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NYTimes.com Article: One Nation Plays the Great Game Alone
by swsystem
07 July 2002 14:13 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by swsystem@aol.com.

Article uses the argument that the US is the lone, unchallengable superpower to 
basically defend Bush's unilateralism.  Incidentally, the Foreign Affairs 
article discussed is available on line at 
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/articles/brooks0702.html.  It's somewhat more 
sober than this article, although, indicative of the impoverished social theory 
used in IR, it distinguishes between 'power' (how many guns the US has) and 

Steven Sherman 


One Nation Plays the Great Game Alone

July 6, 2002


IF anyone in the United Nations still believed that the
United States sees itself as part of the family of nations,
and not as its patriarch, last week may have come as a rude

First, to the great dismay of its closest European allies,
the Bush administration threatened to block all United
Nations peacekeeping missions as they come up for renewal
unless American peacekeepers are granted immunity from
prosecution by the International Criminal Court, which came
into being on Monday. 

The allies responded with howls of outrage, accusing the
United States of trying to stand above international law
and promoting double standards. Then, reports surfaced in
Washington that planning for a large-scale invasion of Iraq
had reached an advanced stage _ even though most European
governments have cautioned against such an invasion and
none of the nations that would be expected to assist
American troops as staging areas have been formally

In fact, as last week's events point up, a double standard
is precisely what the Bush administration is pursuing. As
the world's lone superpower, the United States is
increasingly the main guarantor of global security and
economic well-being, administration officials contend. To
treat it like any other country would defy reality, they

"The United States plays a role in the world unlike any
other," Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman,
told reporters last week in explaining the administration's
position on the criminal court. "Therefore this affects us
unlike any other nation." 

To many foreign policy experts, that worldview is a natural
outgrowth of America's preeminent position in the
post-Soviet world, which it dominates militarily,
economically and culturally. And while many of these
scholars fault the Bush administration for a brusque, even
arrogant brinkmanship at the United Nations, far fewer
blame it for trying to control the international rules of
the road. That, they say, is what all great powers have
done through the ages. 

"You hear Europeans say Bush is a cowboy from Texas," said
William C. Wohlforth, an associate professor of government
at Dartmouth. "But when the Europeans were at the top of
the international heap, they were hard-bitten realists
about using power, and it was the United States that was
trying to outlaw war." 

In an article in the July issue of Foreign Affairs,
Professor Wohlforth and a Dartmouth colleague, Stephen G.
Brooks, argue that the United States' military and economic
dominance over the world is no longer even debatable. 

They note that in 2003, the United States will spend more
on the Pentagon, about $400 billion, than the next 15
largest militaries combined. And its economy is twice as
large as its closest rival, Japan. No other nation in
history, they contend, has exerted so much military power
over the land, sea and air, while also dominating the
global economy. 

"Today," they write, "the United States has no rival in any
critical dimension of power." 

That disparity, says Robert Kagan, a senior associate with
the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who lives in
Brussels, has caused Europe and many other nations to
depend increasingly on American power for their security
and prosperity. As a result, Mr. Kagan asserts, the United
States must remain free to use its power at will, lest the
world fall prey to lawlessness and brutality. 

THE United States must sometimes play by the rules of a
Hobbesian world, even though in doing so it violates
European norms," Mr. Kagan wrote in the June-July edition
of Policy Review. "And it must sometimes act unilaterally,
not out of a passion for unilateralism but, given a weak
Europe that has moved beyond power, because the United
States has no choice but to act unilaterally." 

As Sept. 11 demonstrated, America's vast power also makes
it a target of resentment on many fronts _ religious,
economic, political and military. Indeed, the Bush
administration argued that the International Criminal Court
could be used to prosecute politically motivated cases
against Americans. 

"It's disingenuous to say America won't be a lightning rod,
given our position in the world," Mr. Kagan said in an
interview. "French farmers are angry at the United States,
poor Egyptians are angry at the United States. It's not
Luxembourg that people will be aiming their grievances at."

There is a strong temptation on both sides of the Atlantic
to view the current fight over the criminal court as one
more case of a conservative Republican president trying to
implement a policy of unilateralism. And to be sure, Mr.
Bush has built a track record of opposing international
alliances, including treaties to eliminate greenhouse
gases, restrict anti-ballistic missile systems, prohibit
land mines and ban biological weapons testing. 

But there is also a long historical tradition in the United
States of viewing alliances ("entangling alliances" Thomas
Jefferson called them in his 1801 Inaugural Address) with
suspicion. And, Mr. Kagan contends, with the exception of
Woodrow Wilson's presidency and the post-Vietnam era, the
United States has tended to believe that power is necessary
to advance the American ideals of democracy and free
markets to the world. 

Moreover, Americans have tended to regard their nation's
ideals as universally applicable, as well as desirable. As
Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it in his famous State of the
Union message of 1941: "In future days, we seek to secure,
we look forward to a world founded upon four essential
human freedoms." Those freedoms _ of speech, of worship,
from material want and from fear _ perfectly matched
America's Constitutional principles and civic culture, but
they were presented as the ideal toward which the entire
world should aspire _ aided by American power. 

Still, if Mr. Bush's views on the International Criminal
Court were not out of the mainstream for an American
president, his manner of opposing it might have been

Past administrations tended to consult publicly with allies
or work through multinational organizations like the United
Nations or the International Monetary Fund, even if, behind
the scenes, they used their power to get their way. 

President Clinton, for example, also disliked the court on
grounds similar to the Bush administration's. But he signed
the treaty on the premise that it would be easier for the
United States to change it as a member of the court. He
then declined to submit it to the Senate for ratification.
In May, the Bush administration invalidated Mr. Clinton's

M R. BUSH'S more confrontational approach could alienate
America's allies even as Washington looks to them for help
in the war on terrorism. For all its power, the United
States still needs the military bases, ports and air
fields, fuel supplies and overflight rights that only its
allies can provide. No invasion of Iraq would be possible
without those things _ and angering its allies over the
International Criminal Court will not help the Bush
administration get them, critics contend. 

"Even if Bush succeeds through bullying to get what he
wants on the I.C.C. where Clinton failed through diplomacy,
this is likely to be a Pyrrhic victory," said Ivo Daalder,
a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who worked for
the National Security Council during the Clinton

"It's not just about who wins, but also about how you win,"
he added. 

"And winning by creating lots of resentment abroad, thus
further lessening the likelihood that allies will stand
ready to help when we need them, may make this a short-term
win, but a much more serious long-term loss."


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