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Tuesday, April 8, 2003



As the war winds down in Iraq --- the Saddamite regime reduced, essentially, to a rag-tag remnant in Tikrit and a few Fedayeen thugs augmented by fanatical jihad types from around the Middle East, eager for martyrdom (an eagerness we should facilitate) --- the Bush administration has to brace itself for a new round of difficulties with much of the EU . . . on the governmental level with France and Germany, and on the popular level almost everywhere, even in Britain to an extent. The latest diplomatic spark for a confrontation? The demand, above all voiced by Berlin and Paris backed by Moscow --- three big patrons in the past of the blood-soaked Iraqi Saddamite fascist regime --- that the UN dominate the reconstruction of Iraq, politically and economically. Read, of course, when you hear of the UN in this context, the Security Council . . . where the Russians and French have a veto power, their only leverage over the Anglo-Americans. Period. And appreciate that the demand is fully in their self-interest, what with their huge economic stakes in Saddamite Iraq, which owes, apparently, around $100 billion . . . a huge chunk of which is owed the Russians, the French, and the Germans, all now doubly worried because there is open talk of a post-Saddamite regime renouncing the debts incurred to foreign countries during Saddam's 30 years of ruthless rule.

Will the UN be given the key role?

No, and not even Tony Blair --- for all the media speculation, most of it in the EU apparently wishful thinking that sees an internationalist Blair pitted against an imperial unilateralist Bush --- wants that. As his official spokesman said at the end of his meeting with Bush in North Ireland yesterday, the Security Council antics in months of deadlock over Iraq showed that the UN hasn't the capacity, never mind the desire, to run Iraq." See Blair. At most there will be a useful role for the specialized UN agencies like those handling refugees or feeding people, nothing more. For the US and the UK governments, to be more concrete, the UN Security Council discredited itself in refusing to back up its coercive diplomacy against Saddamite Iraq --- which was supposed to disarm according to the first resolution demanding it in October 1990 in 45 days --- even 4500 days further on, with the 17th resolution, 1441, finding Iraq in material breach of the demands over 12 years old. The UN on this view had reached a turning point, and it failed to turn, leaving it as ineffectual as the League of Nations was in confronting the fascist dicators in the 1930s . . . not that the Security Council hadn't already show itself to be little more than a debating society for scoring point when it came to Somalia in 1993, Bosnia 1992-1995, Rwanda in 1994, and Kosovo in 1999. All of which, remember, were disasters for collective UN security cooperation.

Naturally, that view won't go down easily with the French, Russians, and Germans, all worked up into a lather of hope and expectation that they can still salvage their shipwrecked counter-balancing policy, nor with some of the other EU governments.
  The upshot?

Expect to see more acrimony and diplomatic donnybrooks with "old Europe," which the French and Germans like to regard essentially as their chasse-preserve, to which in French and German political calculations, apparently, Putin's Russia is being made an honorable member. Not that this will go down easily with the 10 or 12 "New European" countries, former Soviet satellites, that hope to get into the EU next year . . . or for that matter, Italy, Spain, Britain, and some small countries, including even, interestingly, the four tiny neutrals (Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Ireland) who have repeatedly criticized French and German political initiatives to institutionalize their dominance in the EU.


The central issue here, however, isn't Iraq --- not now, not later. Bluntly put, it's the future of US-European relations with both halves of the continent, and the nature of the NATO alliance for Europeans and Americans alike.

In effect, however significant in itself, the war against Saddamite Iraq is mainly a symbol --- and yes, no doubt a galvanizing force too --- of pivotal changes at work in international relations for 13 years now, starting with the cold war's end and the collapse and disappearance into the trashbin of history of the Soviet Union and communism as a global force. Followed, almost immediately, by two key changes that have defined the new global system:

  • One is structural, the distribution of power: unipolar in nature, it is centered on the US, whose economic, military, and technological dominance are without parallel in the world since the Roman Empire, made all the more graphically evident in a rapidly globalizing era by the relentless intrusion of American culture into the lives of the 6 billion peoples of the world . . . thanks to CNN and satellite television, American films, American music, American literature, American software, American styles and food and business, and the Internet.

  • Brief clarification of "structural." The structure of the global IR system stands in relation to the perceptions of each state's policymakers --- as well as how they define their national interests, select policy instruments (dipomatic, economic, military) to defend and promote those interests, and then react and adapt or not their policies as they produce reactions from others --- the way software programs, say a word processor like MS Word, stands in relation to the writer using it. No writer can escape the limits or constraints of the processor's program as it's written or modified; on the other hand, one writer might be a young school kid with a poor grasp of grammar and a limited vocabularly composing a third-grade paper, another might be an untalented college student struggling to compose an analysis of a text by Kant, a third might be a hack public relations expert composing a diddy to convinced people to use a particular company's deoderant, a fourth might be writing in Russian, and a fifth might be John Updike banging out another of his brilliant short stories or novels . . . a glittering corpus of word wizardry without parallel in decades. Again, think of a structure like the skeleton of a body as opposed to the person it helps constitute: one person might be a world-class runner, the other a physically handicapped high school student who can't, however hard he tries, even complete a mile race. Come to think of it, a better analogy would be the DNA of the person, which eventually with its information leads genes to build proteins, which in turn create bones, muscles, tendons, a heart, a brain, limbs etc as the individual, from day one of his birth to adulthood and on interacts with his environment: his parents, his nourishment, his mental encouragement or discouragement, his relations with peers, teachers, and so on.

    Structures, in short, create limits, but don't dictate outcomes in whatever domain . . . only constrain what can be done, physically, mentally, emotionally, and the like, by the actors involved: individuals, families, groups, nations, states, writers, atheletes and on and on. If the genetic constitution of an individual with its DNA information that the baby is born with sets a limit on an average of 5 foot 6 inches for the fellow --- to use a male here as an example --- a particularly good diet and good training might make him grow to 5 foot 8 inches. Oppositely, a poor diet and lack of exercise limit his height to 5 foot 4 inches. No diet or training, however, is going to make him grow to 6 foot 6 inches; and however talented an athelete he might he, he'd do well to forget becoming a player in the NBA.

    Similarly, structural realism --- the most influential of realist theories, and fairlyh new (created largely by Kenneth Waltz of UC Berkeley in the mid-1970s) --- doesn't claim that the foreign policy choices and behavior of individual states are determined at any one, short-term or long-term, by the structures of the international system: particularly, the deep structured of international anarchy (the lack of legitimate, effective, institutionalized world government, which creates a system of individual state self-help --- no 911 International to call if you're being attacked by another state or terrorist movement --- and concerns for security and power that lead to security dilemmas and fears of being cheated in international agreements like those involving serious arms control or disarmament. The choices leaders make and the behavior of their states can be influenced in the short or long-term by a myriad of domestic influences unique to that state: its domestic political system, its economic interests, its culture, the existence of an official ideology or not, the personalities and talents of major political, diplomatic, and military leaders, etc. What Waltz and structural realists argue is this: IF in the long-run state leaders do NOT adjust their policies --- their definitions of their national interests and how to pursue them --- in response to the behavior of other states or key non-state actors like Al Qaeda, ignoring above all the realities of power invovled, they are likely to suffer noticeably . . . losing major wars if they over-reach like the Germans, Japanese, and Soviets in the 20th centurhy or the French in the 19th century, or having to fight major wars that they do win because they appeased big menacing states as the British, French, and Americans did in the 1930s, and maybe even like Czarist Russia, Imperial Germany, and the Ottoman Empire in 1918, or Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in 1945, or the Soviet Union in 1990 and 1991 collapsing and maybe even disappearing totally.

  • The other big change is perceptual, a matter of images and ideas held by policymaking leaders in the US and in key second-tier states about all these pivotal developments: in NATO above all, and elsewhere of course, the upshot is the breakdown of a powerfully shared definition as to nature of the common security threats the member states face, and the priorities given to it. Come to that, no less a marked divergence about the instruments of policy for dealing with the differently seen threats.

      • The US and the UK, with long traditions of trying to shape a global international order and impressive professional military forces, seeing coercive diplomacy and war if need be as important instruments. And the rest of the EU's governments and elites, never mind public opinion even more markedly risk-averse and fearful of change, reluctant to consider military force as essential . . . the Germans going the furthest here, a wondrous leap into a fairlyland utopia of pacifism and a German moral lead to a dominant role of the Security Council in deciding when any country should go to war or not. Exception, apparently--- as over Kosovo --- when the same Green and Social-Democratic German government that has said it wouldn't go to war to enforce Iraq's disarmament whatever the UN Security Council did found its own security interests had to be promoted by war and joined one against Yugoslavia in 1999, just 4 years ago after all --- not 4 decades --- without any UN approval whatsover. By contrast, US and UK can point to in Security Council resolution 1441 and six months of futile wrangling with the Russians and French above all as legitimizing their war; for that matter, reinforced by 16 earlier resolutions demanding immediate disarmament too..

    For the US, the defining moment here for a growing shift of interest away from NATO and a perception of a new set of menacing threats --- the triad of Islamo-fascist terrorism, Islamo-fascist fundamentalism, and Islamo-fascist states with WMD (to which group Stalinist North Koreas has to be added) --- hasn't been Iraq, but rather the 9/11 outrages and the recognition that a new and serious danger faces the country . . . all the more worrying because of the movement of the US homefront, until then regarded as vulnerable, to the front-line of defense. Essentially, despite some different emphases, Blair's government sees the threat in these terms. To a fairly large extent, it seems, so do the conservative governments in power in Italy, Spain, Denmark, and Holland, where, however --- a key point we'll return to --- the US-UK war against fascist Iraq is noticeably unpopular, and even more important, where as in the rest of the EU, anti-American sentiments are sharply on the upswing. Not so in East Europe. There all the governments are supportive of the US, and though the war itself isn't popular, pro-American sentiment is widespread.



    All of which leads to the crux issue: what is likely to be the future of the NATO alliance?