August 17, 2000

Republicans, Democrats and the Corruption of Empire

What is most striking about the platforms of America’s two major parties is the gap between their assessment of our role in the world and the reality. America’s right to global dominance is never in doubt. The US economy is the greatest in the world. Our military is second to none. Our commitment to democracy and humane values is beyond question. Our elites do not find it odd that the only place in the world where the United States is celebrated is, well, the United States. Or that most of the rest of the world is singularly failing to appreciate the benefits of US leadership. To the extent that they give the matter any thought, they dismiss it as envy.

Envy? Scarcely. Let us look at the record. Today, the United States is continuing with its happy task of destroying the Balkans. The region is crawling with spies, killers, terrorists, and bounty-hunters, all out to collect the $5 million in loot that the State Department offered for the heads of Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Here is the United States acting like some Mafia don sending out goons to do a hit. The United States talks long and loud about the threat of terrorism, yet is there a better word to describe what the Clinton Administration has been by sponsoring gangsters? Murder and kidnapping are now the currency of US foreign policy. On at least two occasions in the last six months Serbs under indictment have been kidnapped and delivered for trial at the kangaroo court in The Hague. Recently, four Dutchmen were arrested in Serbia, accused of plotting to kidnap Milosevic. The Dutch prisoners announced on Serb television that their intention was to present the Yugoslav leader dead or alive to President Clinton at the G-8 summit. If they failed to take him alive, one of the Dutchmen explained, they would have "cut off his head" and delivered it in a box.

Is there any state in the world that behaves with such contempt for international norms than the United States? If it was so important to capture Slobodan Milosevic, the United States could have continued its cowardly bombing last year until the Serbs agreed to surrender their leader. It could even have organized a full-scale invasion. But it was impossible to do so. There was no public support for this in the United States. And the governments of Europe would have been unable to hold the line against popular outrage. Instead, the United States did what it always does when it fails to get its way. It pretended to accept UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which recognized the sovereignty of Yugoslavia in Kosovo, and then set out to render it null and void.

No sooner had the United States effectively detached Kosovo from Serbia than it turned its attention to Montenegro, encouraging the tiny republic to secede, without actually doing so. The objective was to goad Milosevic into responding violently. The Clinton Administration knew well that there was no support anywhere for military action to secure Montenegrin independence. But another so-called "humanitarian intervention" to help out pro-Western, pro-democratic, pro-market, pro-human rights Montenegrins against big bad Milosevic was still doable. The plan has not worked. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic is too afraid to hold a referendum on independence. And Milosevic refuses to take any military action since there is no need for him to do so. Trust George Soros – always on hand to provide the US Government with helpful suggestions – to come up with a solution. Writing in the International Herald Tribune the other day, Anna Husarska, an analyst at Soros’s think-tank, the International Crisis Group, came up with an ingenious solution. Why not kick Yugoslavia out of the United Nations? And, instead, let in Montenegro? She quotes approvingly the view of US Representative to the UN, Richard Holbrooke: "Belgrade’s is a rogue regime whose members are under indictment for war crimes, and there should be no room in UN debates for a representative of ‘that nationalist, extremist regime’."

As usual, the United States arrogates to itself the right to classify "rogue regimes," to decide who can and cannot participate in UN debates, and what counts as "nationalist" and "extremist." Contrary to Holbrooke’s fantasies, the United Nations is what its name implies – an association of the world’s sovereign nations, no one of whom enjoys any greater international standing than any other. Montenegro, Husarska writes, "has been proceeding with a salami-secession, slice by slice, slowly drifting away from the embarrassing company of Serbia without ostracizing Belgrade with an open call for independence. Now Montenegro has its own foreign policy, monetary policy, customs, border controls and police force." Montenegro, of course, has none of those things. A tiny republic of 650,000 can only have "its own foreign policy, monetary policy, customs, border controls and police force" as long as it is ready to tow the line of great powers. Its foreign policy is made in Washington; its monetary policy in Frankfurt; and as for "customs, border controls and police force," that seems to be the provenance of London. Two officers in Montenegro’s Special Police, the Spezijalni, recently alleged that Britain was involved in training their units. And, as the recent arrests of Britons and Canadians showed, Montenegro is now being used by NATO as a staging ground for subversive and terrorist activities against Serbia. "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs," as the famous saying has it. For having been so obedient, Husarska continues, Montenegro should be rewarded with a "status of some sort at the United Nations," perhaps with "a standing invitation to participate as observer." Soros’s motives in making such a suggestion are transparent. Once Montenegro has independent representation on all the international bodies, including the IMF and the World Bank, then secession from Yugoslavia will have been achieved without having had to go through the cumbersome process of consulting the people.

The Balkans crisis was engineered by the United States in order to continue to exercise its dominance over Europe’s affairs. As a happy byproduct, a slew of client-states like Croatia, Albania, Macedonia, Slovenia, Kosovo and Montenegro fell into its lap. The United States became the successor state to Yugoslavia. The two parties would like to repeat this exercise elsewhere. Their platforms urge intervention upon intervention. Crisis after crisis demands immediate US attention. According to the Democrats, "Technology’s unprecedented power means that lawlessness, diseases, and ecological disruptions – which once were localized – now land on America’s doorstep even as they also threaten the stability and security of nations all over the world." In other words, every single problem under the sun is America’s problem. "The disruption of the world’s ecological systems – from the rise of global warming and the consequent damage to our climate balance, to the loss of living species and the depletion of ocean fisheries and forest habitats – continues at a frightening rate. We must act now to protect our Earth." Then there are the global epidemics: "Malaria is running out of control in Africa, and antibiotic-resistant strains of tuberculosis are ravaging Russia and other countries…. HIV/AIDS…is more than a health tragedy, it is a threat to global security." Then there are narcotics: "International drug networks and other organized crime syndicates represent a growing threat to the survival of democratic governance." The Republicans also take up this theme, as if they are reading from the same songbook: "A Republican administration will work to improve international cooperation against all forms of cross-border criminality, especially the burgeoning threat of cyber-crime that threatens the vitality of American industries as diverse as aerospace and entertainment…. A sophisticated terrorist or adversary government could potentially cripple a critical US infrastructure, such as the electrical grid or a military logistics system, in time of crisis." Here then are vast global projects designed to ensure that the United States can violate the sovereignty of every country in the world in the name of some nebulous quest for security. And if other countries cannot quite see the crisis they are facing and the urgent steps they must take, Uncle Sam will be on hand to persuade them.

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George Szamuely was born in Budapest, Hungary, educated in England, and has worked as an editorial writer for The Times (London), The Spectator (London), and the Times Literary Supplement (London). In America, he has been equally busy: as an associate at the Manhattan Institute, editor at Freedom House, film critic for Insight, research consultant at the Hudson Institute, and as a weekly columnist for the New York Press. Szamuely has contributed to innumerable publications including Commentary, American Spectator, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, National Interest, American Scholar, Orbis, Daily Telegraph, the Times of London, the Sunday Telegraph, and The New Criterion. His exclusive column for appears every Wednesday.

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On almost every issue of foreign policy the Democratic and Republican Party platforms read as if they were written by the same person. The Democrats: "Our special relationship with Israel is based on the unshakable foundation of shared values and a mutual commitment to democracy, and we will ensure that under all circumstances, Israel retains the qualitative military edge for its national security." The Republicans: "It is important for the United States to support and honor Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East. We will ensure that Israel maintains a qualitative edge in defensive technology over any potential adversaries." The Democrats: "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths….We call on both parties to avoid unilateral actions, such as a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood." The Republicans: "The United States has a moral and legal obligation to maintain its Embassy and Ambassador in Jerusalem. Immediately upon taking office, the next Republican president will begin the process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem….A unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinians would be a violation of [a] commitment. A new Republican administration would oppose any such declaration." Note how both parties describe the declaration of independence by the Palestinians as a "unilateral" move, yet the promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a clear violation of all existing UN Security Council Resolutions – somehow seems in accordance with civilized norms.

Both Democrats and Republicans promise to enlarge NATO, whatever the Russians might feel about it. Both promise to continue funding the National Endowment for Democracy, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and Radio Marti. Interestingly enough, the Republicans – doubtless reflecting the views of foreign policy advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle – go further than the Democrats in eagerness to extend America’s imperial power: "We seek greater cooperation within NATO to deal with the geopolitical problems of the Middle East and Eurasia" – a promise as mind-boggling as it is sinister, and luckily likely to be rejected out of hand by the Europeans. The Republicans indignantly take the Administration to task for not bullying the Europeans sufficiently to improve their military: "Even after NATO’s operations in Bosnia and Kosovo laid bare Europe’s lagging military capabilities, the administration failed to persuade the allies to enhance these capabilities. The next Republican Administration will work to repair this damage." What exactly was the Administration supposed to do? Bomb Berlin? Ban imports of Italian wines?

When it comes to Yugoslavia, "the next Republican President will not negotiate with indicted war criminals such as Slobodan Milosevic but will seek their arrest, trial, and imprisonment." "Sentence first – verdict afterwards," in the immortal words of Lewis Carroll. Saddam Hussein, too, is to be toppled. Clearly then, both parties are agreed that the American empire must expand. But, as the arrests of the bounty-hunters show, the corruption of this empire is already very deep.

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