"It is a big idea: a new world order . . . only the
United States has both the moral standing and the means to back it up,"
said George Bush the First on 29 January 1991.
Setting aside the question of why a new world order was
needed at all -- since the old one had put in place a UN Charter that opposed
"wars of choice," a set of Geneva Conventions that spelled out rules
of war and security responsibilities for occupying powers, was moving to
establish an International Criminal Court, had put in place a Non-Proliferation
Treaty that bound nuclear-armed nations to scaling down their nuclear arsenals,
was working on protocols that would address environmental degradation of the
planet -- it might be profitable to deconstruct the terms in which Bush's
vainglorious assertion was framed.
Let's look, first, at this "new world order," as
it has played out in the political life of affected nations. Let's start with
the latest manifestation, the one in Condoleezza Rice's aborted "new
Middle East." After 33 days of bombing in Lebanon, Israel has inflicted a
physical damage of $15 billion dollars, killed more than 1,183 people
(one-third of them children) and wounded 4,055 others, destroyed 6,000 houses
and partially damaged 200,000 others.
In spite of the US's military and diplomatic support for the
war, Israel has emerged the loser, its deterrence credibility in shambles
consequent upon its failure to defeat Hizballah; its image in the Arab, Muslim,
and larger world community further stained by the exceptional zeal with which
it pursued its criminal goals. If the US, via Israel, hoped that the Lebanese
people would rise up against Hizballah, it has learned nothing from the time of
the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Today, in the Arab and Muslim world the most popular western
leader is not George Bush the Second but Bush's Latin-American new nemesis,
Hugo Chavez, who expelled the Israeli ambassador from Venezuela at the outbreak
of Israel's attack on Lebanon. In fact, the latest Israeli invasion of Lebanon
has reinvigorated national pride in the Arab Muslim world and helped to lionize
Hizballah's leader, Nasrallah.
And that's the "new world order" of the
unintentional consequences of western aggression -- the formal emergence in the
area of a people-supported, potentially victorious resistance. This resistance
has nothing to do with the "terror" the US purports to be fighting. Nothing
sets apart Hizballah more from its supposed al Qaeda-type look-alikes -- even
if these exist as separate entities from their characterizations by US
propaganda -- than its popular base.
It gets worse. The Lebanon war was not just one war.
Israel's brutal act of aggression involving the destruction of Lebanon
contained a second war, the one the US wishes to wage against Iran. The US
abetted and armed Israel, and thwarted efforts to secure a cease-fire, but it
failed to defeat, by proxy, Lebanon's Iran-supported nationalist guerrillas.
Iran's endorsement of asymmetrical tactics has prevailed.
The "new world order" now contains an Iran fully
in the ascendant as a power more to be reckoned with than to attack. It extends
its influence through Iraq, along its long borders with Afghanistan, over into
Shia groups in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, and Lebanon. Worse for the "new
world order," it has managed to start unifying anti-imperialist,
nationalist sentiments across cultural and religious lines, a unity of purpose
the old order failed to achieve, in spite of its policy of supporting
repressive puppets who opposed Arab-Muslim nationalism in favor of imperialist
With Iran in the ascendancy in the region, it is not
difficult to see why Israel and the United States failed to secure a NATO force
in Lebanon, as they had originally wished, in order to transform it into a
protectorate (like Bosnia and Kosovo) under the boot of US command. For the
disoriented and timid Europeans, the US is neither the guarantor of security
and protection it once used to be, nor the invincible power behind whose skirts
they hid in the paranoic Cold War.
Moreover, the US nullifies or attacks and destroys EU
investments from Lebanon to Iraq. Why should the Europeans, under American NATO
command, wage war in the interest of the US? The Balkan wars, a clear success
of American multilateralism, though an economic and political defeat for the
people of the region, may have been the last hurrah of the old world order.
Today, Iran may well be seen among investors (and not only European) as the
savior and protector of their interests against American dominance in the
region -- in an irony whose mortifying richness has to be appreciated even by
veteran Bush-wars supporters! Everything the US has done to secure its
"new world order" has produced its opposite: a new world order of
resistance to its hegemonic drive. In militarizing itself, it has militarized
Some may say that militarizing the world was its intention,
but that goal could only have been entertained if the US hoped for victory.
This victory would be based on its "moral standing and its means to back
it up." Means it has aplenty -- the largest arsenal of nuclear
paraphernalia on the planet -- but it misuses these means, again and again, by
employing them not in self-defense but in the service of terrorizing
populations to bend to its political will, in Iraq most reprehensibly. Moral
standing, therefore, it lacks.
In Afghanistan, it quickly disengaged itself from the
responsibilities of occupation and reconstruction by handing over operations to
NATO. Afghanistan now stands on the brink of a Taleban takeover. In Iraq, it
lied the country into war, went against the advice of its senior military
advisors, sidelined the specialists and analysts in the CIA, hijacked the
judicial system to subvert constitutional laws, and insulted international
consensus. In Palestine, the US, the self-appointed champion of freedom and
democracy in a feat of unparalleled, costly, and long-standing hypocrisy,
enables an occupier's policy of apartheid in defiance of several UN
resolutions, including the one with the original sin -- Resolution 242, binding
Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.
unique in the world, refuses to declare its borders (while claiming to defend
them!) and arrests with impunity half the elected governing body of its
occupied ward, bombing electric plants to further punish the population for
electoral results it does not approve of, extending a time-and-space-consuming
matrix of control over the Palestinian population with discriminatory pass
laws, preferential infrastructure, and an internationally condemned
"security fence" which gobbles up ever more of the shrinking
patrimony of historical Palestine. This monstrosity the US repeatedly peddles
as "the only democracy in the Middle East."
to dismantle whatever "moral standing" it could lay claim to before
it decided to squander it irretrievably in this folly of the "war on
terror," the US supports undemocratic regimes throughout the world, the
most egregious being the satrapy in Saudi Arabia, while kidnapping democratic
leaders like Haiti's president, Aristide, and attempting to crush the
democratic will of his people.
What moral standing? The US is seen as the government of
lies, corruption, greed, and war -- a kind of governmental version of Enron,
the corporate empire that turned out to be a criminally duplicitous house of
cards. As if this were not bad enough, the military means it has at its
disposal, it employs in a cowardly strategy of air warfare that discriminates
against civilians without achieving military victory.
Rumsfeld's theory of war on the cheap is a war desired from
the attacker's point of view -- quick and lite, it produces only explosions and
death. The prestige of victory eludes it. Israel, the US copy-cat and willing
apprentice, has learned something of the futility of air power to secure
anything more than destruction, humiliation, and world revulsion.
To win wars, you must fight them with something a little
more substantial than bombs and lies. You need truth and justice. It's not how
good an army you have that matters, but whose army it is. The armies of
colonialist and imperialist powers are not the armies of freedom and democracy
but the armies of oppression and subjugation. And that's why they lose. Elementary
-- throughout history.
The "new world order" desired by the senior Bush
has become a reality in junior's actions. But it is not a world that was
intended. It is a world in which the US has invented a fictional enemy that has
generated a reality it will not be able to defeat and which may well drive it,
cornered, into the mad frustration of a global war. For US foreign policy, it
is time to change course before the current course drags humanity into a
terminal debacle and murder of "unimaginable proportions."
Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.