Friday, November 15, 2002

The New Yorker is my favourite magazine, but I don't read it online; I've been a subscriber for years & by far prefer the aesthetic experience of real paper & ink. Usually by the time each issue makes its way to me it's a week or two out of date; a recent pile-up somewhere in the delivery system meant that I got the 14 & 21 October issue only today, & have only just read Hendrik Hertzberg's "Manifesto", a comment piece on the foreign policy doctrine informing the Bush administration's position on Iraq.

Hertzberg's piece is the clearest analysis I've yet come across of the most worrying aspect of this war with Iraq we're hurtling inexorably towards: this is the first instance of Bush's clearly stated doctrine of pre-emptive action against any nation his administration believes to be a threat to US interests. This doctrine assumes a moral authority — in fact, a moral exceptionalism — that is alarming in its implications.

"The vision laid out in the Bush document is a vision of what used to be called, when we believed it to be the Soviet ambition, world domination. It's a vision of a world in which it is American policy to prevent the emergence of any rival power, whatever it stands for — a world policed and controlled by American military might. This goes much further than the notion of America as the policeman of the world. It's the notion of America as both the policeman and the legislator of the world, and it's where the Bush vision goes seriously, even chillingly, wrong. A police force had better be embedded in and guided by a structure of law and consent. There's a name for the kind of regime in which the cops rule, answering only to themselves. It's called a police state."

The crucial issue is not Saddam Hussein's evil (beyond argument), not the question of whether Iraq & the world would be better off without him (yes, clearly), not oil (there are easier ways to get it, if that were all Bush wanted). The crucial issue is the fact that this war will start us all down the slippery slope towards the state of affairs ultimately envisioned by Bush's "National Security Strategy": in Hertzberg's words, "a kind of global American military dictatorship."

No comments: