OPINION

US unilateralism

The rupture inside the Western camp over the need for action against Iraq transcends concerns over the Mideast geopolitical framework or oil prices. The deeper issue is whether American hegemony will be exercised within specified contours or not. Pressured by Germany’s economic downturn and political expediency, re-elected Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder adopted a more independent stance and heightened criticism of America. Even though he may now try to bridge the rupture, his rhetoric up to balloting day raised a crucial issue. Even those European states which set their relations with Washington as a top foreign policy priority are annoyed with the manner in which America flexes its political muscle. No one questions the de facto privilege of the US administration to have a major say in political decision making. But this does not mean that Europe should not try to uphold political rights that flow from membership in an alliance – even an uneven one. In truth, the Bush administration is completing a process that began with the collapse of the Soviet system. Being the unmatched political, military and economic superpower, the US believes that the global institutional framework set up during the bipolar period is irrelevant in the current balance of power. The US is not trying to revise this institutional framework on the basis of more favorable treaties. Rather, it is trying to undermine and dislodge it. Confidence in their power makes the Americans unwilling to undertake commitments. They prefer volatility, which gives them more room for maneuver. The US has not only claimed a right to undertake unilateral military action at will. It also seeks preferential treatment, as reflected in its rejection of the new global court. Washington’s strategy in the new world order is nothing but the familiar pax Americana. Other global players may show some resistance but ultimately will succumb.