As Australian and other troops representing the UN prepare to secure East Timor, ostensibly for the Timorese, and a de facto international protectorate establishes new institutions of government in Kosova, UN secretary general Kofi Annan opened the annual UN general assembly debate on September 20 with a call for governments to be prepared to accept a new era of pro-active UN interventionism.
The UN’s role as a front for the west’s international political agenda is well known. Annan was appointed to his job precisely because he was the candidate favoured by the US. When the ‘cold war’ ended with the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989, western commentators hailed the era of unipolar western hegemony. Despite subsequent changes of tune, this is the reality in existence. Annan admitted as much in his speech, when he rebuked the US and European powers for intervening in Kosova without security council approval. He expressed the pious hope that it would not happen again, but the UN has accepted responsibility for aspects of Kosova’s post-war administration, and there is no question of taking action against the western powers for what were technically breaches of international law. During the ‘cold war’, the world was divided into spheres of influence within which the superpowers exercised hegemonic control, while the UN was little more than a talking shop for the two sides to put their differences on record.
The US now sees the whole world as its sphere of influence. Recent disputes with Russia and China have demonstrated that the US has sufficient leverage to force them to do its will, albeit after some grumbling. This was amply demonstrated during the Kosova conflict, when Russia was forced to accept the west’s attack on its Serbian ally, and China was unable to respond effectively to the bombing its embassy in Belgrade. The subsequent controversies over corruption in Russia, and over China’s alleged theft of US nuclear secrets, emphasised the US’s dominance. The US cannot invade or bomb Moscow or Beijing, but it has sufficient other means of leverage by which to force its will on them.
Annan’s warning of more interventions in the future can only be a reflection of US intentions. The US already has a record of interventions ranging from the Gulf to Kosova. In the process it is establishing bases across the world that it can use in the future to act against countries or movements that resist its dictat. The fact that the the west’s three largest interventions – Bosnia/Kosova, the Gulf and East Timor – are at either end and the middle of the Muslim world is probably not a coincidence. Annan’s statements indicate that the US clearly plans to maintain this strategy for establishing a global network of military bases, and plans to use the UN as a legitimizing and implementing instrument. The leverage it has demonstrated over other members of the security council should now make it easier for it to avoid vetoes.
It is natural that the west should change its strategy as circumstances change. The process can be likened to adjusting its grip on its club in order to wield it more comfortably and effectively. But there are positive signs also for a movement committed to opposing and rolling back the west’s domination. The first of these is the clear demonstration of the US’s reluctance to use its troops on the ground, and the limitations of its air power. In Iraq, US bombers flattened a country no-one cared about. In Kosova, it was unable to destroy more than a few dozen tanks in weeks of bombing. These military limitations have the potential to significantly undermine its global strategy.
More significant is the fact that it has to use such strategies at all. The west’s initial object was to westernise the world so everyone would want to be dominated by Washington. The west thought its ideologies and the hedonistic culture could take over the minds and hearts of the world’s peoples. Only now are they coming to terms with the reality that most Muslims have seen and rejected the ‘goodies’ the west has to offer. This is why the west is reduced to rebuilding its military imperial domination, which it had thought it would not need thanks to the efforts of Hollywood, MacDonald, Playboy and CNN. This has been the greatest shock to them. And everyone knows the ultimate fate of tyrannies that have to depend on force for their survival.