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Date:  Thu, 13 May 1999 00:01:11 +0900
From: Hendrik
To: Multiple recipients of NETSOURCE-L <netsource-l@mail.think.service>
Subject:  [NS] Global sheriff who bends the rules

Global sheriff who bends the rules


Pascal Boniface

ONE of the priorities of United States foreign policy is to combat what it
calls "rogue states". By that it means countries whose behaviour is
incompatible with the rules generally accepted by the international
community. They include Cuba, North Korea, Libya and Iraq.

That definition poses three problems: the US fixes the criteria itself; it
is highly selective in how it applies them (what, for instance, makes Cuba
less democratic than Saudi Arabia?); and the US itself could well qualify
for inclusion on the list, much as it would like to be the world's sheriff.

Its stance on capital punishment, for instance, puts it in the same basket
as a country such as China - hardly something to be proud of.

Two German nationals were recently executed in the US despite pleas for
mercy from the German government. What would happen if two Americans were
executed in Germany in the face of pleas from Washington?

The pilot of a US military plane that severed a cable car wire, plunging 20
people to their deaths in Italy, was acquitted by an American military
court. The flight recordings had been erased "by mistake".

True, the US president apologised - something that has become a habit with
him - and offered financial compensation. But imagine what would have
happened if an Italian pilot, whose rashness had caused the death of 20
Americans, were freed by an Italian court?

In Iraq, without any mandate or even a proper policy, the US continues its
bombing raids, which are hurting the civilian population much more than
they are Saddam Hussein. How would the US respond if another country
adopted a "USA Liberation Act" - along the lines of Washington's "Iraq
Liberation Act" - specifying that it aimed to topple the regime headed by
Bill Clinton and was planning to devote $97 million to that end?

Most countries have signed a convention that bans the manufacture or use of
anti-personnel landmines. But not the US, which apparently needs such
weapons to ensure its security. How would it react if sanctions were
imposed on it for refusing to sign the convention?

Similarly, the US does not want to get involved in setting up an
international court empowered to judge war crimes.

The US has urged India and Pakistan to sign the total nuclear test ban
treaty - a treaty the Senate has yet to ratify. While Europe, Japan and the
developing countries have agreed to work for the protection of the
environment, Washington refuses to take part in a joint effort if it
involves constraints.

It is not so much American isolationism as American unilateralism that is
to be feared.

Convinced that it has a "manifest destiny", embodies universal values and
is the only "indispensable nation", the US cannot understand that anyone
should wish to oppose it. Any such attitude is inevitably interpreted as
hostility to those same universal values, and not to the American national

Because the US no longer has an enemy or a partner that can measure up to
it, it does not see why it should abide by the rules of prior consultation.
What the US fails to realise is that unilateralism could well rob it of its
image as a protector of universal values - values that increasingly boil
down to Washington's interpretation of the American national interest. That
interest would be better served if the US opted for more extensive
international consultation.


The Guardian Weekly, v.160 I.14 (for week ending April 4, 1999), p. 14


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