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ONE YEAR AFTER 9/11: WHERE THE REAL DIVIDE OF `US AND THEM' STANDS Armenian News Network / Groong September 11, 2002 By Khatchik DerGhoukassian and Richard Giragosian In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, leading analysts heralded the beginning of a new era in international relations. The post-Cold War ended `dramatically,' wrote the Argentine expert in international politics, Juan Gabriel Tokatlian. British historian John Gray, went further to sustain that `the era of globalization is over,' and U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, even compared the forthcoming period to that of 1945-1947. One year later, most Americans continue to see the world through the new lens of the `9/11 syndrome,' placing domestic security concerns far above the normal defense of civil liberties and moving closer in accepting the Bush Administration's `axis of evil' worldview. The overall scope of international politics, however, appears to have regained its pre-attack `business as usual.' The architecture of international finance, now very much a pillar of modern international politics, has returned to its traditional pattern of globalization, with the inflow of goods, services, financial instruments and information back in its pre-attack cycle. The only element to the contrary is the increasingly protectionist tendencies of the U.S. Administration, seen in such issues as steel imports and farm subsidies. Although these tendencies have aggravated trade relations with the European Union (EU), such domestic-driven factors are not serious obstacles to an equitable globalization process. The much more significant issue in globalization is the widening global disparity in wealth, and this disparity is a hidden impediment to the implementation and management of the coming stages of the `war on terrorism' and poses a significant threat to long-term stability. As this past year has demonstrated, there is a new clarity to international relations in this post-9/11 world. There is in fact an increasingly visible and narrowing line separating `us and them' in the Bush vision of a unipolar world under U.S. military hegemony. On the one hand, as Stanley Hoffman of Harvard wrote in the `The American Prospect,' America is increasingly alone today in the world, due to the Bush Administration's unilateralism and by virtue of the predominance of the hard-line Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz faction over the more moderate camp of Secretary of State Collin Powell and his supporters. The most recent debate over Iraq has most visibly demonstrated the ascendancy of the unilateralists of the Pentagon over the multilateralists at the State Department. This foreign policy divide is also matched by a domestic component as the war on terror is being exploited in the pursuit of a right-wing conservative agenda in domestic policy, which, as defenders of civil liberties have warned, could endanger the delicate balance of security versus individual rights, and change the face of America. The real danger lies in the opportunity for the rise of conservative extremists from the right. Such a danger is posed, for example, by elements of the Christian fundamentalists or by the openly racist groups. The threat of these group to garner more influence and power in the decision making process has been notably cited by Nicholas Kristoff, with warnings published in The New York Times. There are also some important structural characteristics of the post-9/11 world that encourage the definition of international politics as one of unipolarity. The first of these structural characteristics is the transformation of U.S. `hard power' through the exercise and empowerment of American military prowess. The depth and reach of U.S. military might has been substantially expanded in the past year, going far beyond the military engagements in Afghanistan to include a new prominent role on the mantle of American security. The U.S. military now enjoys a prominence and level of popular support rivaling only that of World War II, and even exceeding the broad but brief popularity of the first Gulf War. This is seen in the passive acceptance of an expanded domestic role for the military, with not even a whisper of dissent to the sight of uniformed soldiers patrolling major airports and combat aircraft monitoring the airspace of major U.S. cities. This post-9/11 `militarization of America' has continued with increased defense spending (despite the return of a large budget deficit) and a renewal of the calls for military engagement in Iraq. This militarization also feeds the newest Bush foreign policy innovation: a so-called Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes. Dismissing the cumbersome and frustrating tenets of international law, this Bush Doctrine of preemptive action also reflects a disdain for multilateralism beyond simple consultation. Although the launch of military operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001 with an important coalition of allies and partners, with the new U.S.-Russian strategic partnership becoming the most important, the preemptive doctrine generally ignores the need to forge a coalition under the banner of United Nations resolution. Further encouraging the formulation of this doctrine, the national sense of mission and resolve that has developed in the wake of 9/11 has matched the intensity of such U.S. historical precedents as `Remember the Maine' and `Remember the Alamo.' The combined factors of a mounting militarization, a growing unipolarity and a temptation to lash out in a fit of global retaliation (preemptive strikes) have combined to endow America with a new, assertive drive for a virtual hegemonic empire. Whether imposed by the objective reality of power, or imposed because of a security imperative, this imperial drive is now infecting all aspects and facets of U.S. foreign policy. For some of its defenders, most notably in the hard-line camp of `offensive realists,' the American empire is not only inevitable but also is benevolent in its service to the global common good. This argument in support of such hegemonic design sees a positive role in providing security and order in what it sees as the black-and-white world threatened by an axis of evil. Thus, its supporters argue, only the U.S. can provide a defense against the anarchy and chaos posed by `evildoers' and `axis of evil' member states. But despite this throwback to the appeal of the Ronald Reagan cowboy worldview, even some within this hard-line realist camp recognize that no empire has ever been benevolent. There is also a danger of erosion of American power from over-extension and the challenge posed by the inevitable defensive formation of a counter-alliance, even though this might not be perceivable in the immediate. The implication of such a trend in unchallenged American power for international politics is grave and destabilizing, as no nation state would actively opt for inclusion in the `axis of evil.' In today's world, no state would seek to be seen by the U.S. as `against us.' Even Libya, Syria and, to a lesser degree, Iran, have all sought to extend a helping hand to the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11. Designation of `axis of evil' membership is another disturbing sign of American preemption of international law, as it grants itself the power to decide and judge such countries. Moreover, this allows Washington to choose its own enemies, for now, three: Iran, Iraq and North Korea. There are, of course, entire regions that are simply of little or no interest for Washington, namely Africa and Latin America. As four Latin American specialists, Roberto Russell, Jose Paradiso and Juan Gabriel Tokatlian from Argentina and Monica Hirst from Brazil, wrote in the Argentine newspaper Clarin, the Bush Administration seized the opportunity of 9/11 to deepen its already existing reluctance to build a mature and consistent relationship with Latin America. In theoretical terms, therefore, this marks a world where all the states would seek to align themselves with the uni-power, in effect seeking to `bandwagon' the hegemonic power, rather than balance it, mainly because of their inability and incapacity to forge an effective defensive alliance. For countries in the developed world, such as Europe in general, and France in particular, there has been some dissent and diplomatic opposition to this trend of American domination. Such opposition has been realistically limited to the trade and diplomatic arenas, however, leaving the military-security and geopolitical fields virtually uncontested. For other states, including China and, most dramatically, Russia, an alliance with the U.S. has combined with their own adoption of the `war on terror' stemming from their domestic considerations. For China, their interpretation and endorsement of the U.S. war on terror includes their own fight against Islamic separatists in northern China and a justification, on security grounds, for their probing influence in Central Asia. In the Russian case, President Vladimir Putin enhanced his new strategic partnership with the U.S. in the hours following 9/11 to cement cooperation in several new areas. Agreeing to a previously unheard of U.S. military presence in the former Soviet Union, Russian allowed U.S. troops to build bases in Central Asia and engage in operations in Georgia. Putin's move was both prudent and wise, and stemmed from his own recognition of the limitation of Russian power. Moscow's assent to the war on terrorism does not mean, however, that Russia is unaware of U.S. limitations. Through the coordination of policies with Washington, Moscow was actually able to buttress its role in several key areas, gaining U.S. acceptance of the Russian conflict in Chechnya and over the longer term, reaching a deal with the U.S. providing for a Russian reassertion of primacy in the Caspian, the Caucasus and promising a return to Central Asia once the U.S. military commitment is gradually scaled down. Another important structural characteristic of the post-9/11 world is the rising influence of non-state actors. As Jessica T. Mathews of the Council on Foreign Relations has pointed out, the role of non-state actors has risen sharply from the previous transnational threats posed by organized crime and narcotics trafficking. Looking at the obvious non-state actor, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, they had achieved, or thought they had achieved, a safe haven in the failed state that was Afghanistan. The working alliance of the Taliban regime and Al Qaeda was so strong that Taliban forces remained ferociously committed to Bin Laden, refusing surrender even in the face of overwhelming defeat. By no means as militarily proficient or skilled as initially feared, the Taliban did manage to smuggle large numbers of its senior leadership and Al Qaeda ranks into neighboring Pakistan (where they are still in fragile refuge). In the wake of 9/11 no government, for obvious reasons, wanted to continue providing safe haven to terrorists. Even Iraq found the presence of Palestinian arch-terrorist Abu Nidal too costly and quickly eliminated him as a worrisome liability. But a state refusing to assist terrorists is quite different from being able to deny them haven. Even Western ally Greece had enormous difficulty in finally overcoming the scourge of its own `17 November' terrorists. And as Ray Takeyh and Nikolas Gvosdev reveal in their recent Washington Quarterly article, terrorist organizations instinctively seek out `failed' and `failing' states where the power and authority of the central government is weak or nonexistent (as Bin Laden found in Sudan prior to Afghanistan). Organized on the model of global business network, terrorist organizations capitalize on state failure, as the Chechen rebels have done in infiltrating into the lawless Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. The danger posed by the security vacuum created by failed states was long an item high on Clinton Administration agenda but is grossly neglected in Bush's war on terror. In fact, the Bush Administration reveals its reluctance for `nation building' and is normally unwilling to shoulder the costs of post-conflict reconstruction and remains hesitant to even invest in developmental policies that would address the sources for such conflict. For the Bush Administration, the typical approach to states lacking the capacity, but demonstrating the will to fight terrorism, is to strengthen the military of that state by relying on U.S. military aid and training. The Georgian case is the most obvious example, but the same pattern has been followed in the Philippines and Indonesia. While assisting the state and bolstering the elite in power, this practice ignores the deepest causes of state failure: a lack of democracy, serious underdevelopment, and widespread dissatisfaction. Even more dangerous, these regimes enjoying such American military aid and training can very well become embroiled in their own internal conflicts. Such U.S. aid empowers the elite and provides a new temptation to exert this new strength in the pursuit of power, often exploiting U.S. sponsorship merely to perpetuate their power, And thereby widening the already serious gap between them and their people. Such an alienated population will only seek, in Albert Hirschman's view, the limited choice of `voice or exit.' In simple terms, this will lead to two divergent options: flight, through immigration, or fight, through protest and/or conflict. Ironically, this fact is exacerbated by the world economic downturn as the developed world has begun to deny refuge to immigrants, making exit from the more unstable developing world even harder. Seizing this opportunity, transnational terrorist and criminal organizations, capitalize on this alienated and disenfranchised class. Although this is not to suggest an overly simplistic relationship between poverty and terrorism, there is a negative symbiosis to this. It is among the lower classes that the Islamic appeal holds the most sway, mounting to include the fermenting of overt anti-Americanism and radicalized politics. By providing important social services in the wake of state incapacity, such groups can parlay their ties to the disaffected into popular support and recruitment for terrorist causes. As with Hamas and its suicide bombings through the Israeli occupation of Palestinian areas and with the al Qaeda/Taliban combination in the poorest areas of Pakistan, these groups become the only means for affordable education and social services for the disenfranchised local population, much as coca cultivation is for the Andean peasants. The obvious conclusion is that the only result from `regime change' is `blowback' whereby the aftermath breeds a conflict much worse than the initial manifestation. Regime change, either in Afghanistan or Iraq, will remain ineffective and potentially more disastrous when the local population is condemned to perpetual poverty. Such regime change does nothing to improve living conditions and, in fact, only leads to greater misery and declining living conditions in most cases. In a worst case scenario, if American troops, either with the local government's authorization or without it, fail to balance immediate security needs against the dangers of `collateral damage' and harm to the local population, the `blowback' is bound to be doubled, as in the Vietnamese case. It is in the developing world, therefore, that the real divide between `us and them' is causing the most harm to the world order. In the context of the expanding war on terrorism, although states are more inclined to become partners in the U.S. campaign, once bolstered and empowered by U.S. military aid, the real issue is the harm done in the name of supporting Washington. For much of the U.S. backing to these regimes will only serve to consolidate and perpetuate the ruling elite, often at the expense of democratic consolidation and development. The population of these new U.S. allies, meanwhile, will become increasingly alienated from its own government and will blame the U.S. for supporting it. Denied of any possible exit, it will look for a voice to protest. And this is where and when terrorism, transnational organized crime, and even conflict become the preferred means of expression. The only real path to fighting global terror lies in avoiding such measures that foster regimes prone to govern by threat and rule by conflict. The tragedy is that the United States is on the fast track toward consolidating autocratic and dictatorial regimes in pursuit of a terrorism that it fails to recognize as being born in part from its very own global policies. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Khatchik DerGhoukassian is a Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations at the University of Miami. He is the former editor of the newspaper ARMENIA in Buenos Aires and writes as a political analyst in the Armenian and Argentine press. Richard Giragosian writes extensively on economic and political developments in the Caucasus, and is the author of the monthly publication, "TransCaucasus: A Chronology," now in its eleventh year of consecutive monthly publication.