For those among us who hoped that 2007 would be a more orderly year in world politics, the current trends have been frustrating. Over the past few weeks, the Bush administration has pursued the escalation of two major international crises.
The first major crisis is taking place in Somalia, where the Ethiopian Army and its Somali allies, warlords and the Baidoa-based transitional federal government (TFG), have managed to expel the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) from the country’s capital, Mogadishu. The ICU has been subject to sustained bombardments by the US Air Force, killing dozens of civilians near Afmadow, a town in an area of forested hills close to the Kenyan border, 350 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. It should come as no surprise that this war has been marketed as yet another battlefield of the open-ended and multifunctional war on terror.
The second crisis is full of hypocrisy and arises directly out of the competition of two parties: Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas on one side, Israel, the United States, and their regional clients, King Abdullah of Jordan and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, on the other.
SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN
Only one month after the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accidentally admitted that his country possesses nuclear weapons during a press conference in Germany, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a sanctions resolution against Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. Resolution 1737 welcomes the commitment of China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US, and the EU to a diplomatic solution, whilst rendering such a negotiated settlement highly improbable by depriving Iran of its right to any nuclear capability other than the electricity-generating reactor at Bushehr, currently being built by Russia. The resolution even sanctions Iranian development of missiles, despite the fact that the IAEA’s mandate only covers nuclear capabilities.
In the meantime, the Bush administration has taken matters into its own hands, storming an Iranian consulate in the Iraqi city of Irbil and arresting five Iranian diplomats. Bush has even authorized the US military to kill Iranians operating inside Iraq.
A DANGER TO REGIONAL SECURITY?
While the incompetence and anachronistically confrontational foreign policy rhetoric of the Ahmadinejad administration has negatively impacted Iran’s diplomatic standing, for most of us with an elementary understanding of history, it is empirically unconvincing that Iran would be a threat to regional stability. Iran has not launched a military attack against another country in the past 250 years and has one of the lowest per capita military expenditure rates in the entire region.
Israel, on the other hand, possesses nuclear weapons, has been involved in six inter-state wars, and continues to be embroiled in a civil war with the Palestinians. One can hardly call them a beacon of regional security.
DETRIMENTAL FOREIGN POLICY
A good deal of what is happening and what is being said with regard to Somalia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq is directly linked to neoconservative ideology and its strategic end-product, the pestilential war on terror. From the neoconservative perspective, we are all embroiled in the Fourth World War invented by Eliot Cohen and popularized by ex-CIA director James Woolsey. Thus far this idea has served the Trojan horse tactics pursued by the Bush administration, quasi-legitimating covert and overt US intervention globally.
Yet having fun with the truth has also backfired. Not only in the form of the sinister improvised explosive devices (IEDs) killing US soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and civilians on a daily basis in Baghdad (the devastation of so much civilian blood wantonly spilled in Iraq and elsewhere is scarcely mitigated by current calls for withdrawal by the US Democrats); but also in the form of the de-legitimation of the United States as a rational actor.
DEMISE OF INTERNATIONAL LEGITIMACY
Poll after poll shows that US foreign policy is considered the primary threat to international security. The Guardian in Britain, for instance, published the results of a worldwide survey in November 2006, exposing high levels of distrust vis-à-vis US foreign policy. In Britain, 69 percent of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7 percent thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security. Mexicans and Canadians have similar attitudes. 62 percent of Canadians and 57 percent of Mexicans say the world has become more dangerous because of US policy. Indeed, the poll revealed that only Osama bin-Laden is more feared in Britain than George Bush, whom Britons consider more dangerous than North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-Il.
A 16-nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey published in June 2006 revealed similar attitudes, showing that the United States remains broadly disliked in most countries surveyed, and the opinion of the American people is not as positive as it once was.
The demise of diplomatic power is always precipitated by the demise of international legitimacy. By waging an illegal war in Iraq and by continuing to inscribe the narrative of endemic conflict in international relations, US neoconservatives have reified the notion of international anarchy: the dangerous kill or be killed rationale of a Hobbesian world.
There are ideas, and ways of thinking, with the seeds of life in them, writes Raymond Williams, and there are others, perhaps deep in our minds, with the seeds of a general death. It appears to me that neoconservatism nurtures the latter kind of thinking, the devilish desire to dominate imperially. The challenge to us, the rational majority, is to find peaceful ways to contain this dangerous ideology, to deny it legitimacy, to find ways for coexistence, not as antagonistic Hindus, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, but as equal citizens inhabiting a common world.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam is the author of The International Politics of the Persian Gulf: A Cultural Genealogy (London: Routledge, 2006). He teaches international relations at Oxford University. MRZine has published his “The Muslim in the Mirror” (23 Feb. 2006); “Persian Atoms: Enriching Facts, Diverting Fiction” (26 April 2006); “Iraq, Iran, and the New World Order” (25 May 2006); “The Muslim Presence in the Racist Mind” (15 June 2006); “Palestine Sans Frontières” (18 July 2006); and “Reflections on Arab and Iranian Ultra-Nationalism” (20 November 2006). Consult Adib-Moghaddam’s Web site for his upcoming publications. This article first appeared in Safe Democracy.