Make Law, not War!

by Ulrich Beck Friday, Jan. 24, 2003 at 12:51 PM

Make love, not war the time of the Vietnam war. Make law, not war is proclaimed by Europe at the threshold to the Iraq war. Bush acts according to the slogan: Make war, not law. The brave new world of military security replaces the logic of treaty..

Make Law, not War

By Ulrich Beck

[This article is translated from the German in: Der Spiegel 2/2003. The sociologist Ulrich Beck, 58, author of “The Risk Society”, teaches in Munich and London.]

Make love, not war resounded over the Atlantic to Europe at the time of the Vietnam war. Make law, not war is proclaimed by Europe at the threshold to the Iraq war. In contrast, President George W. Bush acts according to the slogan: Make war, not law.

The world wrestles around new rules of world domestic policy. The founding principle of the United Nations was the inviolable sovereignty of nation states. This principle no longer guarantees the peace. The internal and external security of states and societies presses in the one world whose survival is endangered by transnational terrorism, climate upheavals, global poverty and decontrolled belligerent violence. This principle does not protect citizens from the tyrannical violation of their rights or the world from terrorist violence.

To counter these dangers, international law must be strengthened and opened for the new challenges of world domestic policy, not thrown on the scrap heap of the Cold War. We presently experience decisive moments in which nations have the choice: reestablish international law interpreting the values of modernity so that the new threats can be effectively repelled or return to the Hobbesian struggle of everyone against everyone else where the threat of global war replaces global law.

This “moment of decision already announced with the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of the Cold War and glimmering over the horizon since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 now breaks out in the battle against the Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein. The decisions made in the next weeks will form the international political geography for the coming years. Ultimately the question is whether the new Bush doctrine “Make war, not law” can be enforced in this test case. Military superiority and preventive wars should guarantee the security of America and the world according to this doctrine, not deterrence and containment. The counter-position “Make law, not war” means the military option is one among many options. International treaties, controls, institutions and diplomacy are precedent for deactivating global threats.

The US proclaims a new “national” security strategy that is nothing other than the handbook of American world domestic policy, the Pax Americana, which America’s friends and enemies must uphold. If the Communist Manifesto of the 19th century documented a revolution from below, the national-cosmopolitan manifesto of global America at the beginning of the 21st century is like an official governmental revolution from above. Much more will be decided in the threatening Iraq war than the fate of a presumed potential mass murderer and his following… A single-handed military effort of the US would destroy the institutions of the United Nations along with the rule structure of Iraq. World policy in this case will be bombed back into the pre-legal state.

The Bush doctrine rests on a dangerous error. The values of the open society, freedom and democracy, cannot be burned into the hearts and minds of people with belligerent means. A preventive military strike cannot create that security promised by the American president to his compatriots and the world.

The positions of America and Europe that are seemingly totally incompatible complement and illumine each other. The European option, “Make law, not war”, can become a social-romantic grand delusion if the military security policy component is ignored or factored out. The Balkan wars demonstrated this deficiency. Europeans were already helpless toward violent conflicts on their own continent.

The mastery of Europe’s bloody belligerent history can seduce to the fallacy that only a pacifist political economy leads to reconciliation and peace. Military conflicts break down the European Union that was established as an economic power, not as a military power. Europe’s non-existence has a simple reason. No European intervention forces exist. Perhaps these troops will come this year. The European Union will never be able to protect itself or others with such a military component from the dangers of genocidal terrorism.

Europe is blind about this. Without the military hegemony of the US, the social romanticism of European reconciliation policy would quickly come down to earth. The superiority of the US has its inner-European reason in the collective renunciation on means of force. When this deficiency is seen and repaired, a true foreign policy of the European Union will be first possible. Europe will demand an answer to the big question about the authority of common institutions. A European foreign policy will only be possible when the capitols recognize that passing responsibilities to Brussels does not weaken but strengthens since this cosmopolitan turn expands the influence of all EU states in the world.

Global dangers can create transnational commonalities on this arduous way. Environmental- and peace activists live from the fact – and now find it irritating that their claim of solving world problems is captured by the US military. The Pentagon has discovered the legitimation power of world problems and seeks to profit from this discovery. An autonomous source of world political legitimation of rule arose with and in the world risk society. Global actors – states, advocacy and civil society movements and also corporations – can appeal to this legitimation to ward off or counteract personal danger and dangers to humanity.

The horrors that the incredible pictures of New York on September 11, 2001 globalized through the mass media has made democratic approval or consent de facto replaceable. The most powerful military and economic nation of the world sees itself authorized per acclamation to resist these dangers. The military world power of the US breaks the chains of international treaties and promotes a global populism of resisting dangers.

The speed with which the Bush administration clears away the old sets of international politics and replaces them with new dogmas is subversive. One paradoxical consequence is a wave of a novel pro-American anti-Americanism that defends American values expressed institutionally in the United Nations and in the concern for human rights against the anti-American Bushism. Thus Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State who cannot be suspected of US hostility, criticizes: “Developing principles that promise every nation an unlimited right to a preventive attack against self-defined threats to their own security cannot be either in the national American interest or in the world interest. What the US government arrogates can also be advanced by the government of India against Pakistan (to combat the terrorism in Kaschmir) or by the Chinese government (against Taiwan to ward off a declaration of independence) and so on.

The brave new world of military security promised by the Bush administration plunges the real world into an abyss of dangers by replacing the logic of treaty with the logic of war. American soldiers are saddled with what only treaties based on trust can accomplish: controlled disarmament of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Nowhere is this more evident than in the plans for a war against the personification of “evil”, Saddam Hussein who – according to Bush – has the capacity to produce and use weapons of mass destruction. While the US government prepares the crusade against Bagdad, the US government rejects or systematically devalues all treaties and fundamentals that could prohibit and destroy the deadly arsenal. Little is gained regarding the spread of genocidal weapons even in the ideal case of a victory with limited dead on one’s own side and inconceivable “collateral damage” on the adversary’s side. The proven means of international treaties and controls should be applied. No inner security of the US is possible without an effective United Nations.

State-supported terrorism together with the dangers starting from chemical, biological and nuclear weapons always opens up two paths for the struggle: the war option and the treaty option, that is the practical strengthening of international conventions for disarming genocidal weapons. That North Korea recently claimed it was entitled to possess nuclear weapons reinforces on one side mistrusting the perjured Hussein. On the other side, only a global coalition based on international treaties and legitimated by the Security Council can and must oppose the nuclear terror. Since the US strictly refuses submitting to the disarmament norms that it demands from all other states with military force if necessary, the US destroys the contractual security architecture that is ultimately the only (protective) shield for American citizens.

Concluding from the energetic proclamation of the Bush doctr5ine that its goals have already been reached would be a great error. Military hegemony presupposes a kind of permanent mobilization of the population among allies, not only in one’s own country – under the present conditions of a chaotic-anarchist, crisis-ridden world economy. The credible readiness to intervene politically and militarily in the affairs of other countries is not only extraordinarily expensive. The US stands under the claim of being present always and everywhere and joining in the conversation. This far exceeds the management skills of every government and puts the actors under permanent stress.

In the long run, one cannot have both military omnipresence and the leading position on the world market. Preventive wars endanger or destroy the economic advantages because the costs of military hegemony look unfavorably in the books as competitive disadvantages. Is the fall of Pax Americana announced, not its rise?

The old military imperialism has had its day economically. However it could take a long world war until this insight gains a foothold.