Friday, February 25, 2005


Redefining Sov*er*eign*ty (N)

This recent speech by Douglas Feith, outgoing US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, is an attempt by the "intellectual" wing of the neocon establishment to outline the Bush administration's view of sovereignty, i.e., the version that allows them to invade whomever they want. The basic thesis is that failed states, genocidal states, terror-sponsoring states, WMD-acquiring autocratic states, and the like, have no right to have their sovereignty respected. The critical part, which of course Feith fails to address, is what gives the US the right to decide how these criteria are applied, and to whom. Pakistan and Uzbekistan are okay, but Iran and Syria aren't? What's their rubric?

These gems from the speech deserve extensive comment (and more supporting links), but since I don't have time right now, I'll just post them here for your (in)digestion, with a few of my own snide remarks in bold:
Should governments with troubling records of aggression (US in Vietnam), support for terrorism (US support for Contras), human rights abuses (Gitmo and Abu Ghraib) and the like be allowed to invoke sovereign rights to protect their development of catastrophic weapons (US massive arsenals of WMD) that threaten the sovereign rights of others in the world (Irag/Afghanistan invasions)? This is a question for which there is no simple, objective answer. (You're damn right - when do Canada and Mexico invade the US to bring it into the family of nations?)


We don’t have the luxury of restricting our cooperation in national security affairs exclusively to states with political arrangements of which we approve, any more than Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill could afford to be overly delicate about the nature of Stalin’s regime. Indeed, as Churchill remarked, “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” But the United States can boast that our influence on our non-democratic partners has tended over time to broaden the domain of human freedom. (Get ready for the evidence - here it comes)

Consider the historical record. The governments of South Korea and Taiwan, for example, were non-democratic, even at times repressive, yet the U.S., for practical reasons, maintained close ties with them during the Cold War. Both were cited as instances of American inconsistency – and both are now vigorous democracies. A similar point could be made about the Philippines, Indonesia, El Salvador and others. (Yes, it could be made, but it would be wrong. This is really a disgrace. These places became democracies despite, not because of the best efforts of numerous US adminstrations from both parties)


As we see it, this effort, a long-term undertaking, has two components. First, we have to de-legitimate terrorism (Especially if we define terrorism as what they do to us, not what we do to them). As the President has said, we intend to make terrorism like the slave trade, piracy, or genocide – activities that nobody who aspires to respectability can condone, much less support. It will take a lot of work to change the way millions of people think, and to undo the effects of decades in which terrorism was tolerated and even, on occasion, rewarded. (He's right - it will probably take a long time for the victims of US-sponsored terrorism to forget.)


We seek the advance of democracy for the most practical of reasons: because democracies do not support terrorists (Contras) or threaten the world with weapons of mass murder (Hiroshima).

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