[OPE-L:7660] Seven Principles of Neo Imperialism

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Sat Sep 14 2002 - 15:21:06 EDT

posted on lbo-talk by Michael Pollak

[This summary is excerpted from the current (September/October 2002) issue
of Foreign Affairs (the house journal of our friends at the Council on
Foreign Relations), from an article by G. John Ikenberry entitled
"America's Imperial Ambition."]

[So as not to slander the man, I should add that Ikenberry is against this
policy and thinks it is ultimately doomed. But his objections are not as
interesting as his rendition of their reasoning. I think this is by far
the best presentation of their argument I've seen so far.]

[It's not online. This part is scanned.]



FOR THE FIRST TIME Since the dawn of the Cold War, a new grand strategy is
taking shape in Washington. It is advanced most directly as a response to
terrorism, but it also constitutes a broader view about how the United
States should wield power and organize world order. According to this new
paradigm, America is to be less bound to its partners and to global rules
and institutions while it steps forward to play a more unilateral and
anticipatory role in attacking terrorist threats and confronting rogue
states seeking WMD. The United States will use its unrivaled military
power to manage the global order.

This new grand strategy has seven elements. It begins with a fundamental
commitment to maintaining a unipolar world in which the United States has
no peer competitor. No coalition of great powers without the United States
will be allowed to achieve hegemony. Bush made this point the centerpiece
of American security policy in his West Point commencement address in
June: "America has, and intends to keep, military strengths beyond
challenges-thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras
pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace."
The United States will not seek security through the more modest realist
strategy of operating within a global system of power balancing, nor will
it pursue a liberal strategy in which institutions, democracy, and
integrated markets reduce the importance of power politics altogether.
America will be so much more powerful than other major states that
strategic rivalries and security competition among the great powers will
disappear, leaving everyone-not just the United States-better off:

This goal made an unsettling early appearance at the end of the first Bush
administration in a leaked Pentagon memorandum written by then Assistant
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. With the collapse of the Soviet
Union, he wrote, the United States must act to prevent the rise of peer
competitors in Europe and Asia. But the 1990s made this strategic aim
moot. The United States grew faster than the other major states during the
decade, it reduced military spending more slowly, and it dominated
investment in the technological advancement of its forces. Today, however,
the new goal is to make these advantages permanent-a fait accompli that
will prompt other states to not even try to catch up. Some thinkers have
described the strategy as "breakout," in which the United States moves so
quickly to develop technological advantages (in robotics, lasers,
satellites, precision munitions, etc.) that no state or coalition could
ever challenge it as global leader, protector, and enforcer.

The second element is a dramatic new analysis of global threats and how
they must be attacked. The grim new reality is that small groups of
terrorists perhaps aided by outlaw states--may soon acquire highly
destructive nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that can inflict
catastrophic destruction. These terrorist groups cannot be appeased or
deterred, the administration believes, so they must be eliminated.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has articulated this frightening view
with elegance: regarding the threats that confront the United States, he
said, "There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns.
That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are
also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. ...
Each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns." In other
words, there could exist groups of terrorists that no one knows about.
They may have nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons that the United
States did not know they could get, and they might be willing and able to
attack without warning. In the age of terror, there is less room for
error. Small networks of angry people can inflict unimaginable harm an the
rest of the world. They are not nation-states, and they do not play by the
accepted rules of the game.

The third element of the new strategy maintains that the Cold War concept
of deterrence is outdated. Deterrence, sovereignty, and the balance of
power work together. When deterrence is no longer viable, the larger
realist edifice starts to crumble. The threat today is not other great
powers that must be managed through second-strike nuclear capacity but the
transnational terrorist networks that have no home address. They cannot be
deterred because they are either willing to die for their cause or able to
escape retaliation. The old defensive strategy of building missiles and
other weapons that can survive a first strike and be used in a retaliatory
strike to punish the attacker will no longer ensure security. The only
option, then, is offense.

The use of force, this camp argues, will therefore need to be preemptive
and perhaps even preventive-taking an potential threats before they can
present a major problem. But this premise plays havoc with the old
international rules of self-defense and United Nations norms about the
proper use of force. Rumsfeld has articulated the justification for
preemptive action by stating that the "absence of evidence is not evidence
of absence of weapons of mass destruction." But such an approach renders
international norms of self-defense enshrined by Article 51 of the UN
Charter-almost meaningless. The administration should remember that when
Israeli jets bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 in what
Israel described as an act of self-defense, the world condemned it as an
act of aggression. Even British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the
American ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, criticized the action,
and the United States joined in passing a UN resolution condemning it.

The Bush administration's security doctrine takes this country down the
same slippery slope. Even without a clear threat, the United States now
claims a right to use preemptive or preventive military force. At West
Point, Bush put it succinctly when he stated that "the military must be
ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. All
nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price." The
administration defends this new doctrine as a necessary adjustment to a
more uncertain and shifting threat environment. This policy of no regrets
errs an the side of action-but it can also easily become national security
by hunch or inference, leaving the world without clear-cut norms for
justifying force.

<internal Haass quote>

As a result, the fourth element of this emerging grand strategy involves a
recasting of the terms of sovereignty. Because these terrorist groups
cannot be deterred, the United States must be prepared to intervene
anywhere, anytime to preemptively destroy the threat. Terrorists do not
respect borders, so neither can the United States. Moreover, countries
that harbor terrorists, either by consent or because they are unable to
enforce their laws within their territory, effectively forfeit their
rights of sovereignty. Haass recently hinted at this notion in The New

<end internal Haass quote>

What you are seeing in this administration is the emergence of a new
principle or body of ideas ... about what you might call the limits of
sovereignty. Sovereignty entails obligations. One is not to massacre your
own people. Another is not to support terrorism in any way. If a
government fails to meet these obligations, then it forfeits some of the
normal advantages of sovereignty, including the right to be left alone
inside your own territory. Other governments, including the United States,
gain the right to intervene. In the case of terrorism, this can even lead
to a right of preventive ... self-defense. You essentially can act in
anticipation if you have grounds to think it's a question of when, and not
if, you're going to be attacked.

Here the war an terrorism and the problem of the proliferation of WMD get
entangled. The worry is that a few despotic states-Iraq in particular, but
also Iran and North Korea-will develop capabilities to produce weapons of
mass destruction and put these weapons in the hands of terrorists. The
regimes themselves may be deterred from using such capabilities, but they
might pass along these weapons to terrorist networks that are not
deterred. Thus another emerging principle within the Bush administration:
the possession of WMD by unaccountable, unfriendly, despotic governments
is itself a threat that must be countered. In the old era, despotic
regimes were to be lamented but ultimately tolerated. With the rise of
terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, they are now unacceptable
threats. Thus states that are not technically in violation of any existing
international laws could nevertheless be targets of American force if
Washington determines that they have a prospective capacity to do harm.

The recasting of sovereignty is paradoxical. On the one hand, the new
Grand strategy reaffirms the importance of the territorial nation state.
After all, if all governments were accountable and capable of enforcing
the rule of law within their sovereign territory, terrorists would find it
very difficult to operate. The emerging Bush doctrine enshrines this idea:
governments will be held responsible for what goes an inside their
borders. On the other hand, sovereignty has been made newly conditional:
governments that fail to act like respectable, law-abiding states will
lose their sovereignty.

In one sense, such conditional sovereignty is not new. Great powers have
willfully transgressed the norms of state sovereignty as far back as such
norms have existed, particularly within their traditional spheres of
influence, whenever the national interest dictated. The United States
itself has Bone this within the Western hemisphere since the nineteenth
century. What is new and provocative in this notion today, however, is the
Bush administration's inclination to apply it an a global basis, leaving
to itself the authority to determine when sovereign rights have been
forfeited, and doing so on an anticipatory basis.

The fifth element of this new Brand strategy is a general depreciation of
international rules, treaties, and security partnerships. This point
relates to the new threats themselves: if the stakes are rising and the
margins of error are shrinking in the war an terrorism, multilateral norms
and agreements that sanction and limit the use of force are just annoying
distractions. The critical task is to eliminate the threat. But the
emerging unilateral strategy is also informed by a deeper suspicion about
the value of international agreements themselves. Part of this view arises
from a deeply felt and authentically American belief that the United
States should not get entangled in the corrupting and constraining world
of multilateral rules and institutions. For some Americans, the belief
that American sovereignty is politically sacred leads to a preference for
isolationism. But the more influential view-particularly after September
i17-is not that the United. States should withdraw from the world but that
it should operate in the world an its own terms. The Bush administration's
repudiation of a remarkable array of treaties and institutions-from the
Kyoto Protocol an global warming to the International Criminal Court to
the Biological Weapons Convention-reflects this new bias. Likewise, the
United States signed a formal agreement with Russia an the reduction of
deployed nuclear warheads only after Moscow's insistence; the Bush
administration wanted only a "gentlemen's agreement." In other words, the
United States has decided it is big enough, powerful enough, and remote
enough to go it alone.

Sixth, the new grand strategy argues that the United States will need to
play a direct and unconstrained role in responding to threats. This
conviction is partially based an a judgment that no other country or
coalition-even the European Union-has the force-projection capabilities to
respond to terrorist and rogue states around the world. A decade of U.S.
defense spending and modernization has left allies of the United States
far behind. In combat operations, alliance partners are increasingly
finding it difficult to mesh with U.S. forces. This view is also based an
the judgment that joint operations and the use of force through coalitions
tend to hinder effective operations. To some observers, this lesson became
clear in the allied bombing campaign over Kosovo. The sentiment was also
expressed during the U.S. and allied military actions in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld explained this point earlier this year, when he said, "The
mission must determine the coalition; the coalition must not determine the
mission. If it does, the mission will be dumbed down to the lowest common
denominator, and we can't afford that."

No one in the Bush administration argues that NATO or the U. S.-Japan
alliance should be dismantled. Rather, these alliances are now seen as
less useful to the United States as it confronts today's threats. Some
officials argue that it is not that the United States chooses to
depreciate alliance partnerships, but that the Europeans are unwilling to
keep up. Whether that is true, the upgrading of the American military,
along with its sheer size relative to the forces of the rest of the world,
leaves the United States in a class by itself. In these circumstances, it
is increasingly difficult to maintain the illusion of true alliance
partnership. America's allies become merely strategic assets that are
useful depending an the circumstance. The United States still finds
attractive the logistical reach that its global alliance system provides,
but the pacts with countries in Asia and Europe become more contingent and
less premised an a vision of a common security community.

Finally, the new grand strategy attaches little value to international
stability There is an unsentimental view in the unilateralist camp that
the traditions of the past must be shed. Whether it is withdrawal from the
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty or the resistance to signing other formal
arms-control treaties, policymakers are convinced that the United States
needs to move beyond outmoded Cold War thinking. Administration officials
have noted with some satisfaction that America's withdrawal from the ABM
Treaty did not lead to a global arms race but actually paved the way for a
historic arms-reduction agreement between the United States and Russia.
This move is seen as a validation that moving beyond the old paradigm of
great-Power relations will not bring the international house down. The
world can withstand radically new security approaches, and it will
accommodate American unilateralism as well. But stability is not an end in
itself. The administration's new hawkish policy toward North Korea, for
example, might be destabilizing to the region, but such instability might
be the necessary price for dislodging a dangerous and evil regime in

In this brave new world, neoimperial thinkers contend that the older
realist and liberal grand strategies are not very helpful. American
security will not be ensured, as realist grand strategy assumes, by the
preservation of deterrence and stable relations among the major powers. In
a world of asymmetrical threats, the global balance of Power is not the
linchpin of war and peace. Likewise, liberal strategies of building order
around open trade and democratic institutions might have some long-term
impact an terrorism, but they do not address the immediacy of the threats.
Apocalyptic violence is at our doorstep, so efforts at strengthening the
rules and institutions of the international community are of little
practical value. If we accept the worst-case imagining of "we don't know
what we don't know," everything else is secondary: international rules,
traditions of partnership, and standards of legitimacy. It is a war. And
as Clausewitz famously remarked, "War is such a dangerous business that
the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst."

<end excerpt>

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