Analysis Diplomacy: Can the Old World Order Survive This Much Collateral Damage? ; the Credibility and Future of the United Nations, NATO and the Commonwealth Are Threatened by Deep Divisions and Public Arguments
Cornwell, Rupert, The Independent (London, England)
THIS TRULY is the season of "collateral damage". As everyone knows, that weasel phrase was coined by the Pentagon to hide the ghastly realities of war, of the killing of innocent civilians and the destruction of their means of living. But even before war with Iraq has started, it threatens to do massive collateral damage of another kind - to the international diplomatic and security structures of the modern world.
The Iraqi crisis is poisoning transatlantic relations and relations within Europe. The United Nations and the North Atlantic alliance, not to mention what passes for a common EU foreign policy: all could see their credibility undermined, perhaps fatally if the present divisions persist. The next few days and weeks could be decisive for all three. Parenthetically, one might even add as a footnote to this list the crisis in the Commonwealth over the recommended readmission of Zimbabwe (though even the most enthusiastic backers of the Commonwealth would not pretend its wellbeing is crucial to the happy progress of human affairs).
This is, in short, a Henry Kissinger moment, and the great man yesterday duly obliged. The road to Iraqi disarmament, he told The Washington Post, was the most serious crisis for Nato since the alliance was born in 1949.
"If the US yields to the threat of a French veto, or if Iraq, encouraged by the action of our allies, evades the shrinking non- military options still available, the result will be a catastrophe for the Atlantic alliance and the international order."
In Dr Kissinger's opinion, not only "will the credibility of American power in the war on terrorism ... be gravely, perhaps irreparably, impaired", in the most apocalyptic view of current developments, the main multilateral institutions put in place since 1945 at risk of being sidelined, for good.
This judgement might be over the top. Nato, the European Union and the UN have had fraught moments in the past: Suez of course - when America intervened to brake the Europeans (Britain and France) just as the Europeans (the governments of France and Germany and public opinion across the continent) are trying to brake Washington now; the deployment of intermediate nuclear weapons in Europe and the row over the Soviet gas pipeline to Europe in the early 1980s: these generated immense strains on the alliance. As for the UN, on most big issues it was paralysed for the first four decades by the crisscross vetoes of the two superpowers. Predictions of Nato's demise, or slide into irrelevance, have been a constant of the past decade.
This crisis is different. It is a moment of truth in waiting since the Soviet Union vanished, removing the common existential threat that bound together America and Europe.
The true end, if not the calendar end, of the 20th century was Christmas Day 1991, when the hammer and sickle was hauled down from the Kremlin and replaced by the red, white and blue flag of the Russian Federation. The ideological scourges of fascism, Nazism and Communism, which had made the century the bloodiest in human history, had finally been extinguished.
Then there was a drifting interregnum, of small wars, economic good times and titillating scandals - which did not stop Hubert Vedrine, the French Foreign Minister at the time, from coining the term "hyperpower" to describe the overwhelming relative might of America. But under Bill Clinton, it seemed an emollient hyperpower.
The 21st century began not on 1 January 2000 but on the brilliant early autumn morning of 11 September 2001. That day's attacks in New York and Washington not only defined the new enemy: international terrorists who might strike not with commercial jets loaded with kerosene but with biological or even nuclear weapons. The attitude of the wounded, angry hyperpower was transformed overnight. That day laid bare not America's weakness but …
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Publication information: Article title: Analysis Diplomacy: Can the Old World Order Survive This Much Collateral Damage? ; the Credibility and Future of the United Nations, NATO and the Commonwealth Are Threatened by Deep Divisions and Public Arguments. Contributors: Cornwell, Rupert - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: February 11, 2003. Page number: 15. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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