Terminating the Bush Juggernaut
Terminating the Bush Juggernaut
The Bush administration is presenting itself to the world as a juggernaut - a "massive inexorable force that advances irresistibly, crushing whatever is in its path." Bush's National Security Strategy envisions its "war against terrorism" as "a global enterprise of uncertain duration." It says the US will act against "emerging threats before they are fully formed." The Bush administration envisions the coming decades as a continuation of recent US demands, threats, and wars. It intends to continue the aggressive behavior already illustrated by war on Afghanistan and Iraq, armed intervention in the Philippines and Columbia, and threats against Syria, Iran, and North Korea. The Bush administration and its successors are likely to continue this juggernaut until they are made to stop.
As the Bush administration sought global support for its attack on Iraq, the New York Times wrote, "The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world opinion." But is that "tenacious new adversary" with whom President Bush appeared "eyeball to eyeball" really a superpower, or is it just a well-intentioned but ineffective protest against the inexorable advance of the Bush juggernaut?
This piece explores how Bush's "tenacious new adversary" can most effectively terminate his juggernaut. It starts by looking at the Bush administration's strengths and weaknesses and the ways it might be stopped or removed. Then it looks at the various forces around the world and in the US that might want to contribute to doing so - the elements of the "other superpower." Finally it reviews how these forces might utilize the Bush team's weaknesses to force an end to their policies.
No single force is well positioned to halt the Bush juggernaut. An effective strategy will therefore require cooperation among different forces that have different views and interests. Such "collective security" is necessary now, just as it has been in the past, to halt attempts at global domination.
If defined as a struggle of nation against nation - the US against Iraq or North Korea or France, for example - the Bush program is likely to prevail. If defined as a struggle of Bush and his advisors against global values, norms, and laws backed by the world's people, it can be defeated.
The first purpose of this piece is to help frame a dialogue on strategy among the many people and forces worldwide that have an interest in or the capacity to contribute to halting the Bush juggernaut. These proposals doubtless have flaws and can be improved upon by others. In any case they will soon need revision to meet a rapidly changing situation. This piece presents a strategic framework in relation to which such criticism and revision can proceed.
Part of the power of the Bush juggernaut is the image of invincibility it claims and projects. A second purpose of this piece, therefore, is to counter the hopelessness that image induces by showing there is at least one realistic strategy by which the "other superpower" can foil Bush's intentions. If other people can come up with a superior strategy, all the better.
The Bush juggernaut presents a clear and present danger to the people of the world and even to the health of our planet. But it is far from the world's only problem. This piece seeks ways to terminate the Bush juggernaut that don't just restore the status quo ante, but instead open the way for further progress toward global peace and justice.
Part I: Termination
From hegemony to dictation
No minority can long rule a majority by violence alone. Power depends on support of some, the acquiescence of many, and the division of opponents. When supporters are alienated, the masses opposed, and opponents unified, a ruling power's days are numbered.
Throughout the 20th century, the US was the world's dominant superpower. It possessed military might and frequently used it against isolated opponents. But its power always depended on a system of alliances with other powers, worldwide respect for its system of government, and division among those who would challenge it. Without direct rule, US hegemony reached into every nook and cranny at every level from local and national governments to NATO, the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and UN.
The US's power has been based on its ability to cultivate local elites around the world. It has provided them support; they, in turn, have kept their countries within the limits of what is acceptable to the US. The US has limited its demands where they would undermine local elites' ability to control their own people. And it has wrapped its domination in a mantle of legality, democracy, and voluntary alliance.
This strategy was extended in the post-Cold War era by what came to be known as "globalization." Instead of sending armies to plunder the world, the US worked with others to construct a rule-based global economy through such institutions as the WTO, IMF, and World Bank. The US was bound by the rules, but used its influence to ensure that the rules provided US businesses the lion's share of the benefits.
At the core of the Bush team's new policy is the replacement of such hegemony by a world order based on direct US dictation. Most of the current Bush administration foreign policy team were leaders of the 1991 Gulf War, and they interpreted its outcome as revealing the dangers of international interdependence. They concluded that the US must instead put down any independent challenger without depending on allies. It must dominate through direct exercise of power, rather than just controlling through biased norms and negotiated hegemony.
When George W. Bush became President, this group filled most of the top foreign policy positions. They immediately initiated a massive military buildup and began to undermine or withdraw from existing arms control agreements.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Bush's security advisor Condoleezza Rice asked senior staff of the National Security Council to think about "how do you capitalize on these opportunities" to change US doctrine and shape the world. The answer can be seen in the radical shift in US policy enunciated in Bush's National Security Strategy document. In place of self-determination and pluralism, it asserts that there is "a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise." In place of security through international cooperation, it asserts that the US "will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively" and by "convincing or compelling states" to accept their "responsibilities."
The answer can also be seen in the in the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq; the threats against Syria, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and even Belgium and France; the scornful undermining of the UN; and the contemptuous treatment of longtime US allies. As Noam Chomsky remarked, the US invasion of Iraq was a "test case" to try to establish "a norm for the use of military force," namely, "preventive war." As former US President Bill Clinton put it, "Our paradigm now seems to be: Something terrible happened to us on 11 September and that gives us the right to interpret all future events in a way that everyone else in the world must agree with. And if they don't, they can go straight to hell."
While this shift is most pyrotechnical in the security arena, there has been a parallel development in global economic policy as well. While the Bush administration gives lip service to free trade, it has in fact moved far toward unilateral protectionism, for example in protecting the US steel industry, providing huge subsidies in its farm legislation, and blocking the efforts of the rest of the world to allow poor countries access to cheap AIDS drugs.
The Bush administration's fundamental shift was eloquently portrayed by veteran US diplomat and Political Counselor to the American Embassy in Greece John Brady Kiesling in his letter of resignation. He warned that the US's pursuit of war with Iraq was
"driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. . . . We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to defend its interests."
As the US moved to attack Iraq, R.C. Longworth, senior correspondent of the Chicago Tribune wrote, "This may be the week that the old world ends." That world was "a world of alliances, of power wrapped in law and of an American leadership of like-minded nations that accepted this leadership because Washington treated them as allies, not as subjects."
The US policy of dictation contradicts widely shared values, norms, and laws that protect self-determination and outlaw aggressive and preventive war. It also contradicts a wide range of national, elite, and state interests. Both aspects have provoked opposition.
At the local and national level, opposition is expressed in many kinds of movements and coalitions seeking to resist US dictation of policies and institutions. At the international level it is expressed in the emergence of "polycentrism" and a "coalition of the unwilling" composed of countries seeking to limit US domination. Globally it is represented by the emergence of a new global peace movement and the effort to impose democratic influence on the UN and other international institutions.
As the US threatened to attack Iraq, public opinion in nearly every country in the world joined to oppose it. In historically unprecedented protests, "the world" said "no" to war. States that had long been docilely subservient to the US refused to support or participate in the war -- more than sixty of them speaking in opposition to the US at the UN. A coalition of major powers actively collaborated to try to head off a US attack. In contrast to previous US wars, the UN Security Council refused to support this one and attempted unsuccessfully to construct an alternative to head it off. In the US, an anti-war protest movement grew with unprecedented speed. A majority of Democratic members of Congress voted against a resolution supporting the war. Top institutional leaders from the military and foreign policy elites either opposed the war or distanced themselves from it.
The Bush team attacked Iraq despite the opposition of these forces. In the aftermath of the war, these forces have tended to fluctuate between acquiescence in US dictation and renewed resistance. All of these forces have something to contribute to limiting US aggression and domination if they can be firmed up and combined.
The Bush administration's reckless threats, interventions, and wars show every sign of continuing. But it is difficult to predict what targets they will select, what strategies they will choose, and what the consequences will be. Therefore, strategy for effective containment of US aggression must be based, not on specific scenarios, but rather on an analysis of the players, their objectives, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interactions.
Strengths of the Bush juggernaut
No power in history has concentrated the power now possessed by the US regime. With only about 5 percent of the world's people, it controls about 20 percent of the world's production. Its military expenditures equal those of the next 25 countries put together. The Bush administration controls not only the executive branch of the US government, but through the Republican Party the legislative branch, and through past appointments much of the judicial branch.
Any country that sees what the US has done to Afghanistan and Iraq can reasonably fear what would happen should the Bush administration's wrath turn on it. The Bush team is uninhibited in utilizing this fear to force countries to comply with its dictates.
The rest of the world depends on the US economy for trade, aid, technology, and finance. The promise of trade openings to Pakistan, the offer of loans to Turkey, or the threat of a boycott against France is a form of power that the Bush administration has not hesitated to apply.
From the days of Ur and Babylon, nations and empires have been adept at mobilizing their populations for war by fear and hatred of adversaries. The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington increased exponentially the vulnerability of the US people to such manipulation. The Bush administration has repeatedly succeeded in utilizing that fear and hatred to win public support for its policies.
Even when it was making a travesty of international law, the United Nations, and other embodiments of global norms, the Bush administration has justified its actions through such globally legitimate objectives as fighting terrorism, eliminating weapons of mass destruction, protecting human rights, liberating peoples from tyranny, and punishing war crimes. It portrayed the conquest and occupation of Iraq as bringing freedom, democracy, and human rights to the Iraqi people. This hijacking of global norms has shielded US citizens from balanced moral evaluation of what is done in their name and provided cover for foreign apologists like Tony Blair.
The Bush administration has constructed a powerful political base for its policies. Supporters include the Christian Right, a major section of the Jewish community, much of business, military-oriented companies, communities, and individuals, and most higher-income people as well as other traditional Republican constituencies. The direct beneficiaries of Bush's policies, such as military, oil, and international construction companies, provide huge contributions to his electoral coffers. Major media companies, many of which share Bush's political views and many of which have received or hope for favors from Federal media policy, have provided extraordinary support to the Bush team's manipulation of the public.
Vulnerabilities of the Bush juggernaut
The Bush team suffers both from fundamental faults in its vision and from poor adaptation to the realities of the world it seeks to dominate. Utilizing these is the key to disabling its unprecedented might.
The basic contradiction in Bush's policy is that, under contemporary conditions, 5 percent of the world's people can't rule the other 95 percent by dictation - especially when the government of that 5 percent itself represents only the interests of 5 percent of its own people. Bush's attempt to revive the Age of Empire would be as comical as Don Quixote's effort to revive the Age of Chivalry were he not so much more heavily armed than the Don.
The Bush administration's war on Iraq comes in the context of a crisis of world order. Both the state system and the economic system are widely perceived to be drifting toward global chaos and self-destruction. The world faces "problems of weapons of mass destruction, of the degradation of our common environment, of contagious disease and chronic starvation, of human rights and human wrongs, of mass illiteracy and massive displacement. These are problems that no one country, however powerful, can solve on its own, and which are yet the shared responsibility of humankind." Least of all can these problems be solved by the domination of one country whose government is bent on denying the problems and blocking the solutions.
These problems and the need for "shared responsibility" and cooperative solutions are widely recognized around the world and even in the US. As a result there is broad support for multilateral solutions and virtually no support for imperial solutions. "Much of the world, including the other great powers, has entered a postnational understanding of global governance on questions of world order. France, Germany, Russia, China and other world powers are now committed to international rules forbidding the unilateral use of force and to a form of consensual global governance."
There is also strong support for global norms that limit the freedom of action of governments. This includes both their ability to oppress their own people and their ability to dominate and attack others. This was manifested in the popular movement against US attack on Iraq: In contrast to the Vietnam war, the movement offered little political support for the government the US opposed, but rather aimed to implement global norms limiting US freedom to attack. By violating so many international norms so severely, the Bush administration is repeatedly provoking global opposition. The Bush administration's biggest deficit is in the legitimacy of its actions.
The Bush juggernaut is based on a highly vulnerable economy. The US currently must borrow more than $550 billion a year from abroad to pay for imports The Bush tax cuts and military spending will increase the need for borrowing still further. As a historian of British imperialism recently wrote, "President Bush's vision of a world recast by military force to suit American tastes has a piquant corollary: the military effort involved will be (unwittingly) financed by the Europeans . . . and the Japanese. Does that not give them just a little leverage over American policy, on the principle that he who pays the piper calls the tune?" This American debt crisis is aggravated because it comes in the context of a longstanding global debt crisis that has never been resolved.
The policies enunciated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld represent the essence of "imperial overstretch." With few mercenaries, few allies, and no draft, the US is critically short of military manpower. The Afghan and Iraq wars depended on the Reserves, which are already overextended. The US military was severely strained in Iraq by the limits of transport, bases, and permission to use territory and airspace to launch attacks. The US lacks the cadre of colonial administrators, so important for previous imperialisms, who are willing to make their careers in imperial outposts.
The Bush policy undermines the bases of US hegemony abroad, violating the first rule of politics: don't destroy your own base. Denial of the need for compromise with subordinates undermines support and breeds resentment in both elites and peoples. This is particularly true when the Bush administration makes demands that put local elites' political control at risk, as they have done repeatedly, notably in the Arab world. Bush has scraped off the veneer of consent, revealing the bribery and bullying that always underlay US hegemony.
Bush also violated the second rule of politics: don't unify your opponents against you. Bush policies have propelled a convergence of opposing forces to develop with surpassing speed and breadth. It includes both people outraged at the violation of global norms and governments and elites who feel Bush policies threaten their interests or even their security. The Bush administration managed to do in a few months what the Soviet Union and the Left was unable to do over several generations: split Western Europe from the US, divide NATO, and unify a global alliance of peoples and states against the US.
While domestic support for US global hegemony is fairly wide, especially among elites, support for the Bush policy of unilateral dictation is not. As Michael Lind recently wrote, US foreign policy is being made by "a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment." While some oil, military, construction, and other corporations hope to benefit from this policy, it was promoted by a small group of neoconservative ideologues, not by the mainstream of the US business community or the Republican Party.
The Bush administration's foreign policy is linked to a domestic policy that is undermining the bases of consent at home. Its systematic attacks on established rights and protections for women, minorities, and labor could lead to its political isolation. Its incursions against Constitutional human rights protections won support during the terrorism panic, but may hurt with conservative as well as liberal sectors in the long run. Its massive tax cut and the resulting deficits have little support either in the business community or in the population at large. The New York Times recently described its domestic agenda as "a disaster, a national train wreck."
The mechanics of termination
There are several ways the Bush policy of dictation and aggression might come to an end.
Shifts within the Bush administration itself, while unlikely, are just possible. For pragmatic and political reasons, the Bush administration might adopt a policy of "phony war," continuing its aggressive rhetoric but avoiding actual conflict. Power shifts within the Administration might increase the authority of Colin Powell relative to the neoconservatives. An emergency, such as an economic, medical, or environmental catastrophe, might distract from international objectives. Without more profound power shifts, however, such events are more likely to evoke tactical pauses than genuine policy reorientations.
"Regime change" -- major power shifts through the political process -- are more likely. Electoral repudiation of Bush would probably lead to policy change unless the Democratic candidate was an advocate of similar policies, like Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Election of Bush with a Democratic Congress would add some constraints to Bush's policy and lead to a running political battle over it. Electoral defeat may terminate the Bush dictation policy but is likely to leave longstanding US hegemonic objectives in place. The Bush team is likely to remain in the wings trying to sabotage any alternative policy and preparing to resume power in the next election. The extent of change is likely to depend not just on who wins an election but on other shifts in the balance of political forces as well.
Extra-constitutional action by elites has had profound effects on US history. This frequently takes the form of leaking damaging information; prime examples include Daniel Elsberg's leaking of the Pentagon Papers and Deep Throat's leaking of the Watergate story. Many leaks from military and intelligence sources have already embarrassed the Bush inner circle; more serious revelations could do serious damage. Other types of elite extraconstitutional action, such as politically motivated capital shifts and "investment strikes" seem unlikely.
Extra-constitutional popular interventions have also played a role in changing US policy. The most notable instance was opposition to US war in Vietnam, including mass nonviolent confrontations and such forms of violence as bombings and the "fragging" of military officers by their subordinates. Fear of growing social disruption and demoralization of the military were among the factors that led to elite disaffection from the war. Peace advocates need to be wary of the proverbial tendency of generals to fight the last war, however. It took years of massive draft calls, economic disruption, and body bags to raise extra-constitutional action to a pitch that had an impact on events. In the absence of an opponent capable of the kind of military resistance put up by the Vietnamese. a repetition of this scenario seems unlikely. Extra-constitutional measures may come to be regarded as more legitimate to the extent that other channels for dissent are suppressed. Targeted civil disobedience may play a role in mobilizing opposition in connection with other means.
Sooner or later, the Bush policies will almost certainly be terminated by the catastrophic effects of their own failures and unintended consequences. The damage that will be done in the meantime, however, is incalculable, and conditions after their defeat may ensure still further disaster. A reasonable goal is to terminate Bush policies by deliberate action before they would die a natural death and to do so in a way that lays the groundwork for further progress toward global peace and justice.
These scenarios are all based on events that would result from underlying power shifts. We turn now to who might have the power to terminate the Bush juggernaut and how they might use it.
Part II: The terminators
A wide range of forces have the interest and/or the capacity to contribute to terminating the Bush juggernaut. There is no way to know for sure what forces will be sufficient. But the deed will surely be done more quickly and effectively if these forces work together.
Global public opinion
The US plan to attack Iraq was opposed by the public in almost every country in the world. A massive January, 2003 poll in 30 European countries found the citizens of 29 opposed to a US invasion of Iraq without UN backing, most by dramatic margins. That included countries like Great Britain and Italy whose governments supported the war. Public opinion in the US was more divided, but a majority opposed war on Iraq without UN approval until the US actually launched its attack. After the start of the war, opinion in the US and Britain swung in support, but there is little evidence that the rest of the world changed its mind.
Public opinion appears to have generally been grounded in global norms: an unprovoked US attack on Iraq without UN approval was seen as aggressive war violating international law. The US war appears to be perceived as part of a pattern of threat and aggression on the part of the Bush administration. The US claim to a right to such action received little echo. There appears to have been strong support for international efforts to use the UN to prevent such action and to provide an alternative. Global public opinion played an important role in pressuring governments to oppose the second UN Security Council resolution the US hoped would legitimate its attack.
While global public opinion will no doubt continue to oppose additional US acts of aggression and dictation, such acts will not always provide such a clear focus as the threats to attack Iraq. Nor will it always be self-evident how public opinion can be translated into an impact on events. But those attempting to resist US dictation and aggression can legitimately claim that the overwhelming majority of the world's people support them. And the people of the world will continue to provide supportive forces that can be mobilized for specific campaigns.
The new global peace movement
When the US attacked Afghanistan, there was barely a ripple of protest anywhere in the world outside narrow circles of leftwing anti-imperialists and those sympathetic to the Taliban. As the US began its buildup for war against Iraq, opposition grew in half-a-year from a ripple to the largest global wave of protest in history.
This was possible largely because of the convergence of social movements that has occurred over the past decade to oppose corporate-led globalization. Variously known as the "anti-globalization" movement, the "global justice" movement, and "globalization from below," this "movement of movements" provided a base from which the war could be challenged in a globally coordinated way.
The leap from a primarily economic-oriented movement to one challenging military aggression was impressively graceful. It helped that the Bush administration's program combined economic and geopolitical dictation. The European Social Forum, a gathering of those opposed to corporate-led globalization, led nearly a million people in a November, 2002 march protesting the threat of war against Iraq. The annual World Social Forum, a similar global gathering held in January, 2003 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, featured huge rallies against the impending US war on Iraq. The international links created by the global justice movement became channels through which the anti-war campaign quickly spread, and in scores of countries it provided much of the organizing base for the huge demonstrations of February and March, 2003.
This easy assimilation of the "war issue" was facilitated by the fact that what the media calls the "anti-globalization movement" is itself a convergence of environmental, labor, farm, women's, and many other kinds of movements. The anti-war movement, and issue, have simply become one more element of the convergence.
Many mass constituencies and organizations also participated in the big demonstrations and related campaigns. In many countries, participation by both Christian and Islamic elements was large. So was labor movement participation. In the US, where the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent war on Afghanistan had somewhat divided the labor movement from its anti-globalization allies, an extensive Labor Against the War organization quickly emerged and even the head of the AFL-CIO was critical of an attack on Iraq without UN approval.
This movement was driven first of all by a shared abhorrence of US war plans. The movement was often largest in countries whose national leaders appeared to be supporting and aiding the US. Opposition was almost never justified by support of Saddam Hussein's regime; instead it was grounded in the defense of international law and norms and of United Nations authority over the use of military force. While the so-called anti-globalization movement has often (and often falsely) been criticized as inward-looking or nationalist, this movement was unquestionably internationalist.
The mobilization emerged from "free-wheeling amorphous groups, rather than top-down hierarchical ones" with "no single identifiable leader and no central headquarters." It depended on the new forms of electronic communication and independent media which allow millions of people around the globe to communicate, share understandings, and plan. Indeed, the global sharing of a demonstration date and the brilliant title "The World Says No to War" were enough to ensure a historic impact.
It was relatively easy to organize and unite around "No war on Iraq." But in the post-war period the movement can only survive and grow if it can move on from stopping the Iraq war to the broader and longer-term goal of resisting and ultimately terminating the Bush team's entire program.
The war on Iraq was just part of a bigger problem: the Bush administration's policy of dictation, threat, and aggression. That policy is generating an endless stream of outrages that can provide targets for movement action, and plenty of positive global initiatives are available for support as well. Just to take a few examples from mid-April, 2003: global campaigns might have been appropriate in support of the Syrian proposal for a WMD-free Middle East; the return of UN inspectors to Iraq; the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq or their placement under UN command; defense of France and of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan against US attacks; and the elimination of US foreign military bases. Such campaigns, however, require the ability to act quickly and proactively.
The movement needs to develop its ability to influence governments, since they provide one of the primary levers for ultimately changing US policy. Such influence requires different modes of action in different countries, ranging from lobbying to mass action and from electoral participation to revolution. It also requires a global strategy and program of objectives that efforts in individual countries can pursue. Isolated acts of resistance in one or another country are likely only to provoke devastating US retaliation; the movement must aim to bring about concerted action by many countries that will stop Bush's dictation and aggression in their tracks.
Within such a broad movement political disagreements are inevitable. While virtually no war opponents supported Saddam Hussein's regime, they differed on whether and how much to criticize it. There has been a lively debate among opponents of US threats against Cuba over the appropriate attitude toward arrests and executions of dissidents and highjackers. While there is likely to be general movement opposition to US support for Israeli violence, disagreement can be expected regarding Palestinian suicide bombing. There is also likely to be disagreement about alliances, for example with national elites and with those leaders who oppose Bush's but not other forms of imperialism. While most of the movement has expressed strong support for the principles underlying the United Nations, and has campaigned for governments to support them, a significant minority views the UN as itself little more than an agent of imperialism, something to be disempowered rather than reformed. Some of those in India and Pakistan who gladly participate in demonstrations against Bush policies may not see eye to eye about the policies of their own countries.
Practical cooperation will require "agreeing to disagree" and seeking only the level of agreement that is realistically feasible. The movement against corporate-led globalization has ample experience forging this kind of cooperation.
For many purposes the present decentralized structure of the movement is excellent, but it has revealed gaps that need to be filled. Many opportunities for globally-coordinated action have occurred just since the end of the Iraq war that have not been utilized because there is no infrastructure through which movements in different countries and sectors can learn of them, focus on them, and decide to act on them in concert.
To accomplish its tasks, the movement does not need a centralized decision making authority, but it does need "linking organizations" that help with certain key tasks. It needs to monitor US activities and disseminate information about them rapidly - some sort of "USA Watch." It needs to coordinate rapid global responses to both outrages and opportunities. It needs to maintain a proactive dialogue on strategy and objectives to guide day-to-day activities.
Since the end of the Cold War, the US has exercised hegemony over most of the world's governments. It persuaded most of them to support the first Gulf war and the attack on Afghanistan. But the Bush administration found a very different result when it went to attack Iraq. More than 60 countries spoke against the impending US attack in the September, 2002 Security Council debate on Iraq. Despite bullying and bribing on a massive scale, the Bush Administration was unable in February, 2003 to win Security Council support for its war against Iraq. In the end, only Britain and Australia provided significant numbers of troops for the attack.
In scores of countries around the world the Iraq war generated a struggle between those willing to be tools of American influence and those resisting it. Important elections in Germany, South Korea, and elsewhere turned on the question of US military aggressiveness. In several cases, notably Turkey and South Korea, street confrontations and political struggles in parliament forced governments to reverse course on support for the war. Many countries refused to participate in the war effort, or severely limited their contribution, despite immense US pressure. Canada refused to participate in the war despite the US ambassador's veiled threat that for the US "security trumps trade." Belgium refused to allow Iraq-war traffic to cross its territory. Such resistance reflects the breakdown of hegemony.
This struggle has continued in the wake of the war. Most governments are undecided about how much to resist American power and commands. Each country is now an arena. The outcome is in most cases an open question.
Governments' motivations for opposing the US are mixed. In most cases public opinion, organized popular pressure, and fear of popular upheaval are important factors. States fear loss of sovereignty to US domination; elites fear the sacrifice of their own interests to US interests. For example, in China, according to one expert, "Until last year, Beijing believed a confrontation with the U.S. could be delayed" and China could concentrate almost exclusively on economic development. But now many political cadres and think-tank members believe Beijing should adopt a more proactive, aggressive stance to thwart perceived American aggression. Many states accept the basic proposition that international relations should be conducted under international law and global norms, even if they sometimes violate those laws and norms themselves.
Some countries, notably France, Germany, Belgium, and Russia, have made it clear since the Iraq war that they consider countering US dictation and aggression a policy objective. Their motives are undoubtedly mixed, including desire for national prestige, protection of specific national and elite interests, and response to popular pressure. Their own record of commitment to international norms is not unmixed: Russia, for example, is a major human rights violator in Chechnya and the same French government that is standing up to the Bush administration in the name of international law has conducted interventions in Africa whose international legality is highly suspect.
Such countries remain under pressure to return to the US fold: some French business leaders are openly campaigning against Chirac's policies and German opposition parties if elected would most likely bring Germany back into line. Some governments might return to the US orbit in exchange for merely cosmetic concessions. But at present the Bush Administration wishes to punish more than to forgive, making such a reconciliation difficult.
The global peace movement can make every government an arena of struggle over resistance to US dictation. People can tell their governments they want them to resist US demands and selectively withdraw from cooperation with the US. The can also demand that their governments actively cooperate with other countries to contain US power - as discussed in the next section.
The Bush administration has systematically opposed resistance to its dictation. An attempt to override democracy and public opinion in countries around the world was manifested in the US campaign for Security Council endorsement of the war. In countries like Spain, Britain, Italy, Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Japan, where the overwhelming majority of the population opposed the war but national governments and elites were still in bed with the US, the struggle against the war and US domination became at the same time a struggle for democratic self-government.
This continues to be the case after the war. For example, the Bush administration held a special White House meeting on what to do about France, after which officials publicly threatened "consequences" if France continued to oppose US plans for post-war Iraq. It similarly threatened diplomatic consequences against Belgium if it allowed war crimes charges to be brought in its courts against General Tommy Franks. In such cases, the question is whether French and Belgian policy will be determined by the French and Belgians or by the US.
In many cases, national governments have caved in to US pressure. For example, many countries were pressured to tone down their criticisms of US Iraq policy. The majority of countries in the Non-Aligned Movement were successfully "persuaded" not to support action against the Iraq war in the UN General Assembly.
But such pressures can be used to make the issue of peace an issue of democracy and self-determination. Opposition to the Bush program can be used everywhere as a basis for a struggle for democratization. In some cases - as happened in Turkey on the eve of the Iraq war -- governments can be made more afraid of their own people than they are of the Americans. If they are not, that in itself provides a strong case for regime change to democracy and self-government. Democratic pressures can erode Bush's "coalition of the willing."
Nowhere is this more important than in the Middle East. Here a string of autocratic regimes oppress their own people and deny their human rights with political support, funding, and military assistance from the US; at the same time they cooperate with US policies despite the overwhelming opposition of their own people. In such a setting, the fight for democracy and human rights can go hand in hand with the fight against US domination. A fight for democratization without US domination would be supported by the vast majority of the population of most Middle Eastern countries, while at the same time isolating and providing an alternative to those who wish to replace existing authoritarian regimes with new nationalistic and/or theocratic ones.
The new global peace movement can do a great deal to promote government resistance to US domination. This can include political pressure, formal or tacit support for politicians willing to resist, persuading various groups that resistance is in their own interest, and threatening the legitimacy of those who pursue a course of submission.
There are fundamental differences in goals between the new peace movement (global norms serving people and planet) and various states (basically, elite interests). The problem is simultaneously to encourage governments to resist US dictation while recognizing the limited interests that motivate them and continuing to pursue the movement's broader, more universal goals. At the same time, the governments of countries like France and Russia should be told that if they want the support of the world's people and the peace movement for their efforts, they need to clean up their own act.
The movement shouldn't let its agenda be set by nation states. It needs to maintain its own independent analysis and initiative. But it should recognize the importance of nations both as targets and as allies.
Coalition of the unwilling
As the US demanded international support for its campaign against Iraq, reports of phone calls between the leaders of France and Germany, then Russia, then China began to appear in the press. Then the leaders began to meet. Gradually a tacit alliance emerged. These "less great powers," joined by others, eventually outmaneuvered Bush administration attempts to win Security Council blessing for its war on Iraq. Bush administration officials sarcastically dubbed them "the coalition of the unwilling."
Despite many predictions that after the war the members of this alliance would simply return to the US fold, in fact this alliance has become more explicit. Its frequent consultation has continued. It has so far blocked UN endorsement of US plans for post-war Iraq. It has demanded the reintroduction of UN arms inspectors. It has refused to legitimate US or US-puppet claims on Iraqi oil. France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg went so far as to set up their own military headquarters independent of NATO - headlined by UPI as "Four anti-war states to create EU army."
What is emerging was described by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark as she journeyed to meet with French President Jacques Chirac as "a Franco/German/Russian linkup with good links through to the Chinese against what we have which looks like a small Anglo/American group." She added, "It shifts the whole dynamic."
The emergence of such a "linkup" should have come as no surprise to US policy intellectuals. Under the "balance of power" theories so beloved of political scientists, the emergence of a dominant or expanding power almost invariably gives birth to a countering bloc. Nor should anyone be surprised that it takes the form of support for international law and the United Nations. "It has historically been the case that weaker powers have sought to constrain stronger powers through the mechanism of international legal structures."
This "coalition of the unwilling" has a crucial role to play in containing and eventually terminating Bush's policy of dictation and aggression. It can block the US from offloading the costs and consequences of its actions onto others. It can cooperate in the UN to foil US plans and eventually, as we explore below, to allow the UN to circumvent the US veto. Nothing is more likely to cause powerful US elites to halt the Bush juggernaut than their fear of a concerted global coalition against them.
At the same time, the coalition's strategy should not be to alienate the American people and elites, but rather to appeal to them to rise up and force their government from its current disastrous course. This requires firmness without either appeasement or unnecessary provocation.
To be effective, the coalition needs to reach out to form a broader front with the rest of the world. Third world countries are much more likely to stand up to the US if they have economic and political support from the coalition of the unwilling.
An effective coalition of the unwilling requires consultation and coordination. The Bush administration has used its characteristic strategy of stigma and abuse to blame global opposition on France. But the effectiveness and legitimacy of the "unwilling" depends on their acting together and protecting each other from US reprisal. There has been considerable advance in this direction, for example through frequent meetings of the leaders of Russia, France, Germany, and other countries and their visits at crucial points to Turkey, Syria, and other countries under US pressure. This tacit collaboration needs to be built into a more formal alliance - not a military alliance, but indeed an anti-military alliance that will consult regularly on nonviolent means to protect its members and the world from threats and aggression.
The coalition of less great powers should not aim for a conventional balance of power based on military force. The ability to rapidly deliver food, medical care, economic assistance, human rights and election monitors, and peacekeeping forces around the world - a sort of "nonviolent power projection" - would do more than tanks and bombs to strengthen its hand against the US. Proactive use of "state-sponsored nonviolence" - such as official support for the "Internationals" in Palestine and the voluntary "human shields" in Iraq - would generally be more effective than armed interventions. A center for nonviolence would be more useful than the new European military headquarters. Preventive peacemaking -- the ability to project outside forces into conflict situations before war breaks out - is an alternative to the Bush doctrine of preventive war that can go far to increase prestige and challenge US dominance.
An effective coalition must be defined primarily by global goals and norms, rather than by narrow national self-interest. There are two reasons for this. First, as in the "prisoner's dilemma" game, there is always an incentive for members of a coalition to betray the others; that temptation must be countered by an understanding that all will lose if some defect. Second, much of the Coalition's strength lies in its appeal to global public opinion. If all they are really fighting for is a share of oil income or reconstruction contracts, few will back them. If they actually fight for global norms and interests, many will. A policy in line with global norms is the key to their success.
The coalition of the unwilling is composed of governments with their own imperialist policies and their own abuses of human rights. The new global peace movement should support coalition efforts to forge collective security vis-Ã -vis the US and challenge it to pursue that goal effectively. It also needs to challenge the coalition members' own abuses of democracy and human rights. For both tasks the movement must retain its independence.
The less great powers' moral cleanliness is one question; their intentions to resist or collaborate with the US is another. If only morally pure anti-imperialist powers had been welcome to oppose Nazism, we can well imagine where the world would be today. The peace movement can and should strive to extend coalition efforts to limit US power, even while remaining critical of its members' more dubious policies. And it should point out that correcting those dubious policies is necessary for a coalition to effectively contest the Bush juggernaut.
States may hope to find a middle way between submission and resistance based on a "multipolar" or "polycentric" system of independent but cooperating powers. But the Bush administration does not want polycentrism and will try to isolate and crush those who practice it. Indeed, its National Security Strategy specifically warns of "the renewal of old patterns of great power competition." So some sort of collective security will ultimately prove the only alternative to vassalage.
The goal of such collective security should not be to create a permanent system of rival blocs, something that has often proven destructive in the past. Rather, its purpose is to foil US dictation and aggression and draw the US instead into cooperative efforts to solve the world's problems.
The third world
Third world countries were important players in the drama that unfolded as the US sought legitimacy and support for its attack on Iraq. The US applied threats and bribes to induce them to provide support. Nonetheless, about 60 of them spoke against US policy at a critical point in the Security Council debate that followed President Bush's UN speech. And despite the most intense pressure, a majority of those on the Security Council refused to support a second resolution authorizing the war.
The Non-Aligned Movement, made up of about 115 developing country members, debated the idea of taking the Iraq question to the UN General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace procedure that had been used to circumvent vetoes in such situations as the Korean War and the French-British-Israeli invasion of Egypt. A few countries, notably Indonesia, strongly backed the idea. The US campaigned aggressively against such a move and ultimately the NAM did not pursue it. There was no public indication that the "coalition of the lesser powers" offered them any support.
More effective third world resistance to US pressure requires a longer-run strategy. For example, in a significant initiative, the new government of Brazil had defined the building of relations across the global South as a key element of its foreign policy. It is focusing on three major countries: South Africa, India, and China. It also focuses on Latin America, where it has initiated the merger of the two main "free trade" areas in preparation for trade negotiations with the US. In spring, 2003, most Latin countries also resisted US pressure to condemn Cuba in the OAS.
The relation between the third world coalition and the "coalition of the lesser powers" will be critical in the future. Developing countries will be far better able to resist US threats and bribes if they have backing from the lesser powers. Third world countries bring major voting power in regional organizations and the UN General Assembly to such an alliance. To achieve any depth, however, such an alliance will have to explore forms of economic cooperation that can both protect against US reprisals and threaten the interests of US elites.
[This section will be expanded, drawing on the results of the May 19-21, 2003 strategic planning gathering of peace activists in Jakarta.]
From its foundation, the UN was a creation and largely a creature of US global dominance. At the same time, it has embodied worldwide aspirations for rules and practices that would force nations to operate within the framework of global norms and needs.
The UN served as the vehicle to administer the sanctions that devastated Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf war. The Bush administration clearly expected it to provide legitimation for its 2003 attack on Iraq. To its outrage, the UN refused to do so. This marked the potential beginning for breaking US hegemony over the UN. As Phyllis Bennis points out, "the refusal of the six Non-Aligned Security Council Members to cave in to Washington's extraordinary pressure to endorse the US war was amazing. But it remains insufficiently appreciated in many quarters."
The UN was unable to take the next step and condemn the US attack and take steps to prevent or halt it. The US veto of course made it impossible for the Security Council to take such action. There were several initiatives to take the Iraq war to the General Assembly as has been done in the past under a procedure known as Uniting for Peace. The US, however, exerted heavy pressure against such a move. The Arab countries actually got as far as asking for such a meeting, only to withdraw their request almost immediately, presumably fearing that they didn't have the votes to pass a resolution opposed by the US.
In the period after the Iraq war, the future role of the UN seemed very much up in the air. While US officials heaped scorn on the UN, they rapidly discovered as they occupied Iraq that only the UN could confer international legitimacy on their actions and on the new regime they hoped to establish. Due to the opposition of most of the world, they have so far been unable to win such a legitimation.
According to the Washington Post, there is "concern among some U.S. officials that the United Nations may emerge as a major platform against U.S. foreign policy at a time when the United States is expanding its global military reach." Richard Falk has suggested the possibility that "as the U.S. grows disillusioned with its capacity to control the UN, an institutional vacuum will emerge," making it "more available for moderate states and their allies in civil society."
Just as the US has constructed its "coalition of the willing" that can either act on its own or seek UN endorsement for its action, "moderate states and their allies in civil society" need to start constructing a sort of "shadow UN" that acts to meet the responsibilities of the world community that the US is blocking the UN from addressing. A shadow UN might well follow the same developmental track as the movement to ban landmines: Start with an international movement of NGOs, recruit smaller countries, and then draw in the "less great powers." The peace movement can campaign for national governments and groups such as the coalition of the unwilling and the Non-Aligned Movement, and regional organizations, to support such a shadow UN.
This shadow UN can circumvent the US veto in the Security Council by activating the General Assembly. For example, an international group of NGOs has organized a campaign for an "Emergency United Nations Resolution on Iraq" which calls for a General Assembly emergency session under the "Uniting for Peace" procedure to impose an alternative to US occupation. While the General Assembly has limited enforcement powers, it can authorize nations and civil society to implement its resolutions. This can in effect legitimate action by an emerging "Shadow UN" that includes those willing to act without US approval.
In April, 2003, General Assembly president and Iraq war opponent Jan Kavan began trying to establish a General Assembly-based forum to openly debate current foreign policy issues, providing critics of the US an opportunity to address US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US moved rapidly to derail the initiative, sending a confidential note to several foreign capitals saying that Kavan's proposal would degenerate into a "politically divisive" talk shop that would "infringe upon" the Security Council's exclusive right to deal with threats to global peace and security. "This represents a backdoor amendment to the U.N. Charter," the note added.
A "backdoor amendment to the U.N. Charter" based on expanding the role of the General Assembly may indeed be the most viable road to UN reform. It is widely noted that the present membership and power of the UN and the General Assembly is based on international power relations when the UN was founded more than 50 years ago and that it is in need of reforms that reflect changes since then. But the US veto (as well as that of the other Permanent Members of the Security Council) makes any revision that would reduce US veto power almost inconceivable.
An effort to combat US dictation and aggression needs to accomplish two goals at the UN. The US's hegemonic control, already weakened in the struggle over Iraq, needs to be further eroded. At the same time, the legitimacy of UN constraint on violent and destructive acts by national governments needs to be strengthened.
These struggles take place not only in assembly halls and office buildings in New York city, but even more in the political arenas of member countries. The global peace movement can make every national political system an arena for struggle over the future of the UN - whether it will be a pawn of the US or whether it will be a global organization able to limit the warmaking of nations. And since such struggles will require combating the power of the US and allies in local elites, the struggle to democratize the UN goes hand in hand with the struggle to democratize its member nations.
This struggle requires a series of specific targets. These are rapidly emerging and new examples no doubt will continue to emerge as the Bush juggernaut proceeds. Right now examples might include defeat of US proposals for a Security Council resolution legitimating its control of Iraq; support for the Syrian proposal for weapons-of-mass-destruction-free Middle East; support for return of weapons inspectors to Iraq; UN investigation of human rights violations in war- and post-war Iraq; and support for the forums proposed by Jan Kavan.
The UN on its own can't simply tell the US what to do and expect to be obeyed. But the UN can become an arena in which to construct a front to help contain US power and force the US to abide by global laws and norms.
Forces in the US
For the past thirty years, about one-quarter of the US public has rarely met a war it doesn't like; about one-quarter has rarely met one that it does. The remaining half fluctuates.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks created fear and anger among the people of the US. This was skillfully channeled by the Bush administration into what they defined as the "war on terror." The US attack on Afghanistan, justified as an attack on the 9/11 perpetrators, won overwhelming popular support.
As the Bush administration began the buildup for the attack on Iraq, however, the public became far more skeptical. A month before the US attack on Iraq, more than 60 percent of those polled opposed an attack without support of US allies and UN endorsement. By the end of the war, however, three-quarters said they believed the war was right.
Given the ultimate support for war, it comes as a shock to learn that, even after the conquest of Iraq, US public opinion strongly rejects the vision propounded by the Bush administration. In an April, 2003 poll, 88 percent said that the Administration should have tried to get Security Council authorization for taking military action against Iraq. Almost two-thirds agreed that "The U.S. plays the role of world policeman more than it should." Only 12 percent agreed that "The U.S. should continue to be the pre-eminent world leader in solving international problems." 76 percent said "The U.S. should do its share in efforts to solve international problems with other countries" while 11 percent said it should "withdraw from most efforts to solve international problems."
Nearly two-thirds said the US should not feel "more free to use force without UN authorization in the future." As the Bush administration was scornfully bashing the UN, a majority of those polled preferred a UN police force to U.S. military forces to maintain civil order in postwar Iraq and the UN to lead relief and reconstruction. As the Bush administration was warning Syria to learn the lessons of Iraq, 71 percent of the public said that the US should deal with Syria primarily by "diplomacy and dialogue" rather than "pressuring it with implied threats of military force."
Several elements help explain the discrepancy between popular support for particular wars and popular aversion to an imperialist role. The US public is so ill-informed about the world and so little able to "see ourselves as others see us" that attacks on countries like Afghanistan and Iraq are not perceived as unilateral aggression. When people are driven by fear, they tend to accept the views of leaders who offer to provide them protection. The emotions stirred up by war and promoted by war leaders often supercede any rational evaluation - a phenomenon by no means the exclusive property of Americans. The Bush administration, while promoting its broad global domination agenda among policy elites, sells its military attacks to the public not as part of such a policy but rather as responses to the horrible threats and evils of the regimes it attacks.
Countering this situation requires several elements that should be part of the strategy of both domestic and international opponents of the Bush juggernaut. The US public needs to be educated about the reality of the US role, rather than morally condemned for actions whose import they do not even perceive. The deep fear of threat from the outside world, long present but greatly intensified by the 9/11 attacks, needs to be met with alternative ways to provide personal and national security.
Above all, the US people need to understand that Bush's rationalizations for specific actions conceal a pattern that is exactly the US role as "pre-eminent world leader" that they oppose. The central issue needs to be shifted from opposition to this or that Bush threat or attack to a rejection of the entire project of global domination. If threats and war are seen as the actions of a power-hungry clique seeking global domination, rather than as efforts to protect Americans against specific foreign threats, war will be a hard sell. If the choice is seen as global cooperation vs. US global domination, the great majority of the US people will normally opt for global cooperation.
The US peace movement
There was barely a ripple of opposition in the US to the attack on Afghanistan except from small circles of pacifists and anti-imperialists who oppose all US military actions. A small band of dedicated activists maintained a continuing campaigne against Iraqi sanctions. As the Bush administration began publicly beating the drums against Iraq in the summer of 2003, MoveOn, an organization specializing in Internet-based campaigns on hot current issues, began organizing congressional visits against an Iraq war. A variety of left groups began organizing demonstrations against an Iraq war, which grew from hundreds to tens of thousands over the course of a few months. Petitions against the war, circulated on the Internet, drew hundreds of thousands of signatures. Peace activists pulled together an organization of mainstream critics and high-visibility celebrities under the slogan Win Without War. 164 US cities and counties with a combined population of 36 million passed "Cities for Peace" resolutions opposing a unilateral attack on Iraq. Finally, a broad umbrella group of peace, labor, women, student, and other groups formed under the name United for Peace and Justice.
The movement reached a crescendo in February, 2003, when an estimated 1 million people in the US joined with millions around the world in "The World Says No to War" demonstrations. Even after the war began, substantial demonstrations and civil disobedience actions continued throughout the country.
As the US conquest of Iraq concluded, discussion began on the future of this movement. While this discussion is still in its early stages, obvious foci include expansion from Iraq to broader issues of US foreign policy; outreach to domestic social groups affected by the war agenda; defense of human rights and civil liberties for dissenters, Arabs, Muslims, immigrants, and other threatened groups; and strengthening of the international connectedness of the movement.
The movement has continued demonstrations and other mobilizations against the manifestations of US aggression and domination. A substantial part of the movement will undoubtedly focus on the upcoming elections: MoveOn has already declared it will mobilize its 1 ¼ million anti-war contacts for that purpose. Public education on foreign policy issues is also bound to be important: UFPJ and a coalition of religious groups have already launched teach-ins and educational forums on issues of war and peace.
The new peace movement started as an effort to prevent a US attack on Iraq, so obviously it has to redefine itself in the post-Iraq war period. It needs to become a movement against the whole policy of dictation and aggression of which the Iraq war was merely one expression. It needs to become a movement for international cooperation and for global norms, rules, and institutions that restrict the actions of states. And it needs to become a movement for US policies that contribute to cooperative problem solving and limits on aggressiveness.
Individuals as disparate as Jonathan Schell and Tariq Ali have called for the formation of an organization modeled on the U.S. Anti-Imperialist League, formed a little over a century ago to oppose US conquest and colonization of the Philippines. Its leaders included leading intellectuals like William James, business figures like Andrew Carnegie, some trade unionists, African-American writer W.E.B. DuBois, and Mark Twain. It held mass rallies, lobbied politicians, exposed the abuses of the US occupation, and attracted half-a-million members. Such an effort, perhaps growing out of the more mainstream anti-war sector represented by Win Without War, could utilize prominent spokespeople to break through the media blockade and focus attention on the Bush juggernaut as a whole and its conflict with the views and values of the public.
The US movement needs to see itself -- and present itself -- as part of a global movement. People need to feel that by joining the peace movement or promoting its ideas they are cooperating with people all over the world who are working for the same objectives. This magnifies the sense of power and demonstrates the kind of international cooperation that can build a genuinely secure world.
Because the Democratic Party is unable to provide an effective critical opposition, the new peace movement needs to perform some of the functions of a political opposition, albeit from outside the governmental arena. The movement needs to develop the capacity to respond rapidly to new actions by the Bush leadership, providing counter-framing that portrays each Bush initiative as one more part of its ill-advised, immoral, and illegal scheming for global domination. And it needs to project specific alternatives as part of a broader alternative strategy for providing security for individuals, the US, and the world.
Nowhere is the identity between the peace movement and the struggle for democracy and human rights clearer than in the US. The Bush team's control of the levers of national power had its origin in an election in which minority voters' rights were systematically violated. It may use similar violations of democracy to win reelection. The scapegoating and persecution of Arabs, Muslims, and immigrants has been a central vehicle for the mobilization of fear and hatred. The stigmatization of dissent as unpatriotic or "helping the terrorists" has undermined rational discourse and excluded critical voices from the media. Efforts to nullify or repeal the Patriot Act, and to defend the rights of immigrants and dissenters, have been part of the movement from the beginning. Redemocratization at home is integral to the struggle against a policy of global domination.
There are some who would direct the new peace movement into the old peace movement's traditional disarmament agenda or into the left's traditional framework of anti-imperialist class struggle. Both these tendencies have a constructive role to play within the movement because of their dedicated effort and the education on fundamental issues they can provide.
In the current situation, however, the movement that emerged to stop the US attack on Iraq may best focus on reversing the new policies of direct domination and unilateral aggression adopted by the Bush administration. These policies represent a huge and immediate danger to the world, making efforts to block them imperative. They conflict with a wide range of interests, facilitating broad and effective action. Such a struggle can mobilize and unify the broad mass movement that opposed the Iraq war.
This framing can nonetheless open the way toward broader and deeper issues. It is, after all, a struggle to implement global norms against an out-of-control power center. This is a form of struggle that can be extended in the future to out of control actors in other areas, such as the global economy and environment.
The US has long had a tacit coalition of progressive religious, labor, women's, civil rights, and other groups that have repeatedly come together around specific issues. However, issues of war and imperialism have often divided this coalition. This was particularly true after 9/11, when opponents of the Afghanistan war were quite isolated from their erstwhile allies. In particular, the Afghan war split the coalition that had developed between labor and other groups to oppose corporate-led globalization and the free trade agenda.
The response to the Iraq war was different. The Catholic and mainstream Protestant churches almost uniformly opposed the war. So did most of the African American community and its organizations. The women's movement, part of which had been temporarily beguiled by the Bush administration's claim to be liberating the women of Afghanistan, opposed the Iraq war. A substantial part of the labor movement opposed the war and formed an active Labor Against the War organization; the AFL-CIO criticized a unilateral attack on Iraq, though it expressed a degree of support once the war began.
As the divisions on international perspectives among these groups recedes, a more intense convergence is being prompted by the Bush administration's domestic policies. The Bush administration's abandonment of compromise and accommodation abroad is mirrored by its policies at home. As the New York Times editorialized, the Bush domestic agenda is "a disaster, a national train wreck" on almost every front. At its core lie huge tax cuts that the Times described "both as a reward to the well-heeled, and a key to starving the government of money that might be spent on programs like health care or housing."
This is combined with more specific policies that attack the security and well-being of women, families, minorities, workers, and other groups that form the overwhelming majority of the population. These policies embody the Christian Right's whole program to "repeal the twentieth century" by rolling back challenges to race, ethnic, gender, class, and other forms of hierarchy.
The Bush policies are creating the basis for a broad popular social movement that will challenge the whole rightward tilt of US politics. Such a movement will represent the interests of the great majority of Americans, and have at least some institutional means of reaching and mobilizing them. It represents a base far larger numerically than that of the Bush right. As we will see below, it is positioned to play a significant role in the political process. The peace movement should actively contribute to the construction of such a coalition.
Bush policies have led to a surprising and potentially significant defection among US elites. This first emerged during the build-up for the attack on Iraq. Provoked by the emergence of popular skepticism about the war, by an apparent split between Colin Powell and the neoconservative hawks within the Bush administration, and by the obvious recklessness of Bush administration policymaking, a wave of elite challenges began in August and September, 2002. Brent Scowcroft and other top advisors to and cronies of former President George Bush, Sr., spoke out against a unilateral US attack. So did ultra-right House Majority Leader Dick Armey.
These were followed during and after the war by further signs of establishment dissent. Top professional military officers, present and retired, have formed a hotbed of skepticism about Bush administration policies. Their opposition was first focused on Pentagon procurement policy and then on the scale of troop commitment required for the Iraq war. But beyond such technical issues there is continuing deep unease about the type and scale of military commitments that the Bush administration has taken on. While military officials no doubt like Bush's large budgets, they have both institutional and patriotic reasons to be deeply dubious about the Bush juggernaut as a whole.
There is also significant opposition within the "intelligence community." Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld demanded that the CIA and other intelligence agencies come up with the answers he wanted on Iraq. When they didn't, he created his own more compliant intelligence unit in the Pentagon. The intelligence community retaliated with a series of leaks exposing their deceptions. As intelligence failures regarding Iraqi weapons programs and political inclinations become more and more apparent in the post-war period, the intelligence agencies will have further incentive to oppose and expose the Bush "politicization" of intelligence.
The mainstream US foreign policy establishment generally supported the pre-Bush policy of pursuing US hegemony via global rules and cooperation. Their opposition to the Bush policy has been widely expressed by former diplomats. This sector initially rallied around Secretary of State Colin Powell. As Powell has become less and less of an independent force in the Bush administration, they have generally not propounded a clear critique of the policy as a whole, but they are likely to do so in the coming months.
In the past, a corporate elite played a major role in shaping US foreign policy and specifically promoting a multilateral rather than unilateral approach. It was the corporate establishment that first persuaded Lyndon Johnson to begin deescalating the Vietnam war. It was the Trilateral Commission that promoted great power cooperation rather than US nationalist assertion. Starting in the Reagan era when it made an alliance with the ideological Right, this sector has played less of an independent role. While the corporate elite have reasons to fear the consequences of Bush policies, they are unlikely to step out in opposition unless they anticipate catastrophic results for the US and more particularly for their own fortunes and institutions.
All these groups, of course, support their own version of a hegemonic US policy. But they can play an important role in bringing down the Bush juggernaut. Their legitimacy within and access to the media and the political system can provide openings for dissent. Their access to information can provide leaks that can at times be regime-shaking - witness Watergate and the Pentagon Papers. Since they provide the principal funding of elections, their disaffection from Bush and/or Republican members of Congress can play a crucial political role. A key goal of opponents of Bush policies both at home and globally should be to bring such forces out into open dissent.
The greatest fear of the elites is probably of global isolation. They need to take to heart the warning of US diplomat John H. Brown: "Throughout the globe the United States is becoming associated with the unjustified use of force. . . giving birth to an anti-American century." Making the threat of an "anti-American century" a clear and present danger, rather than merely a theoretical one, is a key lever for bringing them into action. Foreign opponents of Bush unilateral aggression: take note.
The electoral arena
The Bush administration and the Republican Party control the executive, legislative, and, through their past appointments, most of the judicial branch of the US government. Their institutional power gives them huge influence in the electoral system both directly and through their ability to utilize the instruments of government to provide favors or punishments to those able to affect the electoral process, such as corporations and the media. As a result, they are able to pursue policies that damage the interests of the majority of US citizens while still retaining substantial political support.
The Democratic Party is very much divided on war issues. Some powerful Democratic Senators opposed the war buildup. Former Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore and leading party elder Ted Kennedy made strong if belated statements criticizing Bush's Iraq policy. Slightly more than half of Democratic House members voted against the bill authorizing the war on Iraq. Many, however, rallied to the flag once the attack was launched.
Only a small minority of Democratic leaders, whose most visible spokesperson is Rep. Dennis Kusinich, consistently oppose the Bush juggernaut and propose genuine alternatives. Most, however, have serious doubts. The Democratic Party is thus itself an arena of struggle, rather than either a consistent supporter or opponent of the Bush juggernaut.
Despite its institutional strength, the Bush administration is electorally vulnerable for a number of reasons. It presides over an on-going economic catastrophe and follows policies that only make it worse. Its subservience to the Christian Right agenda isolates it from most of the rest of the population. Its continuous outrageous lying regarding Iraq and other foreign policy matters is likely eventually to bring a credibility gap or "Pinocchio factor" into play.
Simply defeating Bush at the next election would be a significant but not decisive blow to the juggernaut. The forces that back Bush policies will, if defeated at the polls, try to force a Democratic Administration to follow similar policies and threaten it with charges of being "soft on terrorism" and leaving the US at the mercy of its enemies if it doesn't. They will lie in wait, as they have before, setting traps for their opponents that they can spring in the next election. Their ability to do so would be much less if the Bush administration met not just a defeat but a genuine electoral repudiation based on a widespread rejection of its policies.
One way to pursue such repudiation is for the peace movement and its allies to prepare a "litmus test" statement that candidates must endorse in order to win the movement's support. While the exact wording of such a statement will require negotiation among various groups, its core should be a repudiation of the principle of "preventive war" and a return to the doctrine that war should never be resorted to except for defense against imminent or actual attack. This position is probably supported by a large majority of US citizens and an overwhelming majority of those who might vote for a Democratic candidate.
Much of the new peace movement, such as MoveOn, is already mobilizing for the 2004 elections. But the ambiguity of Democratic opposition to Bush policies presents it with a familiar dilemma: support Democratic candidates who eventually support further warmaking or fail to support Democrats and help reelect Bush.
One possible solution to this dilemma for peace activists engaging in electoral politics has been suggested by Carl Davidson and Marilyn Katz. They propose independent Peace and Justice Voter committees that would register voters, develop supporter lists, run candidate forums, and develop the other elements of an independent political organization. They would ally with the coalition of other progressive groups opposing Bush domestic policies and focus on constituencies currently excluded from effective political involvement. They would then participate in primary and general elections from this independent base.
As the organized expression of the widespread peace sentiment in the Democratic Party, these committees would have some clout regarding party program and candidate selection. They would seek to promote an alternative strategy for international, national, and homeland security.
In the Democratic primary campaigns, such activists could support the more pro-peace candidates like Howard Dean, Dennis Kusinich, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Carol Mosley Brown and oppose the obvious warmongers like Joe Lieberman and Bob Graham. Whoever the Democratic Presidential candidate, activists would work to get the largest possible number of anti-Bush voters to the polls on Election Day, working through the Democratic Party, third parties, and independent committees.
Such a strategy may face questions from those who see the building of third party alternatives to the Democratic Party as a central political task. This inevitable tension can be eased if third parties focus primarily on local and state elections; urge people first and foremost to vote against Bush; and use any Presidential campaign primarily to present a more forthright critique of Bush policies and, especially, to present positive alternatives. Third parties need to consider that they are likely to isolate themselves from their own constituencies if they do anything to make Bush's reelection more likely.
To the extent that electoral activities are conducted through independent local committees rather than through Democratic party and candidate campaign organizations, they can continue after the election as an organized base for both electoral and non-electoral action in the future. They can also continue to impose some degree of accountability on those they elect.
The world says no - and yes
The rest of the world does not vote in US elections. But as Mother Jones proclaimed long ago, "You don't need a vote to raise hell." The actions of people, governments, and institutions in the rest of the world can play a critical role in shaping developments in the US.
The rest of the world needs to present the US with a consistent, unified, and principled opposition to the Bush policy of dictation and aggression. This opposition needs to be expressed in nonviolent sanctions that show US elites and people that a policy of global domination comes with an unacceptable cost to them. At the same time, the world needs to offer a positive alternative of cooperation to provide security and solve global problems designed to appeal to the American people.
In its broadest definition, a sanction is simply "that which induces observance of law or custom." But we have all too often seen sanctions used - notably by the US against Iraq -- as the continuation of war by other means. Nonviolent sanctions, in contrast, do not directly kill, injure, or destroy; "they aim to undermine the opponent's social, economic, political, and military power." They do this by "withholding or withdrawing the sources of support needed by the opponent to maintain power and to achieve goals."
The purpose of nonviolent sanctions against the US should not be to punish Americans. Rather, it is to encourage the American people, government, and institutions to repudiate the Bush Administration's embrace of global domination and aggressive war and instead embrace international law and widely shared global values. Sanctions should express not anti-Americanism, but rather a commitment to global norms.
Sanctions need to target vulnerabilities of those they want to affect. For example, the Bush administration juggernaut comes in the context of a weak US economy suffering from excess military spending, imperial overreach, and severe dependence on the inflow of foreign capital. The dollar has already fallen 25% against the euro in the past year and fears are widespread that the US government's budget deficit may provoke a further run on the dollar.
Few things could do more to scare US elites than threats to move capital from dollars into euros or other currencies. And this indeed is already happening. According to the New York Times, central banks are beginning to "diversify" their reserves to reduce dependence on the dollar, particularly in Islamic countries. "The American-led war on Iraq was fiercely opposed by Indonesia. Vice President Hamzah Haz, an Islamic leader, has encouraged local investors to switch from dollars to euros. A similar switch has occurred in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries."
A decision by oil exporting countries to invoice oil in euros instead of dollars would cost the US up to an estimated one percent of GNP annually. Iraq made such a switch in November 2000 and Iran has considered doing so. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, an outspoken opponent of the US attack on Iraq, recently suggested that the Malaysian state oil company switch from dollars to euros for its trading. His rationale, he said, was "purely economic."
While even the threat of more such moves could shake the US business community, they could also blow back to devastate the rest of the global economy, Europe and the third world included. So the key to making the threat credible would be preparations to deal with financial crisis independently of the US. That requires either ending US domination of the IMF or developing alternative institutions for financial stabilization that do not depend on the US. The creation of the euro has already reduced Europe's economic dependence on the US. Now Europe and the rest of the world need to prepare to deal independently with a US or global economic crisis, particularly a global financial meltdown. Such preparations in themselves might persuade many US businesses that the Bush administration's policies are a disaster for them.
Some nonviolent sanctions can be imposed directly by people and movements whether or not governments are prepared to support them. There is already a wide range of proposals for boycotts of US products.
One possibility might be a campaign of divestment from US Treasury securities, modeled on the divestment campaign that pressured the apartheid regime in South Africa to release Nelson Mandela from prison and come to the bargaining table. Such a campaign can target local and national governments and any institutions, such as churches and trade unions, with investments. Individuals can also threaten to shift their own personal investments out of mutual funds that invest in US government securities - or even in US corporations. In today's precarious economic climate, with foreigners already dumping the dollar, the results could be devastating.
Other nonviolent sanctions may result from pressure by people and movements, but they require government action to implement. One obvious example is the expulsion of US military bases and the ending of other forms of military cooperation. In many countries this forms a potent political issue. It directly restricts US capacity to impose its will by force. It also brings home to the American people and elite one of the costs of their global unpopularity. The Saudi decision to close the popularly-detested US bases, announced on the eve of the US attack on Iraq and implemented immediately after the war, shows that this can be done.
Refusing to cooperate in other areas of importance to the US can also provide a sanction. The Russian Duma, along with condemning the attack on Iraq, voted to protest the war by holding up ratification of a nuclear weapons agreement pushed by the US. On the eve of the Iraq war, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned that "The majority of the world community" rejects "the use of military force" in Iraq. Therefore, "The unity of the antiterrorism coalition is under threat." Those aspects of the "war on terrorism" (and the "war on drugs") that involve denial of human rights would be particularly appropriate targets for non-cooperation since they are inherently illegitimate.
International organizations provide another arena for sanctions. WTO officials are already "worried that the Bush administration's go-it-alone policy is threatening international trade policy" and afraid that war against Iraq "would weaken respect for international rules and lead to serious international consequences." As the US made final preparations to attack Iraq, European officials threatened to impose $4 billion in trade sanctions, authorized by the WTO, against US products. US efforts to utilize the IMF and World Bank to reward and punish countries for their positions on the Iraq war are surely vulnerable to resistance from the coalition of the unwilling. So are international agreements like the Hague Conventions on Private International Law and the FTA that the US is negotiating for the benefit of its corporations.
Criminal accountability can provide another form of sanction. Many countries and legal authorities assert that the Bush Administration's attack on Iraq was an illegal war of aggression - a crime against peace. Shortly before the attack, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that, "If the US and others were to go outside the [Security] Council and take military action, it would not be in conformity with the [UN] charter." The conduct of the war and subsequent occupation, including "collateral damage" to civilians and the failure to protect them from starvation, contaminated water, and other threats, may well involve war crimes as well. So does planning additional aggressive wars.
There are a number of courts where war crimes charges can be brought. US support for the Contra war in Nicaragua was condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice - the World Court - in the Hague. Stephen Solley QC, a British international human rights lawyer, has warned that British troops could be the first defendants to face war-crimes charges at the newly constituted International Criminal Court.
The Nuremberg and more recently the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunals recognized "universal jurisdiction" over international crimes, meaning that courts in any country have jurisdiction for human rights violations anywhere. (That's the basis on which Spanish courts investigating human rights violations recently issued subpoenas for Henry Kissinger.) A British group has gone to a magistrates court and charged Tony Blair with conspiring to incite murder, based on the international law crime of planning an aggressive war. The District Judge indicated he may hold a further hearing, possibly with the defendants or the Attorney General represented. Under the principle of "universal jurisdiction," such cases can be brought anywhere in the world that national law permits. Lawyers are currently bringing a war crimes case in Belgium on behalf of Iraqi individuals personally harmed by the illegal US attack.
Where courts refuse to hear such cases, people can still force the issue through civil disobedience based on the duty of individuals to halt violations of international law. As the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal declared, "Anyone with knowledge of illegal activity and an opportunity to do something is a potential criminal under international law unless the person takes affirmative measures to prevent the commission of the crimes." So blocking a US base or military corporation, or even the offices of a government that is helping the US commit war crimes, can be not a crime but rather a necessary act of law enforcement. Such acts are likely to have wide public support and, if occurring all over the world, significantly delegitimate US behavior.
Sanctions provide a sort of "tough love." They are a way the world can say to the US, "We want to engage with you in a constructive and mutually beneficial way. But we cannot do so when you claim the right to attack us any time you choose to; when you show in practice that you will act on that claim; and when you continue to expand your capacity for such attacks. Until you are willing to change these practices, you can expect us to continue applying sanctions designed to change your mind."
Such an approach is unlikely to change the minds of the small clique around President Bush that promoted the war against Iraq; at best it will make them more cautious in the militancy with which they pursue their goals. It is likely to have a profound effect, however, on the American people and on many leaders of institutions that sanctions are likely to affect adversely.
The Bush Administration's drive for world domination does not represent the interests of the American people. Even within the American elites it represents only a narrow minority. An international coalition can appeal to the common sense and the better nature of the American people, who are entirely capable of understanding that five percent of the world's people would be crazy to try to rule the rest of the world.
Poll after poll has shown that the American people want international cooperation, and that the broad public has been more multilateralist than the elite. Even among those Americans who supported the Iraq war, there is deep concern about US isolation in the world, violation of prohibitions on wars of aggression, the costs of unending military intervention, and the risk of provoking terrorism. Sanctions should aim to encourage people to act on those concerns in whatever way is open to them. The withdrawal of institutional and electoral support from the advocates of dictation and aggression can ultimately shift the US to a different course.
Finally, sanctions need to define what the world wants from the US. This includes immediate demands like human rights and a UN-supervised democratization process in post-war Iraq. It also involves a longer term renunciation of the right to aggressive war ; a repudiation of the intention of attacking such often-named future targets as Iran, North Korea, and Syria; a restructuring of military forces for defensive purposes; and a return to active participation in global problem solving around such issues as environment, disarmament, and human rights. Such a program can provide an exit strategy, if not for the Bush administration, at least for the American people.
Nonviolent sanctions will generally be most effective if they are implemented by transnational movements and coalitions of governments. They will be far more effective if they are imposed as a means of implementing UN decisions. Since the US can veto any actions in the Security Council, this ultimately means winning support for them in the General Assembly.
To make sure the right message gets through, sanctions need to be accompanied by efforts to communicate directly with the American people about how the rest of the world sees US policy. This should involve person-to-person, community-to-community, and institution-to-institution contacts: tours, conferences, and lots of personal dialogue.
Other countries, perhaps led by the EU, need to develop a media strategy through which the rest of the world counters US media manipulation. This involves establishing TV equivalents of Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America - or of Al-Jazeera!
Other countries need to pursue concerted efforts to influence the American political process like those used so effectively by Israel and by the Central American movements in the 1980s, and as urged by Edward Said for the Palestinians. (The US routinely uses these techniques, as well as more legally dubious ones, to influence countries all over the world.) In this case such initiatives can promote not just the interests of one or another country but the views of the entire world. They should aim to influence US public opinion, encourage the peace movement, activate potentially oppositional elites, and ultimately transform the US public and government.
Conclusion: Putting it all together
The Bush juggernaut violates global norms and threatens a huge range of interests both within the US and around the world. Sooner or later, the world will have to adopt collective security against the US or face unending domination. As with previous attempts at global domination, the longer such collective security is delayed, the higher the cost is likely to be.
US dictation and aggression are unlikely to be defeated by military force. Fortunately, they can be effectively countered by a combination of democratic struggle and nonviolent sanctions. Such a strategy aims to render the US's unsurpassable military force useless and therefore irrelevant.
There are a variety of scenarios, constitutional and extra-constitutional, through which the Bush juggernaut might be terminated. Both forces within the US and in the rest of the world can play a role in them.
Collective security requires cooperation in pursuit of common interests despite conflicting interests. In this case there are conflicting interests not just among different countries, but also among different social groups, institutions, and forces. They must nonetheless cooperate against the common threat or submit to unlimited domination. For that reason, an effective strategy depends ultimately on the relations among those pursuing collective security.
The overwhelming opposition of the world's people to US dictation and aggression is the starting point for the effort to terminate it. This gives the new global peace movement a fundamental legitimacy. It gives the movement a huge potential power to draw on. The global peace movement must preserve, educate, and develop that global popular opposition.
Most of the world's governments have strong reason to fear US power and wish to constrain it. The new global peace movement, backed by public opinion, is in a position to put considerable pressure on governments to resist the US threat. Where governments represent US policy instead of the interests of their own people, they can be made the target of democratization.
Action will be most effective, and counter-threats from the US most easily resisted, if governments act together. A central goal of the new global peace movement should be to persuade governments to act on the basis of collective security. This initially means coalitions of governments and alliances of those coalitions, particularly between the tacit alliance of "less great powers" like France, Germany, Russia, and China and the third world countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement.
This coalition of most of the world's countries can form, in effect, a "shadow UN" as a counter to Bush's "coalition of the willing." Ultimately it should aim to make the UN an instrument for restraining US violations of world law and global norms. Since such efforts will be vetoed by the US in the Security Council, this means taking such issues to the General Assembly. The General Assembly can provide the legitimation that will give the "shadow UN" countries the authority to act.
In this strategy, the struggle for democratization at the national level and at the global level go hand in hand. Both are struggles against US dictation and for the implementation of global norms of peace, democracy, and human rights.
Much of the US public and elites fear the Bush juggernaut will isolate the US from the rest of the world. The rest of the world can heighten this concern by means of nonviolent sanctions that demonstrate that such fears are indeed appropriate. It can also promote alternative ways that the legitimate concerns of the American people for peace and security can be better met.
Such actions by the rest of the world can support those in the US who are trying to change US policy. A combination of internal and external efforts can generate a power shift that will lead to such a change.
As Phyllis Bennis recently pointed out, "We are engaged now in building a global movement for peace and justice." That movement for social transformation will benefit immensely from a successful campaign against the Bush juggernaut. Success in that campaign is unlikely just to restore the status quo ante. Bush administration policies will have undermined the traditional bases of US hegemony while unifying a broad global movement for peace, justice, and democracy. That will open a wide range of new possibilities in which the global movement for peace and justice can have much of the initiative.