Imperialism: Oz slowly extracting tongue?

  1. 840 Posts.

    I had to laugh at the clever heading of the following post, in reference to Paul 'Lizzard of Oz' Keating, that appears on the University of Utah's website.

    Imperialism: Oz slowly extracting tongue?


    To: a-list@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Subject: [A-List] Imperialism: Oz slowly extracting tongue?
    From: Rob Schaap
    Date: Sat, 06 Jul 2002 13:53:07 +1000


    All the way where with Bush?
    By Paul Keating
    July 6 2002

    The September 11 terrorist attacks did not change the world. But they did change the United States. They also revealed the world more clearly and the trends in the international system that had been developing since the Cold War ended.

    On the one hand, and in some parts of the globe, it was clear that the nation state had never been stronger. Not since the Roman Empire have we seen one country so dominate the world as the US does now. It is the largest economy in the world and the only country with global military reach.

    And despite the weaknesses revealed by the collapses of Enron and WorldCom, the US has a flexible and dynamic economy, and dominance in important technologies, including IT and biotech.

    Above all, it has willpower, a quality essential to any great power.

    But elsewhere, a different world exists. A world in which the writ of the nation state does not run, where the rule of law cannot be enforced, where poverty, anarchy and disease destroy hope. Space where terrorist groups such as al Qaeda can grow and thrive.
    Looking at the AIDS-devastated swaths of Africa or the ruins of Afghanistan or, in Australia's own front yard, the growing anarchy in the Solomon Islands or Papua New Guinea, we see a world in which notions of national sovereignty are entirely artificial. Where the nation state does not provide the bare minimum of protection for its citizens.

    What can or should we do about this new form of unipolarity?

    The emerging Bush doctrine, endorsed by John Howard, devalues deterrence in favour of pre-emption. The sophisticated argument goes this way: you can only use military deterrence when there is a state able to be deterred. You can only use international law and multilateral rules where you have nations able to abide by them. And because the parts of the world where terrorists spawn often have no governments to deter, the US is entitled to take pre-emptive action to protect its own people.

    The blunter - but perhaps more honest - argument goes like this: the US has never been more powerful; its central strategic objective, therefore, should be to minimise any constraints on its power, whether in the form of direct competition from other states or pressure from multilateral organisations.

    Either way, the emerging reality is that the old rules of national sovereignty, built up fitfully over centuries, no longer apply in large parts of the world; or, rather, they do not apply where the US determines they no longer apply.

    So we have seen the US trying to weaken multilateral treaties that might otherwise constrain the undisciplined ambitions of many states. These make a long list now: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the International Criminal Court, with potentially devastating implications for peacekeeping in Bosnia and elsewhere, the Kyoto Protocols and so on.

    But the problem for the rest of us is that this unilateralist response from the US administration is not just to the anarchic world in which al Qaeda can operate. It is also a response to the world where the nation state continues to operate where the growing interconnections of a globalising economy and the information age make multilateral cooperation more important than ever before.

    We need to ask ourselves whether US exceptionalism is an adequate central organising principle on which to build a new world. Is it an enduring model that will help in 20, in 10, even in five years' time, Australia to understand the world better and to find a place in it?

    Does a "war on terrorism" provide a sufficient framework for understanding the role of the developing countries in the international community? Does it help Australia to deal with the part of the world of greatest importance to it - Asia and the South Pacific? Above all, does this model offer a way forward? I do not think it does.

    Australians are among the closest allies the US
    has. We share aspects of its culture and understand it better than most of the world does. There is great sentiment between us. But the US is the last remaining ideological great power. Does President Bush's rhetoric speak to us? I don't think so. And if it does not speak to us, how can it speak to the other great cultures - China, India, Africa? What can it say to them?

    I'm in favour of pursuing terrorists globally. I'm in favour of Australian participation in a coalition to do it. I'm even in favour of pre-emptive action, including sometimes, in some limited circumstances, military pre-emption.

    But why is the debate we are having couched only in terms of military pre-emption? Other forms of pre-emption exist. They are harder, though, and require knowledge, commitment, statecraft of a high order and sophisticated diplomacy. They do not always deliver quick results. But, as I suspect we are about to find in Israel and Palestine, and perhaps in Iraq too, they last longer.

    We can, and must, maintain our traditional linkages with the US. But we must tell them, and show them, that unilateralism can never be a satisfactory world model. We must argue the case for cooperative management of the world and for inclusive institutions.

    The US will be a major power in the world for as
    far ahead as any of us can see. But it will not be the only power. It may think it can exist like a gated community behind the golden padlock of national missile defence, with a military able to strike out at offenders in a Mad Max world left outside. But that will not secure its people, and it will certainly not secure us.

    (This is an edited extract of the John Curtin Lecture delivered by former prime minister Paul Keating last night.)

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