We start this major research report with what really transpired after the cold war was over.
On Christmas day 1991, the largest empire the world had ever seen, the Soviet Union, dissolved itself. And settling into the White House in 1993, Bill Clinton had undeniably inherited a shiny new world. It was more permissive than any other encountered by an American president in the twentieth century. And American power, no longer trammeled by the Soviet Union, stood at its historical apex. No wonder that at least Clinton's military leaders began to look at this world through the lens of the drafted, but never formalized, Defense Planning Guidance of 1992.1 Though the Clintonites wisely avoided the language of primacy, speaking instead of a five-power world, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashvili, did not believe that the United States was merely unum inter pares:
Today, the difference, or the "delta," between the capabilities of our military forces and the military forces of those who would wish us ill is greater than at any time in my 39 years of service. And our challenge for tomorrow will be to maintain that "delta" so that a future Chairman ... can come before you and say, with the same conviction, that ours are the best Armed Forces in the world, bar none.2
That military "delta" instilled in the civilians the heady assurance that anything was possible. Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state, celebrated ''America's unique capabilities and unmatched power,"3 which was but another word for being No.1. The agenda was not exactly modest, and the United States was always on top. Again in Albright's words: "We must be more than audience, more even than actors, we must be the authors of the history of our age." It is not enough to celebrate the defeat of communism; we must build "a new framework" for the world. In plain English: frozen for forty years, the world is now ours to remake.
What did this framework Made in U.S.A. entail? Boundless ambition. America "must remain a European power." And a "Pacific power," too. And it must make sure that "democratic Russia" becomes a "strong partner." Likewise Ukraine. The United States must also shepherd along NATO's enlargement. In Asia, it "must maintain the strength of our core alliances while successfully managing our multi-faceted relationship with China." In the Middle East, the task was "active diplomatic engagement," that is, playing first fiddle. And so Clinton did-first by forcing Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat into their handshake in the White House Rose Garden in 1993, then by sequestering them in Camp David in 2000. There were also proprietary interests in a slew of secondary bailiwicks: Cyprus, Northern Ireland, India and Pakistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Central America. In each of these areas American leadership was both salutary and necessary.4
Bill Clinton put it all in one simple sentence: "We must continue to bear the responsibility for the world's leadership." He continued with a globe-sweeping set of tasks: These are the kinds of things that America must continue to do. From Belfast to Jerusalem, American leadership has helped Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Arabs to walk the streets of their cities with less fear of bombs and violence. From Prague to Port-au-Prince, we are working to consolidate the benefits of democracy and market economics. From Kuwait to Sarajevo, the brave men and women of our armed forces are working to stand down aggression and stand up for freedom.5
"Because we remain the world's indispensable nation," Bill Clinton intoned in 1996, "we must act and we must lead."6 This was the mantra of a presidency sitting on top of the world. "If the United States does not lead, the job will not be done .... our leadership is essential. ... American leadership is indispensable .... [W]e have to assume the burden of leadership."7 "We must act and we must lead" betrayed an exhilarating sense of primacy. It was America as superpower, as indispensable and inescapable nation. The Soviet Union had bowed out, allowing Gulliver to shake off the usual strictures of international politics.
This is a new world, and ''America's place is at the center of this system," Madeleine Albright liked to declare.8 Missing from the age-old constraints of world politics was the biggest one of all: the strategic threat that had neutralized so much of America's power in forty years of Cold War. No longer laboring under a deadly risk, the Clintonites bestrode the global stage with a cosmic sense of opportunity. Even better, history was going America's way. According to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, it wasn't just strategic but also ideological bipolarity that had died: "The end of the Cold War and the democratic revolution in what used to be the Soviet world have removed the last half century's one anti-democratic ideology with global pretensions."9 With that enemy gone, history could complete its forward march on the side of America as handmaiden of a secular providence:
By the 1980s, self-isolating dictatorships from Chile to the Soviet Union had yielded to democratic and free market ideals spread by radio, television, the fax machine, and e-mail. Since then, in addition to undermining the Berlin Wall and shredding the Iron Curtain, the powerful technological forces of the Information Age have helped to stitch together the economic, political, and cultural lives of nations, making borders more permeable to the movement of people, products, and ideas.10
With history on its predestined path, the sword, which was later so lavishly wielded by the Bush administration in an era darkened by 9/11, could be safely tucked away. But who was the enemy, if any? Bill Clinton gave a prescient answer: We are all vulnerable to the reckless acts of rogue states and to an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers, and international criminals. These 21st century predators feed on the very free flow of information and ideas and people we cherish. They abuse the vast power of technology to build black markets for weapons, to compromise law enforcement with huge bribes of illicit cash, to launder money with the keystroke of a computer. These forces are our enemies.11
What followed? A breathtakingly broad agenda. In Albright's words: "We must fight and win the war against international crime," "stand up to international terror," and "speak out against those who violate human rights." Grand tasks were beckoning. The United States would "fight hunger, control disease, care for refugees and ensure the survival of infants and children." American power would not stop at the borders of other nations. "Appalling abuses are being committed against women, from domestic violence to dowry murders to forcing young girls into prostitution ... and we each have a responsibility to stop it." To complete this glorious sweep, Albright put it all into a planetary nutshell: "When it comes to the rights of more than half the people on Earth, America should be leading the way "12
Blazing a trail for democracy across the world is a purpose now firmly associated with the name of George W Bush. In fact, the Clintonites responded to the post-Soviet world in a very similar language. The global triumph of democracy was not just a lofty ideal but a hardheaded national interest because democracy spelled peace, hence safety for the United States. "Democracy is a parent to peace," is how Albright put it. "Free nations make good neighbors. Compared to dictatorships, they are far less likely to commit acts of aggression, support terrorists, spawn international crime or generate waves of refugees. "13 How do we know? Here is the answer of her deputy Strobe Talbott: "The world has now had enough experience with democracy to have established a body of evidence. That record shows that democracies are less likely than non-democracies to go to war with each other, to persecute their citizens ... or to engage in terrorism. And democracies are more likely to be reliable partners in trade and diplomacy."14 In short, Immanuel Kant, the. best-known author of the "democratic peace" theory, was no longer buried in Konigsberg but alive and well on the seventh floor of the State Department.
But what if destiny stumbled on the way, tripped up by "antihistorical forces" like rogue states and terrorists, whose murderous stings the Clinton administration felt throughout its eight years in office?15 National Security Adviser Samuel Berger was confident that America could master all trials because it was the greatest power of them all: "The bottom line is this: our nation's economic performance is unrivaled, our military might is unmatched, our political influence is unsurpassed .... No other nation has the muscle, the diplomatic skill, or the trust to mediate disputes, nudge opposing sides to the negotiation table or ... help enforce the terms of an agreement. "16
Such were the thrilling beliefs of the first American administration blessed with the fruits of primacy. It bestrode a world where its power was singular, its risk negligible, and its opportunity unlimited. Yet, unlike George W. Bush, who came to the White House with a similar set of convictions, William Jefferson Clinton seemed to be born under a lucky star. During his eight years in office, his mettle was not tested, and neither was the rhetoric of his administration. Force was deployed frequently because the risks had waned-and modestly because there were no dragons to slay, as there would be in abundance a few months into Bush's first term.
Yes, there was still the unfinished business of Saddam Hussein, but "we have him in a box," as Albright's formulaic assurance went, and so it was like a Punch and Judy show: "Saddam would stick his head up, and we'd whack him."17 Washington's oratory abounded with all the good things in life-multilateralism, cooperation, and institutionalism-because the new dragons, like Islamist terrorism, still looked more like dwarf alligators. In a world about to transcend history, allies were treated with the deference due to old comrades in-arms, and former adversaries with the magnanimity that sprouts from victory. Clinton's was a soft triumphalism, and America contained itself, so to speak, because there was no need to throw its weight around.
Yet Gulliver Unbound was not about to bear the chains again, and so the charges of arrogant unilateralism levied against George W Bush miss the other half of the target. For the roots of Bushist unilateralism reach back to his predecessor's era. The Clintonites signed on to the Kyoto Climate Protocol in 1997, but let the years pass without submitting the treaty to the Senate. The administration did not accede to the Land Mine Ban, on the sound calculation that it needed land mines to protect its far-flung forces around the world, especially along the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas. After lengthy foot-dragging, Clinton signed up for the International Criminal Court in the last days of his administration, but he did not submit the treaty to an unwilling Senate. Prudence was the better part of goodness, given the unpleasant prospect that a country most likely to be embroiled in violence beyond its borders would also be most likely to expose its soldiers to international prosecution. Once he had shed his old ropes, Gulliver was not about to entangle himself in new ones.
While still campaigning for the presidency, George W. Bush did not sound like a man who would soon file away Clintonism under "Tried and Found Wanting." Indeed, he seemed downright unassuming when he opined, "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation but strong, they'll welcome US."18 And he shared the historical optimism of Clintonites when he told the navy's midshipmen in the spring of 2001, "The best days of our nation are yet to come." Then came 9/11, and exuberance changed into fear and fury. At least in terms of U.S. grand strategy, "nothing would ever be the same again," as the phrase of the day had it.
What had changed? "On September the 11 th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country," the president intoned. ''Americans have known wars-but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war-but not at the center of a great city .... Americans have known surprise attacks-but never before on thousands of civilians."19 Henceforth, the shock of 9/11-a vulnerability America had never experienced-would course through the corridors of American power.
One half of Clinton's bright new world was now cast in darkness. America's cloud was still unmatched, but the dragons had come back in a different guise. These new demons spoke Arabic and not Russian; they were not a state that could be deterred but a global franchise without a permanent return address. An elusive target, al-Qaeda could not be threatened with "assured destruction," as were the Soviets during the forty years' war, and it could not be defeated in the classic American way-by lots of mass and firepower-as had been done in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Recently unchained, the giant was suddenly engulfed by angst and anger.
So it was back to the hegemonic reflex of the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance and simultaneously forward into a world normally inhabited by nations in relative decline-where those who dread their foe's growing strength strike while the striking is still good. It was all laid out in the National Security Strategy (NSS) published one year after 9/11. First, the document repeated the superpower motif. The United States "possesses unprecedented-and unequaled strength and influence in the world," and in spite of 9/11 this was still a magnificent "time of opportunity for America." Second, Mr. Big would stay Mr. Big. "We must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge" to "dissuade future military competition; deter threats against U.S. interests ; and decisively defeat any adversary if deterrence fails." And again: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."20 It was primacy now and forever more.
Then the NSS moved onto grounds the country had never trod before. The novelty was "preventive/preemptive war."21 Not that the United States hadn't attacked first before. The young Republic had launched punitive expeditions against the Barbary pirates in the early 1800s. It had started the foolishly aggressive War of 1812 against Britain, and it had fought campaigns against Mexicans, Indians, and Spaniards, incorporating about as much real estate in one century as Rome had in its entire imperial career. And as seen in P.1, the United States had also intervened routinely in Central America. But never did this continent-sized nation, which in Tocqueville's words was as safe "as if all its frontiers were girt by the ocean,"22 seek protection in a posture of prevention, that is, in wars against threats that had not yet arisen. Now, the NSS vowed, "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients beftre they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies . " The shibboleth was "anticipatory action," but alone, if necessary: "We will respect the values, judgment, and interests of our friends and partners. Still, we will be prepared to act apart when our interests and unique responsibilities so require."
Thus was America's new superpower temptation, distilled into a thirty-one-page document. The NSS marked an extraordinary departure from the rules of bipolarity. These had demanded around-the clock vigilance while permitting-nay, demanding-unremitting, yet controlled, rivalry on a planetary scale. But these rules had tightly limited America's military opportunities because nuclear Armageddon lurked right around the next bend. Now it was the trio of fear, might, and freedom that guided grand strategy, the most combustible combination in the affairs of nations. As in the Cold War, America faced a deadly foe, but it now had the choice of doing this adversary in, which it did not have while the Soviet Union was still around. And it did choose to do so-twice in the space of thirty months.
The first target of opportunity was Afghanistan, a state that was less a sponsor of terrorism than sponsored by it. Indeed, al-Qaeda had essentially rented Afghanistan as a base and staging area. This was the first time since the Barbary pirates (who were in the business of abduction and extortion) when terrorism had a reasonably accurate return address. Even better, unlike "the Vietcong operating in the protective shadow of North Vietnam, China, and Russia, Terror International had no great-power patron extending shelter and succor from the sidelines. And so, the United States went after the architects of 9/11 with brilliantly executed vengeance.
First, Washington did an exemplary job on the diplomatic front. On September 12, 2001, one day after the collapse of New York's Twin Towers, Washington extracted from the United Nations an authorization to use force. All major powers, including China and Russia, denounced the attack, and NATO invoked its Article 5 ("an attack on one is an attack on all") for the first time in its history. Formerly Soviet possessions, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan offered bases and over flight rights, and so did Pakistan, while Russia gave aid and comfort to the Northern Alliance, an anti- Taliban army of Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Shiites that would soon fight its way into Kabul. Essentially, the United States had the whole world on its side in one way or another.
Second, the United States performed brilliantly on the military level. Within weeks, the United States achieved the kind of victory the Soviet Union had never been able to gain in almost a decade of fighting with about five times as many troops inside the country (100,000). With the help of the Northern Alliance and the British, the United States quickly defeated and dispersed the enemy, an amalgam of Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Arab fighters, in three months. This was the first war fought in totally "un-American ways"-not with mass and firepower, but with speed, precision, and a digitalized battle-management and intelligence system commanded by no other nation.
It was in fact the first "network-centric war" in history, and, miraculously, the intricate choreography worked-some ten thousand miles from home. The network was weaved by B-52 bombers flying round-trip from Diego Garcia, F-14 and F-18 strike aircraft based on carriers offshore, cruise missiles launched from submarines, and special operations forces inside Afghanistan. The system was held together by real-time intelligence from space and from the sky, such as JSTARS , which could detect moving vehicles on the ground and relay this information instantly to the battlefield commanders. By now 90 percent of the ordnance was precision-guided-whereas only around 10 percent had been during the First Iraq War.
But it is with the second Iraq War that the wondrous new world of the unshackled superpower began to fall apart, and the not so happy consequences are still with us.
In the making since the Augsburg Peace of 1555, the "Westphalian system," named aftet the Westphalian Peace that ended the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), denotes a body of treaty law granting rulers absolute sway over their subjects. What he did inside his bailiwick was to be of no concern to surrounding powers. Only his behavior outside could serve as a legitimate cause for war. Intervention for religious or political reasons was out of bounds.
In 2002, the jury was the rest of the world under the would-be leadership of Russia and China, France and Germany, and it demanded a veto right over the conduct of the last remaining superpower. In the summer of 2002, just a decade into America's still fresh primacy, the containment of Goliath had begun in earnest. Now, the United States is alone in the world," mused the dean of the realist school of international politics, Kenneth N. Waltz, in 2000, and realist "theory predicts that balances disrupted will one day be restored." Why so? "As nature abhors a vacuum, so international politics abhors unbalanced power." Hence, "some states try to increase their own strength or they ally with others to bring the international distribution of power into balance." Such are the age old dynamics of the state system. The question is not why it happened, but why it took so long for power to beget power-why the international system began to kick in against the United States only a decade after the suicide of the Soviet Union.
History provides one answer to the puzzle: balances take time to ripen. Sometimes it happens very quickly; by 1792, much of Europe had taken up arms against the three-year-old French Revolution, and by 1815, Europe's would-be emperor Napoleon was crushed. In the case of Stalin's Russia, an anti-Soviet alliance began to crystallize within a year of Nazi Germany's defeat in 1945; three years later, the United States had recruited into NATO Canada and ten European nations, all of which had been in a state of war against Nazi Germany, hence on the side of the Soviet Union. The renversement des alliances· was complete when America's previous arch-enemy, Germany,t was invited into NATO in 1955. But other "reaction formations" took much longer. In the case of the Third Reich, the rise of Hitler in 1933 and his rush to rearmament triggered not an anti-German alliance but appeasement-for six long years. Only in 1939 did Britain and France, under equipped and unprepared, declare war, which is the most drastic method of balancing. Stalin actually collaborated with Hitler, and the United States, under the sway of isolationist fervor, dallied until the end of 1941, entering the war against Germany only after the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor (with Hitler declaring war first). Bismarck's Germany enjoyed a much longer break. After its unification in 1871, Germany was undoubtedly the preeminent power on the Continent. But only at the beginning of the twentieth century would it confront formalized opposition, when France, Russia, and Britain coalesced in the entente of 1907. Antihegemonial war, that is, World War I, did not break out until 1914, forty-three years after the Second Reich's rise to Continental primacy. The term "reversal of alliances," dates back to the Seven Years' War (1756-63), when France and the Habsburg Empire, arch-enemies for the preceding two centuries, made common cause against Frederick the Great's Prussia. More accurately, it was two-thirds of it, the Federal Republic of Germany. The other third of the Third Reich, the German Democratic Republic, was incorporated into the Warsaw Pact by the Soviets.
The second reason for the hiatus was self-containment. The balance kicks in most swiftly against rapacious powers, and so the Third Reich, granted a free ride for six years, had a war on its hands the moment the Wehrmacht forged into Poland on September 1, 1939. The Cold War broke out in 1946 when Stalin extended a covetous hand toward Western Europe and toward the Balkans as well as Turkey. Why didn't the world gang up on the United States when it invaded Iraq in 1991? That war and the one against Afghanistan in 2001 were seen as defensive and/or retaliatory, hence legitimate, while their objectives were tightly circumscribed. The elder Bush stopped his army in 1991, although the gates to Baghdad had swung wide open, and the younger Bush withdrew the bulk of his forces from Afghanistan as quickly as they had entered it. Every would-be hegemon in the modern world-from Charles V to Louis XIV; from Napoleon to Hitler was eventually laid low or exhausted by superior military coalitions.
But what drove Bush to go ahead, the best explanation is power, opportunity, and devotion to the democratic dogma, the oldest in Americas secular religion. Above all, it was the exuberance that comes from singular strength and minimal risk. If it can be done, it will be done, especially when the prize-a Middle East stripped of its political pathologies-was so enticing.
A reminder is the one provided by Charles Krauthammer, an articulate spokesman of the neoconservative faith, which enjoyed a longish ascendancy in the inner sanctum of American power:
In place of realism or liberal internationalism, the last four and-a-half years have seen an unashamed assertion and deployment of American power, a resort to unilateralism when necessary, and a willingness to preempt threats before they emerge. Most importantly, the second Bush administration has explicitly declared the spread of freedom to be the central principle of American policy . The President offered its most succinct formulation: "The defense of freedom requires the advance of freedom."23
This mind-set marked the passage from a placid to a charging bull, from a conservative to a revolutionary power-a mutation that does not reassure the weaker denizens of the barnyard. Their motto is: let him be strong as long as he is in harness, be it self-chosen or imposed. Frightened by Terror International and freed from its Soviet yoke, the United States was going to remake the world, and no matter how lofty the purpose, the smaller nations were not amused, because raging bulls threaten the tranquility-or at least the familiarity-of the status quo.
"Any community with only one dominant power is always a dangerous one, and provokes reactions," lectured the French president Jacques Chirac whenever given a chance. "That's why I favor a multipolar world, in which Europe obviously has its place .... And anyway; the world will not be unipolar." Presaging France's strenuous tackling during America's end run into the Second Iraq War, he wrote, "I am totally against unilateralism in the modern world .... If a military action is to be undertaken, it must be the responsibility of the international community, via a decision of the Security Council."24 The message, tout court, was: the strong must submit to the veto of the weak.
His German "axis" partner, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, warned darkly, "Though America is the sole superpower in this world, the administration does know that it needs friends and allies. Nobody can act on his own."25 Decoded, the message read, "Don't rush into war, because we will abandon and even defy you." One year later, in the midst of the Second Iraq War, Schroder was ready to call a spade a spade. "Our conception of world order is not a unipolar but a multipolar one. This means that the settlement of conflicts must respect state sovereignty and international law, and it must proceed under the aegis of the United Nations. And that's it."26 Neither Germany nor the United States had respected "state sovereignty," when NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to chasten or topple Slobodan Milosevic, nor did that intervention receive the blessing of the UN. But Germany had a say in NATO, and no longer in Washingron, and that was precisely the point of their demarches: the one and only strong must bend to the will of the many weak, lest its inordinate power become even more so. Schroder's foreign minister, Joseph Fischer, couched the same message in more intricate language. Only the UN "disposes of the asset of globallegitimacy."27 After the Second Iraq War, he invoked this principle: "The United States can live up to its leadership responsibilities only by developing an effective multilateralism."28 Bind yourself or be bound, this obiter dictum read in translation.
His French colleague Dominique de Villepin, who would become prime minister in 2005, obliquely threatened a worldwide coalition against the United States: if "a country [relies] solely on its own power," it "will draw together all the forces of opposition, frustration and resentment."29 Indeed, the United States was out of step with the rest of the world, a retrograde among the reformed: "Internationallegitimacy is central. We can see today that America's military agenda is not in synch with the calendar of the international community."30 France, de Villepin meant to imply, was the guardian of the global consensus-and the United States was the sole remaining rogue power: Our "conception of world order is being shared by a very large pan of the international community .... The temptation to resort to force in a unipolar world cannot produce stability. No nation must arrogate unto itself the right to solve all conflicts on its own."31 These were the tutorials in proper conduct offered by France and others to chasten the restless Behemoth.
In a world shorn of the ultimate-that is, military-response to the United States, international regimes occupy the middle ground between balancing by word and balancing by deed. The purpose is to deny the overlord the fruits of his excessive power, hence to limit his freedom to use it by swaddling him in governance by committee. It is the many against the one, a regime of rules against the reign of No.1. Institutional balancing against the United States had already begun while Bill Clinton was still in charge. In the late 1990s, Washington found itself regularly alone and on the other side of such issues as the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Land Mine Convention, the Kyoto Climate Protocol, or the International Criminal Court.
Up front, all these duels were about principle; au fond, about power. Take Europe's, Russia's, and China's hostility to America's national missile defense, which would unhinge a thirty-year-old regime under which the United States and the Soviet Union had for: gone the deployment of a shield against rocket attacks. Their message to the United States was the power of tradition, a classic status quo argument: longevity is legitimacy, and so you must respect time-honored arms control institutions. Yet the real purpose, perfectly logical from the perspective of the less advanced, was to suppress a quantum leap in what was already a surfeit of American power.
Assume a functioning missile shield in the sky. Such an umbrella threatens three grim consequences for those who are not so blessed. First, it would devalue their missile forces; they could have them, but not use them, because their nuclear weapons would not get through. Second, they could engage in an arms race against the United States, piling up offensive weapons that might overwhelm the defense-not a winning strategy when the United States is good for close to one half of the world's total military outlays. Third, and worse, a reliable defense would add to America's offensive options. If the United States could really protect itself against intercontinental missiles, it need not fear retribution when hitting out at the malfeasant du jour. It could fend off a Chinese attack on Taiwan or intervene against any "rogue state" with little risk to itself Shields, in short, make it easier to unsheathe the sword. Yet usable, as opposed to merely deterrent, power does not make the rest of the world feel any safer. Ignoring all protests, George W Bush served notice on Russia in the final days of 200 1 that he was abrogating the ABM Treaty.32
Take the Land Mine Convention or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, to which the United States refused to adhere despite wide international disapproval. The moral argument was beyond challenge. Land mines kill the innocents long after the armies that flung them across the battlefield have departed, and low-yield nuclear weapons, refined through underground testing, gnaw away at the nuclear taboo. Yet moral revulsion dovetailed smoothly with hardheaded interest, and so the gainsayers could not have ignored the balance-of-power side of the coin. Antipersonnel mines deliver a shield for power projection abroad, and the better the United States can protect its forces, the less hesitant it might be to send them into action. A less than complete test ban would also expand America's military opportunities by allowing for the development of smaller nuclear weapons like subkiloton "bunker busters." Eroding the firewall between conventional war and nuclear war, such devices might increase the temptation to use them. That, too, irked those who worried about unbridled American power so recently liberated from the cruel discipline of bipolarity. Naturally, Europe et al. insisted on adherence to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, while the United States balked at accepting new chains.
Take America's refusal to submit to climate conventions. Though the Europeans framed the issue in terms of global good citizenship, the underlying contest was over American power. Would the giant defer to the many or defy them? Unless it accepted limits on its carbon dioxide output, the world's largest consumer of fossil energy would continue to take liberally from the global commons and improve its economic position vis-a-vis Europe. (At that point in the story, China, polluter extraordinaire, had not yet swept into the international energy market, and so it was exempted from carbon dioxide limits.) Once more, the politics of goodness went hand in glove with the politics of balance, for instance during the negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto Climate Protocol at The Hague in November 2000. When the talks ended in a storm of bitter recrimination against the United States, the Economist noted, "Some European ministers made it clear that they wanted Americans to feel some economic pain more than they wanted a workable agreement."33
And so with the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the end, even before George W Bush dismissed the ICC with a peremptory wave of the hand, the Clinton team correctly understood the unspoken balancing strategy enshrined in the ICC, dumping the treaty into the lap of the incoming administration. For both America and Europe, the underlying issue was U.S. power. Having shed its old Cold War chains, the superpower was not going to bear new ones. It was not in the giant's interest to have an international court scrutinize its interventions by way of prosecuting members of its military ex post facto. But this was precisely the tacit interest of Europe and the rest of the world. Though the ICC was to go after the likes of Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, it might also establish a handy precedent against Uncle Sam, who had been known to take the law into his own hands. Granted the right of review, the court might deter and thus constrain America's forays abroad.
What is the common moral of this tale of global regimes? Not to put too fine a point on it, hegemonists hate international institutions they do not control, and they share their sovereignty with lesser players only as long as these do not question its precedence. These nations treasure international institutions precisely because they strengthen the many against the one-just as the Lilliputians liked their ropes on Gulliver once he went off on his own. Naturally, the United States honored the UN all the way into the 1960s, as long as multilateralist virtue was rewarded by guaranteed majorities In America's favor. Naturally, Washington turned against the UN in the 1970s when the General Assembly began to churn out anti-American votes in the manner of an assembly line. The United States happily deferred to the UN over Iraq I and blithely circumvented it over Iraq II. The difference was a yes to war in the first case, and an impending no in the second. In a world where the many cannot fell the Behemoth, they must try to tame him. And so, international regimes have become the functional equivalent of traditional hard-core balancing by alliance and arms.
The contest turned from jujitsu to tackling in summer of 2002-once the Bush administration began to prepare the world for a second round against Saddam Hussein. The first clarion call was Gerhard Schroder's indictment of American adventurism. "Playing with war and military intervention," he warned, "will have to be done without us .... We are not available for adventures."34 It was followed by a categorical refusal to join the American effort-not even under a UN mandate. In January 2003, the chancellor went one worse, threatening to vote against a war resolution in the Security Counci1.35 In February, France and Germany, with Belgium in tow, practiced the pure politics of denial by vetoing an American request to NATO to begin planning for the defense of Turkey in case of war against Iraq.
Was it all domestic politics? To argue that Schroder tapped into German pacifism and anti-Americanism during the election year of 2002 in order to save his sinking campaign-the gambit worked by a few thousand votes-misses the deeper point. No German chancellor, right or left, would have dared play politics with the American connection while Soviet armies were poised to lunge through the Fulda Gap. Better to lose the elections than to lose the Americans.36 That Schroder chose to save himself was the most vivid proof of bipolarity lost and dependence shed. He did so again during the electoral campaign of 2005. Trailing the Christian Democrats by a dozen points, he played the pacifist, anti-Bush card by telling the president (who had refused to rule out force against Iran's nuclear program), "Take the military options off the table .... Under my leadership, the government would not participate [in a military action]."37
The point goes deeper still. The demise of bipolariry abroad had translated immediately into its collapse at home. For fifty years, there was always an ''American parry" in the system-the Christian Democratic and Liberal right-and a victorious one, to boot. This was also true for Italy's Democrazia Cristiana as well as for the rest of Western Europe's center-right parties, which would never refuse a call from Washington. This time, in the run-up to the Second Iraq War, Germany's Christian Democrats did not rush to the defense of the United States; unlike their Cold War chancellors from Konrad Adenauer (1949-63) through Helmut Kohl (1982-98), they squirmed and waffled. And so again in 2005, when the conservatives carefully maintained their distance from the United States. It may be true that all politics is local, but it helps to have a permissive international setting on your side when playing a strictly local game.
"It's the system, stupid," Bill Clinton might have said. Jacques Chirac did not face an election in 2002, yet he, too, took to balancing against la hyper-puissance with a vengeance. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, his predecessor Charles de Gaulle had assured John F. Kennedy of his unflinching support against l'empire totalitaire. That was history; now the strategic threat was gone, and the United States was on a roll. Liberated, just like the United States, from Cold War discipline, France and Germany coalesced into an anti-American bloc. France and Germany are "entirely coordinated and in permanent contact every day," affirmed Chirac.38 Schroder named "France, Russia, China, and many other states" that opposed the war, emphasizing that the "decision monopoly on the use of force must remain with the Securiry Council."39
Given a defrocked superpower in Moscow, they sought to extend members to forestall a majority for the United States, rendering a veto by any of the permanent members unnecessary. The French and the Germans cajoled, threatened, and bribed, and in the end the United States conceded the game by going to war without the blessing of the world's would-be government.
Chirac and Schroder could savor a triumph of sorts; having organized an "antihegemonic" alliance, with Russia and China as subsidiary members, they had won on the principle that "military action could be decided only by the Security Council."40 But in a class of its own, the United States did have the last word. And why not, given that Americas might was no longer stalemated by the sole counterweight that mattered, the Soviet Union? As a popular English ditty of the late nineteenth century put it, "We've got the ships / We've got the men / And got the money too."41 The world richest and strongest nation, the United States had it all.
So what was the rest of the world going to do to Mr. Big? The most economical and efficient attack came from totally unexpected quarters. Call it "sub-rosa' or "illicit" balancing through "asymmetric warfare," a.k.a. "international terrorism." The actors were-and are-not states, as in the classic game, but private entities ranging from the freelance bombardier Osama bin Laden, via a global franchise by the name of al-Qaeda, to the assorted jihadis who launched "Iraq War II-The Sequel" against the United States in November of 2003. The opening shot was the assassination attempt on Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, during his trip to Baghdad. It has been escalation ever since. What is the objective?
The ends of jihadism are total, ranging from the expulsion of the "crusaders" (America and Israel) from the realm of Islam to the rout of a decadent and unbelieving West. The means are heinous under any moral code-the mass murder of civilians. In coldly strategic terms, however, Terror International (TI) has discovered the most efficient method to hurt, perhaps even demoralize, the superpower. Balancing by terror was born on April 18, 1983, when an Arab suicide bomber drove a truck full of explosives into the U.S. embassy in Beirut, leaving seventeen Americans dead. Two years after the "end of major hostilities" in Iraq, Terror International-al-Qaeda, foreign jihadis, and Sunni locals-had killed fifteen hundred Americans in Iraq, more than three times the number of dead suffered in all of America's Middle Eastern wars since 9/11.
The enemy is not a state but a loose network, whose address is unknown. By definition, suicide bombers cannot be deterred, and a reliable defense is impossible on a battlefield where a minimally vulnerable aggressor meets with a maximally vulnerable victim. TI has found and exploited the weakest point in Western society: a flow economy that demands around-the-clock mobility and concentrates large numbers of "soft targets" in confined spaces like office towers, airports, buses, trains, and subways. While the weapons of terrorism are substrategic-a truck or just a backpack filled with explosives the consequences are more than just tactical Merely take, for example, the costs of securing airports and of waiting in line for passenger inspection. Worldwide, there are about two billion passengers per year. Assume that each arrives at the airport one hour early to make it through security, and assign opportunity costs of $10 per hour. That adds up to a global tax of $20 billion per year. Consider a budget of $6 billion for the u.s. Transport Security Administration (TSA). Add the wages of tens of thousands of security personnel hired around the world. Then put a price on the delays suffered by the hauling and shipping industries, which must submit their cargoes to inspection. Tally the cost of successive investments in security technology for surveillance and eavesdropping after each fresh attack in a major Western city. A global terrorism levy of $100 billion per annum is not an unreasonable estimate. And how do we assess the invisible costs of liberties curtailed and social trust denied?
Direct costs for the United States in 2005 were $81.9 billion in supplemental appropriations for the war on terror on top of $25 billion already allocated for fiscal year 2005.66 Terror International's war against the United States is not only total in its ends and global in its scope but also extremely cost-effective in its means-considering that a few thousand jihadis could tie down over a hundred thousand American troops in Iraq while imposing a terrible tax on the United States and the West as a whole. An old rule of counterinsurgency warfare warns: the government loses as long as it does not win; the insurgents win as long as they don't lose. The superpower cannot lose this war in a strategic sense, for even a primitive nuclear device-a "dirty bomb"-delivered onto its soil will not force the United States into surrender in the way Nazi Germany and Japan were so compelled in 1945.
Yet Terror International has found a dreadfully effective way to sap the strength of Gulliver Unbound. Its strategy of asymmetric warfare is more "productive" than were the frustrated attempts of France, Germany, Russia, et al. This will compel the United States either to leave Iraq and then Afghanistan or to station troops (and suffer casualties) sine die-not to speak of the monetary toll, which runs to triple-digit billions per year. The greatest irony of the twenty-first century is the vulnerability of the mightiest power on earth to the most minuscule of foes. Terror International's army numbers but thousands; its weapons are trucks and TNT, assault rifles, and IEDs.
1. "Excerpts from Pentagon's Plan: 'Prevent the Re-emergence of a New Rival,''' New York Times, March 8, 1992, p. 14.
2. "Remarks before the National Press Club," Washington, September 24, 1997, in USIA, Us. Information and Texts, no. 39, October 2, 1997, p. 8.
3. "Statement before the House International Relations Commirree, FY-98 International Affairs Budget," February 11, 1997, http://secretary.state.gov/www/ statements/970211.html.
4. Confirmation hearing, "Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee," January 8, 1997, http://secretary.state.gov/www/statements/9701 08a .html.
5. "Remarks by the President in Freedom House Speech, Washington, October 6, 1995, http://www.clintonfoundation.org/legacy/ 1 00695-speech-by-president-infreedom-house-speech.htm
6."Acceptance Speech at the Democratic National Convention, Foreign Policy Excerpts," August 29, 1996, http://www.4ptesident.otg/speeches/clintongotel996 convention.htm.
7.All quotations from "Remarks by the President," cited above.
8. "Address and Questions & Answer Session befote the Council on Foreign Relations," September 30, 1997, http://secretary.state.gov/www/statements/970930.html.
9. "Democracy and the National Intetest: Remarks by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott ro the Denver Summit of the Eight," October 1, 1997, http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/talbott.htm.
10. "Globalization and Diplomacy: A Practitioner's Perspective," Foreign Policy, Fall 1997, p. 70.
11. "Address to the U.N. General Assembly," Septembet 22, 1997, in USIA, US. Information and Texts, no. 038/A, September 25,1997, p. 2.
12. Madeleine Albright, "American Leadership for the 21st Century: Doing What Is Right and Smart for America's Future," Jesse Helms Lecture at Wingate University, March 25, 1997, http://secretary.state.gov/www/statements/970325.html.
14."Democracy and the National Interest," cited above.
15. In the first attack on New York's World Trade Centet, a bomb killed six people. In 1995, five Americans died when a car bomb exploded outside the U.S. military headquarters in Ryadh. In 1996, an attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia killed nineteen U.S. soldiers. In 1998, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed, leaving twelve Americans dead. In 2000, a suicide attack crippled the USS Cole in Yemen, killing seventeen.
16. Samuel R. Berger, "The Price of American Leadership," Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, May 1, 1998, White House, Office of the Press Secretary, May 1, 1998, http://clinton6.nata.gov/1998/05/1998-05-0 l-remarks-by-sandyberger -a t- the- b rookings- insti tu rio n.h tml.
17. Martin Indyk, Clinton's Middle East expert, as quoted in Evan Thomas, "The 12 Year Itch," Newsweek (International), March 31, 2003, p. 56.
18. "Text of Second Bush-Gore Debate," Winston-Salem, N.C., October 11, 2000, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/ 1 0/ 11 /politics/ main240440.shtml.
28. "Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People," September 20, 2001, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/200 1/09/print/200 1 0920 8.html.
19. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002, pp. 1, 29, and 30, www.whitehouse.gov/nsclnss.pdf.
20. For accuracy's sake, these two terms ought to be carefully distinguished, especially since they were routinely scrambled in the Bushist rhetoric. "Preemption" means striking first when the other side is about to attack. "Prevention" implies going first in a situation short of war-when the assailant still has the upper hand, but the balance of power is tilting in favor of its rival. It is the difference between the very short term and the longer term. Israel offers the best illustration for this distinction. Watching Soviet arms flow into Egypt, Israel attacked in 1956 while it was still favored by the "correlation of forces." In contrast to the Suez War, the Six-Day War was a classic instance of preemption. When Nasser's armies poured into the (demilitarized) Sinai, Israel interpreted this move as prelude to an attack and struck first in preemption.
21.Democracy in America, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage Books, 1954), p. 178.
22.The National Security Strategy, pp. 14, 31 (emphasis added).
23. "The Neoconservative Convergence," Commentary, July-August 2005, p. 22.
24."France Is Not a Pacifist Country," interview with Time (International), February 2, 2003, p. 31; Jacques Chirac, "French Leader Offers America Both Friendship and Criticism," New York Times, September 8, 2002, p. A9.
25. "Wir muessen noch hart arbeiten," interview with Welt am Sonntag, May 19, 2002, p. 4.
26"Dann lasst uns streiten," interview with Der Spiegel, April 4, 2003, p. 53.
27. "Europa und die Zukunft der transatlantischen Beziehungen," address at Princeton University, November 19, 2003. http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/ www/de/ausgabe-archiv?archiv_id=5116.
28. "Rede zur deutschen AuiSenpolitik vor dem deutschen Bundestag," Berlin, September 8, 2004, http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/www/de/ausgabe-archiv? archiv _id=6131.
29. "The Last Word: Dominique de Villepin," Newsweek (International), December 15, 2003, p. 66.
30. "Wir konnen den Irak friedlich entwaffnen," interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 28,2003, p. 5.
31. "La France s' oppose a une nouvelle resolution de ‘UNO," interview with Le Figaro, February 24, 2003, p. 3.
32. "Today, I have given formal notice to Russia, in accordance with the treaty, that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost 30 year old treaty. I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks." "Remarks by the President on National Missile Defense," December 13, 2001, http://www.whitehouse.gov/ newsl releases/200 II 12/200 11213-4.html.
33."Oh No, Kyoto," Economist, April 7, 2001, p. 81.
34.. "Rede von Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schroder zum Wahlkampfauftakt in Hannover," August 5, 2002, pp. 7 and 8 of typescript. See http://www.spd.de. The chancellor's helpers depicted this sally as reaction to Vice President Cheney's regime-change speech. In fact, his address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention was delivered three weeks later, on August 26, 2002. See above, p. 47.
35. See "Schroder's Nein spaltet Europa," Financial Times Deutschland, January 1, 2003, p. 1. In January 2003, Germany entered the Security Council as a rotating member; in February, it became chair.
36. It is instructive to recall the fate of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (1974-82), who stuck to the deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles against the consuming hostility of his Social Democrats. No longer in control of his own party, he was abandoned by his Liberal coalition partners, who bolted to the Christian Democrats in 1982, helping to elect the conservative Helmut Kohl as chancellor.
37. As quoted in "Schroder macht den Atomstreit mit Iran zum Wahlkampfthema," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 15, 2005, p. 1.
38.As quoted in "Germany and France Draw a Line, against Washington," New York Times, January 23, 2003, p. A9.
39. "Schroder: Mut zum Frieden-Die RegierungserkHirung des Bundeskanzlers," FrankfUrter Allgemeine Zeitung, February 14,2003, p. 6.
40. "Words of Refusal: Three Nations Say No," New York Times, March 6, 2003, p. A16.
41. "Conference de presse de Monsieur Jacques Chirac," January 17, 2003, http:/www.elyseeJr/cgi-bin/auracom/ aurwebl search/file?aur_file=discourse/200 3.
42. This popular music hall song began with "We don't want to fight I But by Jingo if we do" and appeared at the time of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78), when anti-Russian feeling ran high and the British prime minister Disraeli ordered the Mediterranean fleet to Constantinople.
43. As requested by the White House on February 14, 2005. See htttp:1 Iwww.ngb.army.mil/ll/reports/ 06/whitehouse_suppreq_21405.pdf.
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