Martin Jacques: The neocon revolution

In today's Guardian newspaper, Martin Jacques posits a column addressing the tenacity of the "neocons" in Washington. He writes about the underestimation that many in Europe have expelled in relation to the "neocon" policies born in Washington. Jacques tells us that throughout Europe the power brokers romanticized a dramatic shift from a 2nd term Bush Administration.

The jolly olde Marxist has tapped into a few accurate representations of the Bush Administration. First among them, is the recognition that elections in Iraq and democratic revurberations throughout the Middle East have vindicated the freshly minted policy of pre-emptive strikes. Where Europe manned the booths of skepticism, the Americans and British flaunted their proposals of optimism. Not without error, the Iraq policy has not been atrocious. Neither has it been a collossal, or as Democratic Presidential Nominee Dick Gephardt phrased it, a "miserable failure".

Indeed, Iraq was a bumpy road that has deemed a review of the US foreign policy vehicle for service. In its re-examination, the United States is moving forward on the heels of its successes while it internalizes the failures. Will the United States learn nothing? On the contrary, the US lessons have been, and will continue to be, aired in the public eye. On the hill will be many future hearings engaging the Pentagon and the White House in the questions of judgement. But there is a clear message to be understood from the Iraq policy.

The Iraq policy was right. Divided in bureaucratic wrangling, the United Nations was a compromised institution on matters of Iraq. The nations that recognized this reality joined in the Coalition of the Willing. The reluctant, or the skeptics, joined the opposition. What the opposition failed to do is build a strong case that the United States and United Kingdom were wrong. The foundation of their case was international law, perhaps the poorest example of perceived reality. In other words, using international law for the foundation of your argument is like constructing a castle of sand on the ocean shores.

Martin Jacques goes on to cite the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court as examples of the "neocons" influence in Washington. What he fails to mention is that each of these treaties was dead on arrival in Washington circles. The US Senate rejected the Kyoto Protocol with a 95-0 vote. The Clinton Administration had previously pledged support for the outcome driven intentions of the Kyoto Protocol, but ultimately never supported its final wording. At roughly the same time as the Kyoto debate was the rave in Washington, the "neocons" were desperately trying to get a meeting with President Clinton to discuss the contents of their letter from the Project for a New American Century. These players were interested in Iraq as the real dividing issue in International Relations.

Years later we would learn that the PNAC was almost exactly right. Iraq was a wedge issue at the UN. Unanimous agreement was made possible through the silent abstentations of the opposition.

Finally, I want to address where Jacques has his facts wrong.
The withdrawal of the US from international treaties does not condemn international law to the dustbin of history. It is evident, however, that the Americans are determined either to render these treaties redundant simply by ignoring them, force them to be renegotiated or perhaps both. In effect, what the Americans are intent on doing is reordering the world system to take account of their newly defined power and interests.

When has the United States ever been intent on sitting out of the world order discussions? The Bush Administration was against Kyoto and the ICC well before 9/11 and Iraq. What is true is that Kyoto and the ICC were condemned to the dustbin of history because of their total illrelevance to present security threats.

US perception will shift when the disenchanted Marxists of Europe understand the what they don't want to accept. 9/11 changed everything.


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