missing (all right, there's a segment left) was anybody who expressed
the notion that the most constructive thing the United States could
do for Colombia would be to call off the War on Drugs, yet another
manifestation of the increasingly warlike mentality of the U.S.
government. The drug war is what fuels and enriches the narcotraffickers,
who have become more decentralized (and therefore more difficult
to control) since the assaults on the Medellin and Cali cartels.
Without the drug war neither the left-wing guerrillas nor the right-wing
paramilitaries would have as much access to money and to relatively
sophisticated weapons. Nor would as much be at stake, since the
monetary rewards of victory would not be so great.
The United States, through its drug war, has helped to wreak great
havoc in Colombia. It can and perhaps should try to ameliorate the
damage not by inserting its soldiers and other warriors more
deeply into Colombian life but by calling off the ongoing war that
has so complicated an already violent and complicated political
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is
at it again, expanding on the ambition for sovereignty-shattering
power that has so characterized his tenure. On Tuesday, as
reported by Barbara Crossette in the New York Times,
he presented a "sweeping plan'' for the United Nations to take
full control of East Timor and "guide the territory to statehood
over two to three years.'' As Ms. Crossette had it, this plan reflects
the "grim conclusion'' arrived at no doubt with great
regret and not the slightest bit of eagerness "that
the savage rampages ... left the organization with no choice but
to take control of administration and defense as soon as possible.''
I suppose we'll wait a bit longer for NATO or the UN to decide that
the savage tyranny on Cuba requires either organization to take
control as soon as possible.
The first question, of course, is whether it would actually be a
good idea to guide East Timor to statehood as that concept is understood
(or not understood) in the international community. We may be living
in the twilight of the era of the nation-state; indeed, Kofi Annan,
with his other recent remarks to the effect that when human rights
are violated borders don't matter much has done his bit to bring
on the end. It's at least a question worth entertaining whether
new political entities should be created in the form that has proven
so fragile in these latter days
The next question, of course, is what kind of state the United Nations
would be likely to create. The usual preference among the elites
who make up the floating crap game known as the "international
community'' is to create a welfare state with the full panoply of
government programs and entitlements it has taken Western countries
decades to erect. That's putting the cart before the horse
trying to redistribute wealth before allowing a capitalist system
to operate long enough to create some wealth to redistribute.
ON THE HORIZON
this respect, a conversation I had with Hugo Paemen, Ambassador
to the United States from the European Union, who was in Southern
California for a speaking engagement, might be worth recounting.
If he is at all representative of thinking among European diplomats
and leaders, Kofi Annan's remarkably candid intentions to undermine
national sovereignty on a wholesale basis might be causing some
Paemen, born in Belgium but now the very model of the cosmopolitan
"European'' diplomat, was as charming and as attuned to the undertones
of questions posed to him as good diplomats usually are. And of
course he is an active and enthusiastic participant in the process
of at least blurring national sovereignty now occurring in Europe
with the introduction of the Euro single currency and the "harmonization''
of a broad range of laws and policies now taking place under the
aegis and supervision of a gaggle of centralizing bureaucrats in
Still, he didn't wait for a question to express the opinion that
Kofi Annan's remarks on the necessity of international intervention
wherever human rights are threatened has caused most Europeans to
want to step back for a while and think about some of the implications
rather seriously before rushing headlong into a New New World Order.
The basis of international relations refined after World War II
(and based on precedent and practice before that) includes as a
fundamental principle the idea of noninterference in the internal
affairs of sovereign states, he reminded us. While being aware that
the system was subject to change, need to think long and hard before
changing those regnant myths (my term, not his).
Paemen's background is in trade negotiations rather than defense
policy, which might have colored his attitudes. But he seemed more
ready to question the idea that military action should be the virtually
inevitable response to troubles in far-flung parts of the world
than many American diplomats. He stressed the fact that trade and
investment between the United States is so large and so important
to both sides that a matter like the "banana war,'' while annoying
and something of a distraction, is more lke a fly buzzing around
than a real threat to multilateral trade.
He explained the European perspective on the banana war that the
E.U. decided to give preferential treatment to banana-growing countries
in Africa and the Caribbean that provide 15 percent of the bananas
imported into Europe because the countries are poor, substantially
dependent on the banana trade and (many of them) former European
colonies. The Europeans were willing to take the hit involved in
WTO-authorized countervailing US tariffs on (mainly) European luxury
goods because they still believe the preferential treatment is the
right thing to do.
Paemen explained the banana war, but he also gave the distinct impression
that he found the entire episode tiresome and unnecessary
that it was a shame diplomats and trade negotiators had had to spend
so much time on it. He also stressed that Americans were misguided
if they believed that the steps toward European union presaged an
effort to build a large-scale military power. "We don't want
to be the policemen of the world,'' he said. "We weren't eager
to intervene in Kosovo and that was right on our doorstep.''
THE US BACK A BIT?
The implication, not quite explicitly
stated, was that maybe it wasn't all that necessary for the United
States to mobilize NATO and bomb Kosovo and Serbia quite so closely
to smithereens. The Europeans went along with it (although the French
and Germans expressed reservations, apparently more forcefully in
private than in public) but one senses reluctance not only to be
the world policeman themselves, but to have either the United States
or the United Nations perform that function.
I'm trying not to read more into the discussion than was there.
This was an experienced and fairly subtle diplomat talking with
an American journalist who wasn't too shy about letting it be known
he had doubts about American actions. Diplomats are usually skilled
at creating impressions without ever putting them into words that
can come back to haunt them. He may well have been playing to the
small audience of the Orange County Register's Editorial
But I get a sense, not just from this conversation but form recent
meetings with other European diplomats, that many Europeans are
deeply troubled by the eagerness of the current American administration
to play world savior. In some ways, it might not be so much the
policy of intervention as the clumsiness and amateurishness (and
in some cases the carelessness and failure to concentrate and think
things through before acting) most Europeans see as characteristic
of US diplomacy that is so offensive.
Thus it might become more difficult, as second thoughts about Kosovo
and Kofi take root, for the United States to assemble the figleaf
of multilateral cooperation and consent the next time the administration
wants to rush in where angels fear. Not that European diplomats
are likely to be an especially brave or forceful lot when confronted
with American eagerness backed by British complicity, but they just
might act as a modest restraint on American imperial ambitions.
Most of them had their imperial period and have little desire to
return to it.
So we might have to depend on European diplomats quietly lobbying
behind the scenes the next time the Americans want to lob missiles?
It's something of a paradoxical, perhaps even a chilling thought.
But maybe we have to take our allies, even the halfhearted ones
with different motives, where we can find them.
contribution of $20 or more gets you a copy of Justin Raimondo's
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