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ONE YEAR AFTER 9/11:  WHERE THE REAL DIVIDE OF `US AND THEM' STANDS

Armenian News Network / Groong
September 11, 2002

By Khatchik DerGhoukassian and Richard Giragosian


In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001, leading analysts heralded the beginning of a new era in
international relations.  The post-Cold War ended `dramatically,'
wrote the Argentine expert in international politics, Juan Gabriel
Tokatlian.  British historian John Gray, went further to sustain that
`the era of globalization is over,' and U.S. National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice, even compared the forthcoming period to that of
1945-1947.

One year later, most Americans continue to see the world through the
new lens of the `9/11 syndrome,' placing domestic security concerns
far above the normal defense of civil liberties and moving closer in
accepting the Bush Administration's `axis of evil' worldview.  The
overall scope of international politics, however, appears to have
regained its pre-attack `business as usual.'  The architecture of
international finance, now very much a pillar of modern international
politics, has returned to its traditional pattern of globalization,
with the inflow of goods, services, financial instruments and
information back in its pre-attack cycle.

The only element to the contrary is the increasingly protectionist
tendencies of the U.S. Administration, seen in such issues as steel
imports and farm subsidies.  Although these tendencies have aggravated
trade relations with the European Union (EU), such domestic-driven
factors are not serious obstacles to an equitable globalization
process.  The much more significant issue in globalization is the
widening global disparity in wealth, and this disparity is a hidden
impediment to the implementation and management of the coming stages
of the `war on terrorism' and poses a significant threat to long-term
stability.

As this past year has demonstrated, there is a new clarity to
international relations in this post-9/11 world.  There is in fact an
increasingly visible and narrowing line separating `us and them' in
the Bush vision of a unipolar world under U.S. military hegemony.  On
the one hand, as Stanley Hoffman of Harvard wrote in the `The American
Prospect,' America is increasingly alone today in the world, due to
the Bush Administration's unilateralism and by virtue of the
predominance of the hard-line Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz faction over
the more moderate camp of Secretary of State Collin Powell and his
supporters.  The most recent debate over Iraq has most visibly
demonstrated the ascendancy of the unilateralists of the Pentagon over
the multilateralists at the State Department.

This foreign policy divide is also matched by a domestic component as
the war on terror is being exploited in the pursuit of a right-wing
conservative agenda in domestic policy, which, as defenders of civil
liberties have warned, could endanger the delicate balance of security
versus individual rights, and change the face of America.  The real
danger lies in the opportunity for the rise of conservative extremists
from the right.  Such a danger is posed, for example, by elements of
the Christian fundamentalists or by the openly racist groups.  The
threat of these group to garner more influence and power in the
decision making process has been notably cited by Nicholas Kristoff,
with warnings published in The New York Times.

There are also some important structural characteristics of the
post-9/11 world that encourage the definition of international
politics as one of unipolarity.  The first of these structural
characteristics is the transformation of U.S. `hard power' through the
exercise and empowerment of American military prowess. The depth and
reach of U.S. military might has been substantially expanded in the
past year, going far beyond the military engagements in Afghanistan to
include a new prominent role on the mantle of American security.  The
U.S. military now enjoys a prominence and level of popular support
rivaling only that of World War II, and even exceeding the broad but
brief popularity of the first Gulf War.  This is seen in the passive
acceptance of an expanded domestic role for the military, with not
even a whisper of dissent to the sight of uniformed soldiers
patrolling major airports and combat aircraft monitoring the airspace
of major U.S.  cities.

This post-9/11 `militarization of America' has continued with
increased defense spending (despite the return of a large budget
deficit) and a renewal of the calls for military engagement in Iraq.
This militarization also feeds the newest Bush foreign policy
innovation: a so-called Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes.
Dismissing the cumbersome and frustrating tenets of international law,
this Bush Doctrine of preemptive action also reflects a disdain for
multilateralism beyond simple consultation.  Although the launch of
military operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001 with an
important coalition of allies and partners, with the new U.S.-Russian
strategic partnership becoming the most important, the preemptive
doctrine generally ignores the need to forge a coalition under the
banner of United Nations resolution.

Further encouraging the formulation of this doctrine, the national
sense of mission and resolve that has developed in the wake of 9/11
has matched the intensity of such U.S. historical precedents as
`Remember the Maine' and `Remember the Alamo.' The combined factors of
a mounting militarization, a growing unipolarity and a temptation to
lash out in a fit of global retaliation (preemptive strikes) have
combined to endow America with a new, assertive drive for a virtual
hegemonic empire.  Whether imposed by the objective reality of power,
or imposed because of a security imperative, this imperial drive is
now infecting all aspects and facets of U.S. foreign policy.  For some
of its defenders, most notably in the hard-line camp of `offensive
realists,' the American empire is not only inevitable but also is
benevolent in its service to the global common good.  This argument in
support of such hegemonic design sees a positive role in providing
security and order in what it sees as the black-and-white world
threatened by an axis of evil.  Thus, its supporters argue, only the
U.S. can provide a defense against the anarchy and chaos posed by
`evildoers' and `axis of evil' member states.  But despite this
throwback to the appeal of the Ronald Reagan cowboy worldview, even
some within this hard-line realist camp recognize that no empire has
ever been benevolent.  There is also a danger of erosion of American
power from over-extension and the challenge posed by the inevitable
defensive formation of a counter-alliance, even though this might not
be perceivable in the immediate.

The implication of such a trend in unchallenged American power for
international politics is grave and destabilizing, as no nation state
would actively opt for inclusion in the `axis of evil.'  In today's
world, no state would seek to be seen by the U.S. as `against us.'
Even Libya, Syria and, to a lesser degree, Iran, have all sought to
extend a helping hand to the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11.
Designation of `axis of evil' membership is another disturbing sign of
American preemption of international law, as it grants itself the
power to decide and judge such countries.  Moreover, this allows
Washington to choose its own enemies, for now, three: Iran, Iraq and
North Korea.  There are, of course, entire regions that are simply of
little or no interest for Washington, namely Africa and Latin America.
As four Latin American specialists, Roberto Russell, Jose Paradiso and
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian from Argentina and Monica Hirst from Brazil,
wrote in the Argentine newspaper Clarin, the Bush Administration
seized the opportunity of 9/11 to deepen its already existing
reluctance to build a mature and consistent relationship with Latin
America.

In theoretical terms, therefore, this marks a world where all the
states would seek to align themselves with the uni-power, in effect
seeking to `bandwagon' the hegemonic power, rather than balance it,
mainly because of their inability and incapacity to forge an effective
defensive alliance.  For countries in the developed world, such as
Europe in general, and France in particular, there has been some
dissent and diplomatic opposition to this trend of American
domination.  Such opposition has been realistically limited to the
trade and diplomatic arenas, however, leaving the military-security
and geopolitical fields virtually uncontested.

For other states, including China and, most dramatically, Russia, an
alliance with the U.S. has combined with their own adoption of the
`war on terror' stemming from their domestic considerations. For
China, their interpretation and endorsement of the U.S. war on terror
includes their own fight against Islamic separatists in northern China
and a justification, on security grounds, for their probing influence
in Central Asia.  In the Russian case, President Vladimir Putin
enhanced his new strategic partnership with the U.S. in the hours
following 9/11 to cement cooperation in several new areas.  Agreeing
to a previously unheard of U.S. military presence in the former Soviet
Union, Russian allowed U.S. troops to build bases in Central Asia and
engage in operations in Georgia.

Putin's move was both prudent and wise, and stemmed from his own
recognition of the limitation of Russian power.  Moscow's assent to
the war on terrorism does not mean, however, that Russia is unaware of
U.S. limitations.  Through the coordination of policies with
Washington, Moscow was actually able to buttress its role in several
key areas, gaining U.S. acceptance of the Russian conflict in Chechnya
and over the longer term, reaching a deal with the U.S. providing for
a Russian reassertion of primacy in the Caspian, the Caucasus and
promising a return to Central Asia once the U.S. military commitment
is gradually scaled down.

Another important structural characteristic of the post-9/11 world is
the rising influence of non-state actors.  As Jessica T. Mathews of
the Council on Foreign Relations has pointed out, the role of
non-state actors has risen sharply from the previous transnational
threats posed by organized crime and narcotics trafficking.  Looking
at the obvious non-state actor, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, they had
achieved, or thought they had achieved, a safe haven in the failed
state that was Afghanistan.  The working alliance of the Taliban
regime and Al Qaeda was so strong that Taliban forces remained
ferociously committed to Bin Laden, refusing surrender even in the
face of overwhelming defeat.  By no means as militarily proficient or
skilled as initially feared, the Taliban did manage to smuggle large
numbers of its senior leadership and Al Qaeda ranks into neighboring
Pakistan (where they are still in fragile refuge).

In the wake of 9/11 no government, for obvious reasons, wanted to
continue providing safe haven to terrorists.  Even Iraq found the
presence of Palestinian arch-terrorist Abu Nidal too costly and
quickly eliminated him as a worrisome liability.  But a state refusing
to assist terrorists is quite different from being able to deny them
haven.  Even Western ally Greece had enormous difficulty in finally
overcoming the scourge of its own `17 November' terrorists.  And as
Ray Takeyh and Nikolas Gvosdev reveal in their recent Washington
Quarterly article, terrorist organizations instinctively seek out
`failed' and `failing' states where the power and authority of the
central government is weak or nonexistent (as Bin Laden found in Sudan
prior to Afghanistan).  Organized on the model of global business
network, terrorist organizations capitalize on state failure, as the
Chechen rebels have done in infiltrating into the lawless Pankisi
Gorge in Georgia.  The danger posed by the security vacuum created by
failed states was long an item high on Clinton Administration agenda
but is grossly neglected in Bush's war on terror.

In fact, the Bush Administration reveals its reluctance for `nation
building' and is normally unwilling to shoulder the costs of
post-conflict reconstruction and remains hesitant to even invest in
developmental policies that would address the sources for such
conflict.  For the Bush Administration, the typical approach to states
lacking the capacity, but demonstrating the will to fight terrorism,
is to strengthen the military of that state by relying on U.S. military
aid and training.  The Georgian case is the most obvious example, but
the same pattern has been followed in the Philippines and Indonesia.
While assisting the state and bolstering the elite in power, this
practice ignores the deepest causes of state failure: a lack of
democracy, serious underdevelopment, and widespread dissatisfaction.
Even more dangerous, these regimes enjoying such American military aid
and training can very well become embroiled in their own internal
conflicts.  Such U.S. aid empowers the elite and provides a new
temptation to exert this new strength in the pursuit of power, often
exploiting U.S. sponsorship merely to perpetuate their power, And
thereby widening the already serious gap between them and their
people.  Such an alienated population will only seek, in Albert
Hirschman's view, the limited choice of `voice or exit.' In simple
terms, this will lead to two divergent options: flight, through
immigration, or fight, through protest and/or conflict.

Ironically, this fact is exacerbated by the world economic downturn as
the developed world has begun to deny refuge to immigrants, making
exit from the more unstable developing world even harder.  Seizing
this opportunity, transnational terrorist and criminal organizations,
capitalize on this alienated and disenfranchised class.  Although this
is not to suggest an overly simplistic relationship between poverty
and terrorism, there is a negative symbiosis to this.  It is among the
lower classes that the Islamic appeal holds the most sway, mounting to
include the fermenting of overt anti-Americanism and radicalized
politics.  By providing important social services in the wake of state
incapacity, such groups can parlay their ties to the disaffected into
popular support and recruitment for terrorist causes.  As with Hamas
and its suicide bombings through the Israeli occupation of Palestinian
areas and with the al Qaeda/Taliban combination in the poorest areas
of Pakistan, these groups become the only means for affordable
education and social services for the disenfranchised local
population, much as coca cultivation is for the Andean peasants.

The obvious conclusion is that the only result from `regime change' is
`blowback' whereby the aftermath breeds a conflict much worse than the
initial manifestation.  Regime change, either in Afghanistan or Iraq,
will remain ineffective and potentially more disastrous when the local
population is condemned to perpetual poverty.  Such regime change does
nothing to improve living conditions and, in fact, only leads to
greater misery and declining living conditions in most cases.  In a
worst case scenario, if American troops, either with the local
government's authorization or without it, fail to balance immediate
security needs against the dangers of `collateral damage' and harm to
the local population, the `blowback' is bound to be doubled, as in the
Vietnamese case.

It is in the developing world, therefore, that the real divide between
`us and them' is causing the most harm to the world order.  In the
context of the expanding war on terrorism, although states are more
inclined to become partners in the U.S. campaign, once bolstered and
empowered by U.S. military aid, the real issue is the harm done in the
name of supporting Washington.  For much of the U.S. backing to these
regimes will only serve to consolidate and perpetuate the ruling
elite, often at the expense of democratic consolidation and
development.  The population of these new U.S. allies, meanwhile, will
become increasingly alienated from its own government and will blame
the U.S. for supporting it.  Denied of any possible exit, it will look
for a voice to protest.  And this is where and when terrorism,
transnational organized crime, and even conflict become the preferred
means of expression.  The only real path to fighting global terror
lies in avoiding such measures that foster regimes prone to govern by
threat and rule by conflict.  The tragedy is that the United States is
on the fast track toward consolidating autocratic and dictatorial
regimes in pursuit of a terrorism that it fails to recognize as being
born in part from its very own global policies.


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Khatchik DerGhoukassian is a Ph.D. Candidate in International
Relations at the University of Miami. He is the former editor
of the newspaper ARMENIA in Buenos Aires and writes as a political
analyst in the Armenian and Argentine press.

Richard Giragosian writes extensively on economic and political
developments in the Caucasus, and is the author of the monthly
publication, "TransCaucasus: A Chronology," now in its eleventh
year of consecutive monthly publication.

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