Help PMA grow | Petition forms | Site map | PMA main page
Taking on 'Rogue' States: Takes One to Know One
22 July 2002
In diplomatic parlance, a "rogue state" is a nation that operates without regard for international treaties and standards of law. Americans are familiar with the term because the U.S. once used it to describe nations like Libya, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, among others.
The Clinton administration officially dropped the phrase in June 2000.
President Bush revised the concept and renamed it the "axis of evil," which includes the three former rogue states of Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
But whether we condemn them as an evil axis or a rogues' gallery, the U.S. has become the sole arbiter of a nation's moral or ethical fitness. There are two primary reasons for that:
1) The U.S. is so powerful militarily, it can punish rogues without regard for the opinions of other nations; and
2) It takes a rogue to know a rogue.
In fact, the Bush administration--with its unilateral policies, its disregard for international treaties and its rejection of criticism--has behaved as if it was strategizing from a rogue state playbook.
This radical unilateralism was highlighted by the administration's "unsigning" of the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court--which went into effect on July 1. Washington demands U.S. soldiers be immune from prosecution before the new court for any action they may take in their roles as global peacekeepers.
To make its point, the administration is blocking the renewal of the UN peacekeeping mandate in Bosnia, unless the court agrees to exempt the U.S. from the court's jurisdiction.
This refusal to submit to democratic consensus undermines the very principle of democracy. How can the U.S. convincingly tout the virtues of international law and global standards of human rights while exempting itself from practicing them?
This "do as I say not as I do" attitude seems to be a major theme of the Bush administration's unilateralist foreign policy and it has infuriated much of the world, including our European allies.
But the right-wing ideologues now directing the White House pay little heed to international opinions, or obligations. The administration has walked away from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Kyoto protocol to control global warming, the UN agreement to curb the international flow of illicit small arms, the UN conference on racism and several other global treaties.
In fact, the hard-charging desk warriors that have the president's ear seem to take pride in making the U.S. the biggest rogue on the block.
Case in point: according to a report in the July 5 New York Times, the Bush administration is making detailed plans for a full-scale invasion of Iraq.
Were the U.S. to implement these plans, it would take us down an ignoble road that civilized nations vowed never to retread: the road of imperialism.
"Imperialism" is a word relegated to history's dustbin. It was the idiom of an era when strong nations routinely violated weaker ones' sovereignty.
Imperial states often justified their actions as missions of "civilization."
But what else can we call the Bush administration's stated intention to remove Saddam Hussein from power as Iraq's president? The U.S. will take this action even it means invading that sovereign nation.
What's more, we are planning this act of retro-imperialism in the face of considerable international opposition. The rest of the world, with very few exceptions, argues that the U.S. can't simply ignore treaties forged through years of hard history--treaties that are designed to lessen rogue activity.
But the administration seems oblivious to this reasoning. Instead it has come up with the doctrine of pre-emption, a policy that arrogates unto itself the authority to attack any country it says is acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
It's becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile American rhetoric of freedom, democracy and human rights with our rogue actions as a global citizen.
This criticism of the administration's policies is not designed simply to trash it. Rather I'm fearful that the Bushites are taking action that is contrary to American principles. It is doing this in my name and history has taught me to speak up.