The Bush administration is presenting itself to the world as a juggernaut–a “massive inexorable force that advances irresistibly, crushing whatever is in its path.” Bush’s National Security Strategy envisions its “war against terrorism” as “a global enterprise of uncertain duration.” It says the U.S. will act against “emerging threats before they are fully formed.” The Bush administration envisions the coming decades as a continuation of recent U.S. demands, threats, and wars. It intends to continue the aggressive behavior already illustrated by war on Afghanistan and Iraq, armed intervention in the Philippines and Columbia, and threats against Syria, Iran, and North Korea. The Bush administration and its successors are likely to continue this juggernaut until they are made to stop.
As the Bush administration sought global support for its attack on Iraq, the New York Times wrote, “The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the U.S. and world opinion.” But is that “tenacious new adversary” with whom President Bush appeared “eyeball to eyeball” really a superpower, or is it just a well-intentioned but ineffective protest against the inexorable advance of the Bush juggernaut?
This piece explores how Bush’s “tenacious new adversary” can most effectively terminate his juggernaut. It starts by looking at the Bush administration’s strengths and weaknesses and the ways it might be stopped or removed. Then it looks at the various forces around the world and in the U.S. that might want to contribute to doing so–the elements of the “other superpower.” Finally it reviews how these forces might utilize the Bush team’s weaknesses to force an end to its policies.
No single force is well positioned to halt the Bush juggernaut. An effective strategy will therefore require cooperation among different forces that have different views and interests. Such “collective security” has been necessary in the past, and it is necessary now, to halt attempts at global domination.
If defined as a struggle of nation against nation–the U.S. against Iraq or North Korea or France, for example–the Bush program is likely to prevail. If defined as a struggle of Bush and his advisers against global values, norms, and laws backed by the world’s people, it can be defeated.
The first purpose of this piece is to help frame a dialogue on strategy among the many people and forces worldwide that have an interest in or the capacity to contribute to halting the Bush juggernaut. These proposals surely have flaws and can be improved upon by others. In any case they will soon need revision to meet a rapidly changing situation. This piece presents a strategic framework in relation to which such criticism and revision can proceed.
Part of the power of the Bush juggernaut is the image of invincibility it claims and projects. A second purpose of this piece, therefore, is to counter the hopelessness that the image induces by showing that there is at least one realistic strategy by which the “other superpower” can foil Bush’s intentions. If other people can come up with a superior strategy, all the better.
The Bush juggernaut presents a clear and present danger to the people of the world and even to the health of our planet. But it is far from the world’s only problem. This piece seeks strategies to terminate the Bush juggernaut that don’t just restore the status quo but instead open the way for further progress toward global peace and justice.
Part I: Termination
From Hegemony to Dictation
No minority can long rule a majority by violence alone. Power depends on the support of some, the acquiescence of many, and the division of opponents. When supporters are alienated, the masses are opposed, and opponents are unified, a ruling power’s days are numbered.
For the second half of the 20th century, the U.S. was the world’s dominant superpower. It possessed military might and frequently used it against isolated opponents. But its power always depended on a system of alliances with other powers, worldwide respect for its system of government, and division among those who would challenge it. Without direct rule, U.S. hegemony reached into every nook and cranny at every level from local and national governments to NATO, the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and UN.
Washington’s power has been based on its ability to cultivate local elites around the world. It has provided them support; they, in turn, have kept their countries within the limits of what is acceptable to the United States. The U.S. has limited its demands where they would undermine local elites’ ability to control their own people. And it has wrapped its domination in a mantle of legality, democracy, and voluntary alliance.
This strategy was extended in the post-cold war era by what came to be known as “globalization.” Instead of sending armies to plunder the world, the U.S. worked with others to construct a rules-based global economy through such institutions as the WTO, IMF, and World Bank. The U.S. was somewhat bound by the rules but used its influence to ensure that the rules provided U.S. businesses with the lion’s share of the benefits.
At the core of the Bush team’s new policy is the replacement of such hegemony by a world order based on direct U.S. dictation. Most of the current Bush administration foreign policy team were leaders of the 1991 Gulf War, and they interpreted its outcome as revealing the dangers of international interdependence. They concluded that the U.S. must instead put down any independent challenger without depending on allies. Washington must dominate through direct exercise of power rather than just controlling through biased norms and negotiated hegemony. When George W. Bush became president, this group filled most of the top foreign policy positions. They immediately initiated a massive military buildup and began to undermine or withdraw from existing arms control agreements.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush’s security adviser Condoleezza Rice asked senior staff of the National Security Council to think about “how do you capitalize on these opportunities” to change U.S. doctrine and shape the world. The answer to her question can be seen in the radical shift in U.S. policy enunciated in Bush’s National Security Strategy document. In place of self-determination and pluralism, it asserts that there is “a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.” In place of security through international cooperation, it asserts that the U.S. “will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively” and by “convincing or compelling states” to accept their “responsibilities.”
The current administration’s answer can also be seen in the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq; the threats against Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and even Belgium and France; the scornful undermining of the UN; and the contemptuous treatment of longtime U.S. allies. As Noam Chomsky remarked, the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a “test case” to try to establish “a norm for the use of military force,” namely, “preventive war.” As former U.S. President Bill Clinton put it, “Our paradigm now seems to be: Something terrible happened to us on 11 September, and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with. And if they don’t, they can go straight to hell.”
Although this policy shift is most pyrotechnical in the security arena, there has been a parallel development in global economic policy as well. While the Bush administration gives lip service to free trade, it has in fact moved swiftly toward unilateral protectionism, for example in protecting the U.S. steel industry, providing huge subsidies in its farm legislation, and blocking the efforts of the rest of the world to allow poor countries access to cheap AIDS drugs.
The Bush administration’s fundamental shift was eloquently portrayed by veteran U.S. diplomat and Political Counselor to the American Embassy in Greece John Brady Kiesling in his letter of resignation. He warned that the administration’s pursuit of war with Iraq was
Driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America’s most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known… . We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America’s ability to defend its interests.
As the U.S. moved to attack Iraq, R.C. Longworth, senior correspondent of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “This may be the week that the old world ends.” That world was “a world of alliances, of power wrapped in law and of an American leadership of like-minded nations that accepted this leadership because Washington treated them as allies, not as subjects.”
The U.S. policy of dictation contradicts widely shared values, norms, and laws that protect self-determination and outlaw aggressive and preventive war. It also contradicts a wide range of national, elite, and state interests. Both aspects have provoked opposition.
At the local and national level, opposition is expressed in many kinds of movements and coalitions seeking to resist U.S. dictation of policies and institutions. Multinationally it is expressed in the emergence of a “polycentrism” that asserts the legitimacy of multiple power centers and a “coalition of the unwilling” composed of countries seeking to limit U.S. domination. Globally it is represented by the emergence of a new global peace movement and the effort to impose democratic influence on the UN and other international institutions.
As the U.S. threatened to attack Iraq, public opinion in nearly every country of the world joined in opposition. In historically unprecedented protests, the world said “no” to war. States that had long been docilely subservient to the U.S. refused to support or participate in the war–more than sixty of them speaking in opposition to the U.S. at the UN. A coalition of major powers actively collaborated to try to head off a U.S. attack. In contrast to previous U.S. wars, the UN Security Council refused its support and attempted unsuccessfully to construct an alternative to the attack. In the U.S., an antiwar protest movement grew with unprecedented speed. A majority of Democratic members of Congress voted against a resolution supporting the war. Top institutional leaders from the military and foreign policy elites either opposed the war or distanced themselves from it.
The Bush team attacked Iraq despite the opposition of these forces. In the aftermath of the war, these forces have tended to fluctuate between acquiescence to U.S. dictation and renewed resistance. All of these forces have something to contribute to limiting U.S. aggression and domination if they can be firmed up and combined.
The Bush administration’s reckless threats, interventions, and wars show every sign of continuing. But it is difficult to predict what targets they will select, what strategies they will choose, and what the consequences will be. Therefore, strategy for effective containment of U.S. aggression must be based not on specific scenarios but rather on an analysis of the players, their objectives, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interactions.
Strengths of the Bush Juggernaut
No power in history has concentrated the power now possessed by the U.S. regime. With only about 5% of the world’s people, the U.S. controls about 20% of the world’s production. Its military expenditures equal those of the next 25 countries combined. The Bush administration controls not only the executive branch of the U.S. government but, through the Republican Party, the legislative branch and, through past appointments, much of the judicial branch.
Any country that sees what the U.S. has done to Afghanistan and Iraq can reasonably fear what would happen should the Bush administration’s wrath turn on it. The Bush team is uninhibited in utilizing this fear to force countries to comply with its dictates.
The rest of the world depends on the U.S. economy for trade, aid, technology, and finance. The promise of trade openings to Pakistan, the offer of loans to Turkey, or the threat of a boycott against France is a form of power that the Bush administration has not hesitated to apply.
From the days of Ur and Babylon, nations and empires have been adept at mobilizing their populations for war by fear and hatred of adversaries. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington increased exponentially the vulnerability of the U.S. people to such manipulation. The Bush administration has repeatedly succeeded in utilizing that fear and hatred to win public support for its policies.
Even when it was making a travesty of international law, the United Nations, and other embodiments of global norms, the Bush administration has justified its actions through such globally legitimate objectives as fighting terrorism, eliminating weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), protecting human rights, liberating peoples from tyranny, and punishing war crimes. It portrayed the conquest and occupation of Iraq as bringing freedom, democracy, and human rights to the Iraqi people. This hijacking of global norms has shielded U.S. citizens from a balanced moral evaluation of what is done in their name and has provided cover for foreign apologists like Tony Blair.
The Bush administration has constructed a powerful political base for its policies. Supporters include the Christian Right, a major section of the Jewish community, much of business, many high-income individuals, and military-oriented companies, communities, and individuals as well as other traditional Republican constituencies. The direct beneficiaries of Bush’s policies, such as military, oil, and international construction companies, provide huge contributions to his electoral coffers. Major media companies–many of which have received or hope for favors, share Bush’s political views, or fear retribution from federal media policy–have provided extraordinary support to the Bush team’s manipulation of the public.
Vulnerabilities of the Bush Juggernaut
The Bush team suffers both from fundamental faults in its vision and from poor adaptation to the realities of the world it seeks to dominate. Taking advantage of these weaknesses is the key to disabling its unprecedented might.
The basic contradiction in Bush’s policy is that, under contemporary conditions, 5% of the world’s people can’t rule the other 95% by dictation–especially when the government of that 5% in turn represents only the interests of 5% of its own people. Bush’s attempt to revive the Age of Empire would be as comical as Don Quixote’s effort to revive the Age of Chivalry, were he not so much more heavily armed than the don.
The Bush administration’s war on Iraq comes in the context of a crisis of world order. Both the state system and the economic system are widely perceived to be drifting toward global chaos and self-destruction. The world faces “problems of weapons of mass destruction, of the degradation of our common environment, of contagious disease and chronic starvation, of human rights and human wrongs, of mass illiteracy and massive displacement. These are problems that no one country, however powerful, can solve on its own, and which are yet the shared responsibility of humankind.” Least of all can these problems be solved by the domination of one country whose government is bent on denying the problems and blocking the solutions.
These problems and the need for “shared responsibility” and cooperative solutions are widely recognized around the world and even in the United States. As a result there is broad support for multilateral solutions and only the narrowest support for imperial solutions. “Much of the world, including the other great powers, has entered a postnational understanding of global governance on questions of world order. France, Germany, Russia, China, and other world powers are now committed to international rules forbidding the unilateral use of force and to a form of consensual global governance.”
There is also strong support for global norms that limit the freedom of action of governments. This includes both their ability to oppress their own people and their ability to dominate and attack others. This was manifested in the popular movement against U.S. attack on Iraq. In contrast to the Vietnam war, the movement offered little political support for the government the U.S. opposed but rather aimed to implement global norms limiting U.S. freedom to attack. By violating so many international norms so severely, the Bush administration is repeatedly provoking global opposition. The Bush administration’s biggest deficit, indeed, is in the legitimacy of its actions.
The Bush juggernaut is based on a highly vulnerable economy. The U.S. currently must borrow more than $550 billion a year from abroad to pay for imports. Bush’s tax cuts and military spending will increase the need for borrowing still further. As a historian of British imperialism recently wrote: “President Bush’s vision of a world recast by military force to suit American tastes has a piquant corollary: the military effort involved will be (unwittingly) financed by the Europeans … and the Japanese. Does that not give them just a little leverage over American policy, on the principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune?” This American debt crisis is even more threatening to economic stability, because it comes in the context of a longstanding global debt crisis that has never been resolved.
The policies enunciated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld represent the essence of “imperial overstretch.” With few mercenaries, few allies, and no draft, the U.S. is critically short of military manpower. The Afghan and Iraq Wars depended on military reserves, which are already overextended. The U.S. military was severely strained in Iraq by the limits of transport, bases, and permission to use territory and airspace to launch attacks. The U.S. lacks the cadre of colonial administrators, so important for previous imperialisms, who are willing to make their careers in imperial outposts.
Bush’s policy undermines the bases of U.S. hegemony abroad, violating the first rule of politics: don’t destroy your own base. Denial of the need for compromise with subordinates undermines support and breeds resentment in both elites and common peoples. This is particularly true when the Bush administration makes demands that put local elites’ political control at risk, as it has done repeatedly, notably in the Arab world. Bush has scraped off the veneer of consent, revealing the bribery and bullying that always underlay U.S. hegemony.
Bush has also violated the second rule of politics: don’t unify your opponents against you. Bush policies have propelled a convergence of opposing forces to develop with surprising speed and breadth. This convergence includes both people outraged at the violation of global norms and governments and elites who feel that Bush policies threaten their interests or even their security. The Bush administration managed to do in a few months what the Soviet Union and the political left was unable to do over several generations: split Western Europe from the U.S., divide NATO, and unify a global alliance of peoples and states against the United States.
Although domestic support for U.S. global hegemony is fairly wide, especially among elites, support for the Bush policy of unilateral dictation is not. As Michael Lind recently wrote, U.S. foreign policy is being made by “a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the U.S. population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.” Though some oil, military, construction, and other corporations hope to benefit from this policy, it is promoted by a small group of neoconservative ideologues, not by the mainstream of the U.S. business community or the Republican Party.
Moreover, the Bush administration’s foreign policy is linked to a domestic policy that is undermining the bases of consent at home. Its massive tax cut and the resulting deficits have little support either in the business community or in the population at large. The New York Times recently described Bush’s domestic agenda as “a disaster, a national train wreck.” The administration’s destruction of public services and jobs, initially at the state level but inevitably to follow (from budget deficits) at the national level, attack the security and well-being of the middle class as well as of the underprivileged. Its systematic attacks on established rights and protections for women, minorities, and labor could lead to its political isolation. Its incursions against constitutional human rights protections won support during the terrorism panic but may hurt with conservative as well as liberal sectors in the long run.
The Mechanics of Termination
There are several ways that the Bush policy of dictation and aggression might come to an end. Shifts within the Bush administration itself, while unlikely, are possible. For pragmatic and political reasons, the Bush administration might adopt a policy of “phony war,” continuing its aggressive rhetoric but avoiding actual conflict. Power shifts within the administration might increase the authority of Colin Powell relative to the neoconservatives. An emergency, such as an economic, medical, or environmental catastrophe, might distract from current international objectives. Without more profound power shifts, however, such events are more likely to evoke tactical pauses than genuine policy reorientations.
“Regime change”–a power shift through the political process–is more likely. Electoral repudiation of Bush would probably lead to policy change, unless the Democratic candidate–e.g., someone like Sen. Joseph Lieberman–was an advocate of similar policies. Election of Bush with a Democratic Congress would add some constraints to Bush’s policy and lead to a running political battle over it. Electoral defeat may terminate the Bush dictation policy but is likely to leave longstanding U.S. hegemonic objectives in place. The Bush team is likely to remain in the wings trying to sabotage any alternative policy and preparing to resume power in the next election. The extent of change is likely to depend not just on who wins an election but on other shifts in the balance of political forces as well.
Extraconstitutional action by elites has had profound effects on U.S. history. Such events frequently take the form of leaking damaging information; prime examples include Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers and Deep Throat’s leaking of the Watergate story. Many leaks from military and intelligence sources have already embarrassed the Bush inner circle; more serious revelations could do critical damage. Other types of elite extraconstitutional action, such as politically motivated capital shifts and “investment strikes,” seem unlikely.
Extraconstitutional popular interventions have also played a role in changing U.S. policy. The most notable instance was opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam, including mass nonviolent confrontations and such forms of violence as bombings and the “fragging” of military officers by their subordinates. Fear of growing social disruption and demoralization of the military were among the factors that led to elite disaffection from the war. Peace advocates need to be wary of imitating the proverbial tendency of generals to fight the last war, however. It took years of massive draft calls, economic disruption, and body bags to raise extraconstitutional action to a pitch that had an impact on events. In the absence of an opponent capable of the kind of military resistance put up by the Vietnamese, a repetition of this scenario seems unlikely. Today, targeted civil disobedience may play a role in mobilizing opposition in connection with other means. Extraconstitutional measures may come to be regarded as more legitimate to the extent that other channels for dissent are suppressed.
Sooner or later, the Bush program may well be terminated by the catastrophic effects of its own failures and unintended consequences. The damage that will be done in the meantime, however, is incalculable, and conditions after its defeat may ensure still further disaster. A reasonable goal would be to terminate Bush’s policies by deliberate action before they die a natural death and to do so in a way that lays the groundwork for further progress toward global peace and justice.
The previous scenarios are all based on events that would result from underlying power shifts. We turn now to examining who might have the power to terminate the Bush juggernaut and how they might use it.
Part II: The Terminators
A wide range of forces have the interest and/or the capacity to contribute to terminating the Bush juggernaut. There is no way to know for sure what forces will be sufficient, but the deed will surely be done more quickly and effectively if these forces work together.
Global Public Opinion
The U.S. plan to attack Iraq was opposed by the public in almost every country in the world. A massive January 2003 poll in 30 European countries found the citizens of 29 opposed to a U.S. invasion of Iraq without UN backing, in most cases by dramatic margins. That poll included countries like Great Britain and Italy, whose governments supported the war. Public opinion in the U.S. was more divided, but a majority opposed war on Iraq without UN approval–until the U.S. actually launched its attack. After the start of the war, opinion in the U.S. and Britain swung in support, but there is little evidence that the rest of the world changed its mind.
Public opinion appears to have generally been grounded in global norms: an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iraq without UN approval was seen as an aggressive war violating international law. And the U.S. war appears to be perceived as part of a pattern of threat and aggression on the part of the Bush administration. The U.S. claim to possess the right to such action received little echo. There appears to have been strong support for international efforts to use the UN to prevent the U.S. attack and to provide an alternative. Global public opinion played an important role in pressuring governments to oppose the second UN Security Council resolution, which the U.S. hoped would legitimate its attack.
Although global public opinion will no doubt continue to oppose additional U.S. acts of aggression and dictation, such acts will not always provide such a clear focus as the threats to attack Iraq. Nor will it always be self-evident how public opinion can be translated into an impact on events. But those attempting to resist U.S. dictation and aggression can legitimately claim that the overwhelming majority of the world’s people support them. And the people of the world will continue to provide supportive forces that can be mobilized for specific campaigns.
The New Global Peace Movement
When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan, there was barely a ripple of protest anywhere in the world outside narrow circles of left-wing anti-imperialists and those sympathetic to the Taliban. As the U.S. began its buildup for war against Iraq, opposition grew in six months from a ripple to the largest global wave of protest in history. This was possible largely because of the convergence of social movements that has occurred over the past decade to oppose corporate-led globalization. Variously known as the “antiglobalization” movement, the “global justice” movement, and “globalization from below,” this “movement of movements” provided a base from which the war could be challenged in a globally coordinated way.
The leap from a primarily economic-oriented movement to one challenging military aggression was impressively graceful. It helped that the Bush administration’s program combined economic and geopolitical dictation. The European Social Forum, a gathering of those opposed to corporate-led globalization, led nearly a million people in a November 2002 march protesting the threat of war against Iraq. The annual World Social Forum, a similar global gathering held in January 2003 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, featured huge rallies against the impending U.S. war on Iraq. The international links created by the global justice movement became channels through which the antiwar campaign quickly spread, and in scores of countries it provided much of the organizing base for the huge demonstrations of February and March 2003.
This easy assimilation of the “war issue” was facilitated by the fact that what the media calls the “antiglobalization movement” is itself a convergence of environmental, labor, farm, women’s, and many other kinds of movements. The antiwar movement, and issue, has simply become one more element of the convergence.
Many mass constituencies and organizations also participated in the big demonstrations and related campaigns. In many countries, participation by both Christian and Islamic elements was widespread, as was labor movement participation. In the U.S., where the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war on Afghanistan had somewhat divided the labor movement from its antiglobalization allies, an extensive Labor Against the War organization quickly emerged, and even the head of the AFL-CIO was critical of an attack on Iraq without UN approval.
This movement was driven first of all by a shared abhorrence of U.S. war plans. The movement was often largest in countries whose national leaders appeared to be supporting and aiding the United States. Opposition was almost never justified by support of Saddam Hussein’s regime; instead it was grounded in the defense of international law and norms and of United Nations authority over the use of military force. Though the so-called antiglobalization movement has often (usually falsely) been criticized as inward-looking or nationalist, this movement was unmistakably internationalist.
The mobilization emerged from “free-wheeling amorphous groups rather than top-down hierarchical ones” with “no single identifiable leader and no central headquarters.” It depended on the new forms of electronic communication and independent media, which allow millions of people around the globe to communicate, share understandings, and plan. Indeed, the global sharing of a demonstration date and the brilliant title “The World Says No to War” were enough to ensure a historic impact.
It was relatively easy to organize and unite around “No war on Iraq.” But in the postwar period, the movement can only survive and grow if it can move on from stopping the Iraq War to the broader and longer-term goal of resisting and ultimately terminating the Bush team’s entire program.
The war on Iraq was just part of a bigger problem: the Bush administration’s policy of dictation, threat, and aggression. That policy is generating an endless stream of outrages that can provide targets for movement action, and plenty of positive global initiatives are available for support as well. Just to take a few examples from mid-April 2003, global campaigns might have been appropriate in support of: the Syrian proposal for a WMD-free Middle East, the return of UN inspectors to Iraq, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the defense of France against U.S. attacks, or the elimination of U.S. foreign military bases. Such campaigns, however, require the ability to act quickly and proactively.
The movement needs to develop its ability to influence governments, since they provide one of the primary levers for ultimately changing U.S. policy. Such influence requires different modes of action in different countries, ranging from lobbying to mass action and from electoral participation to revolution. It also requires a global strategy and program of objectives that efforts in individual countries can pursue. Isolated acts of resistance in one or another country are likely only to provoke devastating U.S. retaliation; the movement must aim to bring about concerted action by many countries in order to stop Bush’s dictation and aggression in their tracks.
Within such a broad movement, political disagreements are inevitable. Although virtually no war opponents supported Saddam Hussein’s regime, they differed on whether and how much to criticize it. There has been a lively debate among opponents of U.S. threats against Cuba over the appropriate attitude toward arrests and executions of dissidents and hijackers. Though there is likely to be general movement opposition to U.S. support for Israeli violence, disagreement can be expected regarding Palestinian suicide bombings. There is also likely to be disagreement about alliances, for example with national elites and with those leaders who oppose Bush’s aggression but not other forms of imperialism. And whereas most of the movement has expressed strong support for the principles underlying the United Nations and has campaigned for governments to support those ideals, a significant minority views the UN as itself little more than an agent of imperialism, something to be disempowered rather than reformed. Some of those in India and Pakistan who gladly participate in demonstrations against Bush policies may not see eye to eye about the policies of their own countries.
Practical cooperation will require “agreeing to disagree” and seeking only the level of agreement that is realistically feasible. The movement against corporate-led globalization has ample experience in forging this kind of cooperation.
For many purposes the present decentralized structure of the movement is excellent, but it has revealed gaps that need to be filled. Many opportunities for globally coordinated action have occurred just since the end of the Iraq War that have not been utilized, because there is no infrastructure through which movements in different countries and sectors can learn of them, focus on them, and decide to act on them in concert.
To accomplish its tasks, the movement does not need a centralized decisionmaking authority, but it does need “linking organizations” that help with certain key tasks. It needs to monitor U.S. activities and disseminate information about them rapidly–some sort of “USA Watch.” It needs to coordinate rapid global responses to both outrages and opportunities. It needs to maintain a proactive dialogue on strategy and objectives to guide day-to-day activities. A start in this direction is being made by a series of international peace movement conferences, such as one held in late May in Jakarta.
Since the end of the cold war, the U.S. has exercised hegemony over most of the world’s governments. It persuaded most of them to support both the first Gulf War and the attack on Afghanistan. But the Bush administration found a very different result when it went to attack Iraq. Despite bullying and bribing on a massive scale, the administration was unable in February 2003 to win Security Council support for its war against Iraq. In the end, only Britain and Australia provided significant numbers of troops for the attack.
In scores of countries around the world, the Iraq War generated a struggle between those willing to be tools of American influence and those resisting it. Important elections in Germany, South Korea, and elsewhere turned on the question of U.S. military aggressiveness. In several cases, notably Turkey and South Korea, street confrontations and political struggles in Parliament forced governments to reverse course on support for the war. Many countries refused to participate in the war effort or severely limited their contribution, despite immense U.S. pressure. Canada refused to participate in the war, despite the U.S. ambassador’s veiled threat that, for the U.S., “security trumps trade.” Belgium refused to allow Iraq War traffic to cross its territory. Such resistance reflects the breakdown of hegemony.
This struggle has continued in the wake of the war. Most governments are undecided about how much to resist American power and commands. Each country is now an arena, and the outcome is in most cases an open question.
Governments’ motivations for opposing the U.S. are mixed. In most cases public opinion, organized popular pressure, and fear of popular upheaval are important factors. States fear loss of sovereignty to U.S. domination; elites fear the sacrifice of their own interests to U.S. interests. For example, in China, according to one expert, “Until last year, Beijing believed a confrontation with the U.S. could be delayed” and China could concentrate almost exclusively on economic development. But now many political cadres and think-tank members believe Beijing should adopt a more proactive, aggressive stance to thwart perceived American aggression. Many states accept the basic proposition that international relations should be conducted under international law and global norms, even if they sometimes violate those laws and norms themselves.
Some countries, notably France, Germany, Belgium, and Russia, have made it clear since the Iraq War that they consider countering U.S. dictation and aggression a policy objective. Their motives are undoubtedly mixed, including desire for national prestige, protection of specific national and elite interests, and response to popular pressure. Their own record of commitment to international norms is also mixed: Russia, for example, is a major human rights violator in Chechnya, and the same French government that is standing up to the Bush administration in the name of international law has conducted interventions in Africa whose international legality is highly suspect.
Such countries remain under pressure to return to the U.S. fold: some French business leaders are openly campaigning against Chirac’s policies, and German opposition parties, if elected, would most likely bring Germany back into line. Some governments might return to the U.S. orbit in exchange for merely cosmetic concessions. But at present the Bush administration wishes to punish more than to forgive, making such a reconciliation difficult.
The global peace movement can make every government an arena of struggle over resistance to U.S. dictation. People can tell their governments that they want them to resist U.S. demands and selectively withdraw from cooperation with Washington. They can also demand that their governments actively cooperate with other countries to contain U.S. power, as discussed in the next section.
The Bush administration has systematically opposed resistance to its dictation. An attempt to override democracy and public opinion in countries around the world was manifested in the U.S. campaign for Security Council endorsement of the war. In countries (or regions) like Spain, Britain, Italy, Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Japan, where the overwhelming majority of the population opposed the war while national governments and elites were still in bed with the U.S., the struggle against both the war and U.S. domination became a struggle for democratic self-government.
This continues to be the case after the war. For example, the Bush administration held a special White House meeting on what to do about France, after which officials publicly threatened “consequences,” if France continued to oppose U.S. plans for post-war Iraq. It similarly threatened diplomatic consequences against Belgium, if Brussels allowed war crimes charges to be brought in its courts against General Tommy Franks. In such cases, the question is whether French and Belgian policy will be determined by the French and Belgians or by the United States.
In many instances, national governments have caved in to U.S. pressure. For example, many countries were pressured to tone down their criticisms of Washington’s Iraq policy. The majority of countries in the Non-Aligned Movement were successfully “persuaded” not to support action against the Iraq War in the UN General Assembly.
But such pressures can be redefined to make the issue of peace an issue of democracy and self-determination. Opposition to the Bush program can be used everywhere as a basis to struggle for democratization. In some cases–as in Turkey on the eve of the Iraq War–governments can become more afraid of their own people than they are of the Americans. If they are not, that outlook in itself provides a strong case for a regime change to more democracy and self-government. Democratic pressures can erode Bush’s “coalition of the willing.”
Nowhere is this more important than in the Middle East. Here several autocratic regimes oppress their own people and deny human rights with political support, funding, and military assistance from Washington while they cooperate with U.S. policies, despite the overwhelming opposition of their own people. In such a setting, the fight for democracy and human rights can go hand in hand with the fight against U.S. domination. A fight for democratization without U.S. domination would be supported by a large portion of the population of most Middle Eastern countries, isolating and providing an alternative to those who wish to replace existing authoritarian regimes with new nationalistic and/or theocratic ones.
The new global peace movement can do a great deal to promote government resistance to U.S. domination. This can include political pressure, formal or tacit support for politicians willing to resist, persuading various groups that resistance is in their own interest, and threatening the legitimacy of those who pursue a course of submission to Washington.
There are fundamental differences in goals between the new peace movement (global norms serving people and planet) and various states (which primarily serve elite interests). The challenge is to simultaneously encourage governments to resist U.S. dictation–recognizing the limited interests that motivate them–while continuing to pursue the movement’s broader, more universal goals. At the same time, the governments of countries like France and Russia should be told that if they want the support of the world’s people and the peace movement for their efforts, they need to clean up their own acts.
The movement shouldn’t let its agenda be set by nation-states. It needs to maintain its own independent analysis and initiative. But it should recognize the importance of governments both as targets and as allies.
Coalition of the Unwilling
As the U.S. demanded international support for its campaign against Iraq, reports of phone calls between the leaders of France and Germany, then Russia, then China began to appear in the press. Soon these leaders began to meet. Gradually a tacit alliance emerged. These “less great powers,” joined by others, eventually outmaneuvered Bush administration attempts to win a Security Council blessing for its war on Iraq. Bush administration officials sarcastically dubbed them “the coalition of the unwilling.”
Despite many predictions that after the war the members of this alliance would simply return to the U.S. fold, in fact this alliance has become more explicit, albeit ambiguous in its direction. Its frequent consultation has continued. For a time the alliance blocked UN endorsement of U.S. plans for postwar Iraq–then ignominiously accepted a compromise resolution in the Security Council that sought to legitimate the U.S. occupation. It has demanded the reintroduction of UN arms inspectors. France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg went so far as to set up their own military headquarters independent of NATO–headlined by United Press International (UPI) as “Four Anti-war States to Create EU Army.”
What is emerging was described by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, as she journeyed to meet with French President Jacques Chirac, as “a Franco/German/Russian linkup with good links through to the Chinese against what we have, which looks like a small Anglo/American group.” She added, “It shifts the whole dynamic.”
The emergence of such a “linkup” should have come as no surprise to U.S. policy intellectuals. Under the “balance of power” theories so beloved of political scientists, the emergence of a dominant or expanding power almost invariably gives birth to a countering bloc. Nor should anyone be surprised that this alliance takes the form of support for international law and the United Nations. “It has historically been the case that weaker powers have sought to constrain stronger powers through the mechanism of international legal structures.”
This “coalition of the unwilling” has a crucial role to play in containing and eventually terminating Bush’s policy of dictation and aggression. It can block the U.S. from offloading the costs and consequences of its actions onto others. It can cooperate in the UN to foil U.S. plans and eventually, as we explore below, to allow the UN to circumvent the U.S. veto. Nothing is more likely to cause powerful U.S. elites to halt the Bush juggernaut than their fear of a concerted global coalition against them.
At the same time, the coalition’s strategy should not be to alienate the American people and elites but rather to appeal to them to rise up and force their government from its current disastrous course. This requires firmness without either appeasement or unnecessary provocation. To be effective, the coalition needs to reach out to form a broader front with the rest of the world. Third world countries are much more likely to stand up to the U.S., if they have economic and political support from the less great powers.
An effective coalition of the unwilling requires consultation and coordination. The Bush administration has used its characteristic strategy of stigma and abuse to blame global opposition on France. But the effectiveness and legitimacy of the “unwilling” depends on their acting together and protecting each other from U.S. reprisal. There has been considerable advance in this direction, for example through frequent meetings of the leaders of Russia, France, Germany, and other countries and by their visits at crucial points to Turkey, Syria, and other countries under U.S. pressure. This tacit collaboration needs to be built into a more formal alliance–not a military alliance but rather an antimilitary alliance that will consult regularly on nonviolent means to protect its members and the world from threats and aggression.
The coalition of less great powers should not aim for a conventional balance of power based on military force. The ability to rapidly deliver food, medical care, economic assistance, human rights and election monitors, and peacekeeping forces around the world–a sort of “nonviolent power projection”–would do more than tanks and bombs to strengthen its hand against the United States. Proactive use of “state-sponsored nonviolence”–such as official support for the Internationals in Palestine and the voluntary “human shields” in Iraq–would generally be more effective than armed interventions. A center for nonviolence would be more useful than a new European military headquarters. Preventive peacemaking–the ability to project outside forces into conflict situations before war breaks out–is a creative alternative to the Bush doctrine of preventive war, and it can go far to increase prestige and challenge U.S. dominance.
An effective coalition must be defined primarily by global goals and norms rather than by narrow national self-interest. There are two reasons for this. First, as in the prisoner’s dilemma game, there is always an incentive for members of a coalition to betray the others; that temptation must be countered by an understanding that all will lose if some defect. Second, much of the coalition’s strength lies in its appeal to global public opinion. If all they are really fighting for is a share of oil income or reconstruction contracts, few nations will back them. If they actually fight for global norms and interests, many will. A policy in line with global norms is the key to their success.
The coalition of the unwilling is composed of governments with their own imperialist policies and their own abuses of human rights. The new global peace movement should support coalition efforts to forge collective security vis-à-vis the U.S. and should challenge the coalition to pursue that goal effectively. It also needs to challenge the coalition members’ own abuses of democracy and human rights. For both tasks the movement must retain its independence.
The less great powers’ moral cleanliness is one question; their intentions to resist or collaborate with the U.S. is another. If only morally pure anti-imperialist powers had been welcome to oppose Nazism, we can well imagine where the world would be today. The peace movement can and should strive to extend coalition efforts to limit U.S. power, even while remaining critical of its members’ more dubious policies. And it should point out that correcting those dubious policies is necessary for the coalition to effectively contest the Bush juggernaut.
States may hope to find a middle way between submission and resistance that is based on a “multipolar” or “polycentric” system of independent but cooperating powers. But the Bush administration does not want polycentrism and will try to isolate and crush those who practice it. Indeed, its National Security Strategy specifically warns of “the renewal of old patterns of great power competition.” So some sort of collective security will ultimately prove the only alternative to vassalage.
The goal of such collective security should not be to create a permanent system of rival blocs, something that has often proven destructive in the past. Rather, its purpose is to foil U.S. dictation and aggression and to draw the U.S. instead into cooperative efforts to solve the world’s problems.
The less great powers took a significant step away from collective security and toward appeasement when they approved a U.S.-sponsored Security Council resolution essentially legitimating U.S. rule in Iraq. This capitulation was due not only to the pusillanimous inclination of the Security Council members but also to the inability of the global peace movement to mount an effective campaign to influence them.
Security Council members may have tried to appease the U.S. in an attempt to draw the Bush administration back into a more cooperative and lawful relation with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the Bush administration is more likely to take such appeasement as a sign that it can indeed do anything it wants, and the world will eventually accept it. As with the powers that claimed to have established “peace in our time” at Munich, today’s less great powers have only postponed the point at which they will have to choose between collective security and vassalage.
The Third World
Third world countries were important players in the drama that unfolded as the U.S. sought legitimacy and support for its attack on Iraq. Washington certainly applied threats and bribes to induce them to provide such support. Nonetheless, about 60 of them spoke against U.S. policy at a critical point in the Security Council debate that followed President Bush’s UN speech. And despite the most intense pressure, a majority of those on the Security Council refused to support a second resolution authorizing the war.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), made up of about 115 developing country members, debated the idea of taking the Iraq question to the UN General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace procedure, which had been used to circumvent Security Council vetoes in such situations as the Korean War and the French-British-Israeli invasion of Egypt. A few countries, notably Indonesia, strongly backed the idea. The U.S. campaigned aggressively against such a move and ultimately the NAM did not pursue it. There was no public indication that the coalition of the less great powers offered the NAM any support.
More effective third world resistance to U.S. pressure requires a longer-run strategy. For example, in a significant initiative, the new government of Brazil has defined the building of relations across the global South as a key element of its foreign policy. It is focusing on three major countries: South Africa, India, and China. It also focuses on Latin America, where it has initiated the merger of the two main “free trade” areas in preparation for trade negotiations with the United States. In spring 2003, most Latin countries also resisted U.S. pressure to condemn Cuba in the Organization of American States (OAS).
The relationship between the third world coalition and the coalition of less great powers will be critical in the future. Developing countries will be far better able to resist U.S. threats and bribes if they have backing from the lesser powers. Third world countries bring major voting power in both regional organizations and the UN General Assembly to such an alliance. To achieve any depth, however, such an alliance will have to explore forms of economic cooperation that can both protect against U.S. reprisals and challenge the interests of U.S. elites.
From its foundation, the UN was a creation and largely a creature of U.S. global dominance. At the same time, it has embodied worldwide aspirations for rules and practices that would force nations to operate within the framework of global norms and needs.
The UN served as the vehicle to administer the sanctions that devastated Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War. The Bush administration clearly expected it to provide legitimation for its 2003 attack on Iraq. To its outrage, the UN refused to do so. This marked the potential beginning for breaking U.S. hegemony over the UN. As Phyllis Bennis points out: “The refusal of the six non-aligned Security Council members to cave in to Washington’s extraordinary pressure to endorse the U.S. war was amazing. But it remains insufficiently appreciated in many quarters.”
The UN was unable to take the next steps to condemn the U.S. attack and then act to prevent or halt it. The U.S. veto of course made it impossible for the Security Council to take such action. There were several initiatives to take the Iraq attack to the General Assembly, as has been done in the past under a procedure known as Uniting for Peace. The U.S., however, exerted heavy pressure against such a move. The Arab countries actually got as far as asking for such a meeting, only to withdraw their request almost immediately, presumably fearing that they didn’t have the votes to pass a resolution opposed by Washington.
In the period immediately after the Iraq War, the future role of the UN seemed very much up in the air. Though U.S. officials heaped scorn on the UN, they rapidly discovered as they occupied Iraq that only the UN could confer international legitimacy on their actions and on the new regime they hoped to establish. They were forced to accept a greater role for the UN than they had wished, but they won the far greater prize of Security Council legitimation for their occupation of Iraq.
According to the Washington Post, there is “concern among some U.S. officials that the United Nations may emerge as a major platform against U.S. foreign policy at a time when the U.S. is expanding its global military reach.” Richard Falk has suggested the possibility that “as the U.S. grows disillusioned with its capacity to control the UN, an institutional vacuum will emerge,” making the UN “more available for moderate states and their allies in civil society.”
Just as the U.S. has constructed its “coalition of the willing,” which can either act on its own or seek UN endorsement for its actions, “moderate states and their allies in civil society” need to start constructing a sort of “shadow UN” that acts to meet the responsibilities of the world community that the U.S. is blocking the UN from addressing. A shadow UN might well follow the same developmental track as the movement to ban landmines: Start with an international movement of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), recruit smaller countries, and then draw in the “less great powers.” The peace movement should campaign for national governments and groups such as the coalition of the unwilling, the Non-Aligned Movement, and regional organizations to support such a shadow UN.
This shadow UN could circumvent a U.S. veto in the Security Council by activating the General Assembly. For example, an international group of NGOs has organized a campaign for an “Emergency United Nations Resolution on Iraq,” calling for a General Assembly emergency session under the Uniting for Peace procedure to impose an alternative to U.S. occupation. Although the General Assembly has only modest enforcement powers, it can authorize nations and civil society to implement its resolutions. This could legitimate action by an emerging shadow UN that includes those willing to act without U.S. approval.
In April 2003, General Assembly President and Iraq War opponent Jan Kavan began trying to establish a General Assembly-based forum to openly debate current foreign policy issues, providing critics of the U.S. an opportunity to address U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. moved rapidly to derail the initiative, sending a confidential note to several foreign capitals saying that Kavan’s proposal would degenerate into a “politically divisive” talk shop that would “infringe upon” the Security Council’s exclusive right to deal with threats to global peace and security. “This represents a backdoor amendment to the U.N. Charter,” the note added.
A backdoor amendment to the UN Charter, based on expanding the role of the General Assembly and using it to legitimate new, more democratic structures, may indeed be the most viable road to UN reform. It is widely noted that the present membership and powers of the Security Council and the General Assembly are based on international power relations when the UN was founded more than 50 years ago and that these structures are in need of reforms that reflect changes since then. But the U.S. veto (as well as that of the other permanent members of the Security Council) makes any revision that would reduce U.S. veto power almost inconceivable.
An effort to counter U.S. dictation and aggression needs to accomplish two goals at the UN. Washington’s hegemonic control, already weakened in the struggle over Iraq, needs to be further eroded. At the same time, the legitimacy of UN constraint on violent and destructive acts by national governments needs to be strengthened.
These struggles take place not only in assembly halls and office buildings in New York City but even more in the political arenas of member countries. The global peace movement should make every national political system an arena for debating whether the UN will be a pawn of the U.S. or whether it will be a global organization able to limit the warmaking of nations. And since such debates will require combating the power of the U.S. and its allies among local elites, the struggle to democratize the UN goes hand in hand with the struggle to democratize its member nations.
This struggle requires a series of specific targets. These are rapidly emerging, and new examples no doubt will continue to emerge as the Bush juggernaut proceeds. Right now examples might include support for the Syrian proposal for a WMD-free Middle East, support for return of weapons inspectors to Iraq, UN investigation of human rights violations in wartime and postwar Iraq, and support for the forums proposed by Jan Kavan.
Without support, the UN cannot simply tell the U.S. what to do and expect to be obeyed. But the UN can become an arena in which to construct a front to help contain U.S. power and to force the U.S. to abide by global laws and norms.
Forces in the U.S.
For the past 30 years, about one-quarter of the U.S. public has rarely met a war it doesn’t like; about one-quarter has rarely met one that it does. The remaining half fluctuates.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks created fear and anger among the people of the United States. This was skillfully channeled by the Bush administration into what it defined as the “war on terror.” The U.S. attack on Afghanistan, justified as an attack on the 9/11 perpetrators, won overwhelming popular support.
As the Bush administration began the buildup for the attack on Iraq, however, the public became far more skeptical. A month before the U.S. attack on Iraq, more than 60% of those polled opposed an attack without the support of U.S. allies and UN endorsement. By the end of the war, however, three-quarters said they believed the war was right.
Given the ultimate support for war, it comes as a shock to learn that, even after the conquest of Iraq, U.S. public opinion strongly rejects the vision propounded by the Bush administration. In an April 2003 poll, 88% said that the administration should have tried to get Security Council authorization for taking military action against Iraq. Almost two-thirds agreed that “The U.S. plays the role of world policeman more than it should.” Only 12% agreed that “The U.S. should continue to be the pre-eminent world leader in solving international problems.” Seventy-six percent said “The U.S. should do its share in efforts to solve international problems with other countries” while 11% said America should “withdraw from most efforts to solve international problems.”
Nearly two-thirds said the U.S. should not consider itself “more free to use force without UN authorization in the future.” As the Bush administration was scornfully bashing the UN, a majority of those polled preferred a UN police force to U.S. military forces for maintaining civil order in postwar Iraq and preferred the UN to lead relief and reconstruction efforts. As the Bush administration was warning Syria to learn the lessons of Iraq, 71% of the public said that the U.S. should deal with Syria primarily by “diplomacy and dialogue” rather than by “pressuring it with implied threats of military force.”
Several elements help explain the discrepancy between popular support for particular wars and popular aversion to an imperialist role. The U.S. public is so ill-informed about the world and so little able to “see ourselves as others see us” that attacks on countries like Afghanistan and Iraq are not perceived as unilateral aggression. When people are driven by fear, they tend to accept the views of leaders who offer to provide them protection. The emotions stirred up by war and promoted by war leaders often supercede any rational evaluation–a phenomenon by no means the exclusive domain of Americans. The Bush administration, while promoting its broad global domination agenda among policy elites, sells its military attacks to the public not as part of such a policy but rather as responses to the horrible threats and evils of the regimes it attacks.
Countering this situation requires several elements that should be part of the strategy of both domestic and international opponents of the Bush juggernaut. The U.S. public needs to be educated about the reality of the U.S. role rather than morally condemned for actions whose import they do not even perceive. The deep fear of threat from the outside world, long present but greatly intensified by the 9/11 attacks, needs to be met with alternative ways to provide personal and national security.
Above all, the U.S. people need to understand that Bush’s rationalizations for specific actions conceal an agenda that fosters exactly the U.S. role as “preeminent world leader” that they oppose. The central issue needs to be shifted from opposition to