Saturday, January 10, 2004

Do we need a global policeman?

The role of some countries in "disciplining" others. Assuming on itself to decide what is right and what is wrong for the whole world. Bullying others into submission by its sheer economic power. Overriding the brief of world bodies in world politics

Suggest alternatives like more authority to world bodies like UN etc which is more representative of everyone's interests. More assertiveness to be shown by other nations to such policing nations . making more nations self reliant so that we have less of "Big Brother" Syndrome....etc.....
‘Uni-polarity’ puts America in flash points

In its current role as the global policeman, the United States will have to get involved in potential conflict areas around the globe, however distasteful it may seem. This is the eternal law of an uni-polar world with just one superpower.

The Korean peninsula and the South Asian region could be considered the two most dangerous spots on the planet today. What are the problems?

North Korea

Krishna Das
Writers Group

In 1945, after World War II, Japanese occupation of Korea ended with Soviet troops occupying the north and U.S. troops the south. In 1950, South declared independence that sparked the North Korean invasion leading to the Korean conflict until 1953. An armistice led to the creation of the Demilitarized Zone, with North Korean troops facing the South Koreans and nearly 37, 000 American troops.

Problems have arisen over the years between the two with the latest being the nuclear stand off. Tensions have mounted over North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea recently began to reactivate its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

Internation-al inspectors were thrown out. Earlier this year, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They have admitted to having nuclear weapons of some kind.

President Bush categorized North Korea in the axis of evil along with Iraq and Iran, something that has not gone too kindly with the North Koreans but has made them even more belligerent. North Korea has been demanding direct talks with the United States along with economic assistance. The United States has been refusing this demand and has asked the North to roll back on its nuclear program before any serious negotiations can take place.

The danger is that an unstable regime like North Korea's could provide nu-clear weaponry to third parties. It already has a bad track record in the proliferation of missile technology.


The territory of Kashmir was hotly contested even before India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain in August 1947. Under the partition plan of 1947, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan.

The Maharaja Hari Singh wanted to stay independent but eventually decided to accede to India. Since then, the territory has been the flash point for two of the three India-Pakistan wars, the first in 1947-48, the second in 1965. The U.N. mandated referendum has not been complied with to date.

In 1998 India and Pakistan did a tit-for-tat explosion of nuclear devices. In 1999, India fought a brief but bitter conflict with Pakis-tani-backed militants who had infiltrated Indian-controlled territory in the Kargil area.

In addition to the rival claims of Delhi and Islama-bad to the territory, there has been a growing and often violent separatist movement fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir since 1989. The separatist movement has taken on an international flavor with the presence of foreign militants fighting in Kashmir, many of whom in-clude members of the al-Qaida brigade. Pakistan has demanded multi-lateral talks with India while India has said that all issues between the two can only be solved bilaterally.

The situations in both of the above cases are extremely precarious due to the advent of nuclear weapons.

What can be done?

A balanced and multi pronged approach with in-ternational commitments, guarantees and intervention will be the key to solving the problems of Kashmir and North Korea.

The United States wields a lot of clout with both India and Pakistan. She needs to bring both of them to the negotiating table along with representatives of the Kash-miri people and act as an honest broker in the negotiations. The key would be for the United States to get directly involved. It also will be wise for the United States to persuade them to sign the NPT.

In the case of North Korea, the United States should indulge in direct, bilateral talks with offers of an economic assistance package along with diplomatic ties. Signing of a peace treaty may be the key in getting the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weap-ons program.

When the United States attacked Iraq by launching a pre-emptive strike, the Westphalian principle invol-ving the sovereignty of nations was thrown in the garbage. What would happen if India decided to launch a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan and North Kor-ea did the same to South Korea? Under attack would 37,000 U.S. troops along with the population of South Korea, more than a billion humans in South Asia and nuclear weapons at everyone's disposal?

USA - The international policeman?
A revolt of the working class in Europe throughout the 1990s has taken on a mass form: the miners’ movement in Britain in 1992, the Belgian public sector general strike in 1993, the mass revolt of the Italian workers in opposition to the rise of the right, particularly the 1994 alliance of Forza Italia and the neo-fascists of Fini, and the 1995 public sector strikes in France followed by the explosive lorry drivers’ strike. These are just some of the more prominent examples of the combativity of the proletariat. Britain seems to be the exception, with the number of strikes the lowest for a century. But the movement of rail workers and others in 1998 denotes the explosion that is coming, particularly on the scandal of low pay. All of these factors - economic depression, social protest and resistance by the proletariat - have severely circumscribed the power of the bourgeoisie in seeking to establish President Bush’s ‘new world order’. It is true that in 1991 the success of Desert Storm in the earlier part of the decade, made possible by special and unique reasons, partially mitigated the political effects of the early 1990s recession. But US imperialism’s desire to play the role of an unchallenged world policeman came to grief in Somalia and was dramatically emphasised in the new confrontation with Saddam’s Iraqi regime in the early part of 1998. A combination of factors allowed Desert Storm to be mounted: domestic support within the US, at least in the initial bombing phase; the Arab coalition which saw no alternative but to confront Saddam; and above all, the support of Yeltsin and the newly emerging bourgeoisie in Russia. At the time of Desert Storm the latter was too weak to develop its own imperialist appetite, which now brings it into collision with US imperialism.

In Bosnia, the US in concert with the European powers partially managed to play a policeman’s role, in reality it held the ring. But this was possible only after years of mutual and bloody slaughter and with the major combatants having exhausted themselves. In Haiti also, in the US’s own ‘backyard’, and with overwhelming military force, the US was able to intervene. But in all other situations it has been shown incapable of imposing its military will, let alone confronting the intractable problems that have accumulated in the ‘post-communist’ world. In the early 1998 conflict with Saddam, over biological and chemical weapons of war, the Clinton administration found itself hemmed in by a combination of domestic opposition and opposition from its Arab allies. Even ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Schwarzkopf warned that a sustained bombing campaign against the Iraqi regime threatened to "repeat the mistakes of Vietnam". The pounding of Vietnam, particularly of North Vietnam, rather than weakening, actually consolidated the population behind the North Vietnamese regime. Moreover in the US itself the memory of Vietnam was rekindled in the vocal opposition expressed in the ‘town’ meetings convened by Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, as a means of mobilising US public opinion to confront the Iraqi regime. Even more vocal and hostile were the statements of those like Mubarak, Arab bourgeois par excellence and a puppet of US imperialism.

Summing up the fear that air strikes against Iraq would provoke uprisings throughout the Middle East, Mubarak declared in the British Financial Times: "We have to deal with public opinion in the Arab and Islamic world, and we’re going to face a helluva problem. This is very dangerous - I cannot stand against the whole weight of popular opinion… This is not 1991, the US has lost credibility in the Middle East… You’ll not find one [Arab] leader who will say publicly: ‘We support the air strike’."

In the US itself, over 50% in a CNN poll were against the bombing of Iraq. Many at the village meetings declared: ‘Why bomb Iraq when Turkey has bombed the Kurds and Saudi Arabia has tortured dissidents.’ However, faced with the dilemma of what to do about Saddam, US imperialism was damned if it acted effectively, and damned if it didn’t. This was summed up by the British Financial Times: "It is dangerous to attack but more dangerous to do nothing."

Of decisive importance is the social situation in the US, where the memory of Vietnam is an ever-present check on the ability of US imperialism to play the role of world policeman. That is why bourgeois commentators refer to it as ‘the super-power reduced to shouting from the sidelines’. When military intervention is sometimes used it is of a purely police-type character: ‘go in, stabilise and get out’. Imperialism, moreover, is tending more and more to act by proxy. This explains the rise of ‘military companies’, that is mercenaries, which are playing, in the words of the British Financial Times, "a growing role [which] has coincided with the collapse of Communism. Western governments have little strategic interest in intervening in other countries’ civil wars."

The option of intervening with full-scale military force under the UN banner, US imperialism in disguise, has faded in the wake of the Somalia debacle. Moreover, there is not much "domestic appetite for a country’s soldiers to fight in other people’s wars". At the same time, the scaling-down of the military capability of most of the advanced industrial countries has led to a surplus of private ‘military expertise’. This has come together with the collapse of the USSR, and the virtual disintegration of the Red Army at one stage, and has led to "an abundance of cheap ex-Soviet weaponry". The much-publicised intervention by the mercenary outfit, Sandline, in Sierra Leone is an example of this. In reality, despite the inflated self-publicity of the ‘directors’ of Sandline, the overthrow of the ‘rebel’ regime was largely the work of the Nigerian-led Expeditionary Force (ECOMOG).

The liberal wringing of hands by the bourgeoisie over the existence of mercenary companies cannot disguise the fact that they are playing "an increasingly influential role in areas once the domain of sovereign states". (British Financial Times) The same journal adds, "banning them is neither possible - nor necessarily wise". Only 12 countries have signed the 1989 UN Convention on mercenaries, and although UK legislation banning them dates back to the last century, there has not been a single conviction in more than 100 years. The very fact that bourgeois strategists can openly discuss in the press the merits or otherwise of using mercenaries, shows how brazen and open are the imperialist appetites of the major powers. At the time of the intervention of mercenaries in the Congo in the 1960s and 70s there was an outcry from the labour movement in the advanced industrialised world. Now ‘military companies’, such as the South African Executive Outcomes, have played a role over the last few decades in assisting imperialist intervention. The US company, Military Professional Resources, headed by more than a dozen former US generals, is training both the Bosnian and Croatian armed forces while another ‘military company’, associated with James Baker the former US Secretary of State, has trained various parts of the Saudi Arabian forces.

While this sinister development must be opposed by the workers’ movement at the same time the limitations of their effectiveness must also be recognised. A handful of ‘military experts’, no matter how well armed, is incapable of acting against the huge social movements which will develop, particularly in the ‘underdeveloped’ world. A section of US policy makers have allocated to US imperialist forces the role of ‘preventive engagement’. This allegedly can replace "what arms control was in the early 1960s". They recognise they will not be able to prevent "ethnic wars entirely" but selective intervention by the US "before things heat up uncontrollably" could possibly prevent wars or "reduce their intensity and duration". The presence of US troops in Macedonia is intended to play such a role. However, at best, US troops, under the guise in the main of the UN, can only play a temporary delaying and minimalist ‘police-type’ role.

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