Will America come aboard with the rest of the world? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 25, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 25, 2008

Going Deeper

Will America come aboard with the rest of the world?

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ONE often wonders how a country like the US, that has been the beacon for freedom in the twentieth century, could have become so unpopular and illiberal. The framers of the US constitution, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine, and their successors, FDR, Jack Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, shared the liberal tradition not only in their own land but were also inclined to promote and preserve human rights in other countries.
Why else would the US involve itself in the two great wars that cost so much, in men and wealth, if not to save civilisation from extinction? One often considers the Cold War as the period comparable to Kantian world of peace. But, in effect, the Cold War had preoccupied the US both materially and in manpower, facing what Ronald Reagan called “the evil empire.”
Since President Bush enunciated his National Security Strategy in 2002, which effectively subordinated international law to the US domestic law, the world (including US allies) is now divided into those adhering to the present US policy and those hoping for a change next January with the passing of the baton to a new US president; who may not see the world in the Texan way.
Possible change in the US policy direction, notwithstanding the world, cannot indefinitely avoid the question as to whether the libertarian regimes of the West, based on freedom of expression and other fundamental freedoms won from the days of Magna Carta, through the UN Declaration of Fundamental Rights, should not remain irreproachable, impeccable, and unshakeable pillars of the civilised world order.
Indeed, the 2005 UN Summit has endorsed the concepts of the responsibility to prevent acts against humanity. As Gareth Evans of International Crisis Group told the University of Aberystwyth in January: “Heads of states and governments from 150 countries meeting at the UN General Assembly unanimously accepted not only that sovereign states have a very explicit responsibility to protect their own people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity but when they manifestly fail in that responsibility as a result of either incapacity or ill-will the responsibility falls upon the wider international community to take whatever action is appropriate including, in the last resort and if the Security Council agrees, military action.”
The developing countries that are mostly responsible for irredentist explosions within their own societies are mostly reluctant to allow humanitarian intervention because they are not convinced of the altruistic motives of the interventionist powers and fear that regime change or hegemonic “imperialism” could follow such external actions.
This fear was further strengthened by the enunciation of the doctrine of pre-emption by the Bush administration. Professor Michael Desch argues that Immanuel Kant, who wanted the constitution of every nation to be republicanism, accorded republican states the right to end the international state of war by forcing other states to embrace republicanism.
Kant did not find the use of coercion to be unacceptable to force states to join the “Republican League.” In today's world, beset with multiple ills, the international community now must live with fact that non-state actors can inflict great damage to a powerful country at very low cost for themselves.
Such actions have led Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, a noted civil libertarian, to concede that lack of accountability of actions by non-state actors “requires civil libertarians to rethink our exclusive focus on state actions.”
German social theorist Jurgen Habermas clearly states: “No freedom for enemies of freedom.” Even Michael Walzer, who has long argued for proportional response to those committing violence, now argues, “only political response to ideological fanatics and suicidal holy warriors is implacable opposition.”
It is necessary to pause in the Western determination to seek vengeance on the innocent victims, who died in the World Trade Center, Madrid and London bombings, to cite a few examples, in order to go into the root causes of terrorism which 9/11 and London terrorists have proved that poverty alone is not the only root cause.
Could the non-resolution of the Palestine issue for sixty years be a cause? Could patronisation of illiberal and authoritarian regimes by the West be a cause? Could the excesses committed at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and secret prisons in Europe contribute to recruitment of suicide squad of Osama bin Laden? Has extraordinary rendition policy of Bush administration implicating multiple human rights abuses, including torture and death in contravention of Geneva Conventions, eroded support for the US worldwide and lessened US soft power in the world including in Europe?
Has the excessive response by the Bush administration to the terrorist acts of 9/11 by invading Iraq in order to establish a “democratic and multi-confessional” state and his pledge to have democracy through out Greater Middle East, infested with tribalism and religious sectarianism and with overwhelming anti-Americanism the remote chance of success?
In the ultimate analysis, democratic values flow like water. Along with economic development and higher living standard, an urge for an open society and democratic practices is bound to follow. We hope that, in Bangladesh, identified by Branko Milanovic, the lead economist in the World Bank, as one of the three above average performers among the Least Developed Countries, the future holds both better governance and more economic development than what has been our lot so far.

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Secretary and Ambassador.

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