Thursday, December 28, 2006

The New New Thing

In fashion, and other things, there's always a New Thing. I don't know what is the new New Thing in fashion et al, but the New Thing in international relations, after a very long hiatus, is pre-emptive intervention. This doctrine, as promulgated by the neocons and their ilk is one of the most important developments in recent history. The theories that had been crafted in the aftermath of the Second World War and the Cold War have been reinterpreted to address the new challenges of non-state actors on international relations. The rise of global networks of criminals and terrorists and their potential marriage is a nightmare from which the waking day brings no comfort.

In film and fictional literature, this marriage is being addressed with very interesting results. However, the response of the world powers has been predictable, to say the least. George W Bush's America has chosen the path of direct military engagement with lacklustre results. The recent events in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the wider Muslim world have not been encouraging. The ISG recommendations have been welcomed and lampooned in equal measure. I cannot debate their relevance or lack thereof, but I wish to point out that the US has a golden opportunity to reorient how we think about global security.

Unfortunately, the prism of moral clarity cannot be employed in international relations. Nations shall have to deal with odious characters, dictators and charlatans. Their moral compass cannot guide them to a better understanding of their friends or foes. What needs to be better defined is the national interest. And it is this definition that must ultimately determine how states counter non-state actors and the states that support them. Therefore, if the US were to co-opt the 'evil' players on the world stage such as Hamas and Iran, it will be merely be determining that its moral compass has no place in finally deciding American security. Therefore, it is laudable that Bush hasn't completely buckled under liberal pressure to moralise American foreign policy. Guantanamo and extraordinary renditions are the visible evidence of this amoral approach to foreign policy. It must, though, be followed to its logical end. Whether is citizens accept it or not, the liberties and freedoms they enjoy are an aberration that must be rectified if they are to remain safe and isolated from the problems that afflict the world. If one or two Afghans suffer for their safety, then it is a price they must be willing to pay. If some US citizens are determined to side with the perpetrators of such heinous crimes as the 9/11 attack, they must be rendered ineffective by all means possible. Otherwise, other non-state actors shall be emboldened to strike again at symbols of American strength and prosperity.

In a world where men and women are willing to shed innocent blood, the world powers cannot be hamstrung with the niceties of statute and constitutional law. They must be allowed the lee-way to strike at all havens of crime and terror without worrying about collateral damage. This doesn't mean that they have a free pass to do as they please. They must be willing to put in place mechanisms for the use of force and counter-force. They must be able to better appreciate that societies cannot be reformed by the sword, but by a higher logic. They must also do all that is necessary to protect innocent life, even in those havens of crime and terror. Otherwise, the memories of freedom movements past shall be used to inspire a new crop of Freedom Fighters. To avoid this, they must learn the proper lessons of history, or we are all doomed.