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Is this the end of Pax americana ?

by Helen Sat Jul 15th, 2006 at 02:11:15 PM EST

Excellent piece in the Indpendent today by Rupert Cornwell. Sadly hidden behind subscription wall, so I shall make extensive transcript to get his idea across

Iraq burns, Afghanistan boils, and a nuclear North Korea tests its missiles with impunity. Iran, meanwhile, mockingly plays on both chess boards simultaneously, refusing to give up its nuclear ambitions, while employing its Hizbollah surrogates to lure Israel into a new Middle East war. Truly, it is hard to know where to begin in the hunt for famous last words uttered in the past six years by the rulers in this imagined seat of global empire on the Potomac river where I live.

Do we start with George Bush, with his line "sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things" at his first National Security Council meeting on 30 January 2001? That nostrum of statecraft, after all of 10 days in power, was delivered to an alarmed Secretary of State Colin Powell, after the President had declared that it wasn't worth America continuing to waste time on the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Well, we've got the show of force right now. Clarification, alas, is quite another matter....[snip]

..Madelaine Albright has called the (current) interlocking crises as a perfect storm in international affairs.

Their outcome cannot be predicted. But one lesson historians will surely draw is that over the past year or so, the limits of American power have been exposed.  Yet watching American TV these past few days, you would have little inkling of the change....[snip]

The emperor's chief policy adviser was about to speak and, we were led to believe, everyone would be brought to heel. In fact, the best she could come up with was an appeal for calm by all sides. This was America speaking, but it might have been Portugal or Argentina for all the difference it made...[snip]

Awareness of this changed state of affairs is growing even at the heart of the Empire. Time magazine's cover proclaims "The End of Cowboy Diplomacy", while the man who sneered at the United Nations when he went to war in Iraq can hardly utter a sentence that does not contain the word diplomacy. But we in Europe should not be so smug...[snip}

The limits of Pax American may have been laid bare. But the fact that we acquiesced in the vbery notion is proof of how we depended on it....Pax Americana, like Pax Romana, or even Pax Britannia, might have been resented, but in so many respects it made life easier for those who were subject to it....[snip]

Maybe no solution is possible, in which case we will move by default into an era of competing power blocks. We can support the US or separately sink. But for now, The Middle East burns, Iran threatens-but where, oh where, is Europe ?



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where indeed?

straddling several interlocking fences, noncommittal, ambiguous, equivocal...

uncomfortable, but less so than if we plumped (or jumped) for one choice or another.

in the middle of so many conflicting poles, irresolute or wise, i can't decide...

wimpily waiting for more info, or sagely waiting for the madness to subside.

when in doubt, do nothing, wu-wei.

others push the narrative, lord knows we have done that job for centuries.

bruised and weary, played out and aging, we try for the middle way.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Jul 15th, 2006 at 03:20:42 PM EST
What incredibly sad about the entire crisis in the Middle East is that it is one that the American government could put a stop to, as least as far as Israel attacking with disproportionate force is concerned, relatively easily.  Israel is wholly dependent upon America, and it would deal a lot more credibility to the US if Bush became serious about stopping Israeli attacks while also working with Lebanon to stop Hezbollah's militant wing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Jul 15th, 2006 at 06:26:32 PM EST
if Bush became serious about stopping Israeli attacks while also working with Lebanon to stop Hezbollah's militant wing. .
You want Bush, or any American leader, to work with Hezbollah (funded by Iran)?  I just don't see how that would work,,,maybe you could elaborate.  (Is there a non-militant Hezbollah wing?  just a question, I just haven't heard of one.)
by wchurchill on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 04:56:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, but no cigar. You just identified Lebanon with Hezbollah. Try reading what you bolded again.

Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 05:19:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You want Bush, or any American leader, to work with Hezbollah (funded by Iran)?
In Iraq, the US works together with Da'wa and SCIRI.
I just don't see how that would work
I suppose you're right: it isn't working in Iraq either.
Is there a non-militant Hezbollah wing?
I don't know about "non-militant", but "non-military" there is. Like Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood, the reason these organizations are successful is that they provide the social services that our friendly dictators don't provide.
I just haven't heard of one
I suppose you haven't been listening to the right sources. Try wikipedia for a start.
The civilian wing of Hezbollah runs hospitals, news services, and educational facilities and participates in the Lebanese Parliament. Its Reconstruction Campaign (Jihad al-Bina) is responsible for numerous economic and infrastructural development projects in Shia-populated areas of Lebanon.


Nothing is 'mere'. — Richard P. Feynman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 05:27:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Miguel pointed out, you're confusing Lebanon with Hezbollah.  Hezbollah may be centered in South Lebanon, but the Lebanese are not all Hezbollah members.  And, yes, most of these groups have non-militant wings.  They participate in politics.  What frightens me is that we have a new government in Lebanon that, prior to this crisis, seemed to be showing some promise.  Israel had an anti-Syria neighbour to its North, but it may well drive the population (and the government), out of fear, to support groups like Hezbollah.  Rather than help Lebanon clean up Hezbollah, Israel is destabilising the Hariri government.  And bear in mind that the destruction of terrorism is not a foreign concept to Hariri, whose father was murdered with a car bomb suspected of being planted by the Syrian govenment -- this, according to Wikipedia.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 11:41:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually Israel was doing fine without American support, and didn't get a penny from the US government untill well after the 1967 war.

The Myth is that the US president could just snap it's fingers and Israel would lie down. No way in hell is that true.

by messy on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 09:12:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And where does Israel's military aid come from?  From whom does the Israeli government buy advanced weaponry?  What country ships billions of dollars to Israel every year (and pays for it by being hated by non-Israelis in the Middle East)?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 11:33:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no polemic intended, but isn't it possible that if the u.s. were percieved to be more even-handed in its economic largesse in the region, israel might act a little less arrogantly?

Murdering civilians as punishment for the terroristic actions of hotheads is no way to win hearts and minds, and only fuels the fire.

why should palestinians be made to pay for hitler's genocidal follies de grandeur?

it seems israel assumes the world has a a priori hate-on for them, and lashes out like a bear trying to swat flies, when if they were percieved as being more generous and fair-minded to their neighbours, they would win much more respect.

England has much to answer for, historically, in this mess.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 12:07:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Myth is that the US president could just snap it's fingers and Israel would lie down. No way in hell is that true.

For once you have half a point, though in this specific case I think you're wrong and America could get Israel to ramp down their idiotic, counterproductive, and criminal bombing campaign.  It's like Iran and Syria with respect to Hezbollah - lots of support and plenty of influence, but only limited control.

by MarekNYC on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 12:14:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While it seems like things are really going going poorly, part of that perception might be due to forgetfulness about how bad it was in the past.

Here's an article reporting on a study by Sweden's Stockholm International Peace Research Institute that says that the number of wars has been on a constant decline for quite a while, and that we're at a minimum right now.

"The institute's newly released Yearbook 2006, drawing from data maintained by Sweden's Uppsala University, reports the number of active major armed conflicts worldwide stood at 17 in 2005, the lowest point in a steep slide from a high of 31 in 1991."
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/06/28/fewer_wars_but_what_is_a_conflict/

by asdf on Sat Jul 15th, 2006 at 07:36:13 PM EST
Well you forget that many of those confilcts were sponsered by the Soviet Union, which doesn't exist anymore.

The current problems are defineitely the fault of the United States, most notably the cowardace of Colin Powell, who convinced Reagan to let Hizbullah be after they killed all those American (and French)peackeepers and the meddling of Jimmy Carter, who for all intents and purpouses gave the North Koreans the bomb.

by messy on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 09:22:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting thoughts you bring up messy.

Don't have time to google this morning.

Perhaps you might just lay out your argument a bit more thoroghly so someone can respond seriously to it.

Course if the post was snarcasm, then I agree totally.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 10:40:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colin Powell can be called many things, but "coward" is not one of them.  A black kid from the South Bronx of the Great Depression whose parents were Jamaican immigrants doesn't become a general in the United States Army by being a coward.  Love him, hate him, or be indifferent to him, -- I'm not a big fan of him after his actions during the run-up to Iraq -- but he's not a coward.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 01:58:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, his record isn't only tained by Iraq 2002-3. There were the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis marched up on the Kuwait-Saudi border, and suppressing the My Lai massacre, and the latter is told to have helped his career rise.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 02:10:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you DoDo for your most informative comments.

Doubt that anyone would have known about the history of General Powell if you had not reminded us of it.

Thought DoDos were extinct, but I guess not.

Tis a pity, all in all.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 11:09:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"There were the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis marched up on the Kuwait-Saudi border."

Must have been a conspiracy between Hussein and Powell.

Maybe they had little communication devices, eh.?

Tin-foil antennaes, etc?

Had never thought of that.

"When the abyss stares at me, it wets its pants." Brian Hopkins

by EricC on Sun Jul 16th, 2006 at 11:37:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Must have been a conspiracy between Hussein and Powell.

I'm not sure whether I am missing a joke or this is sarcasm stemming from lack of knowledge directed at me; but in case it's the latter, the story I referred to, the second big exposed propaganda lie of the Gulf War (after the babies-thrown-from-incubators stunt of the Kuwaiti ambassadors' daughter). The US convinced the UN SC and Saudi Arabia to consent to the pre-Desert-Storm military buildup after Powell claimed to have satellite photographs of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis marched up on the Kuwait-Saudi border, which he can't show them for security reasons. However, a journalist of the St. Petersburg Times [Florida not Russia!] had the idea to check on the claim with a then publicly awailable Russian Earth-photography satellite -- and it was totally false. Powell later kind-of admitted it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jul 17th, 2006 at 03:24:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some links to articles on the invisible 1990 border massing-up I found with a quick search: The Guardian (2003), Christian Science Monitor (2002), Against Bombing (a conservative anti-Empire site).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jul 17th, 2006 at 03:35:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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