William James Martin: Rice: A Secretary from the Cold War

By William James Martin
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

In a December Op Ed appearing in the Washington Post, the Secretary of State, Ms Condoleezza Rice draws a parallel between the configuration and dynamics of today’s world and the world at the end of the Second World War in which, under President Harry S. Truman, Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, along with Secretary of Defense, George C Marshall, inspired by the articulation of  the containment doctrine by George Kennan, put into place the structure whereby the Soviet Union would be checked in its potential expansion and domination of the then recently defeated and subjugated states of Europe. This containment strategy consisted of the creation of NATO and included the deployment of American troops in Europe and also included the Marshall Plan which was responsive to the need for an economically viable Europe to provide a boundary for the Soviet empire that was strong economically and sound in its institutions and its distinctive culture and character.

The term containment was Kennan’s, appearing in a Foreign Affairs article which he signed simply as “X”, and though Kennan was unhappy with America’s reliance on the threat of nuclear weapons to deter a Soviet invasion, an invasion which he also thought to be unlikely, he has nonetheless subsequently described this period of American diplomacy as the most creative in the history of American foreign policy. And others have joined him in that description. This strategy yielded up its fruit and proved its long term viability with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the final decade of the 20th century having maintained a cold peace for four decades.

Secretary of State, Rice, sees a similar world now, only the threat of the Soviet Union has now been replaced by the threat of terrorism of non-state actors which is facilitated by the lack of liberty- the “freedom deficit”- primarily in the Middle East. 

“The “freedom deficit” in the broader Middle East provides fertile ground for the growth of an ideology of hatred so vicious and virulent  that it leads people to strap suicide bombs to their bodies and fly airplanes into buildings. When the citizens of this region cannot advance their interests and redress their grievances through an open political process, they retreat hopelessly into the shadows to be preyed upon by evil men with violent designs. …Though the broader Middle East has no history of democracy, this is no excuse for doing nothing. …”

Ms Rice is wrong on both counts. The definitive and impressive victory by Hamas in the Palestinians elections (winning 74 of 132 seats in the Palestine Legislative Council) showed that people, especially those living under a foreign occupation will not necessarily reject the strategy of suicide attacks against a foreign occupier when they are given a clear and unconstrained opportunity to express their preference at the ballot box. Nor are they more likely to accept the inevitability of the indefinite occupation of their homeland by a foreign military, nor acquiesce to the continual transfer of their land to foreign colonizers. 

Ms Rice is asserting that the attacks by Al Qaeda on United States soil of September 2001 were the result of the lack of democracy in the Arab world rather than a corollary or an almost inevitable response to American policy toward the Middle East which, in fact, has engendered anger and bitterness throughout the region and the Muslim world. Madam Secretary’s theory does not account for the fact that members of the many un-democratic nations of the world are not regularly flying airplanes into American buildings.

Had Ms Rice acquainted herself with the most current research on the subject of suicide terrorism, which consists of the study done at the University of Chicago under political scientist Robert Pape, she would have understood that campaigns of suicide attacks always have the support of the community for whose interest the attacks are carried out. Because their aims are recognized as valid within the national community, the acceptance of their means range, for a large segment of the community, from acquiescence to outright support.

This is one of the central findings of the Pape study. This study, the most comprehensive yet done, compiled data on all suicide attacks occurring in the world between 1982 and 2003. The study found that 315 suicide attacks occurred involving 412 suicide attackers. One key result was that the majority of the attackers were secular rather than religious. Of the 41 suicide attackers in Lebanon between 1982 and 1986 (this period including the suicide bombing of the US Marine compound in which 241 US Marines were killed), the survey was able to ascertain the religious affiliation of 38. Of these, 30 were affiliated with groups opposed to Islamic fundamentalism. Twenty-seven were from communist or socialist groups such as the Lebanese Communists Party, the Lebanese National Resistance Front, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Amal, the Baath Party and others – all secular groups with no commitment to religious extremism. Three were Christian, including a high school teacher. Only eight were affiliated with Islamic fundamentalism. 

Overall, of 384 suicide attackers for which the survey was able to obtain data, 43 percent were religious while 57 percent were secular.

The most prolific practitioners of suicide attacks are the Tamil Tigers, a secular group, of Sri Lanka who account for 76 of the 315 suicide attacks during this period. Their attacks have included the assassination of two heads of state including Indian Prime Minister Raji Gandhi.

The survey found that fifty four percent of those who committed suicide attacks had some post secondary education, compared with only a small fraction of their society whereas only 10 percent of the attackers had only a primary school education or less, compared with nearly half in their societies as a whole. Thus suicide attackers are, on average, better educated than their peers.

The survey of Arab suicide attackers found most were from working or middle classes and seldom were unemployed or poor. Seventy six percent had working class or middle class jobs – technicians, mechanics, policemen, teachers — whereas only 17 percent were unemployed or at the bottom of their income scale.

Dr Pape states;

“Overall, this survey of primary demographic characteristics of suicide terrorists cast strong doubt on the prevailing assumptions that individuals who carry out these attacks are primarily religious fanatics, irresponsible adolescents, or sexually frustrated males. Nearly all were well beyond adolescence, most were secular, and many – the overwhelming majority in some groups – were women. None had pathognomonic characteristics of a suicidal personality – past history of suicide attempts. Rather, the uncomfortable fact is that suicide terrorists are far more normal than many of us would like to believe. (Dying to Win, Pape, p211)”

There have been nine suicide campaigns during the period between 1982 and 2003. All have been aimed at driving foreign occupiers from what is perceived as the attacker’s homeland.

Pape states, in direct contradiction to Ms Rice:

“Most suicide terrorism is undertaken as a strategic effort directed toward particular political goals; it is not simply the product of irrational individual or an expression of fanatical hatreds. The main purpose of suicide terrorism is the use of the threat of punishment to compel a target government to change policy, and most especially to cause  democratic states to withdraw forces form land the terrorists perceive as their national homeland. (ibid, p27)”

There have been many explanations provided of suicide attacks on occupation armies, or on the societies that support them, by the leaderships of those who sponsor suicide campaigns, all of which, apparently, Ms Rice is oblivious. One such is expressed by Sayeed Siyam, a Hamas leader in Gaza:

“We in Hamas consider suicide bombing attacks inside the 1948 borders to be the card that Palestinians can play to resist the occupation…. We do not own Apache helicopters ourselves, so we use our own methods. Given the methods used by Israel, we consider the door to hell is open. Their assassination policy and the bombardments – all this theatre of war inside Palestinian villages and homes – we respond to that by seeking to make Israelis feel the same, insecure inside their own homes. (ibid, p32)”

Those who subjugate others and occupy their lands should not expect validation from their victims in the results of freely and fairly conducted elections.

Nor is it true that the Middle East has no history of democracy. Lebanon has had a democratic nation and free reasonably representative election for the last four decades. Turkey, Iran, Israel, and Kuwait enjoy democracies which can be described as weak, to various degrees. In Israel’s case, laws discriminating against the non-Jewish minorities and, of course, its holding of 3.5 million Palestinians in bondage in the occupied territories compromises it claim to be egalitarian, which of course is the final object of a democratic society of which free elections are but a means. 

Egypt has had experience with constitutional government and democracy over the last hundred years which, however, was compromised by its British occupiers whose interest in expressions of the popular will ran up against the limits of British interests.

The case of Iran it instructive.  In 1951, a parliamentary committee under member of Parliament, Mohammad Mosaddeq, recommended the nationalizing of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, which had exclusive rights to oil production in Iran and an arrangement that returned 16% of profits to the Iranians. The popular Mosaddeq was subsequently elected Prime Minister as the United States simultaneously began covert efforts to promote opposition to his leadership. In 1953, the Iranian military carried out a coup organized by British MI6 and the CIA which overthrew the elected Prime Minister, Mosaddeq, and re-established the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah who promptly dissolved the elected Parliament. 

Though most American, no doubt including Ms Rice, do not see the redux of Ms Rice’s Feb 15 visit to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to request $75 million for aid to “promote democracy” and to encourage political opposition to the government  of Iran, this is not at all true of the Iranians for whom the combined British and American led coup overturning the democracy in place in 1953 is part of the basic history curriculum taught universally in Iranian schools.

Ms Rice writes:

“…had we done nothing, consider all that we would have missed in just the past year: A Lebanon that is free of foreign occupation and the advancing democratic reform. A Palestinian Authority run by an elected leader who openly call for peace with Israel. An Egypt that has amended its constitution to hold multiparty elections. … And, or course, an Iraq that in the face of a horrific insurgency has held historic elections, drafted and ratified a new national charter, and will go to the polls again in coming days to elect a new constitutional government.”

Ms Rice seems here, as well as elsewhere, to be unaware that Mahmoud Abbas was not the first elected head of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat decisively won such an election in 1996 under the monitorship of international monitors including the Carter Center. Nor is it true that Abbas is the first elected Palestinian Authority head to openly call for peace with Israel. Ms Rice should know, but perhaps she does not, owing to something like denial, that the condition for the US-PLO dialogue initiated in 1988 was Arafat’s public enunciation of the acceptance of peace with Israel, based on UN Resolution 242, including the recognition of Israel’s right to exists within the 1967 borders. This is a position Arafat and Fatah have maintained consistently since and has since been incorporated into an amended PLO Charter.

Had the Secretary troubled herself to read Arafat’s, February 3, 2002, New York Times Op Ed, she would have read:

“The Palestinians have a vision of peace: it is a peace based on the complete end of the occupation and a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, the sharing of all Jerusalem as one open city and as the capital of two states, Palestine and Israel. It is a warm peace between two equals enjoying mutually beneficial economic and social cooperation. Despite the brutal repression of Palestinians over the last four decades, I believe when Israel sees Palestinians as equals, and not as a subjugated people upon whom it can impose its will, such a vision can come true. Indeed it must.”

There is a warmth and humanism expressed here of the sort that contrast sharply with the constant bombastic threats of Secretary Rice. That is another reason she should have troubled herself to read Arafat’s op ed.

Condoleezza Rice enjoys an especially close relation to the President Bush who must certainly find in his Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor  an available reservoir of well articulated and well thought out expressions of his own inchoate and inarticulate attitudes and feelings. Ms Rice can provide the intellectual stay and gravitas for Bush’s dispositions as well as the intellectual justifications for his policy decisions. The secretary is a determined and self assured personality with definite ideas about how American foreign policy should comport itself. Ms Rice should not be overlooked or minimized as an important driver of policy in the Bush administration. It may well have happened that Ms Rice has captured the mind, to some degree or other, of President George Bush who would be incapable of rebutting many of her arguments. 

Some further insight into the Secretary’s philosophy can be gained from a consideration of her article, Campaign 2000; Promoting the National Interest, which appeared in Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb, 2000, before President Bush took office and early in that year’s presidential race.

In this article, she contrasts the policies of the outgoing Clinton administration with what she regards as the proper one. The article sets out a clear disposition to political realism, a philosophy of foreign policy conduct which has been in the literature since the writing of Hans Morganthau’s,  Politics Among Nations,  and maybe since Machiavelli’s, The Prince. It argues that the self interest as well as the maximization of power – diplomatic, moral, as well as military — is the appropriate goal of a state’s actions.   It contrasts with legalism, and idealism. The former is thought of as elevating to the highest standard the pursuit of compliances with the  principles or traditions of international law, even possibly at the expense of self interest and the pursuit of maximizing and projecting influence. The  latter is thought of as the  pursuit, projection, and implementation of moral principles – frequently associated with the policies of Woodrow Wilson. 

She says,

“Power matters, both the exercise of power by the United States and the ability of others to exercise it. Yet many in the United States are (and have always been) uncomfortable with the notions of power politics, great powers, and power balances. In an extreme form, this discomfort leads to a reflexive appeal instead to notions of international law and norms, and the belief that the support of many states — or even better, of institutions like the United Nations — is essential to the legitimate exercise of power. The "national interest" is replaced with "humanitarian interests" or the interests of "the international community." The belief that the United States is exercising power legitimately only when it is doing so on behalf of someone or something else was deeply rooted in Wilsonian thought, and there are strong echoes of it in the Clinton administration. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with doing something that benefits all humanity, but that is, in a sense, a second-order effect. America’s pursuit of the national interest will create conditions that promote freedom, markets, and peace. Its pursuit of national interests after World War II led to a more prosperous and democratic world. This can happen again.

“Even those comfortable with notions of the "national interest" are still queasy with a focus on power relationships and great-power politics. The reality is that a few big powers can radically affect international peace, stability, and prosperity. These states are capable of disruption on a grand scale, and their fits of anger or acts of beneficence affect hundreds of millions of people. By reason of size, geographic position, economic potential, and military strength, they are capable of influencing American welfare for good or ill. Moreover, that kind of power is usually accompanied by a sense of entitlement to play a decisive role in international politics. Great powers do not just mind their own business.”

These two paragraphs are Madam Secretary’s license for jettisoning the body of international law as it has developed over the last 100 years as well as the United Nations. What Ms Rice’s calls entitlement is what J William Fullbright called the arrogance of power.

She then accuses the Clinton administration of forsaking US interest, for the sake of being multilateral, in promoting the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban and the Kyoto Accords, which she argues, ties America’s hands while failing serve American interests.

Interestingly, numerous reports have concluded  that with the US military, bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is near the breaking point. But she said of the Clinton administration:

“But more than anything it was simply unwise to multiply missions in the face of a continuing budget reduction. Means and mission were not matched, and (predictably) the already thinly stretched armed forces came close to a breaking point.”

She also accuses the Clinton administration of lack of clear and definitive foreign policy goals  and of pursuing a situational or a piecemeal or a reactive  approach lacking overall integration or an overarching principle or set of principles.

She argues:

“[P]eace is the first and most important condition for continued prosperity and freedom. America’s military power must be secure because the United States is the only guarantor of global peace and stability.”

Thus the United States has a universal and unique role to play in maintaining world peace, and a capability to play that role unmatched by any other state or international organization such as the United Nations.

The perspective that the military should be made lighter, more efficient and, more mobile has frequently been attributed to Rumsfeld. But it appeared here in her 2000 article.

“U.S. technological advantages should be leveraged to build forces that are lighter and more lethal, more mobile and agile, and capable of firing accurately from long distances. In order to do this, Washington must reallocate resources, perhaps in some cases skipping a generation of technology to make leaps rather than incremental improvements in its forces.”

Madam Secretary advocates the overthrow of Saddam:

“As history marches toward markets and democracy, some states have been left by the side of the road. Iraq is the prototype. Saddam Hussein’s regime is isolated, his conventional military power has been severely weakened, his people live in poverty and terror, and he has no useful place in international politics. He is therefore determined to develop WMD. Nothing will change until Saddam is gone, so the United States must mobilize whatever resources it can, including support from his opposition, to remove him.”

Here, the Secretary is not asserting that Saddam possesses weapons of mass destruction, rather she projects that Saddam will want to acquire them. This, and not Saddam’s supposed possession of WMD’s, which was most likely for public consumption, is the logic that drove Ms Rice to press for the initiation of war with Saddam.

But the logic breaks down when the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspection regime is taken into account together with the embargo which was effective in containing the Iraqi leader.

She fails to mention, as well, that Saddam’s people lived in poverty largely because of the American led campaign of UN sponsored sanctions and frequent US bombing campaigns that destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure. In fact, under Saddam, in the 1980’s, the Iraqis enjoyed the highest level of health care and educational standards in the Middle East until they were eventually undermined by the sanction program. In fact, during the decade of the 80’s, even during wartime, the Iraq economy created a large middle class and a well educated work force. The poverty and decaying health care and compromised potable water were all due to the American sponsored sanctions imposed on that country which took it toll in significantly increased infant and childhood mortality. Nowhere is it written into the UN Charter that states are proscribed from self-defense, and self-defense arguably extends to pre-emptive attacks in cases where an imminent enemy attack is unambiguous. The further extension to the case of a projected intent to acquire weapons of mass destruction at some indefinite time in the future is nothing less than a contemptuous flaunting of the central principle of the UN Charter, and possibly the core principle of international law itself.

And, of North Korea:

“The regime of Kim Jong Il is so opaque that it is difficult to know its motivations, other than that they are malign. But North Korea also lives outside of the international system. Like East Germany, North Korea is the evil twin of a successful regime just across its border. It must fear its eventual demise from the sheer power and pull of South Korea. Pyongyang, too, has little to gain and everything to lose from engagement in the international economy. The development of WMD thus provides the destructive way out for Kim Jong Il. … these regimes are living on borrowed time, …”

And Iran, before the recent election of  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad :

“But Iran’s tactics have posed real problems for U.S. security. It has tried to destabilize moderate Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, though its relations with the Saudis have improved recently. Iran has also supported terrorism against America and Western interests and attempted to develop and transfer sensitive military technologies. Iran presents special difficulties in the Middle East, a region of core interest to the United States and to our key ally Israel. Iranian weaponry increasingly threatens Israel directly. As important as Israel’s efforts to reach peace with its Arab neighbors are to the future of the Middle East, they are not the whole story of stability in the region. Israel has a real security problem, so defense cooperation with the United States — particularly in the area of ballistic missile defense — is critical. That in turn will help Israel protect itself both through agreements and through enhanced military power.”

This article amounts to a template for the subsequent policies of the Bush administration. We have here expressed the intention to overthrow Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il in North Korea as well as the general hostility to Iran, which was not at all attenuated by the recent election of Ahmadinejad. The determination to protect Israel from threats is hardly surprising.

The article is also important for what it does not say. Conspicuously absent from this document is any mention of either the Palestinian/Israeli conflict or of bringing democracy to the Middle East. Evidently, bringing democracy to the uncivilized world is a recently cultivated notion for the secretary and whose public articulation follows sequentially the failure to find the heralded weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The ideal of bringing democracy to the world fits very poorly into the realist scheme, as Ms Rice should well understands.

Despite Ms Rice’s impressive command of the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European alignment as well as her adequate articulation of the philosophy of realpolitik, one searches in vain through Ms Rice’s writings or statements for any in-depth expressions of knowledge of the Middle East.  Her ignorance of the many strains of democracy either in existence or formerly in existence in the Middle East is striking. Other statements she has made reveal both ignorance and mis-information regarding the history of the formation of Israel and it history of ethnic cleansing and terrorism. In fact, Ms Rice’s lack of knowledge of the Middle East may well be described as breathtaking. Ms Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor when Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was the guest of President Bush at his ranch, at Crawford, Texas, just after the Prince had floated the Saudi Initiative for a Middle East Peace in which the Prince had proposed an Israel return to the 1967 borders between Israel and the West Bank in return for peace treaties with the surrounding Arab states and their recognition of Israel’s right to exists. The Prince found that Bush was barely aware of the plan and had not been briefed on it. The Prince, who had invested much of his personal prestige on the plan, said that he was personally insulted.

Ms Rice was the National Security Advisor when President Bush announce to the world, in what was a substantial affront to the Arab people, that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was a “man of peace.” Ariel Sharon is more widely known in the Arab world as “the butcher of Beirut”, and not without reason..

Elsewhere, Ms Rice affirms the identification of democracy in the Middle East with American interest:

“[W]hen freedom is on the march, America is more secure ¬ when freedom is in retreat, America is more vulnerable. That is why the president has broken with more than 60 years of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East, As long as the Middle East remains a region of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce men and movements that threaten the safety of Americans and our friends. When Iraqis go to the polls next year to elect a government and put behind them their brutal history, democracy’s power will be reaffirmed again. That opportunity exists today because America and a Coalition acted to remove one of the most brutal and dangerous regimes in the Middle East. (Dar al-Hayat, Dec 2004)”

This identification of democracy with American interest derives only from Ms Rice’s intuition, but, unfortunately, is not supported by experience.

Since the above statement was penned, there have been two elections in Iraq. In each case the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) won the largest block of seats, just shy of 50% with the US favorite, Iyad Allawi receiving about 12 %, and neo-con favorite, Ahmed Challabi receiving about 1%.

SCIRI was formed in the 1980’s in Tehran among Shiite Iraqi exiles from  the Saddam Hussein’s rule. Among the exiles at that time was recently re-elected Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al Jaafari, and Abdul Aziz al Hakim, leader of SCIRI in Iraq.

In July of 2005, Jaafari returned to Tehran to lay a wreath on the tomb of the Ayatollah Khomeini and met with Iranian officials who offered to provide capital for the construction of three oil pipelines to span the southern parts of their countries  and transport 150,000 barrels or light crude from Iraq to be refined in Iran and shipped back in the form of gasoline, kerosene, and petroleum. In addition,  Iran promised to supply electricity, sell the Iraqi government 200,000 tons of wheat, offered the use of Iranian ports in order to ship goods to Iraq, and offered a $ billion in aid. Jaafari gave assurances to Tehran that Iraq would not allow Iraqi territory to be used for any attack on Iran, clearly referring to the United States. As historian of the Middle East, Juan Cole put it, “Iran is offering so much for so little that it looks an awful lot like influence peddling.” It seems surprising that anyone in the Bush administration on the eve of the Iraq invasion would not have  anticipated that open elections in Iraq would bring to power the majority Shiites who would then form a closer alliance with their fellow Shiites in adjacent Iran than with the American who occupied their country.

In fact, the most obvious beneficiaries of the Iraq invasion and the toppling of Saddam Hussein has been the Iranians who simultaneous saw the disappearance of a formidable regional threat, who had launched an invasion on their country which lasted eight years and claimed the lives of perhaps a million Iranians, and the appearance of a friendly and cooperative government across the border.

The Hamas victory in occupied Palestine was not only a rejection of Bush’s policies but was a rejection of the Oslo process under whose regime the Palestinians have not only did not regained one square centimeter of their territory but have witnessed the further transfer of their land to expanding Israeli settlements and a “security” wall that has shifted the eastern boundary of Israel eastward at the expense of Palestinian farms and villages. Of course, Israel has withdrawn its settlers from Gaza, but the Gaza Strip is hermetically sealed by Israel who remain in complete control of it.

The Palestinians witnessed, as well, the strangulation of their economy and increased restrictions of movements and the tightening of the  occupation. The PLO recognition of Israel has not brought one iota of gain and has not stopped the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which, of course, has been the Zionist program since the 19th century.

In Egypt, some loosening of the election process, under US pressure, saw significant gains by the Muslim Brotherhood, hardly what Ms Rice would claim as being in American interest.

In Iran, under an electoral process which was freer that in Iraq, in that the candidates campaigned openly and the voters knew who the candidates were and for whom they voted, the fiercely anti-American, Mahmoud Ahmaddinejad, was elected to the Presidency.

The New York times, on February 14, reported that the US and Israel were discussing ways to destabilize a Hamas led government and intend to starve the PA, and thus the Palestinian people already under occupation, so as to engender the collapse of the government. The Times reports that these discussions have taken place at the highest level of the Israeli government and the highest level of the State Department. As this article is being written, the Secretary of State is visiting Middle East capitals warning not to fund a Hamas led government.  She has publicly warned Iran not to fund a Hamas led government. "Iran has its own troubles with the international community and it might want to think twice about enhancing those troubles" by bankrolling Hamas.” Rice said. (AP, Feb 17)

Such an attitude is implied in Ms Rice’s advocacy of radical political realism — the rational exercise of power in the pursuit of self interest takes precedent over both what is legal and what is moral.

The true colors of Madam Secretary’s respect for democracy and the will of the people has already been revealed in her attitude and US treatment of Arafat, the democratically elected President of the Palestinian Authority. By abusing and humiliating their democratically elected Palestinian leader, Condoleezza Rice and George Bush, abused and humiliated the Palestinian people already facing abuse and humiliation in their daily existence. But for those who missed it before, it is now again apparent: democracy abroad is merely a tool to further American interest. To the extend it fails to produce the desired result, American power will be brought to bear to undermine results of the same elections which the US has clamored to promote.

There is, however, an important insight in Ms Rice’s sentence quoted earlier:

“When the citizens of this region cannot advance their interests and redress their grievances through an open political process, they retreat hopelessly into the shadows …”

Her mistake is not in failing to recognize that violence may be the only recourse to people unable to find legitimate avenues for the effective remedy for serious grievances, but in locating the source of blocked legitimate avenues only within the boundaries of a state or territory, that is, in the failure or the absence of democratic institutions within a territory. In the case of the Palestinians, they have lived under an increasingly harsh occupation by a foreign power with the only potential remedy residing in the international community and in international law. The failure of the international community to live up to its  requirements pursuant to many international treaties leaves the Palestinians with virtually no peaceful remedy that is in anyway effective. The flaunting by the United States, with little other than pusillanimous whimpers by the Europeans or by the Quartet, of the International Court of Justice decision declaring Israel’s “security fence” to be in violation of international law, and requiring its dismantlement and that compensation be paid to its victims, is a message to the Palestinians that one more peaceful avenue for the attainment of justice has been denied to them. While the United States imposes a regime of non-violence and non-resistance on the Palestinians, while doing nothing at all to constrain their oppressor, it also denies to them effective remedy under international law. Except for its use by Ms Secretary as a license to disdain international law, the theoretical textbook separation between realpolitik, and idealism, and legalism may be more imagined than real. No one in the Clinton administration would acquiesce to Ms Rice’s claim that either of the Comprehensive Test Ban, or the Kyoto Accords were not in America’s interest. Nor would Wilson, for that matter, have denied that his Fourteen Points were in American interest.

The  political realists never intended to deny the distinction of what Joseph Nye’s has fairly recent termed  hard power and soft power, referring to the differences between power based on military strength and the power that derives from  the more intangible qualities of the monetary soundness of a nation, a respect due to a perception that the institution of a country are democratic and that their foreign policy decisions are deliberate and rationally attained,  a respect due for respecting other players and institutions in the international sphere, a perception  among other states that the nation is willing to abide by the same treaties  it expects other to follow, and an expectation that the nation is unwilling to promote injustice in the world for the sake of short term gains.  The realists have not generally denied that the projection of soft power is as important as the projection of hard power, nor that hard power and soft power are both expressions of power. It may well be that the distinction between soft power and the combination of legalism and idealism is a distinction without a difference.

The maintenance of the structure of international law, a century in the making and forged in the fires of the two world wars and their aftermaths, was designed and has evolved to protect all nations including the United States which, as much as any other, has an interest in an orderly world, in constraining other players to honor treaties, and in refraining from such actions as, for example preemptive attacks on other nations.

The philosophy of realpolitic in the Bush administration is little other than a elaborate rationalization for eliminating  the inconvenient constraints which mankind has attempted to evolve to attain some semblance of international order and to  mitigate human suffering and misery and to minimize the likelihood of the scourge of war.

The United States, as much as any other nation, has an interest in the maintenance of world order that is predictable and rational.

-William James Martin teaches in the Mathematics Department at the University of Florida. He can be reached at: wmartin@math.ufl.edu

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