Habermas on World Order

Rummaging around the “internets” I found this fascinating article by Jurgen Habermas, written just after the US invasion of Iraq. While not wanting to endorse (necessarily) his defense of the UN over against the “coalition of the willing”, there is a great deal of truth in what he says.

On asymmetric warfare and terrorism/criminality:

[15] In the face of enemies who are globally networked, decentralized, and invisible, the only effective kinds of prevention will be on other operative levels. Neither bombs nor rockets, neither fighter jets nor tanks will be of any help. What will help is the international networking of flows of information among intelligence services and prosecutorial authorities, the control of flows of money, and the rooting out of logistical supplies. The corresponding “security programs” in pursuit of these goals are relevant for civil rights within a state, not international law. Other dangers which arise from failures of negligence in non-proliferation policies (concerning nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons) are at any rate better handled through stubborn negotiation and inspection than with wars of disarmament, as the subdued reaction to North Korea illustrates.

And this networked reality because:

[17] Empirical objections to the possibility of realizing the American vision converge in the thesis that global society has become far too complex; the world is no longer accessible to a centralized control, through politics backed up by military power. In the technologically supreme and heavily armed superpower’s fear of terrorism, one can sense a “Cartesian anxiety” – the fear of a subject trying to objectify both itself and the world around it; trying to bring everything under control. Politics loses its primacy over the horizontally networked media of both markets and of communication once it attempts to regress to the original, Hobbesian form of a hierarchical security system. A state that sees all its options reduced to the stupid alternatives of war or peace quickly runs up against the limits of its own organizational capacities and resources. It also steers the process of political and cultural negotiation down a false track, and drives the costs of coordination to dizzying heights.

As a result of going against this way of normativity, Habermas believes:

For half a century the United States could count as the pacemaker for progress on this cosmopolitan path. With the war in Iraq, it has not only abandoned this role; it has also given up its role as guarantor of international rights. And its violation of international law sets a disastrous precedent for the superpowers of the future. Let us have no illusions: the normative authority of the United States of America lies in ruins.

Given that statement (which I agree with–“in ruins”), the only remaining question is: can that guarantor role be restored in a post-Bush administration?

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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