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475Dancing to Sharon's Beat

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  • ummyakoub
    Apr 19, 2003
      Dancing to Sharon's Beat
      The Road to Unilateral Pre-emption



      When Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and their aides decided to make
      Arik Sharon's foreign, security and military policy America's foreign,
      security and military policy, they may not have foreseen where this
      would take us. In the months after the events of 9-11,
      "pre-emption,"--unilateral if necessary-- was proclaimed to be the way
      in which we would in the future deal with potential foreign threats to
      our national security.

      Henceforth, we alone would decide whether, how and when to take the
      necessary military action to "take out" such threats. The UN Charter
      did not apply; NATO was irrelevant. Even the Geneva Conventions, which
      had guided the conduct of American soldiers for 150 years, would be
      ignored if they impeded operations. The torture convention? Scrapped.
      Sometime around 2002-2003, the U.S. adopted Israel's security policy,
      and the rest of the world became the West Bank and Gaza. Iraq, it was
      decided, would be the first test case.

      So now we have pre-empted. Our laser guided bombs and our 19, 20 and
      21 year old soldiers have acquitted themselves remarkably well, in
      that they have achieved what they were manufactured and trained,
      respectively, to do. The war fighting is pretty well finished. The
      embedded American and British journalists have done what they were
      expected to do: they have recorded and reported in detail each
      triumph as it occurred, live and in color.

      Now come the problems. The urban areas of Iraq have more people in
      them than Israel, the West Bank and Gaza combined. After more than a
      decade of infrastructure decline under the UN sanctions, they have
      just been decimated by American/British bombs and soldiers. Over 10
      million people in those urban areas are starting to suffer and die in
      large numbers.

      Many of them have no power or water, and little food or sanitation
      facilities. Their hospitals and health centers have exhausted their
      meager supplies of medicines or have been destroyed or looted. The 10
      million do have weapons and ammunition, however, and scores to settle
      among each other. So, without police authorities to intervene, they
      are starting to loot and kill each other in violent waves of disorder
      and anarchy. The International Committee of the Red Cross, present
      through the worst of the fighting in Somalia, Angola and the Congo,
      have begun to withdraw from much of Baghdad.

      The journalists are still doing their jobs, and are reporting the
      human cost of pre-emption, live and in color, to a very attentive
      audience in the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world. The
      vast majority of that audience opposed the war from the beginning, of
      course, and feel little responsibility for what they are reading and
      watching, as they do not believe they were consulted through
      diplomatic means, the United Nations, NATO, etc., in the run-up to the

      The American/British soldiers, too, are still doing their jobs, to the
      best of their ability. But their training and the laser guided bombs
      are largely ineffective to deal with urban anarchy. And they are
      beginning to realize that while they were equipped with superior
      everything: preparation, weapons, transport, communications,
      macro-intelligence, etc., they were sent in to do a job lacking
      several very important things--situational awareness; context;

      If the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in Iraq develops as now
      appears, the microphones and cameras will be in place to cover mass
      population flows, as people in the many tens or hundreds of thousands
      move into the countryside and toward Iraq's borders, fleeing not
      war-fighting, but revenge killings, civil disorder, disease, hunger
      and thirst. The face of pre-emption, which had been that of handsome,
      confident 19, 20 and 21 year old soldiers, will soon be--is
      already--that of dirty, terrified women and wounded or dead children.

      Gone are the special supplements in the newspapers with pictures of
      mobile howitzers and stealth aircraft. We no longer want to be
      reminded of what they can do, so our media have stopped doing it. Gone
      is the icon of the falling statue. Very quickly. In the place of these
      graphics are new, hard questions. It won't even make a great deal of
      difference if a few canisters of nerve gas or anthrax are found in the
      ground. The writers and pundits will be asking the questions.

      Why Iraq, and why now? Why "shock and awe," instead of diplomacy and
      containment? Why did we not foresee the humanitarian outcome of the
      invasion, and plan the peace, when we planned the war? How did
      Iraq--and perhaps soon much of the Middle East--become America's West
      Bank and Gaza? Are pariah states obliged to attack first, or do
      nations become pariah states when they attack first? Why are we
      beginning to hear so much about Syria and Iran from the White
      House and Defense Department--are they next?

      Which brings us back to Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and their aides, and
      the supplanting of U.S. foreign and security policy with Arik
      Sharon's. How, by whom, and by what process did that happen? Whose are
      the individual faces of pre-emption?

      The State of Israel has practiced pre-emption in its most virulent
      form--unilateral pre-emption--for decades. If America does continue to
      apply this doctrine we will discover, as Israel has, that it is
      destructive of our most important foreign relations, and the
      international laws and institutions which support those relations. The
      Bush Administration has done this in the name of internal security and
      will find, as has Israel, that unilateral pre-emption is the
      antithesis of internal security....it is in fact the road to isolation.

      In the coming months, as the fighting and chaos continue in
      Afghanistan and Iraq, and Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld urgently make the
      case for carrying the war into Syria and Iran, Americans will be
      asking how, why and at whose urging we have taken this road. We will
      begin to have a public conversation about the individual faces of
      unilateral pre-emption--a number of senior aides in the Executive
      Branch, particularly in the Pentagon, White House and State
      Department. These individuals share a radical view of America's role
      in world affairs and very close intellectual, emotional and financial
      ties to the right-wing Likud Party in Israel.

      Ironically, several of these individuals who have advanced the case
      for unilateral pre-emption in the name of U.S. national security, have
      themselves faced formal investigations for violation of U.S. national
      security laws, over the past three and a half decades. The foreign
      government involved in each instance was the State of Israel.

      Stephen Green is the author of Taking Sides and
      "Living by the Sword", and has spent over 15 years establishing,
      managing, evaluating and conducting policy research on international
      humanitarian operations for, primarily, the United Nations. He can be
      reached at:



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