THE First World War started when Germany invaded Belgium. The Second World War started when Germany invaded Poland. Small nations were vulnerable because they were small. If, by some miracle, Belgium in 1914 and Poland in 1939 had possessed atomic bombs, it is probable that Germany would have invaded elsewhere.
Small nations with puny defensive capacities are more vulnerable than small nations with greater defensive capacities. To sustain a defensive capacity with modern weaponry is now beyond the means of small nations unless special circumstances prevail such as oil or a big power ally.
The United Nations held out the promise of global collective protection under international law. It wasn't able to realise this aspiration because of the Cold War. With the end of the Cold War, the world expected the United Nations to achieve this noble goal.
That dream, too, was thwarted. The one remaining military superpower put itself above international law; refused to join the International Criminal Court that was to be responsible for indicting alleged war criminals, unless its citizens were exempted from the court's provisions. It refused to sign international protocols against chemical and biological warfare. It repudiated the Kyoto Agreement on global pollution, with its president bluntly asserting that US economic interests come first.
John Bolton, high-ranking boss man in the State Department, speaks of US power as being unchallengeable and that it should be deployed to reshape the world, presumably in accordance with US interests. Charles Krauthammer, the intellectual guru of the American Right, talks about the "uniquely benign imperium" of the United States. (Benign! Tell that to the thousands of civilians killed in Afghanistan.)
"Imperium", to save you looking it up, as I had to do, means supreme power as derived from the supreme powers exercised by Roman God/Emperors. And so Bush plays Caligula on the world stage with Blair strewing his path with rose petals while growling at those who won't Hail the Emperor and abase themselves before Him, as he does.
And this is the new world order? Why, it's as old as the Tiber. Another attempt at world domination wherein international law is made redundant and the United Nations reduced to a rubber stamp for whatever Washington wants to do.
Of course, it won't stop with Iraq. There are Iran and North Korea and a host of others ready for the broth pot. China? The coterie of right-wing Republicans around Bush talk openly of not accepting that China's nuclear arsenal gives it a deterrence such as existed with the Soviets, mutually assured destruction, otherwise known as MAD. They have also declared that they will take action to prevent China from ever getting that far. How they propose to do that is yet unclear; but those that the gods would destroy they first make mad.
Listen instead to Abraham Lincoln: "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." That's an assertion of a people's right to determine their own destiny through the ballot box, where that is available, or by revolution, where it is not.
Peace in the world has always been dependent on respect for the right of self-determination for all nations. Without that, wars are inevitable. It is inconceivable that Abraham Lincoln could even contemplate intervention in the internal affairs of another country to effect a "regime change".
The principle applies even when you bitterly oppose a regime. The United States detested the Soviet regime, calling it an evil empire, but it never tried to invade that empire to effect a regime change. The Soviet Union was militarily too formidable.
The Bush administration is now claiming the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries because it has the might - not the right - to do so. This is evil and obscene, and the British Prime Minister is right in the thick of it.
Flatten Iraq, for it was flattened before and has not recovered. Then what? How does Israel handle a million new zealots to the terrorist cause? What if US friendly regimes in the region are toppled in the aftermath? Do we fight them as well? What if Britain is pushed to the top of the league, alongside the US, as a terrorist target? Is that the "blood price" we have to pay for the special relationship?
Mon 16 Sep 2002