Vladimir Putting / The Guardian & Jan Morris / The Guardian – 2007-02-13 23:36:47
Unilateral Force Has Nothing To Do with Global Democracy
Vladimir Putin / The Guardian
MOSCOW (February 13, 2007) — The universal, indivisible character of security can be expressed as the basic principle that “security for one is security for all,” As Franklin D. Roosevelt said at the onset of the second world war: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries is in danger.”
These words remain relevant today. Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.
This global standoff pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the cold war left behind live ammunition, figuratively speaking. It left ideological stereotypes, double standards and other remnants of cold war thinking.
What then is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it describes a scenario in which there is one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.
It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And this is pernicious, not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within. And this, certainly, has nothing in common with democracy. Because democracy is the power of the majority in the light of the interests and opinions of the minority.
We, Russia, are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves. I believe that unipolarity is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. The model itself is flawed: at its root it provides no moral foundations for modern civilisation. But witnessed in today’s world is a tendency to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world. And with which results?
Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. And even more are dying than before. Many more.
Today we are witnessing an almost unrestrained hyper-use of force – military force – in international relations, a force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts.
Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible. We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. One country, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations.
This force’s dominance inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, threats such as terrorism have now taken on a global character. I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.
And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue. Especially since the international landscape is so varied and is changing so quickly.
The need for principles such as openness, transparency and predictability in politics is uncontested and the use of force should be a truly exceptional measure, comparable to using the death penalty in the judicial systems of certain states.
However, today we are witnessing the opposite tendency, namely a situation in which countries that forbid the death penalty even for murderers and other dangerous criminals are airily participating in military operations that are difficult to consider legitimate. And yet the fact is that these conflicts are killing people – civilians – in their hundreds and thousands.
At the same time we face the question of whether we should remain unmoved by various internal conflicts inside countries, authoritarian regimes, tyrants, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Can we be indifferent observers?
Of course not. But I am convinced that the only mechanism that can make decisions about using military force as a last resort is the charter of the United Nations. The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN.
Another important theme that directly affects global security is the struggle against poverty. On the one hand, financial resources are allocated for programmes to help the world’s poorest countries – sometimes substantial financial resources (which tend to be linked with the development of that same donor country’s companies). And on the other hand, developed countries simultaneously retain their agricultural subsidies while limiting some countries’ access to hi-tech products.
And let’s say things as they are – one hand distributes charitable help and the other hand not only preserves economic backwardness, but also reaps the profits thereof. The increasing social tension in depressed regions inevitably results in the growth of radicalism, extremism, feeds terrorism and local conflicts.
And if all this happens in, say, a region such as the Middle East, where there is increasingly the sense that the world at large is unfair, then there is the risk of global destabilisation.
It is obvious that the world’s leading countries should see this threat. And that they should therefore build a more democratic, fairer system of global economic relations, a system that would give everyone the chance and the possibility to develop.
Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always exercised its prerogative to carry out an independent foreign policy. We are not going to change this tradition today. At the same time, we are well aware of how the world has changed and we have a realistic sense of our own opportunities and potential. And of course we would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.
. This is an edited extract from a speech delivered on Saturday by the Russian president at the 43rd Munich conference on security policy securityconference.de
Once the most beloved country in the world, the US is now the most hated
Jan Morris / The Guardian
LONDON (February 14, 2007) — ‘Whisper of how I’m yearning.” sang George M Cohan in one of the great American songs of nostalgia, “to mingle with the old time throng.” Well, I’m yearning too, not for the gang at 42nd Street exactly, but for the America that Cohan was indirectly hymning – for the Idea of America, with a capital I, which once made the United States not just the most potent of all the nations but genuinely the most liked.
Perhaps, with a future new president already champing at the bit, we are about to witness its rebirth. As a foreigner I am immune to the rivalries or seductions of American party politics, but I have loved the old place for 60 years, and I simply pray for an American leader to give us back its baraka, as the Arabs say – nothing to do with religion or economics or power or even ideology, but the gift of being at once blessed and blessing. Of course nobody can claim that the old dreams of America were ever perfectly fulfilled. They often let us down.
They were betrayed by the national reputations for crime, corruption, racism and rampant materialism. Not all the presidents, God knows, were icons of virtue or even of glamour, and the benevolent Uncle Sam of the old cartoonists was more often interpreted, around the world, as a fat moron in horn-rimmed spectacles, chewing a cigar. Nobody’s perfect, still less any republic. But I think it is true that only in our time has the American Idea lost its baraka. A generation or two ago, most of us, wherever we lived, loved the generous self-satisfaction of it, if not in the general, at least in the particular. The GI was not then a sort of goggled monster in padded armour, but a cheerful fellow chatting up the girls and distributing candy not as a matter of policy, but out of plain goodwill – everyone’s friendly guy next door.
To millions of radio listeners around the world, the Voice of America was a voice of decency, and one could watch the lachrymose patriotic rituals of America – the hand on heart, the misty-eyed salute to the flag – with more affection than irony. For myself, I responded to them all too sentimentally. Like Walt Whitman before me, I heard America sing! I relished the hackneyed old lyrics – Mine eyes have seen the glory, Thy word our law, Thy paths our chosen way, Oe’r the land of the free and the home of the brave, God bless America, land that I love … Most of the words were flaccid, many of the tunes were vulgar, but as I heard them I saw always in my mind’s eye, as Whitman did, all the glorious space, grandeur and opportunity that was America, Manhattan to LA. Sea, in fact, to shining sea.
In those days we did not think of American evangelists as prophets of political extremism – they seemed more akin to the homely convictions of plantation or village chapel than to the machinations of neocons. We bridled rather at the American assumption that the US of A had been the only true victor of the second world war, but most of us did not very deeply resent the happy swagger of the legend and danced gratefully enough to the American rhythms of the time.
We thought it all seemed essentially innocent. Innocent! Dear God! Half a century, and nobody thinks that now. Far from being the most beloved country on earth, today the US is the most thoroughly detested. The rot really started to set in, in my view, with Abraham Lincoln, one of the most admirable men who ever lived. He it was who saw in American glory the duty of a mission. America, he declared, was the last best hope of earth. The pursuit of happiness was not its national vocation, but the example of democracy.
The more like the United States the world became, the better the world would be. No statesman was ever more sincere or kindly in his beliefs, but poor old Abe would be horrified to see how his interpretation of destiny has gone sour. For the missionary instinct, which impelled Americans into so many noble policies, was to be perverted by power. Pace Lincoln, America was not necessarily the last best hope of mankind, and the knowledge that it has possessed unchallengable powers of interference has distorted its attitude to the world and cruelly damaged its image in return. Isolationism was not a very estimable stance, but interfereism is not much more attractive.
In humanity’s eye, the swagger has become bombast and the cocky GI has become a bully. But there is a difference between image and idea. One is a projection, the other an absolute. Public relations people, tabloid newspapers, spin doctors and entertainers can all fiddle with the image of America, but the idea of it remains constant – overlaid, perhaps, dormant, even forgotten, but always there. Everyone who visits America feels it – every package tourist returns to tell their neighbours how nice the Americans are, how different from their reputation.
And what they are all sensing, half-hidden behind the image of America, is the presence of the Idea, with a capital I.
When I first went to the United States in the 1950s, I impertinently remarked to an archetypal guru, Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter, that what with Senator McCarthy and southern segregation, and civic corruption everywhere, I was not much impressed by the condition of America. Be patient, said the sage. America is like a pendulum, swinging from good to bad, from bad to good, and before long it will swing again. He was right, and with luck, perhaps the pendulum is almost ready to swing back once more. Whatever we may think in our moments of despair, America is still a marvellous and lovable country whose patriotism can still be touching: try restraining a tear when you listen to Irving Berlin’s setting of the words on the Statue of Liberty – the ultimate American text, with music by the emblematic American immigrant.
The Great Republic is great still, full still of decent clever people trying to be good. Even now, it is as free as can be expected, and its democracy is fundamentally honest and robust. It laughs at itself, criticises itself and dislikes itself just as much as we do. All it needs is someone with a key to unlock that Idea again, and I hope it will be that next president, whoever it is, even now gearing up for the election. Please God, may it be a poetic president. Inspiration has been the true engine of American success, and all its greatest presidents have been people with a divine spark.
The dullards may have been efficient, respected or influential, but the Jeffersons and the Roosevelts, the Lincolns and the Kennedys have all been, in their different ways, artists. So may it be a president with the key of original inspiration who can release the Idea from its occlusion.
All the ingredients are still there, after all – the kindness, the imagination, the merriment, the will, the talent, the energy, the goddam orneriness, the plain goodness – all there waiting to burst out once more and bring us back our America, blessed and blessing too. “Give our regards to old Broadway.” sang Cohan, “And say that I’ll be there ere long.” So will we, so will we, just as soon as America comes home.
Jan Morris is a historian, travel writer and former Guardian correspondent. Her first book was Coast to Coast: A Journey Across 1950s America and the most recent Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere.
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