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Re: Power and power
by Harry Forster
17 February 2002 17:20 UTC
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I don't claim to have answers to these questions but this discussion seems 
to be ignoring how the people on the receiving end, and their immediate 
neighbours in an already unstable Middle East, might react. Has everyone 
forgotten the Kurd refugee crisis, for instance? Bin Laden may be off the 
air, for one or other reason, but resentment of US military presence near 
Saudi shrines is much more acute than ten years ago. Wars are not just a 
matter of military might. They leave behind an awful mess.


Harry Forster

At 09:20 17/02/02 -0500, you wrote:
>Richard--you help clarify some of the issues in play right now.  Whether 
>or not it is a good thing to have friends is, apparently, now an open 
>question in the US.  Certainly the State Department believes its a good 
>thing--that's why they produce reports about what the foreign press 
>thinks, like the one Wallerstein uses in his current commentary.  But 
>Bush--and apparently much public opinion--doesn't seem to think it matters 
>With such an attitude, and given the particularities of the case, I don't 
>see much prospect of having the sort of backing the US had when it 
>attacked Yugoslavia, let alone Iraq I.  I remain agnostic about whether 
>the US could carry out its military objectives anyway--I am not a military 
>strategist.  However, in terms of the stated goal of preventing 'rogue 
>states' from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, I'm pretty pessimistic 
>about the US' abilities.
>There was an interesting line, which no one commented on here, in a piece 
>by Alexander Haig that was posted a couple of months ago.  He commented 
>that the US maintains troops in Europe to guarantee that the Europeans 
>don't become protectionist.  This line seems to capture the limits of 
>power exercised through military force in all its poignancy.  If Europe 
>should choose to go protectionist, could the US forces there somehow 
>conquer the continent, and assure its continued integration with the 
>US?  Its precisely such goals that require friends, and for which military 
>power is practically useless.  More broadly, the US has an additional 
>goal--along with its military ones--of organizing a 'free trade' global 
>economy.  How does it plan to do this without friends?
>The US doesn't just rely on its allies for markets--it also relies on them 
>to pay for its wars--which could be a problem if you decide there is no 
>need to make friends.  Let's not forget the conference to organize a new 
>government in Afghanistan was held in Bonn, and wasn't the one to fund 
>reconstruction of Afghanistan  held in Japan?
>A few months ago--for example, when Geoffrey Wheatcroft suggested in the 
>NYTimes that Europe get involved in the Middle East--I would have agreed 
>with the characterization of Europe as fragmented.  But Bush seems to have 
>actually succeeded in unifying European opinion, and Chris Patten's 
>comments last week pretty much amounted to European foreign policy positions.
>Over the medium term (10 to 20 years), Europeans, if they are not friends 
>with the US, are going to start exploring their options.  They don't 
>presently have military power (that could change) but they send plenty of 
>aid to the rest of the world, and are the headquarters for the bulk of the 
>NGO world.  These are forms of power, and they will try to figure out how 
>to deploy them.  Ditto East Asia.  Meanwhile, the US may well take more 
>direct hits on its 'homeland', which certainly looks like a reduction in 
>its abilities to defend itself (another way of thinking about power).
>Power can be conceived of as the ability to do whatever you want to, or 
>the ability to get others to do what you want to.  Which forms of power is 
>the US strongest in with the direction Bush is pushing for?  And can you 
>really continue with the first form as the second form eludes you?
>Steven Sherman

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