Newsweek has an excerpt from Wesley Clark’s book in last week’s issue that shows how schitzophrenic Clark’s foreign policy strategies are.
A bit of context. Throughout Waging Modern War Clark talks about how the constant tension between Europe and the US in NATO hampered his ability to get the job done in the Balkans. He argues that the structure of NATO itself is flawed, and the international tension makes it simply unable to bring the kind of surgical air victories that he believes to be the wave of the future.
So, what’s Clark’s idea for American foreign policy? More entanglement with those agencies that Clark said hamper US power.
And if we wanted to go after states supporting terrorism, why not first go to the United Nations, present the evidence against Al Qaeda, set up a tribunal for prosecuting international terrorism? Why not develop resolutions that would give our counterterrorist efforts the greater force of international law and gain for us more powerful leverage against any state that might support terrorists, then use international law and backed by the evidence to rope in the always nuanced Europeans that still kept open trade with Iran and the others?
What Clark never considers is that the United Nations might not have an interest in seriously fighting al-Qaeda. Certainly Egypt has plenty of links to al-Qaeda, especially as Ayman al-Zawahiri is an Egyption as was Mohammed Atta. Syria has no interest in persuing their links to al-Qaeda as well as their funding of Hamas and especially Hizb’Allah which is based and funded in Syria. The Pakistani government supported the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and the ISI (Pakistan’s military intelligence service) may still be harboring bin Laden and other Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders.
Clark doesn’t seem to have a plan for exactly what we would do if the international community becomes a roadblock to fighting terror, which seems to be exactly what they are becoming. Even if he could get a real tribunal, what difference would it make? It still requires troops on the ground, and Pakistan isn’t going to stir the hornet’s nest by going to the wild tribal provinces where bin Laden is hiding, even if there’s a UN order to do so.
Clark just assumes that the international community has the political will to effectively fight terrorism. When Libya holds the chair for human rights in the United States, when the UN clearly is biased against Israel (just see the results of the Durban Conference on Racism and Xenophobia for a plethora of examples of that), and when Iraq was to have been named the UN chair on disarmament without a hint of irony, it is clear that the UN is not serious about dealing with terror.
To effectively fight terror you need to be as free as possible. That means covert operations that would violate the normal principles of international law. That means targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders without due process. That means using whatever means, including the use of military force without months of negotiation that would give terrorist leaders time to flee.
Given the world situation, it is clear that Clark’s policies do not stand up to the demands of the times. If Clark knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, would he attack or try to get UN approval? If Clark found that Iran had a nuclear weapon and was about to eliminate Tel Aviv, would he be willing to violate international law and destroy it? If Clark (quite rightly) accepts that Egypt, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are the locus of international terror, how does he intended to deal with them given that they are also influential members of the UN?
Clark never gives a satifactory answer to these questions, and it is clear that his transnationalist plan for dealing with terror would hamper rather than help the war on terrorism. Given that we are engaged with a network of terrorism that has no consideration for borders, sovereignty, or the rules of war, we do not have the time or the luxury to play compromise with states that are actively assisting these movements.
Undoubtedly there is a need for international diplomacy to help stop the spread of money, arms, and terrorists across international borders. However, such an effort requires the genuine cooperation of all states. As Indonesia found out, one cannot say they support the war against terrorism and then fail to root out terrorism – the bombings in Bali and Jakarta forced the Indonesians to increase cooperation, resulting in the capture of the terrorist ringleader Hambali and his brother.
However, while we can’t go it alone entirely, no can we allow ourselves to be bound militarily and diplomatically by groups like Europe which have already publically proclaimed the idea that American power must be restrained. If Clark believes that the same groups that want to restrain US power are going to give us the kind of latitude needed to effectively combat terrorism and engender democratic transfer in the Middle East he is simply naive.