Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 29 August 24 - 30, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
the same time, South Korean students marking the 50th anniversary of the Korean
War armistice called America more dangerous than North Korea; production of
opium destined for the U.S. heroin market was reported to be soaring in
Afghanistan; looting and slaughter continued under Liberia's thuggish dictator
as Washington declined a UN request for humanitarian intervention; and African
cotton farmers faced growing penury as President Bush failed to reduce subsidies
to U.S. growers as they flooded world markets with excess production.
have been wondering why the world has not rallied to our side in the last two
years, and our leaders have provided convenient answers. "They hate our
freedom" or "they envy our success" or "criticism just goes
with the territory of being the top dog," we are told.
however, requires gullibility.
first the very notion of America battling alone in the face of envy and hatred.
The outpouring of sympathy and support that occurred around the world on Sept.
12, when even the French newspaper Le Monde proclaimed "We Are All
Americans" should have put that notion to rest. If it didn't, certainly the
number of world leaders, from India to Canada, backing UN Secretary General Kofi
Annan in his offer of help in Iraq showed a worldwide willingness to help with
reconstruction even though most nations had opposed the war.
real problem here is not so much foreign hostility as America's insistence on
going it alone in its own way. Wolfowitz's testimony is the tip-off. The United
States would rather be in absolute control than accept any help that might in
any way dilute that authority or that might even slightly complicate U.S.
was evident in the case of Afghanistan long before the Iraq question arose.
Immediately after Sept. 11, America's longtime allies in NATO voluntarily
invoked the treaty's "an attack on one is an attack on all" clause and
literally begged Washington to include their troops in the invasion of
Afghanistan, to no avail. It would be easier and faster simply to move alone,
the Pentagon said.
lack of interest in NATO and UN help is the natural result of the adoption by
the United States of the radical new doctrine of preventive and pre-emptive war
developed by Wolfowitz and a small group of self-styled neo-conservatives after
the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991.
the United States won the Cold War with a strategy of deterrence and by building
alliances and multilateral institutions such as NATO, the UN and the World Trade
Organization, the new thinking argued for military superiority such that no
other power would even consider a challenge and a unilateral approach based on
the view that while friends are nice to have they are really not necessary for
the United States to achieve its objectives.
of the willing'
discussed and partly adopted during the 1990s, this doctrine of pre-emption and
"coalitions of the willing" in place of deterrence and alliances
became the foundation of U.S. strategy since Sept. ll. In the world of the 21st
Century, it was argued, the threats will be so dire and immediate that we must
be prepared to strike first, and perhaps alone, to avoid being struck.
course, to be credible as something other than an excuse for permanent war, such
a strategy must be based on accurate intelligence about the immediacy and
seriousness of the threat.
the run-up to the recent Iraq war, the Bush administration repeatedly emphasized
that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had large numbers of weapons of mass
destruction that could be unleashed against the United States at any moment.
Other countries harbored doubts, but, claiming superior knowledge as well as
virtue, the United States overrode allied requests for further investigation and
deterrence and set course for war with a "coalition of the willing."
the aftermath, we have learned not only that our intelligence was faulty but
that, while we can win the military battles by ourselves we really need help
with what comes afterward. Yet our doctrine and operating style inhibit us from
getting that help.
problem goes beyond Iraq.
our great power, it is clear that beyond the battlefield there is little that we
can accomplish by ourselves in an increasingly globalized world. We can't fight
the wars on terror and drugs by ourselves nor can we run the world economy or
deal with epidemics such as AIDS and SARS or problems like global warming by
ourselves. We need help and friends; yet our inconsistent attitudes and policies
are a source of constant disappointment to those who would be our friends--not
to mention that they often are destructive to our own society.
the problem of soaring opium production in Afghanistan. As part of the effort to
knock out Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, the United States overthrew
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and promised a new era for women, democracy,
economic development, and security.
fact, however, Washington has put little effort into providing either
development or security and has undermined any hope of democracy by acquiescing
control of large parts of the country by its traditional warlords upon whose
help the Pentagon relied to defeat the Taliban. Now the warlords are getting
rich by promoting opium production with the tacit connivance of the same U.S.
government that says it is fighting a war on drugs. Meanwhile, faith in America
and its promises of development and democracy is much diminished throughout the
region, and the Taliban appear to be making a comeback.
situation in Korea is another case in point. For Americans who grew up thinking
they had "saved" South Korea from the communists, the newly widespread
anti-Americanism of Korean young people has come as a shocking betrayal.
the U.S. public doesn't understand is that while America may have prevented a
communist takeover of South Korea, Washington installed not a democracy but a
sometimes brutal dictatorship that was backed by a series of U.S.
administrations before the Koreans achieved democracy in the 1990s through their
own efforts. Indeed, in some cases, U.S. commanders released Korean troops from
their command to participate in quelling pro-democracy student uprisings.
recently, U.S. hard-line policies toward the North are seen not only as having
stimulated the North's development of nuclear weapons but also as having been
adopted without consultation with the South and in opposition to the South's
"sunshine policy" of trying to soften up the northern regime through
trade, investment, family visits and tourism. In short, young South Koreans
believe America's interest has never been in Korea itself, but only in how Korea
fit into America's geopolitical interests.
case of Liberia again points up the inconsistencies in U.S. policies that give
rise to foreign cynicism and alienation from America. Long ruled by a dictator
who regularly did business with Al Qaeda and Hezbollah militants and who set up
roadblocks made of human intestines from disemboweled victims left by the
roadside, it has become the object of a UN effort to stop the slaughter of a
raging civil war. In the absence of weapons of mass destruction, the United
States has been justifying its invasio of Iraq on the basis of having gotten rid
of a brutal, inhumane dictator.
in Liberia, a country founded by freed American slaves and whose capital
Monrovia is named after James Monroe, the United States has stoutly deflected
the pleas from the UN to intervene on humanitarian grounds. Cynics ask why the
United States will intervene on humanitarian grounds in one place and not the
other. They answer with one word: oil.
perhaps the most troubling example of American inconsistency is international
trade. During his recent trip to Africa, Bush talked about helping fight AIDS
and promoting investment and economic development.
error in Africa
like all of his Republican and Democratic predecessors, he failed even to
suggest the one thing that would make all the difference. Despite all of
America's rhetoric about the glories of free trade and all its pressure on
countries like China and Japan to open up their markets, American leaders never
suggest cutting subsidies for U.S. farmers. Consider that, in West Africa,
farmers using oxen and hand ploughs can produce a pound of cotton for 23 cents
while in the Mississippi Delta it costs growers using air conditioned tractors
and satellite-guided fertilizer systems 80 cents a pound. Logically, the U.S.
farmers ought to be switching to soybeans or something else they can grow more
competitively. Instead, they are expanding their planting and taking sales away
from the African growers in export markets. How can they do this? Via subsidies
to the tune of $5 billion. Not surprisingly, Muslim West Africa does not see
America as a friend and force for good and is increasingly listening to the
mullahs who call America the "Great Satan."
does America checkmate itself by eschewing offers of help and insisting on total
control while alienating those who would be friends by talking the talk but not
walking the walk. It should be clear by now that the doctrine of pre-emptive war
and coalitions of the willing can no longer be maintained. The failure to find
those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq means that future U.S. warnings of
imminent threats will be met with disbelief by the rest of the world and the
it is clear that the United States is already stretched to the limit by the
effort in Iraq and could not contemplate any significant additional
interventions without real help from the international community. But others
will not proffer this help without getting some say in the policy-making
the way forward is to return to the multilateralism that won the Cold War and to
work on correcting our inconsistencies rather than telling ourselves it doesn't
matter what the rest of the world thinks of us. In fact, it makes all the
difference because in the shrunken world of the 21st Century we won't be able to
achieve our objectives without friends.
Prestowitz is president of the Economic Strategy Institute and author of
"Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good