Ming the Mechanic:
The Last Chance for Peace

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 The Last Chance for Peace2003-03-16 23:09
by Flemming Funch

Below is an e-mail today from Paul Von Ward, posted with permisson. Paul is a former U.S. diplomat, and he's been around.
Would-be emperors must now assume they are naked. Sophisticated analysts exist on all continents with the information and capability to discern when someone attempts to pull the wool over the world's eyes. Cross-cultural communication has dramatically increased the sharing of insights that pierce the veil of secret transnational agendas. They expose oil profiteering by covert supporters of war. They identify lucrative business connections (arms dealers and defense contractors) that will benefit from war regardless of who wins. They describe hidden conflicts, like the US-European competition over the role of the dollar versus the euro in energy markets. They point out the power of personal vendettas and egos in political decision making. The US is in a fishbowl.

The Last Chance for Peace
(March 15, 2003) by Paul Von Ward

Today Vice President Cheney, on behalf of President Bush, made the clearly disingenuous argument that the inevitability of war was now beyond US control. He said the US had done everything possible to use diplomacy and feigned regret that the US would reluctantly have to do the dirty work on behalf of the world community. He could have stated it more honestly by saying, "We have taken a unilateral decision to force Saddam Hussein from power by direct military action. Diplomacy isn't working when other nations do not agree with us on the means as well as the ends. As the world "super police-man" we can act."

When you're a pretender to the throne, you judiciously avoid having to prove your power. When you're the titular head of a rambunctious family, you don't try to force them all into the station wagon for the same vacation. You don't bet your children's future on one roll of the dice. These analogies contain wisdom that our president could have used to avoid boxing the US into a no-win situation. Unfortunately, on the way to war his administration failed to note how the world has changed since 1991, and appears to have set its own trap.

Given changes like those highlighted below, it is difficult to see what long-term benefits the US administration thinks it can gain out of its march to war. In the immediate term, macho ego-satisfaction and defense spending bonanzas can benefit a few. But in the near-term and long-term, the American leadership has maneuvered itself into a "damned if I do, damned if I don't situation". If it now goes into battle against Iraq, it will have opted for one easy military conquest, only to destroy the global base for a viable struggle against terrorism. If it now backs away from a military confrontation with Iraq, it will be seen as lacking foresight and political will. Either way the US president will have taken himself out of the running for global leadership. One wonders whose interest is served?

In 1991 the US had a solid international mandate to liberate Kuwait from its Iraqi invaders. (Saddam Hussein had felt free to march into Kuwait because he fell for the trap set for him, but that's another story.) The US-led coalition then destroyed much of the nation it had armed with weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, but left the matter of final disarmament up to the UN. Now the US has rationalized a unilateral war by arguing that, even though it will not help the UN finish the job, the US must do it on its own to save the honor of the UN

The appropriate Wild West analogy is the deputy sheriff who refuses to help the criminal justice system capture a bad guy and becomes a vigilante to make sure justice is done. The president appears to believe the world will passively accept the US as the post-Cold War policeman/judge/executor-in-one. I believe the world has seen dramatic and relevant changes to the contrary since 1991 that appear to have been lost on strategic planners in the current administration (it that's not an oxymoron).

The post-1991 world became multipolar instead of unipolar. The idea (after the collapse of the USSR) that one super-power called the shots for the rest of the world-that America may have entertained and the rest of the world may have feared-did not last long. Other nations have found their voices. Regional interests long over-shadowed by the Cold War have energized masses. This new world can be led, but it cannot be bullied. It will become united against a bully.

Developing nations, new allies and even old allies now clearly recognize there is more than one game in town. They can't afford to counter global sentiments in favor of peaceful resolution of conflicts (backed by collective force if necessary) and the building of cooperative international structures. The offers of short-term pay-offs through US aid or commercial favors are not sufficient (particularly given the US "attention deficit" history) to counter their sense of long-term interests. They no longer vote with us in world meetings.

Would-be emperors must now assume they are naked. Sophisticated analysts exist on all continents with the information and capability to discern when someone attempts to pull the wool over the world's eyes. Cross-cultural communication has dramatically increased the sharing of insights that pierce the veil of secret transnational agendas. They expose oil profiteering by covert supporters of war. They identify lucrative business connections (arms dealers and defense contractors) that will benefit from war regardless of who wins. They describe hidden conflicts, like the US-European competition over the role of the dollar versus the euro in energy markets. They point out the power of personal vendettas and egos in political decision making. The US is in a fishbowl.

The world knows the US is now its biggest debtor nation. Knowledgeable people around the world now realize that the future of the American economy and its profligate lifestyle depends on foreigners to pay for its massive deficit spending, whether by the government or individuals. They know that now the US can be held hostage by a coordinated campaign to unload US securities.

Massive force is ineffective in face of coordinated, but decentralized revolution. Gun boat diplomacy worked with centralized governments and primitive societies, but it doesn't work today when the issues cut across national boundaries. Opposition to domineering regimes (governmental and economic) now depend on loose confederations of independent actors working locally, but in support of a global objective. In its best form we have civic activism and local empowerment. It its worst we have violent acts if terrorism. In either form, the old heavy-handed approach to social control no longer works.

September 11, 2001, offered the United States an opportunity to provide a new model of leadership for the world. Most nations felt the super-power had been "invaded", for the first time suffering violence as has so much of the world. Many hoped that with a new insight into reality, the US, too, would work towards the building of a global civil society in which the roots of terrorism could not take hold. They were ready to help a great nation do great work.

By failing to take the high ground of moral leadership and collective security against post-9/11 terrorism, President Bush's administration squandered the goodwill and support for an era that could have become rightfully known as Pax Americana. It could have become a world united by more just and equitable political, economic and social institutions. It could have become a world that refused to accept unilateral violence as a means to redress wrongs. It would have been a peace not secured by the machinery of war (two mutually exclusive concepts), but by internal commitments of citizens everywhere.

A slim thread of hope still exists for world peace based on a moral foundation. It depends on President Bush this week showing a new kind of courage and grasping the opportunity to claim the role of a world leader. He can do that and save face at the same time. The US can rightfully take credit for Iraq's first major steps to disarmament under the eyes of the UN inspectors. The president can correctly claim that American military pressure gave the inspection process enough teeth to cut Saddam's truculent facade. By emphasizing the positive effects of our willingness to support the UN process with military resources, we can lead all members of the Security Council to increase intrusive UN measures to insure Iraq's complete destruction of weapons of mass destruction.

The country swarming with international inspectors, journalists and others have done more to open up that repressive regime than our invasion threats. (Which have had the undesired effect of reinforcing internal repression.) The UN can now capitalize on world support (with its legitimate concerns about weapons of mass destruction in rogue states) to finish peacefully the disarmament of Iraq.

A victory for the UN would be a victory for the US. And such a victory for the US would be a victory for future peace in the world. Whether the world's citizens or the economic war interests win depends on George W. Bush's choice to be a world leader. If he acts alone, the global economy, including the United States, and American security will suffer for generations to come. If he asked who has decided he can be expended for their long-term interests, he would see that his own potential best legacy lies in alignment with peaceful world citizens.

(Paul Von Ward is a former U.S. naval officer, diplomat and international educator. He is the author of Our Solarian Legacy: Multidimensional Humans in a Self-Learning Universe, other books and articles.)


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17 Mar 2003 @ 07:07 by catana : Thanks
Thanks so much for this insightful article. I'm going to look up von Ward's book.

The critical question still remains: when the whole world can see that the emperor is naked what power can stop him? We've moved from an era when one man can destroy a nation to one in which he can destroy the whole world. A new kind of vision has come from the world's interconnectedness; now we need a new kind of power to control such madmen.  

17 Mar 2003 @ 12:49 by sharie : profitting no matter who wins
I think Cheney's having to realize he's not going to get the re-construction contracts after all. But Bush and Cheney can't do anything without their Generals supporting them, right? So who really has the power here?

I read one article a while back that said it's the military generals who are actually in control of what goes on in international politics. But somebody's probably putting money in their pockets, why else would they behave like barbarians?  

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