically enough, the distance between the two standpoints, that coincided for so long and so remarkably closely, became more and more evident in practice the more Israel's Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians, reacted the way the United States wanted them to and turned to America as their own protecting power against Israel. This encouraging development had already set in before the end of the Soviet Union due to the Arabs' dissatisfaction with its limited and halting support; the Soviets were more interested in coming to an arrangement with the West than in overthrowing power relations. Later, the United States set up its Gulf War alliance, making important Arab states hitherto regarded virtually as enemies the offer they could hardly refuse of reorienting themselves to the winners' side once and for all. Since then Israel has had to worry whether America would continue to give unconditional support to its still fairly intransigent politics. And America is busy trying to reconcile the utilization of its Jewish partner, still required, with Arab high-handedness, by inviting the Arab nations into the fold. Even before the last Gulf war (which the United States took into its own hands, excluding even Israel from active participation), there was an "proxy war" of the strangest kind in the same region, a war completely without anti-Soviet intent although the Soviet Union still existed as an enemy. Instead, both parties, Iraq and Iran, served more or less as agents for one and the same American interest by pursuing their own interests, and even received a certain amount of military support for doing so. They had starting going at each other with the entirely self-serving calculation of becoming the dominant regional power by defeating the other side. With an altogether different calculation, the United States supported each side in turn, depending on its military success, so as make the war draw on and finally end, not in the victory of one side, but simply in mutual destruction and relative powerlessness on both sides. When it nevertheless became necessary to take direct action against Iraq a while later to quash its ambition to assert its regional dominance, this gave the United States an opportunity, as mentioned above, to acquaint the world in a demonstrative fashion with its new deterrence doctrine under the title "New World Order."
Of course, this fight over establishing a universally acknowledged global supervisory system does not change the real power relations between America and the other states. Rather, it gives them full play in a formal framework in which all sovereigns, great and small, are equally entitled to take part (with the crucial exception that some have the exclusive right of veto). What the U.N. recognizes with its semblance of a supranational world order is not any kind of supranationalism, but rather the real power of the United States, making it appear as a legal relationship approved by all the world's highest authorities. The United States thus diplomatically transforms its efforts to form a global network of accomplices into a struggle to have all nations commit themselves to collectively made decisions.
At least this is the idea. In practice, the "community of nations" does not carry out its American-mandated mission too often. The advantage of having America's will reconstituted as a world project capable of creating agreement between all rivals and powers affected, is not to be had without the disadvantage that voting is free and members do as they please. Therefore, the U.N.'s occupying itself with international disputes, even ones the United States puts forward as world-order concerns, must very often come to nothing for a lack of desirable results or prospects of success. And when general consent does come about as desired, the diplomatic gain still has the snag that this consent applies to a project that other powers have also had a hand in initiating, so that it does not directly express submission to the sole will of the United States. Even when the U.N. grants the United States the power to act in its name, this has the defect of making American power appear to depend on the approval of the U.N., the truth being the other way around.
So it is not surprising that the United States, the inventor and guarantor of the U.N., is also its greatest critic. Perhaps some American politicians are not really clear on the benefit obtained when the world-wide relations of force forged by American power are represented in the U.N. as a world-order program supported equally by all concerned.
During the Cold War, the U.N. did in fact realize this standpoint of a collectively-achieved world order, albeit only as a conflict over the principles of this very order. After all, America's control over the world was only a half measure then. The U.N.'s everyday diplomatic business therefore merely highlighted the antagonistic division of the world into "East" and "West" with "non-aligned" countries in between, reproducing the struggle on a higher level. This era of the U.N.'s "self-blockade" (as it is so aptly called in retrospect) has now been overcome. As part of the extensive diplomatic preparations for their Gulf War, the Americans brought in the U.N. to remake American intervention as the expressed will of the "community of nations." Accordingly, the U.N. enjoyed some esteem for a while. But afterwards the United States again found a lot to criticize in its creation. The unauthorized copying of America's action against Saddam Hussein was spreading. The secretary-general was actually trying to emancipate the U.N. from its real boss, announcing a need for intervention on his own, and even having his way in the case of Somalia at the America's expense (at least from the latter's point of view.) In the end he requested, in all seriousness, an armed strike force capable of intervention under his supreme command, thereby disqualifying himself from holding office as an "anti-reformer" once and for all.
So there was quite a bit to be fixed, and this was done during the diplomatic accompaniment to the state-founding war in Bosnia. From the U.N.'s carte blanche for NATO to settle everything by force as it saw fit, to the Dayton agreement, which the U.N. secretary-general was not even allowed to certify as the world community's notary, the organization was discharged from regulation of this affair in a demonstrative and quite exemplary way. It is of course likewise at America's discretion to reactivate the "family of nations" again when the time and the case are right, especially now that it has forced acceptance of a new, definitely "pro-reform" secretary- general. In any case it is clear that the United States cannot simply rely on its diplomatic creation, but has good reason and lots of occasion to demote the specially institutionalized illusion of collective decision-making by the family of nations every now and again. [Note 6] It is also clear, however, that this illusion along with its diplomatic import is far less available to other powers for furthering their violent concerns. Without the power of the United States, the U.N.'s whole resolution-passing business is utterly worthless.
The United States "fights against terrorism" when it takes action against trouble-makers such as Libya and Iran, who disturb the hierarchy of political power it wants. It demands that the agents of such "terrorist states" be extradited to American courts, and "punishes" refusal with a quarantine, or possibly with a few bombings which, as punishment, are not particularly expedient from a military viewpoint. Accusation, sentencing and punishment, i.e., the administration of justice are the normal form for a state's domestic use of force, but here we have the United States applying them to its international relations. It conducts world politics on the pattern of criminal law, and thereby actually puts into practice the ideal, cherished by both the "citizen of the world" and political science, of an effective international monopoly on the use of force. On the one hand, it is merely appealing to an ideology to justify the violence it practices. But, on the other hand, this ideology has a practical importance of its own. It makes unmistakably clear America's totalitarian claim of validity for its interests in world order. And it corresponds perfectly to the actual relations of forces. The United States hardly needs to measure itself against its enemies' military strength, as would a mere warring party, but sets to work as a superior power from the start, just like domestic police power against criminals at home. An adversary's resistance, in being demolished, is not just shown to be weak, but also wrong. Because it is so superior the United States regularly succeeds in winning over other sovereign states as partners, which makes its superiority even greater. And finally, it maintains an international consensus on the reality of the fictitious legal relationship between the world situation it defends and the disruptions therein.[Note 7]
The maxims the United States is out to enforce are in fact aimed at having states deal with their citizens in certain civilized ways, among other things. And these civilized ways in turn serve a specific purpose, namely a political-economic one to be discussed below. However, no list of human rights proclaims (nor does any commentary explain) the constraints of bourgeois moneymaking presupposed by these rights. And there is even less talk of America's interest in other nations having their citizens serve these constraints, that is, make themselves useful for the world economy and not for some other purpose, for example to serve themselves instead. This is all completely transformed in the set phrase that it is man's inalienable right to make his own fortune. When competition is being decreed in practice, nothing but freedom is demanded. And the list of civil rights is supposed to be seen, not as an indicator of the misery of capitalist society, but as the official pointer to a whole lot of fairly widespread state atrocities, including torture and murder. America's human rights policy is of course the best guarantee against such "encroachments" that there is. At the same time, one can see that this policy is not really about providing general life insurance for harassed citizens, since America is also free to decide if something constitutes an impermissible encroachment, a political activity irrelevant to human rights, or a duty a state must perform, e.g., to "fight terrorism." And the United States bases these decisions on points of view that are often too clear to be easily reconciled with the ideal of states treating their citizens properly. After all, human rights policy is politics; this means using human rights to implement world politics. That is why it appeals to people's pity for the victims of state force, and indignation about the violence that states use, and not in order to correct the horrors of state rule around the world.
For those who idealize a supranational human rights norm, there is therefore always plenty of opportunity to regret how "inconsistent" America's international administration of justice is, and the "double standard" that is applied. The "tyrants" flooded with accusations from the capitals of Human Rights International have an easy time "exposing" the same thing. Unfortunately, this finding fails to expose the fictitiousness of the world power's dedication to international law, but merely makes its human rights policy look foolish. And hardly even that, since protesters always end up demanding that the world power (and its helpers) take its duty of supervising the rest of the world seriously for once. That's exactly what it always does, though, and without being guilty of inconsistency or of applying a double standard. The United States consistently judges every foreign use of force by the one criterion of whether it is being shown respect as the decisive protector of human rights. After all, the United States is the only one capable of discerning whether chopping off a thief's hand is part of a perfectly decent sheikdom's traditions, or a sign of punishable fundamentalism; whether corpses represent state terrorism or the fight against terrorism; whether a country that expropriates American firms is intolerably suppressing art and freedom of speech... America can by no means leave such difficult decisions to other states; it is too busy making sure that they restrain themselves for the sake of human dignity. And when freelance idealists like those from Amnesty International voice accusations of unpunished human-rights violations, they are only heard to the extent that this translates into the cry of the suffering creatures for more American force and nothing else. [Note 9]
When freedom and human rights are invoked as the guiding stars of American (or more generally, Western democratic) world politics, it is always impressive how self-assuredly the heads of the Free World accuse other states of using force against opponents while at the same time considering this to be their own sacred right which should be supported by the rest of the world. It is no less impressive how cynical it is to appeal to higher values when it comes to material poverty. The poverty produced by capitalism is simply not admitted as a charge against democratic politicians, unless it is reinterpreted as a consequence of "undemocratic" politics. Politicians and experts, in the United States and elsewhere, do not even shrink from openly professing that the kind of economic policy they demand in the interests of economic reason and human dignity (to be discussed in the second part of this article) makes it an objective necessity for the working or jobless populations of whole nations to be hopelessly impoverished, far below the level of self-sufficiency they once had.
This cynicism is not inconsistent, of course, but extremely logical. It reveals that the supreme and ultimate justifications for global interventionist policy derive from the bourgeois ideology that material livelihood in this society is the private concern of each individual. Faithfully affirming the capitalist system of gainful employment, this ideology declares it to be the sphere of complete "natural human" freedom with which the state must never interfere. It must "only" make sure this freedom is limited by the equally private material resources of all the other citizens. It certainly must do so (although this doesn't interest the upholders of human rights in the least) because the privateness of material resources, i.e., their being someone's property, is the ruling principle by which poverty, wealth and their happy union in wage-labor for capital come about. In the corresponding ideology, this action of state power to promote property and the monopoly of property on the wealth of society is portrayed as the state being at the service of private lives and nobly restraining itself. And the reign of "objective constraints" that actually determine private lives materially is portrayed as freedom, that is, people's freedom to come to terms with their situation. The United States uses this ideology offensively to hallow its world politics, consisting as it does of laying down rules, supervising and punishing. As the advocate of other states' citizens, in the name of their supposed right to be ruled properly, it confronts the rest of the world with its own claim to proper rule, i.e., completely and perfectly functional rule. When it stands up for the freedom of the world's citizens, it is not opposing rule by national authorities and the constraints they impose on society. It is instead appealing to political rulers to observe certain supranational regulations involving in particular the democratic legitimation of their rule, and to respect their citizens as private individuals while establishing law and order. And the important thing is not even the actual concessions political powers are supposed to make to their citizens, but America's ideological handle of asserting its dissatisfaction with other states' politics as a moral critique of their unnecessary violence.
The democratic invocation of human rights is the radical antithesis to the communist slogan, "workers of the world unite." This infamous appeal is directed to the rank-and-file under national rule (without citing any higher value). It calls for abolition of the constraints of society put into force by the state (which automatically include the brutalities of state measures to maintain order). It is totally unsuitable as a moral weapon because it aims only at getting wage-laborers to draw the right consequence from their class position. This at the same time criticizes the fictitious "human being" to whom the United States, as the world power, grants an inalienable right to good rule. In spite of all this, the former Soviet Union, as the self-proclaimed protecting power of "world revolution," refused to acknowledge any antagonism here. It presented its Real Socialism to the world's rulers as an additional "social human right" which it would only do them good to heed (but not because the Soviets were going to force them to heed it.) For their part, the bosses and ideologists of the Free World pounced gleefully on the antagonism between the two systems, "human rights" versus "world revolution." In their fight with the Soviet Union for global domination[Note 10] they outlawed the enemy power as a fundamental and systematic violator of nature, and perfected the awareness of their mission into a "human rights weapon," as they explicitly called and used it. In the end, as everybody knows, the governing Soviet nationalists refuted the accusation that they were continually and systematically violating human rights by agreeing with it and adopting the only possible humane system for their own human material as well. Since then their Russian nationalist successors have stopped violating human nature as a matter of principle (despite their barbarities) and, like any uncertain partner, only do so from case to case and depending on the negotiating situation between them and the Americans.
The imperatives of human nature are still as popular as ever, though, and for good reason. Diplomatically, the human rights idea remains, in its universalism, the optimal means for American politics to underline its claims, provisos, threats and declarations of hostility against other states in the form of moral judgments, that is, in the form of concern for the poor citizens of the incriminated power. And it is unbeatable for tending to civic consciousness at home too. It identifies the citizens of the world power (its allies citizens get to share in this pride) with this same power's claim to sovereignty over all lower-ranked force monopolists. It is as if the harshest matters of national and international force were all for the sake of them as human beings, for the sake of true humanity itself. It is as if their nation's imperialism were proof that they may consider themselves in full possession of all natural human rights, and therefore model human beings for the whole world to envy. With so much identity between the citizens and the universal political power ruling over them, there is no need for an explicit racial doctrine to make the self-assured American believe that he actually embodies that human "nature" whose right must be asserted all over the world. The American patriot "understands" himself to be the incarnate proviso on the use of force by any other state in the world, and as such the one who mandates his world power. The fact that his physical existence is put at the service of his state commanders' own needs for force, which is not very wholesome for Americans either, is the last thing that could shake this ideological superstructure. By definition, the American soldier is a true human being fighting against the inferior race of those who allow themselves to be repressed...
The means swallowed up by American world politics must be furnished by an economy: that is the condition of existence for American power and at the same time its mission, since what it makes demands on it must also promote. When it takes the means it needs for maintaining its world order, it presupposes that the economic means of this peacefully ordered world are available to it, and asserts this presupposition as a claim. It wages a permanent competitive struggle over the economic gain to be had from the "peaceful coexistence of the peoples." The least the American peace order has to do is prevent any decent sovereign state from letting its borders or its domestic order become a barrier to the accumulation of American wealth. The world power is out to make sure that no other national economy can keep up with the size and successful growth of its own, which in practice also involves using its means of global superiority to prevent any state from withholding its economy from competition with America's accumulating wealth, i.e., from the world market, or from competing "unfairly" to America's disadvantage (which the United States always accuses whenever it loses.) That clearly goes against the rules of the game in the world economy, which all nations are supposed to take part in as weaker rivals and additional sources of American wealth.
Thus, the power the United States is interested in does not have merely an abstract, i.e. strategic, logic of its own. It also has a material content and purpose, namely to tend to what it presupposes: the economy it draws its means from. America's world power can only work because, and in so far as, it has a money machine of superior efficiency put at its disposal by its capitalism at home. To feed this machinery, it demands functioning capitalism from the whole world. For its own part, it intends to achieve a properly functioning world capitalism.
And that is what the economic life of world peace is all about.
1. These and several other "cases" will be cited
repeatedly as examples in the following considerations. One should note
what they are examples of in the particular context. They
are certainly not intended to provide anything like a complete survey of
America's geopolitical activities.
2. Here is another example, and no small joke either:
Germany will normally not take orders from anyone when it comes to how
its public authorities deal with the various sections of its own population.
But not even Germany is safe from being rebuked by the American Secretary
of State personally, right on her first visit to Bonn, for its internal
political and moral campaign against the Church of Scientology, a group
of idiots professing the faith of success in bourgeois competition.
3. The United States would seem to act virtually
like an international force monopolist. But it should not be thought of
as a real one, in the sense of being a ubiquitous order-keeping power directly
subjecting the societies of sovereign states to its rule. America's relationship
with the world's other sovereigns is different, not because its power is
too small to achieve direct rule, but because what America demands from
force monopolists around the world is distinct from the cosmopolitan ideal
of a global government with the various sovereign states as its citizens
or as merely lower levels of government. This can already be seen from
the fact that no American politician would ever get the idea of merging
his country into some kind of collective global state. And American global
politics does not consider or treat other states as second-class federal
states governed by Washington, either, but as powers facing it with undivided
responsibility of their own for whatever happens in their acknowledged
domain. The United States does not want to take over this responsibility
itself. On the contrary, other sovereign states are supposed to exercise
their unadulterated sovereignty in the following manner: with a continual
eye to Washington, respecting its wishes as a matter of course, and at
all times ready to submit their decisions to American judgment and correct
them if necessary. America defines its own worldwide political responsibility
in a complementary way: its task is not to relieve the other states of
their power, but rather to keep their sovereign use of power under control.
This it must do if only because it would otherwise lose control of the
conditions under which it itself operates and on which its own position
of power depends. Consequently, what American world power demands is not
the abolition of foreign sovereignties, but a proper disparity between
its power and theirs. That is, it demands a degree of superiority which
is adequate to subject all the other free and sovereign force monopolists
to a general American proviso and to an American definition of priorities.
When the other wielders of power have no choice but to cope with America's
stipulations on the global hierarchy of states and the power relations
between them, then the world is in order for America.
4. Details can be found in Chapter 4 of The U.S.A.:
World Power Number One: Dissenting Views on Imperialism, by Karl Held
and Theo Ebel (Resultate Verlag: Munich, 1987.) Available from the publisher
5. What is called "isolationism" in America consists
exclusively in this doubt, by the way. This attitude to world politics
is merely a somewhat exaggerated demand that the rest of the world simply
submit. It is the expectation that America should be promptly served whatever
it demands from the world, and be spared any kind of obstreperous behavior,
especially requests for money. "Isolationism" should not be mistaken for
a suggestion to leave the rest of humanity in peace.
6. It remains an essential feature of the institution
(the other side of the diplomatic advantage for its designer) that the
U.N. develops a point of view and a life of its own, even though merely
on loan from the real powers, so that the creation has a falling out with
7. This was truly different during the time of the
Soviet "Nyet" at the U.N. In those days it was obvious that the Western
claim to exclusive protection and enforcement of international law was
merely a biased ideal. After all, the Soviet opponent "argued" for its
concerns in exactly the same way. It was not in the wrong from the start
because it could not effectively be put in the wrong on the basis of a
8. One mustn't try to make too much sense of this
"idea" anyway. It attempts to link two things: the category of "right,"
i.e., a positive relation of permission and prohibition between the human
will and a "higher" will acknowledged as binding; with an imaginary human
nature straight out of the jungle. The critique of this ideological construction,
a critique which has been forgotten rather than ever refuted, was furnished
by Karl Marx in his essay, "On the Jewish question," written for the
9. Most of the clubs busy on this front have long
since realized this. If they do not actually think this way, they
at least consider it good tactics to adapt their morals to the prevailing
power relations, in the interests of those deprived of their rights, of
10. How little this fight was due to the
antagonism between the political or economic, much less ideological, systems
is made quite clear in retrospect by the way the West deals with Russia
as the USSR's successor.
11. America's thing is not a political economy
of plunder, i.e., of the superior power marching in with occupation troops
and forcibly appropriating what it does not have in its own country. That
would soon make America's superior strength a thing of the past. The universal
deterrence that forms the basis for America's world power only works because
this nation does not need to engage in actions such as fascist wars of
conquest. What it needs and has to achieve is the permanent deployment
of a military power which guarantees superiority over every state that
might dare to "reach for world power" itself.
© GegenStandpunkt 1997