Knowledge is power, it is often said. But power also begets knowledge. Thus a new logic has come into being appropriate to America’s status as the world’s lone superpower. It is important for the rest of us who are weak to learn how and when to break these axioms of the powerful if we are to survive this century of American logic.
Its basic principle is that what is good for America is good in itself. Or, what is bad for America is bad in itself.
International law is good unless it clashes with American interests. It is good for the world community to decide by consensus, but if its members are taking too long to decide, it is right for the most powerful member to ignore that community in the light of its own superior assessment of a dangerous situation.
The UN is useful only to the extent it can enforce its resolutions. In the last so many years, so many of its resolutions have been routinely violated. Israel has ignored 64 UN resolutions in the past 30 years, a record that seems grievous compared to the 17 resolutions Iraq has ignored in the last 12 years. But America sends aid to Israel and invading armies to Iraq because it falls to America to decide which of these resolutions are urgent and who among the violators should be punished. That’s the only way the United Nations can function, given the fact that this world body does not have a standing army of its own.
UN resolutions are usually general and equivocal because they seek to accommodate too many hidden interests. That is why what they ultimately mean becomes the subject of interminable debates. When such debates delay action, it is the duty of the most powerful member to fix their meanings for everybody. The UN, after all, is nothing but a debating club of highly unequal nations pretending to be equal.
The fiction of equality, adopted by a United Nations that outlawed colonies, promoted extravagant notions like the self-determination of nations and respect for their territorial integrity. These concepts cannot apply to rogue states like Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. They do not deserve respect for their territorial integrity nor are their people in any position to determine their future under a dictatorship. Since the UN has not been able to discipline these rogue states, “it falls to America,” in the memorable words of George W. Bush, “to rise to its obligations.”
But only America has these obligations. Other countries like Turkey who may be thinking of expanding their own territory by annexing portions of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq in a time of war would be in violation of the UN norm on territorial integrity. America is not in breach of this rule when it invades Iraq because it does so without any intent of annexing this country, but only in order to free the Iraqi nation from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny and set it on the road to democracy.
There may indeed be countless dictatorships in the world that tyrannize their own people. And some of them America did support because they were opposed to the higher evil of communism. Only a few of them have weapons of mass destruction that they are prepared to use against their own people and their neighbors. Tyrants who do are also the ones who have no qualms selling these weapons to terrorists everywhere. They must be stopped, and only America can stop them. It is pointless to ask where these weapons originally came from. The point is who among these tyrants have the motive to use these weapons against the freedom-loving nations of the world. America knows who they are, and they are among its targets.
The United Nations enshrines peaceful means for settling differences in its charter. But America believes that sometimes the way to peace is through war. America wages war in order to rebuild. Its bombs are meant to free people, not to conquer them. It destroys their economies and supply lines in order to bring relief to them. And it takes over their natural resources in order to use these for postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation.
America’s wars are not against people but against evil regimes. That is why America uses only precision-guided missiles and smart bombs that can tell the difference between military targets and civilians. In the rare times that innocent civilians die or get injured, it is because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, more likely, they were hit by Saddam’s bombs in a deliberate act of sabotage, so as to show the savageness of America’s war.
But America’s wars are humane wars. This is attested to in the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs). America’s generals had told the world that they expected mass surrenders and desertions from the Iraqi army in the face of the awesome power of the US armed forces. The first photographs of POWs were of surrendering Iraqi soldiers, their arms tied behind their back and being given water, or sent home as a defeated army after they gave up their firearms. But then Iraq also showed captured American soldiers on world television. This is a brazen violation of the articles of war. Only invincible America can take prisoners and display them to the world; it is inconceivable and not right for its enemies to do so.
These are America’s truths. There are many more, enough to form a new creed. Their strength does not depend on the degree to which they correspond to reality, but on the extent to which the rest of the world embraces them and makes them the conditions of a new global order. The Iraqis are showing us that it is often necessary to choose a path that runs against imperial truths at the risk of being declared mad.
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