Will Unilateralism prevail?

Posted by Admin on Tuesday, 17 February 2004 | Opini

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 02/17/2004 5:02 PM

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, Former Governor, National Resilience Institute, (Lemhannas), Jakarta

After the Cold War ended, one could sense a tendency among the American people to create a unipolar world. Francis Fukuyama’s book The End of History was a demonstration of the strong feeling of American supremacy in values, culture and economic and political systems. So much so, that every nation had no choice but to follow America in virtually all ways of life.

That the U.S., with it military, and economic superiority, would rule the world, was considered inevitable. U.S. actions and behavior in the pursuit of its mission, namely the implementation of democracy, free trade and human rights all over the world, were widely accepted.

Some certainly criticized the U.S.’s policies, but as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright said ""The U.S. is doing all that because it is the U.S.""

This unilateral attitude is strong among those who occupy important positions in the present U.S. government, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz. It seems that they are using their positions to pursue their unilateralist convictions. It would be very difficult for George W. Bush, as the president of the United States, to hold different beliefs in such an environment.

Consequently, the policies of the present U.S. government are guided by a unilateral state of mind. The U.S. declaration of the doctrine of preemptive strikes is one example. The war against Iraq without UN endorsement is also proof of the unilateralism of the U.S. government.

This does not mean that all Americans are in favor of unilateralism. Senator Robert C. Byrd, the dean of the U.S. Congress, strongly criticized the U.S.’s policies in his speech to the U.S. Senate delivered on May 21, 2003. He stated that: ""Democracy and freedom cannot be force fed at the point of an occupier’s gun. To think otherwise is folly. How could we expect to easily plant a clone of U.S. cultures, values and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of U.S. motives, and so at odds with the galloping materialism which drives the western-style economies?""

One could say that the world is divided into those that support and those that oppose unilateralism. Nations that support the U.S., like Britain, Spain and Japan are heavily criticized by a large number of their people.

Most East European nations, as new members of the European Union (EU), support U.S. unilateralism to safeguard themselves against French and German domination. Spain and Portugal seem to belong to the same category.

While, France, Germany and Belgium — who want to preserve their independence — do not agree with full and uncritical support of U.S. policies. Although members of NATO, they have formed a European military force outside of NATO, in an attempt to prevent the U.S. domination of military affairs in Europe.

The British government strongly supports the U.S., although many people in Britain oppose the U.S.’s policies. Tony Blair seems to be of the opinion that what really counts is military power. The EU and Japan might become strong economic competitors of the U.S., but they will never be able to develop military power that is close to the U.S.’s.

The Japanese government seems to have taken a similar stance to the Blair government in that it has risked the opposition of the majority of the Japanese people. While, Russia and China are not in favor of U.S. supremacy.

The U.S.’s progress in Iraq is keenly observed by those who wonder whether the U.S. can maintain its power. If the U.S. is able to rebuild Iraq, it will have a strong and dependable ally in the Middle East.

However, failure in the Middle East would be keenly felt by the American people, who could blame unilateralism for their personal hardships, a reaction similar to those of many Americans after the war in Vietnam.

How will the situation in Iraq develop ? To achieve its objectives, the U.S. must build a government that is its strong ally, while gaining the support of the Iraqi people. This should be done as soon as possible, or no later than 2004, which poses a problem for the U.S. As mentioned by Senator Byrd in his speech, Iraq is a country riven by religious, territorial and tribal rivalries. The leader of the Shiites in Iraq, Ayatollah Sintani, has demanded that general elections precede the establishment of the government. His demand is natural as the Shiites constitute the majority of the Iraqi people and hope to hold the most power in the new Iraqi government, after being discriminated against by Saddam Hussein.

The Kurds and the Sunnis will most probably reject this suggestion and might agree with the U.S.’s proposal to form a government as soon as possible. But can the U.S. afford to confront the Shiite majority, while it proclaims that it wants to instill democracy in Iraq ?

If the U.S. fails to build an Iraqi government in a short time, its occupation of Iraq will only motivate the Iraqi people to continue their fight against the U.S.

Also, more and more American soldiers will die in Iraq which will lower the morale of the American and other occupying forces, as well as the U.S. people as a whole. It seems that a U.S. solution to Iraq’s problems is still far from realization. Could this signal the end of U.S. unilateralism?

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