Courting Global Tyranny by William F. Jasper

New American Magazine
Monday, 31 August 1998 16:36

Courting Global Tyranny

Written by  William F. Jasper

ICCEverywhere throughout Rome these days the signs of construction and restoration are unmistakable: ancient monuments, temples, churches, and basilicas are shrouded in scaffolding and streets are blocked off to traffic as workmen paint, chip, clean, and pave. The furious renovation campaign is in preparation for the new millennium, which has been designated Europa 2000 by the European Union and the Year of Jubilee by Pope John Paul II.

But the most significant construction in the Eternal City this summer did not involve bricks and mortar, and was largely invisible to the millions of tourists who came to bask in the Mediterranean sun and the grandeur that is Rome. For five weeks during June and July, hundreds of delegates from 160 nations met at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) complex to construct what advocates called “the last global institution to be created in this century”: the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Contrived Consensus
Late on July 17th, the last day of the conference, following grueling hours of high-pressure arm twisting, a global “consensus” was declared by the ICC Plenary Session, and the announcement was made that 120 nations had voted in favor of approving the new “Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.” Only the United States and six other nations — Israel, China, Libya, Qatar, Iraq, and Yemen — voted against the statute. Twenty-one nations abstained.

The new International Criminal Court will come into existence in The Hague once 60 countries have ratified the treaty. This is profoundly significant to all peoples who dwell on this planet, and especially to Americans, since the ICC claims universal jurisdiction to try individuals charged with genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression, anywhere on earth — even if the supposed defendants are citizens of a nation that has refused to ratify the treaty and the alleged crime has taken place inside the boundaries of that nation. This unprecedented claim of authority and the extension of treaty obligation to nonparty states is a truly audacious usurpation — even for the United Nations, which has grown increasingly brazen with each succeeding global summit. If allowed to stand — and to thrive and grow, as its champions intend — this Court will sound the death knell for national sovereignty, and for the freedoms associated with limited, constitutional government.

Of course, the issue of the Court’s credibility absent U.S. participation, and the practical matter of enforcing ICC judgments against an unwilling U.S. (or against just about anyone else, for that matter, without U.S. support), has not been lost on all. “You cannot have a court of universal jurisdiction without the world’s major military power on board,” Netherlands delegate Gam Strijards was quoted as saying by the New York Times. “I won’t say we gave birth to a monster, but the baby has some defects.” The myopic Dutchman may see a defective baby, but any sober, rational evaluation of the ICC will confirm that the creature born in Rome is indeed a monster. Which is hardly surprising, inasmuch as it would be illogical to expect anything but a monstrous product to be produced by the monstrous process that was the Rome ICC conference.

Carefully Managed Forum
There is an old adage that those with weak stomachs should not watch sausage or legislation being made. That advice was especially true for the global confabulation which produced the ICC Statute. The Rome gathering was the culmination of a multi-year program of PrepComs (Preparatory Committee meetings) that had been carefully orchestrated to arrive at the contrived global “consensus” that is now being celebrated by the devotees of “world order.” Far from the careful, deliberative process concerning narrow, tightly defined issues that typify most treaty negotiations between nations, the ICC summit was an exercise in managed chaos aimed at establishing an international criminal code that will be binding upon the entire planet. Yet all the redundant, pious platitudes about reverence for “the rule of law” could not hide the fact that this was truly a lawless conference in pursuit of lawless objectives.

Terra Viva, the official NGO (non-governmental organization) newspaper, noted in its first issue for the conference that “with more than 1,700 passages of the draft statute in brackets — indicating disagreement among governments over wording — almost every issue central to the ICC’s existence is still open for discussion.”

“Even by past standards of international treaties,” the radical journal commented, “the draft statute … is vague and runs to a hefty 166 pages in English.” What this meant for conference delegates was an impossible task of trying to keep up with a dizzying deluge of endless text revisions, high-powered lobbying by NGO militants, and devious schedule manipulation by Conference Chairman Philippe Kirsch.

The conference organizers were taking no chances and had so blatantly stacked the deck in favor of the ICC that its creation was never seriously in doubt, despite the furious diplomatic theatrics and the frequent handwringing over a multitude of obstacles that supposedly threatened to scuttle the statute. To begin with, by holding the conference in Rome, the ICC advocates were guaranteed not only the advantage of all the assistance which the left-wing Italian government would give, but the aid as well of a huge cadre of Italian professors and activists who have been among the most fervent apostles for establishing a global judiciary. Holding the conference at the FAO further guaranteed that the huge UN bureaucracy would be strategically positioned to assist in all phases of the event — far more than if the summit had been held at a neutral venue.

To tilt the process even further, the conference was loaded up with delegates from UN agencies such as the International Law Commission, UNESCO, UNICEF, the UN Commission for Human Rights, the UN Commission on Crime, the UN Office for Drug Control, and intergovernmental organizations like the Council of Europe, the European Community, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Interpol, the Organization of African Unity, and the Organization of American States.

But by far the most dramatic development in Rome was the emergence of the NGOs as rent-a-mob power brokers in the increasingly sordid business reverently referred to at these gatherings as “evolving norms of international law.” Paul Taylor, diplomatic editor for Reuters, sinned by understatement when he reported that “the enormous influence of NGOs inside the conference was one of the key features of the five-week Rome meeting.” The incestuous relationship between the UN/ICC officials and the NGO radicals — and the flagrant connivance by the two forces to push the entire conference proceedings ever leftward — made a complete mockery of their sanctimonious paeans to justice, fairness, transparency, and the “rule of law.”

Conference officials attempted to establish a moral imperative at the outset which posited that the ICC was essential not only to end the gravest of crimes but to restore the credibility of the UN and global institutions. “If we succeed,” World Federalist William R. Pace told the ICC conference “it means the establishment of a court which will prevent the slaughter, rape, and murder of millions of people during the next century.”

By keeping the conference rolling at a relentless pace and swarming the conferees with non-stop lobbying by militant NGO delegates, the organizers achieved a pressure cooker effect which wore down any resistance to the pre-ordained outcome. The Rome process provides an alarming look into the dreadful prospect of “the rule of law” under an unrestrained UN regime.

Vague and Dangerous
John R. Bolton, senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, in his July 23, 1998 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that even for genocide, the oldest among the crimes specified in the Statute of Rome, “there is hardly complete clarity in what it means.” The ICC Statute contains the same definitions for genocide that are found in the Genocide Convention. Mr. Bolton observed: “When the Senate approved the Genocide Convention on February 19, 1986, it attached two reservations, five understandings, and one declaration. One reservation, for example, requires the specific consent of the United States before any dispute involving the U.S. can be submitted to the International Court of Justice. One of the understandings limits the definition of ‘mental harm’ in the Convention to ‘permanent impairment of the mental faculties through drugs, torture, or similar techniques.’ Another understanding provides that the Convention should not be understood to function automatically as an extradition treaty.”

Even these legal protections are of dubious value in an organization replete with thugs, tyrants, kleptocrats, and mass murderers. In fact, by giving a sense of false security they served to dignify and make palatable a toxic substance which would otherwise have been rejected for the dangerous sham that it is. However, under the ICC regime even these dubious protections are not available. Article 120 of the treaty states emphatically, “No reservations may be made to this Statute.” In order to ratify the Statute, the Senate would have to repudiate the positions it laboriously worked out to cover the obvious defects in the Genocide Convention — and then trust that parties who mean us harm will not make use of their ample opportunities to charge American citizens with “genocide.”

“War crimes” and “crimes against humanity” are even more vaguely defined, and thus, fraught with even more danger. Under crimes against humanity, for instance, we have the crime of “persecution,” which is defined as “the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity.” Would an activist ICC judge have difficulty discovering in that definition the authority to strike down any laws — or even the policies of private religious bodies for that matter — that “deprive” homosexuals of their “fundamental rights”? Not likely. How about “other inhumane acts,” such as “causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health”?

Similarly, under “war crimes,” there are definitions sufficiently broad to drive a UN Panzer division through. Consider the hooks that could be devised with these crimes:

• “Willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health.”

• “Killing or wounding treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army.”

• “Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

• “Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such an attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment….”

Can we really consider allowing a panel of UN judges to decide whether a U.S. military bombardment or other operation constitutes a crime of causing “great suffering” or “serious injury to health”? Can we truly contemplate allowing ICC “jurists” to determine if a Marine sniper or an Army patrol carrying out an ambush of an enemy force is guilty of “killing treacherously”? Is there a possibility that “outrages upon personal dignity” could be interpreted by an anti-American judiciary to our detriment? What shall constitute “knowledge” that an attack will cause “incidental loss of life or injury”? And what does “civilian objects” mean? If your mortar round overshoots and blows up a farmer’s haystack are you guilty of a war crime? Probably so, if you’re an American.

Still more disturbing is the ICC’s claim to have jurisdiction over “internal conflicts” under the “war crimes” rubric concerning “armed conflicts that take place in the territory of a State when there is protracted armed conflict between governmental authorities and organized armed groups or between such groups.” Imagine how that might be applied to the ongoing gang warfare in many of our cities, or a siege of rioting such as we experienced in Los Angeles and other cities a few short years ago.

Are these paranoid and frivolous objections, as the ICC’s fervent backers claim? How can anyone think so? We have numerous decisions by our own activist federal judges, who claim to find a “constitutional” right to abortion, for example, lurking in the “penumbras formed by emanations from the Bill of Rights.” Can anyone familiar with the record of the UN think that judges from Russia, China, Cuba, Iran — or even some of our supposed “allies” for that matter — would feel any more constrained against playing God than our own robed subversives?

Hotbed of Hatred
As one who was in Rome “at the creation,” this reporter can attest firsthand to the fact that the longstanding hatred toward the United States by the vast majority of the pathetic regimes that comprise the UN menagerie is still alive and well. Day after day during the ICC conference the U.S. was subjected to tirades and condemnations — by official delegates as well as by NGOs — for past and present sins. In fact, from the non-stop anti-U.S. invective one might imagine that America is the principal, if not the sole, source of evil in the world. The billions of dollars that we have ladled out over the past half century to these countries and the UN itself have purchased us not an iota of good will.

There were calls for prosecuting Presidents Bush and Clinton for war crimes. The NGO “Society for Threatened Peoples” charged the U.S. with these past “war crimes”: “Dropped 15 million tonnes of bombs in the Vietnam War, conducted air raids on Cambodia, supported Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor, backed right-wing death squads in Guatemala in the early eighties.”

Months before the Rome summit had even begun, the UN Commission on Human Rights had targeted the U.S. with a purely political attack alleging that this country unfairly applies the death penalty. The Commission report charged that the U.S. was in violation of the 1966 UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called on the U.S. to suspend all further executions until U.S. state and federal laws were brought into compliance with “international standards and law.”

Of course, we don’t mean to imply that all of the U.S. bashing was emanating from Third World countries, communist satrapies, or UN agencies. Canada, Norway, Britain, Germany, Italy, and other European “allies” vied for top anti-U.S. honors, too. On the final day of the conference, when the very minimal objections of the U.S. to the ICC were soundly defeated, the assembled delegations erupted in a tumultuous and defiant display of anti-American jubilation — which was joined by much of the press corps — including “American” reporters.

Naturally, the U.S. NGOs topped all others in attacking their homeland. As Reuters reported, “the American NGOs were the scourge of the United States” at the conference. On July 8th, a Terra Viva headline, “Police Brutality Deeply Rooted in U.S.,” announced the release of a Human Rights Watch report charging a national “epidemic” of police brutality. The 440-page report, entitled Shielded From Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States, was time-released for maximum effect on the conference. Human Rights Watch spokesman Richard Dicker seemed never to be satisfied if not hurling vitriol at the U.S. But that has not hindered him or his group from receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past year from the Ford Foundation.

Open-Ended Aggression
It would be utterly foolish to imagine that this army of international rabble rousers masquerading as “human rights” champions will not seek to use the new ICC Statute principally as a weapon against America. But if the three “core crimes” offer opportunities for mischief because of fuzzy definition, what about the crime of “aggression”? The ICC Statute doesn’t even offer a definition of this nebulous crime, but simply says that the world should blindly approve the Statute and trust in the benignant global servants to come up with a universally acceptable definition. Here, exactly, is what the treaty says, in Article 5, Section 2: “The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted in accordance with articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.” Is that audacious enough for you?

It was audacious enough to surprise even many of the most rabid ICC advocates who, as a tactical maneuver, had written off the inclusion of aggression among the core crimes as simply unrealistic. Like many others, Hans Corell, UN Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs, had argued that attempting to include aggression might jeopardize the whole package because the “crime of aggression is considerably more complex, since it is difficult to have a clear definition of what aggression is.”

When Professor Benjamin Ferencz insisted that “aggression is a supreme international crime” and “supreme crime needs a Supreme Court,” even Terra Viva argued that perhaps now was not the time to pursue that agenda. Noted the NGO journal: “Many feel that aggression is a nebulous legal concept. For example, some point out that the International Law Commission spent twenty years unsuccessfully trying to define it. In addition, they say, aggression is performed by governments, not individuals.” Nevertheless, it is now part of the Statute. Obviously, the forces of Dr. Ferencz and Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini (another radical advocate of including aggression) prevailed.

But to pile audacity on top of audacity and usurpation on top of usurpation, perhaps the crowning offense of the Rome summiteers is the insistence by its authors that once the magical number of 60 ratifying countries is achieved, the ICC becomes universally binding on the entire rest of the world. It is an astounding and unprecedented arrogation of power. Never before has the claim been made that states which are not party to a treaty are nonetheless bound by the same instrument. It is a violation of the most fundamental principle of treaty law. As the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states, “A treaty does not create either obligations or rights for a third State without its consent.”

Complementary Courts
This, naturally, did not matter a fig to the vainglorious globocrats on the Tiber as they set about crafting their own concept of “world law.” Besides, they warbled, concerns of a runaway court are wildly chimerical. The principle of “complementarity” would protect against any such tendencies, they claimed.

That was the tune sung by European Commissioner Emma Bonino when she came to Washington in May to inoculate the Senate against fears of a usurpatious ICC. The Court “will not … undermine national sovereignty,” she pledged, and “is not designed to replace national courts but to complement them.” Why, we have her word for it.

Likewise, World Federalist Association president John Anderson assured that there is nothing to worry about. “The principle of complementarity underlying the treaty assures that the court will hear a case only when no national court is available or willing to hear it,” he insisted. “This policy would limit prosecutions to suspects whose national legal systems have broken down or are manifestly unjust.” Canadian Justice Louise Arbour, who serves as the chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav Tribunal, is yet another distinguished “expert” who offered assurances and admonished the wary that “an institution should not be constructed on the assumption that it will be run by incompetent people, acting in bad faith from improper purposes.” The message from all the votaries of global justice was the same: trust us and our so-called “principle of complementarity.”

However, James Madison’s principle of “prudent jealousy” seems to be more apropos here. “The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents,” Madison observed. “They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.” Thomas Jefferson provided an important corollary in the form of this dictum: “In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”

A search of the ICC Statute yields no valid reason to prefer the advice of Bonino, Anderson, and Arbour over that of Madison and Jefferson. Indeed, Article 17 of the treaty asserts that a state is considered to have primary jurisdiction over a crime “unless the state is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.” And who will determine, under an ICC regime, when and whether a state is “unwilling” or “unable” and just how “genuine” its investigative or prosecutorial efforts are? The ICC judges, naturally.

The Court also claims (in Article 70) jurisdiction over “offences against its administration of justice,” such as: “giving false testimony” or “impeding” or “intimidating” an official of the Court. Again, the ICC itself will determine what constitutes “impeding” or “intimidating.” In the event of conviction for these administrative crimes “the Court may impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years, or a fine in accordance with the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, or both.”

And where, pray tell, will the victims of ICC “justice” serve their sentences? Let’s consult the Statute. Article 103 provides: “A sentence of imprisonment shall be served in a state designated by the Court from a list of States which have indicated to the Court their willingness to accept sentenced persons.” A comforting thought, no? Even more solace might be drawn from Article 104, which states: “The Court may, at any time, decide to transfer a sentenced person to a prison of another state.” In speaking of “states,” the Statute is referring not to states of the U.S., of course, but to nations. Which means that one might be sentenced to prison in Cuba, Laos, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Russia, Rwanda, etc., or even several of the above, in musical chair succession, so that your family, friends, and legal counsel might have not even the slightest idea of your location.

What’s more, the Court has been given its own prosecutor with virtually unlimited proprio motu powers to investigate criminal cases on his own initiation, or to undertake cases that have been referred to his office by state parties, the Security Council, or NGOs. These assertions of authority and jurisdiction by the ICC are obviously in fundamental opposition to American law. Under our Constitution, only the states and federal government have the authority to prosecute and try individuals for crimes committed in the United States. Article III, Section 1 provides that the judicial power of the U.S. “shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish.” No judicial body or tribunal not established under the authority of the Constitution may exercise jurisdiction over citizens of the United States for real or pretended crimes committed in the United States. Nor may U.S. officials turn over U.S. citizens to a foreign government to be tried for alleged crimes in that country without a valid extradition treaty with that country.

Right to Jury Trial
The ICC Statute is not an extradition treaty and is so fundamentally irreconcilable to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that American participation in this misbegotten institution is legally and morally impossible. One of the most cherished rights of Americans that is threatened by the ICC is the right to a jury trial by one’s peers. In the list of grievances brought against King George by our Founders in the Declaration of Independence we find:

• Combining with others to “subject us to Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.”

• “[D]epriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury.”

• “[T]ransporting us beyond the seas to be tried for pretended offenses.”

It seems we have come full circle and must fight that battle again. Our Constitution (Article III, Section 2) provides that the “trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes shall have been committed….” This right was deemed so important that it was repeated again in the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Justice Joseph Story, in his famous Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833), observed: “The object of this clause is to secure the party accused from being dragged to a trial in some distant state, away from his friends, and witnesses, and neighborhood; and thus subjected to the verdict of mere strangers, who may feel no common sympathy, or who may even cherish animosities, or prejudices against him.” Are we in less need of such protections today, especially considering the claims of the ICC and its adherents?

The Sixth Amendment also guarantees “a speedy and public trial.” Under federal law, a speedy trial has been defined to mean that a defendant has the right to be brought to trial within 70 days. There is no such guarantee under the ICC statute. If we look to the Yugoslav Tribunal as a model — as the ICC proponents so frequently advise — we see the Tribunal Prosecutor arguing that five years is a reasonable time for a defendant to wait in prison for a trial. Other ICC advocates cite the European Court of Human Rights as a model for the ICC. This international judicial body has ruled in various cases that pretrial detention of three, four, or even seven years, is acceptable.

Judicial Tyranny
All this dashes to pieces deceitful claims like John Anderson’s statement in his letter in USA Today on July 20th averring that the “World Federalist Association supports a strong international court because we want to see the world as a whole approach the high standards of justice that operate in the United States.” Quite clearly the ICC Statute represents not an embrace by “the world as a whole” of our “high standards of justice,” but an attempt to impose on the world— and the U.S. — a global mechanism for judicial tyranny. And the ICC architects have made it abundantly clear that they have just begun. To the already conveniently elastic “core crimes” they have already proposed adding drug trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, environmental and economic crimes, crimes against labor unions, embargoes, child pornography, and a host of other offenses.

Dr. Charles Rice, professor of law at Notre Dame University, has termed the ICC “a monster,” both in concept and reality, noting that it effectively “repudiates the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence and cancels the 4th of July.” “In our system,” Professor Rice explains, “law is supposed to be a rule of reason which, in a sense, controls the state and compels the state to operate under the law.” But the superjurisdictional ICC, he points out, has no legitimate basis for its claimed authority, no protections against abuses, no accountability, and virtually no limits to its jurisdiction. “What are the limits on the ICC?” he asks, and then answers, “There are none. It’s insane!”

Insane, yes. And if the ICC architects have their way, the entire planet will soon become a global insane asylum — with the inmates in charge.

As Terra Viva plainly stated, “The issue now at stake is global governance.” Precisely. “Global governance” is a hallowed term which poured forth in superabundance in the speeches, conversations and scribblings of the Rome conferees. Like “the rule of law,” it is globospeak code for “world government,” a term that the one-world cognoscenti have learned to avoid “because it frightens people.” We have this directly on the authority of former Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA), a former national president of the United World Federalists and a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Trilateral Commission (TC). As a state legislator back in 1949, Cranston authored a resolution memorializing Congress to call a national convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to “expedite and insure the participation of the United States in a world federal government.” But in a 1976 interview with the Institute for World Order, Cranston advised his one-world brethren to adopt semantic camouflage, since “the more talk about world government, the less chance of achieving it, because it frightens people who would accept the concept of world law.”

And world law under a world government is exactly what Benjamin Ferencz, the eminence grise of the ICC conference, had in mind when he told conferees that “outmoded traditions of State sovereignty must not derail the forward movement,” and “antiquated notions of absolute sovereignty are absolutely obsolete in the interconnected and interdependent global world of the 21st century.”

Just the Beginning
Many Americans who watched the Rome summit with grave foreboding no doubt heaved an immense sigh of relief on learning of the Clinton Administration’s vote against the ICC Statute and the apparent resolute opposition voiced by Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and others on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Indeed, it was comforting to hear the forceful statements of Senators Rod Grams (R-MN) and John Ashcroft (R-MO) at the July 22nd hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations. Senator Grams, who chaired the hearing, stated: “This Court claims universal jurisdiction; in other words, the right to prosecute United States citizens even though the U.S. is not a party to the treaty. It is important for Congress and the American people to become apprised of the details regarding this court sooner than later. While I am relieved that the Administration voted against the treaty in Rome, I am convinced that is not sufficient to safeguard our nation’s interests. The United States must aggressively oppose this Court each step of the way, because the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court is not just bad, it is dangerous.”

And the danger has just begun. The world government partisans who have brought the ICC this far have invested too much and achieved too much to let up now. They, of course, hope to see the U.S. ratify and become fully entwined in the Court as soon as possible, but they are willing to take many years to achieve that objective, if necessary. However, with the Establishment media cameras dishing up fresh war crimes daily from Kosovo, and more numbing atrocities from Africa, the emotional hard-sell campaign to end “impunity” can be expected to escalate and to create a formidable momentum on very short notice. President Clinton has been an avid proponent of the ICC since his first days in the Oval Office. His objections to the current ICC Statute — if real at all (which is highly doubtful) — do not concern the most fundamental constitutional, legal, and moral issues involved in this serious issue. At best they reflect his most current assessment of political expediencies. And those too can change very quickly.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem we face in this fight is the lack of dependable Republican opposition in the Senate. Even though some senators are expressing their unalterable opposition to the treaty as is, we can be sure from past experience that the gradualist war is already underway to convince them that the ICC is a fact, a fait accompli, one which we will have to recognize sooner or later, and that we might as well try to make the best of it. Our past experience with the Genocide Convention, GATT, NAFTA, WTO, and other internationalist programs indicates it will require a sustained and unyielding effort on the part of every partisan of freedom to keep the ICC monster caged. Ultimately, however, the only lasting solution is to get out of the United Nations completely and get the United Nations out of the United States.


Among my first acts as President will be to declare an end to all sanctions on the sale or transfer of U.S. food, medicine, or goods essential to a decent life or a civilian economy now in force against Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Sudan, and all the other targeted nations of U.S. sanctions policy.

– Patrick J. Buchanan, December 12, 1999

Also read Patrick J. Buchanan’s book Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War.

World War 2 was an unmitigated disaster for the entire world, and Asia was hit worse than Europe (except for Russia) and continued to be in a state of de facto civil war until the 1970s or 1980s. This includes places such as my occasional home in Singapore.

Among my first …

Burmese Heroin: Hidden Deals

From The New Internationalist Magazine #280, 1996

This is a good article, but it doesn’t address the way that the American War on Drugs creates chaos and death worldwide.

Heroin’s hidden deals
Burma produces more than half the world’s raw heroin.
But who controls the lucrative drug trade now?
Faith Doherty reports.


The announcement made at the beginning of January 1996 that Burma’s opium warlord Khun Sa had surrendered to the country’s ruling junta caught virtually all parties by surprise. Since his surrender it has become clear – as suggested by many Burma-watchers over the years – that Khun Sa’s departure will not greatly alter the situation. The fact that Burma supplies more than half of the world’s heroin has never depended on one man or one organization.

In the United States 60 per cent of heroin sold on the streets originates from the Golden Triangle and the region has been a major focus of anti-narcotic agencies and governments for decades – with little apparent effect. The previous General Ne Win-led governments and the present SLORC junta have all approached the drug problem in Burma by playing a two-faced game: on one side requesting support from the West to eradicate drugs and do battle with Khun Sa, and on the other, doing lucrative deals with drug kingpins. And opium is Burma’s most lucrative cash crop.

Now that the junta has secured military ceasefires with all ethnic rebel groups dependent on the opium economy for their survival, the surrender of Khun Sa should ensure that the spotlight again goes back on to Rangoon. But will it? Since Khun Sa’s surrender, the junta has stated that it will militarily control the territory previously held by Khun Sa and his Mong Tai Army. The junta has further promised that there will be a 70-per-cent reduction in the flow of heroin from Burma now that the prime growing areas have ‘joined the legal fold’. Time will tell. But given that the military have repeatedly reiterated their hatred for the ‘notorious drug-lord Khun Sa’, and that their past statements have ruled out both dialogue and any agreement with him or with the Mong Tai Army, such statements must be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

Khun Sa’s Shan people are not alone in their struggle with warlords, the junta and dependence on the opium economy. Other ethnic nationalities, such as the Wa and Kokang, have long been involved in the cultivation of opium to fund their fight for independence from Rangoon. In the late 1980s both the Wa and Kokang concluded ceasefire agreements with Rangoon. Yet their cultivation and sale of opium continues essentially unchanged. The junta used military force to drive both ethnic groups to sign these ceasefire agreements – no significant political settlements have been made.

For years the US used Khun Sa as their big bogey of the Golden Triangle: Khun Sa was Public Enemy Number One. Other drug-lords in the area, meanwhile, have become more influential but have kept much lower profiles. Despite considerable evidence that other groups and individuals were involved in the multi-billion dollar industry, there were many who believed Khun Sa’s capture would severely damage the flow of heroin. The logical next step for anti-narcotics officials was to work closely with the junta as the only way to have an impact on the export of heroin. This position failed to understand that the Shan people themselves saw their struggle not as a drug war but as a national struggle for self-determination. There is now an uncomfortable silence from those who pushed to empower the junta. Anti-narcotic officials are now forced to admit that Khun Sa’s surrender is likely to have little or no impact on the flow of heroin.

In 1989 and 1992 indictments were handed down in New York courts against Khun Sa. But after his surrender, the junta announced that it would not hand him over to US authorities for extradition and trial. The US responded by offering two million dollars for any information leading to his arrest. According to sources in Rangoon, the last thing the authorities would do is hand over the drug-baron. The reason is simple: he knows far too much and would be in a position to expose too many influential people, including junta members, involved in the trade.


Recent reports published through wire agencies in Bangkok revealed that Khun Sa has been paying a Burmese regional commander a monthly fee of around $5,000 a month (the average monthly wage for a Burmese citizen is under $25 a month). A ‘large sum’ of money was also paid to a Burmese army general, apparently in order to secure his surrender and peaceful retirement. Reports of this kind have not surfaced so openly in the past few years, but it is widely known that there are members of the authorities in Rangoon on the payroll of drug traders, including prominent past kingpins, such as Lo Hseing Han.

At the time of writing, it’s harvest time for opium in Burma. Khun Sa is not there to send his men to pick, nor are the mule trains lined up to carry the crop through his territory to his refineries. What will happen to the thousands of tonnes of opium currently being picked by ethnic people, people who now depend entirely on the business that Khun Sa and others have created? With other drug dealers only too ready to step in, it is unlikely this vast harvest will go to waste. As for the junta, this is the time for them to show their sincerity about drug control.

Corrupt generals are an old story in Burma, but SLORC control of the Shan opium-growing regions is new. It is now up to the junta to turn off the heroin spigot, if this is their true intention. The world is waiting. If heroin continues to flow unabated onto the streets of New York, Los Angeles and Rangoon, there will be only one culprit now. We can only hope that Khun Sa’s departure wakes up all those concerned with the Golden Triangle heroin problem to its only real solution: an end to the political crisis in Burma.

Faith Doherty is a Burma-watcher working with the Southeast Asian Information Network (SAIN) in Bangkok.


Burma’s Ethnic Conflict and Imperialism: A WikiSummary and a Personal Note

My husband and I meet with Karen refugees in Thailand, and know many who have moved to Europe and America. In Burma they are often kept very poor and not allowed good jobs in the city, they live in villages which are constantly harassed by both the Burmese and Karenni “armies” (really, gangs) for food and women.

“Civil wars have been a constant feature of Burma’s socio-political landscape since independence in 1948. This was largely the result of divide and conquer tactics employed by imperialists (British and Japanese) stationed in Burma during the pre-independence period.
The most widely publicized conflict in Burma during 2012 has been the 2012 Rakhine State riots, a series of ongoing conflicts primarily between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State. The Burmese government has claimed that the Rohingya are illegal migrants however the ethnic group has lived in Burma for hundreds of years and despite practicing a different religion (Islam) than the majority Buddhist population, the roots of conflict likely have more to do with colonial era policies that privileged one ethnic group over another in an attempt to divide and rule the population. Additional non-religious causes include violence stemming from the Japanese occupation of Burma in World War II during which the British allied themselves with Rohingya groups who fought against the puppet government of Burma which had been set up by the Japanese and helped to establish the Tatmadaw or Burmese armed forces, fascist elements of which continue to rule to country to this day.

During 1943 and 1944, the BNA made contacts with other political groups inside Burma such as the communists who had taken to the hills in 1942. Eventually, a popular front organisation called the Anti-Fascist Organisation (AFO) was formed with Thakin Soe, a founder of the communist party in Burma, as leader. Through the communists and a Japanese-sponsored force known as the Arakan Defence Army, the Burmese were eventually able to make contact with the British Force 136 in India. The initial contacts were always indirect. Force 136 was also able to make contacts with members of the BNA’s Karen unit in Rangoon through agents dropped by parachute into the Karenni, the Karen-populated area in the east of Burma.
At the time of Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the Tatmadaw was weak, small and disunited. Cracks appeared along the lines of racial background, political affiliation, organisational origin and different services. Its unity and operational efficiency was further weakened by the interference of civilians and politicians in military affairs, and the perception gap between the staff officers and field commanders. The most serious problem was the tension between Karen Officers, coming from the British Burma Army and Bamar officers, coming from the Patriotic Burmese Force.

To this day the Karen/Karenni people and the Rohingya remain some of the most persecuted minorities on Earth; thanks to Anglo-American Imperialist policies of divide-and-conquer.

The Karenni are majority Buddhist. Some Christian, and a few Muslims, also exist. Others are practicing native traditions unrelated to Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. The Karenni ethnic conflict is a major reason for the persecution of religion in Myanmar.

Burma’s Longest War: An Anatomy of the Karenni Conflict

Free Burma Rangers

The Empire’s second attempt at building the arbitrary Mesopotamian state of ‘Iraq’ may fall apart more quickly than their first. In 1920 the Anglo-Americans carved up the Ottoman Empire to their liking, making a political, ethnic and cultural nightmare in the process.

Eventually the Empire found the ‘Iraq’ province too rebellious and starved, bombed, invaded and leveled the country. Now Iraq is testings its independence from the Empire, while at the same time an independent Kurdistan – ignored by both Empires – rises in the North.

Syria has long feared the collapse of an Iraqi regime and the spread of Kurdish radicals into the failed state. The USG may be building AlQaedistan in the Middle East.

Why Gaza? War and Conquest – Politics as Usual for the Empire

Over at Justin Raimondo has put up a piece, Why Gaza? which explains the situation in the world and in Israel that gives rise to the latest assault on Gaza.

Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance. This draft was agreed upon by me and Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, Mr. Hamad, when we met last week in Egypt.”

This nails it: it shows why Israel escalated a series of routine border incidents into a major conflict: Hamas was ready to negotiate. Jabari was going to drop a gigantic “peace bomb” on Tel Aviv, and Netanyahu and his cabinet launched a preemptive strike to make sure it never hit its target. The last thing they wanted was peace breaking out in spite of their systematic provocations.

Hamas is useful to Netanyahu and his coalition partner, wannabe ethnic cleanser Avigdor Lieberman…


Faced with the IDF’s overwhelming military superiority, Jabari and the moderate faction of Hamas entered into back channel negotiations, brokered by the Egyptians, and were about to go public with a peace proposal. That’s when the Israelis took him out.

Netanyahu merged his Likud party with the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu, a nationalist grouping catering to Russian immigrants which advocates the forced deportation of Arabs and a foreign policy aimed at achieving a “Greater Israel.”


At the most basic level, Israel’s actions in Gaza are inextricably bound up with its efforts to create a Greater Israel that stretches from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the endless palaver about a two-state solution, the Palestinians are not going to get their own state, not least because the Netanyahu government is firmly opposed to it. The prime minister and his political allies are deeply committed to making the Occupied Territories a permanent part of Israel. To pull this off, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will be forced to live in impoverished enclaves similar to the Bantustans in white-ruled South Africa. Israeli Jews understand this quite well: a recent survey found that 58 per cent of them believe Israel already practices apartheid against the Palestinians.”


What enables this perpetual warfare is unconditional US support for Israel, both materially and diplomatically. The Jewish state could not exist beyond the next decade without the billions of US taxpayer dollars we ship to Tel Aviv every year. Israel is the single largest recipient of US “foreign aid”: we pay $3.5 billion in tribute to the warlords of Tel Aviv on an annual basis — not counting all the interest-free and forgiven “loans.” In return, they brazenly interfere in our politics — and that may be the least offensive form of Israeli intervention on American soil.

Antiwar’s Nostradomous: Pepe Escobar in 2002

Bush vs Saddam: The empire strikes back
By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times Online March 6, 2002

PARIS – It may be a geopolitical “window of opportunity”. In Washington’s calculations, Saddam Hussein has to go. As soon as possible. The devil, as usual, is in the details.

Geopolitician Francois Lafargue, professor at the Paris Group School of Management, sheds some light on how Washington’s view of Iraq and its leader changed from Bush father to Bush son. “Since 1980, Washington has had only one objective –  to destroy the emerging powers of the region, Iran and Iraq. Beyond the theological squabbles between Sunnis and Shi’ites, the main political issue in the region is the role of Saudi Arabia. Shi’ites as a whole deny the legitimacy of the House of Saud – which considers itself to be the guardian of the sacred places of Islam. That’s why Saudi Arabia in the 1990s was one of the main advocates in favor of Saddam Hussein remaining in power.”

The main groups of the Iraqi population are 20 percent Sunnis, 55 percent Shi’ites and 25 percent Kurds. During a Kurd rebellion 11 years ago, the aim was to establish an independent state north of Iraq. An independent Kurdistan would be oil-rich, and thus capable of financing other Kurdish independent movements, especially  in Turkey.

This was the immediate post-Gulf War period in the early 1990s. Although George Bush senior had stigmatized Saddam Hussein as “the new Hitler”, the last thing that Washington had in mind at the time was a fragmentation of Iraq and the rise of an independent Kurdistan.

Washington privileged the territorial integrity of Turkey against  Kurdish aspirations. No wonder. Turkey is the leading army in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization after the US. It is an essential strategic ally. Turkey offers the US strategic bases such as Incirlik, listening posts that cover the whole Caucausus, and it also controls access to the Black Sea.

Lafargue points out that “a democratic Iraq would most probably imply a Shi’ite Arab in power [because they constitute the majority of the population]. This would be an untenable situation to the monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, because a Shi’ite power in Baghdad could find many common grounds with Iran, where two-thirds of the population is Shi’ite”.

This was the post-Gulf War scenario. In the post-Afghan War scenario, Washington’s Iraq approach is something completely different. It is a two-pronged strategy, as Asia Times Online has learned. The first part is already in place: it could be designated as the “diplomatic solution”.  It involves renewing United Nations  sanctions against Iraq, and demanding  total access all over Iraq to UN nuclear-weapons inspectors. European diplomats widely agree  that this “solution” will inevitably fail. The road in this case would be open to the much-preferred “military solution”.

The UN Security Council meets in May to renew the already harsh sanctions against Iraq. But Washington does not want to wait until May. Already in mid-December 2001, the headquarters of the US 3rd Army was moved to Kuwait. And the target-planning activity in ultra-high-tech Prince Sultan airbase near  Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been nothing short of frenetic.

The White House and the Pentagon have been actively considering a “variety of options” – according to Secretary of State Colin Powell – to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Powell recently told the Senate that the US has no plans to start a war – at least for the moment – against two of the other “evils”, Iran and North Korea. But the breathing space allowed President Seyed Mohammad Khatami and Great Leader Kim Jong-il does not apply to Saddam Hussein.

Most of Washington is still in love with the “Afghan solution”: a quick and easy “victory” with practically no loss of American lives. The fact that this “victory” means that Osama bin Laden, all of the al-Qaeda leadership and all of the Taliban leadership are still alive, well and on the loose obviously is not taken into account.

Applied to Iraq, the “Afghan model” – Northern Alliance “freedom fighters” supported by US Special Forces and overwhelming aerial supremacy – has led the Pentagon to build the ideal scenario of an Iraqi nationalist – and Kurdish – uprising against Saddam, supported by the US agents who have been roaming northern Iraq gauging possible Kurdish support for this American-incited revolt.

A key player in the uprising will be the Iraqi National Congress (INC) – the opposition in exile. But the INC remains extremely disorganized, and is essentially controlled by a bunch of gangsters. The INC has been receiving a lot of attention in Washington lately, but still no promise of military training.

According to one particular Pentagon scenario, Kurds, Iraqi Shi’ites and at least 100,000 US troops would be involved in an also two-pronged invasion of Iraq. Half of the US troops would invade from the mini-Kurdistan area set up in northern Iraq, and the other half would invade from Kuwait – everybody of course supported by hellish aerial firepower.

The idea, though, is not exactly feasible. The US 3rd Army  commander, Lieutenant-General Paul Mikolashek, has already said he would need between 150,000 and 200,000 combat troops, plus another 200,000 for support and logistic operations. Military analysts agree the whole operation would need close to 500,000 troops – roughly the equivalent used during the Gulf War. The “street” in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan – not to mention Syria, Lebanon and everywhere else in the Middle East – would certainly go mad.

It took the greatest armada ever almost two weeks to establish “aerial supremacy” over a bunch of bearded mullahs with walkie-talkies. Saddam Hussein’s is no ragtag medieval army. According to the latest data, it may have 350,000 combat troops, 2,700 tanks, 90 fighter jets and 100 helicopters. Most of the troops, though, are no more prepared than fleeing Taliban.

The cream of the crop are 50,000 soldiers in seven Republican Guard divisions, and 26,000 Special Guards – tribals recruited by Saddam Hussein in his native Tikrit. These people hold 1,200 Russian T-52 tanks, and actually get paid: four times the salary of a regular soldier.  They also can lay their hands on 300 mobile anti-aircraft missile launchers – recently paid for with oil money: sanctions or no sanctions, smuggling remains an extremely prosperous industry between Iraq and neighbors Turkey, Syria and Jordan.

Saddam Hussein is not just sitting and waiting to be on the receiving end of American wrath. Lafargue says that in 2002, Iraq will export 560 million barrels of oil – two-thirds of its production in 1990. “Some of the revenue is deposited into accounts managed by the UN, but the war machine is back in place thanks to smuggling. And the international embargo was ineffective.”

Iraq, little by little, is coming back from isolation. Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri will meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan next week in New York. Contemplating the perspective of American strikes, Iraq is now apparently interested in renewing dialogue with the UN.
Meanwhile, US Vice President Dick Cheney will personally advance the  groundwork for the military solution. This month he will visit three key Iraqi neighbors – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan – plus Britain, Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. Cheney’s targets: to muster political support and occasional access to airbases, essential for the whole operation.

The “Afghan General”, Tommy Franks,  head of the US Central Command and most certainly the man in charge in the case of an attack against Iraq, said that the Pentagon has not opted for a military plan – yet. Sources in Brussels assure Asia Times Online that the Pentagon would need at least a few months to wrap up the New Afghan War and start the New Iraqi War. There are insistent rumors in diplomatic circles that a strike against Iraq could happen as early as May. In this case, it will follow the  Taliban spring guerrilla incursions against the Hamid Karzai regime in Kabul. The US is already bombing eastern Afghanistan in an effort to prevent a buildup of opposition forces there.

George W Bush and the Pentagon may be itching to reduce one-third of the axis of evil to rubbish. But first they must consider three crucial issues. 1) A mad-as-hell Saddam Hussein may decide to unleash his fabled “weapons of mass destruction” against Americans – and Israelis – if he is attacked at home. 2) No one can tell for sure how many American ground forces are needed: the figure of almost 500,000 is considered exorbitant, and it would take months to assemble. 3) Turkey, the key US ally, is terribly worried about the possibility of an independent Kurdistan rising from the ashes of the Saddam Hussein regime and destabilizing the whole region.

To top it all: everybody and his neighbor cannot begin to imagine the fallout from a huge US military operation right “at home”. But this is peanuts when you’re sitting on top of an unlimited military budget, and you’re on a mission of Good against Evil.

America’s Inevitable Retreat From the Middle East

Published: September 23, 2012 NYT Op-Ed

THE murder of four Americans in Libya and mob assaults on the United States’ embassies across the Muslim world this month have reminded many of 1979, when radical Islamists seized the American mission in Tehran. There, too, extremists running wild after the fall of a pro-American tyrant had found a cheap way of empowering themselves.

But the obsession with radical Islam misses a more meaningful analogy for the current state of siege in the Middle East and Afghanistan: the helicopters hovering above the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon in 1975 as North Vietnamese tanks rolled into the city.

That hasty departure ended America’s long and costly involvement in Indochina, which, like the Middle East today, the United States had inherited from defunct European empires. Of course, Southeast Asia had no natural resources to tempt the United States and no ally like Israel to defend. But it appeared to be at the front line of the worldwide battle against Communism, and American policy makers had unsuccessfully tried both proxy despots and military firepower to make the locals advance their strategic interests.

The violent protests provoked by the film “Innocence of Muslims” will soon subside, and American embassies will return to normal business. But the symbolic import of the violence, which included a Taliban assault on one of the most highly secured American bases in Afghanistan, is unmistakable. The drama of waning American power is being re-enacted in the Middle East and South Asia after two futile wars and the collapse or weakening of pro-American regimes.

In Afghanistan, local soldiers and policemen have killed their Western trainers, and demonstrations have erupted there and in Pakistan against American drone strikes and reported desecrations of the Koran. Amazingly, this surge in historically rooted hatred and distrust of powerful Western invaders, meddlers and remote controllers has come yet again as a shock to many American policy makers and commentators, who have promptly retreated into a lazy “they hate our freedoms” narrative.

It is as though the United States, lulled by such ideological foils as Nazism and Communism into an exalted notion of its moral power and mission, missed the central event of the 20th century: the steady, and often violent, political awakening of peoples who had been exposed for decades to the sharp edges of Western power. This strange oversight explains why American policy makers kept missing their chances for peaceful post-imperial settlements in Asia.

As early as 1919, Ho Chi Minh, dressed in a morning suit and armed with quotations from the Declaration of Independence, had tried to petition President Woodrow Wilson for an end to French rule over Indochina. Ho did not get anywhere with Wilson. Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Turkish nationalists hoping for the liberal internationalist president to promulgate a new “morality” in global affairs were similarly disappointed.

None of these anti-imperialists would have bothered if they had known that Wilson, a Southerner fond of jokes about “darkies,” believed in maintaining “white civilization and its domination over the world.” Franklin D. Roosevelt was only slightly more conciliatory when, in 1940, he proposed mollifying dispossessed Palestinian Arabs with a “little baksheesh.”

Roosevelt changed his mind after meeting the Saudi leader Ibn Saud and learning of oil’s importance to the postwar American economy. But the cold war, and America’s obsession with the chimera of monolithic Communism, again obscured the unstoppable momentum of decolonization, which was fueled by an intense desire among humiliated peoples for equality and dignity in a world controlled by a small minority of white men.

Ho Chi Minh’s post-World War II appeals for assistance to another American president — Harry S. Truman — again went unanswered; and Ho, who had worked with American intelligence agents during the war, was ostracized as a dangerous Communist. But many people in Asia saw that it was only a matter of time before the Vietnamese ended foreign domination of their country.

For the world had entered a new “revolutionary age,” as the American critic Irving Howe wrote in 1954, in which the intense longing for change among millions of politicized people in Asia was the dominant force. “Whoever gains control of them,” Howe warned, “whether in legitimate or distorted forms, will triumph.” This mass longing for political transformation was repressed longer by cold war despotism in the Arab world; it has now exploded, profoundly damaging America’s ability to dictate events there.

Given its long history of complicity with dictators in the region, from the shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak, the United States faces a huge deficit of trust. The belief that this deep-seated suspicion can be overcome by a few soothing presidential speeches betrays only more condescending ignorance of the so-called Arab mind, which until recently was believed to be receptive only to brute force.

It is not just extremist Salafis who think Americans always have malevolent intentions: the Egyptian anti-Islamist demonstrators who pelted Hillary Rodham Clinton’s motorcade in Alexandria with rotten eggs in July were convinced that America was making shady deals with the Muslim Brotherhood. And few people in the Muslim world have missed the Israeli prime minister’s blatant manipulation of American politics for the sake of a pre-emptive assault on Iran.

There is little doubt that years of disorder lie ahead in the Middle East as different factions try to gain control. The murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Libya, the one American success story of the Arab Spring, is an early sign of the chaos to come; it also points to the unpredictable consequences likely to follow any Western intervention in Syria — or Iran.

As in Southeast Asia in 1975, the limits of both American firepower and diplomacy have been exposed. Financial leverage, or baksheesh, can work only up to a point with leaders struggling to control the bewilderingly diverse and ferocious energies unleashed by the Arab Spring.

Although it’s politically unpalatable to mention it during an election campaign, the case for a strategic American retreat from the Middle East and Afghanistan has rarely been more compelling. It’s especially strong as growing energy independence reduces America’s burden for policing the region, and its supposed ally, Israel, shows alarming signs of turning into a loose cannon.

All will not be lost if America scales back its politically volatile presence in the Muslim world. It could one day return, as it has with its former enemy, Vietnam, to a relationship of mutually assured dignity. (Although the recent military buildup in the Pacific — part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” — hints at fresh overestimations of American power in that region.)

Republicans calling for President Obama to “grow” a “big stick” seem to think they live in the world of Teddy Roosevelt. Liberal internationalists arguing for even deeper American engagement with the Middle East inhabit a similar time warp; and both have an exaggerated idea of America’s financial clout after the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s.

It is the world’s newly ascendant nations and awakened peoples that will increasingly shape events in the post-Western era. America’s retrenchment is inevitable. The only question is whether it will be as protracted and violent as Europe’s mid-20th century retreat from a newly assertive Asia and Africa.

 Pankaj Mishra is the author of “From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia.”