Democracy & Governance

Bush’s United Nations Speech Unconvincing

The last time–and only time–the United States came before the United Nations to accuse a radical Third World government of threatening the security of the United States through weapons of mass destruction was in October 1962. In the face of a skeptical world and Cuban and Soviet denials, U.S. ambassador Adlai Stevenson presented dramatic photos clearly showing the construction of nuclear missiles on Cuban soil. While the resulting U.S. military blockade and brinksmanship was not universally supported, there was little question that the United States had the evidence and that the threat was real.

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Contagion Effect Taking Hold in Latin America

Washington and the IMF badly underestimated the regional contagion from the Argentine disaster. It is now spreading along both financial and political channels, threatening more defaults and challenges to U.S. regional hegemony. Financial markets view Uruguay and Brazil as headed for default. Uruguay’s foreign reserves have fallen this year by more than half. Despite a hurried $3 billion IMF loan in June, risk premium on Uruguayan government bonds still hovered around 13%, with Moody downgrading the sovereign bonds and the foreign currency liabilities of the country’s banks to near junk levels. After Brazil in June drew $10 billion of its $15 billion IMF standby to stanch capital flight, accompanied by messages of full confidence from IMF Executive Director Horst Koehler and U.S. Treasury Secretary O’Neill, Brazilian dollar bonds still carried a 15% risk premium and a Standard & Poor B+ rating–on a par with Senegal and Jamaica.

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Australia’s Unseemly Grovel to a Worrying Ally

During his recent trip to the United States Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in only the latest example of his blind loyalty to the United States, moved hastily to endorse the first strike (or “pre-emptive attack”) doctrine proposed by President Bush. This doctrine could be used to justify a preemptive nuclear strike by the United States. Although American concern with defending itself against further terrorist attacks is understandable, Washington still needs not only to abide by international rules, as set out in the UN Charter, but also to show the rest of the world the example of a responsible global citizen. In today’s world there is a strong emphasis on collective security, which, implicitly, means that no government, however powerful, should assume the right to use nuclear or biological weapons against another state or terrorist group, at least, in an emergency, without the endorsement of the Security Council. Personally I believe that the long-running principle of no first strike should still be observed. It helped keep nuclear weapons under control in the cold war, and should still apply today. But that limitation is not what Mr. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld have in mind. It is yet another example of the Bush policy of placing the United States outside the United Nations and its laws.

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Unilateralist Path Scored as Self-Defeating

Observers from all political tendencies–left, center, and right–are finding common ground in their description of the Bush administration’s fundamental reordering of U.S. foreign policy. The Bush presidency, especially since September 11, has shifted U.S. engagement in global affairs out of the post-WW II framework of multilateralism toward an unapologetic unilateralist approach. But the term unilateralism doesn’t adequately convey the new projection of U.S. power around the world. Political scientists are calling the present era one of U.S. hegemony. Not just a superpower, America is the global hegemon. Others, especially in Europe, have a starker portrayal of the new U.S. global reach, characterizing the U.S. as an empire.

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Bulletin from Bali: What Are We Going to Do About the United States?

This year, in late August 2002, the United Nations will hold the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), an international conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, ostensibly to create a new model of sustainable development that integrates economic development, social justice, and environmental imperatives. WSSD is supposed to be a ten year follow-up and implementation conference to the 1992 Rio de Janeiro UN Conference on Environment and Development–thus, its other name, “Rio plus 10.” In the Preparatory Committee (PrepComm) meetings that have preceded WSSD, (the latest in Bali, Indonesia held in late May through early June) a common theme has emerged–the United States government is bound and determined to undermine, overthrow, and sabotage any international treaties, agreements, and conferences that it believes restrict its sovereignty in any way as the world’s rogue superpower.

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Capitalist Crisis and Corporate Crime

The unraveling of the reputations of firms that were once the toast of Wall Street continues and the end is not in sight. But one thing is certain: already fragile prior to Enron, the legitimacy of global capitalism as the dominant system of production, distribution, and exchange will be eroded even further, even in the heartland of the system. During the halcyon days of the so-called “New Economy” in 2000, a Business Week survey found that 72% of Americans felt that corporations had too much power over their lives. That figure is likely to be much higher now.

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Watch Out Kofi Annan: Washington’s New Witch Hunt

At one time many of us were worried that the U.S. would pull out of the UN and other international organizations in a fit of isolationism. As it happens, almost as frightening is an equally xenophobic American determination to stay in and hack them to our own image under the war cry of “Do as we say, not do as we do.” The administration wants the world to realize: America is the only Superpower and its decisions on the rules are final. Watch out Kofi Annan.

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America’s Global Leadership Measured by International Law

When history looks back on the rise and fall of American global leadership, May 6, 2002 may well be highlighted as the “beginning of the end.” The Bush administration’s “unsigning” the International Criminal Court (ICC) has ramifications far beyond this one particular treaty, which holds the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes–genocide, mass murders, mass rapes, enslavement, ethnic expulsions, and torture–accountable for their actions.

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