The rogue state
Wed, 07 May 2008 17:18:03
By Joobin Zarvan, Press TV, Tehran
The US has been referring to Iran as a 'rogue state' for some time now, a perception which President George W. Bush has promoted to 'Axis of Evil'. This pejorative tag was uttered in the slightly more cushioned vein of 'state of concern' by former president Bill Clinton.
The American impulse to brand behavior is not a new development, but the language has changed in the recent past. An early favorite was 'pariah state'. The Reagan administration was partial to 'outlaw' while Bush the senior seemed to prefer 'renegade'.
Indeed, these phrases trip off the tongue in America to such an extent that US politicians and presidential candidates seem to be using them on a daily basis.
The question though has never been whether such so-called 'outlaw' countries are threatening or disagreeable to Washington and its allies, because surely they are.
While by the sheer trick of lumping together a diverse group of states under the 'rogue' rubric the term does nothing to describe these states, it doeseverything to obscure the due understanding of US foreign policy.
One might say that it is not an issue of political semantics rather than political mnemonics.
Nonetheless, the term 'rogue state', which was again attributed to Iran by top Israeli diplomat Tzipi Livini during an official visit to one of the Persian Gulf littoral states, like many other terminologies used in today's political discourse, is subject to dual usage; a propagandistic one and a literal one.
The former is rhetorically employed to deny, denigrate and denounce an assorted gallery of enemies - including fictitious and manufactured ones - and the latter is used merely to describe those states that do not see themselves as being bound by international norms and regimes.
This once meant something specific - a state that had failed to adhere to the rule of law - whereas now, it has become more of a handy elastic catchword in the US diplomatic lexicon to demonize behavior and rally political support.
For example, in 1997, then US secretary of state Madeleine Albright said, "dealing with rogue states is one of the great challenges of our time. Because as I have often described the international system, they're there with the sole purpose to destroying that system."
A US-led coalition invaded Iraq in March 2003 under a similar pretext. Their argument was that America's national security is in clear and present danger in the wake of 9/11. But their secret argument must have been something in the line of 'we have not been able to or wanted to be able to smoke the al-Qaeda ringleader out of his rugged den and since Saddam Hussein is of no more use to us as a regional puppet, he qualifies as a rogue'.
This was enough to unleash hell on a whole nation, which had already suffered unspeakably under that very ruler and more horribly under UN sanctions.
Albeit the unmentionable fact that Saddam, who had served US interests in the early 80's by initiating naked aggression against neighboring Iran, was guilty of disobeying Washington's final order(s).
One is painfully bemused at the so-called benign intentions of American interventionist policies. It magnifies the unquestionable right reserved for Washington and allies to 'liberate, democratize and civilize whomever they please'.
To the bulk of the international community, this is seen as nothing short of criminal adventurism run amuck and undisguised rampant brazen villainy.
It makes one wonder which is of greater consequence for the US government; crimes or disobedience.
In truth, the US is the closest example to a state that regards itself, especially after the cold war, exempt from international conventions and treaties.
The American Society of International Law (ASIL) observed this in a March 1999 issue. "International law is today probably less highly regarded in our country than at any time." The editor of this authoritative sober journal had also warned of the 'alarming exacerbation of Washington's dismissal of treaty obligations'.
To top this wayward US attitude, one need note that even rendering the United Nations as 'utterly ineffective', has been a routine procedure since the organization fell out of control with decolonization. An index to which is the Security Council vetoes.
The general principle appears to be, if an international organization does not serve the governing interests particularly that of the US, there is no reason to justify its existence. When the World Court was poised to examine Nicaragua's charges against Washington in the Reagan era, then US secretary of state George Shultz derided those who advocate 'utopian, legalistic means like outside mediation, the UN, and the World Court while ignoring the power element of the equation'.
The legal advisor to the US state department explained the senior American diplomat's statement, saying 'the world cannot be counted upon to share our view' and that the 'majority often opposes the US on important international issues' which is why 'we must reserve to ourselves the power to determine' how to act and which matters fall 'essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the United States, as determined by the United States.'
In this case, the actions the World Court decried as 'unlawful use of force' were against Nicaragua.
Although international norms are not stringently determined, there is an agreed measure on general guidelines. In the period after World War II, these norms and laws have been envisaged and partially codified in the Charter of the UN, the International Court of Justice and various treaties and conventions.
Logic demands that powerful states should tend to render themselves more susceptible to be more compliant with these international norms, unless internally constrained.
Nonetheless, recent history confirms that this has not been the case. The more powerful you become economy-wise, the less you deem yourself as being bound by such regimes. Perhaps this is a reason why some have used the American diplomatic parlance to crown the US as the veritable and quintessential of rogue states.
In free market terminology, one could appositely call the US a state that engages in wholesale roguery as opposed to some retailers. However, no one in the mainstream calls a rogue wholesaler by such names, any more than they would label it a terrorist state sponsoring wholesale terror no matter how close the fit.
Therefore, an economically well-heeled country naturally tends to assume the role of the manager, read police officer. On a global scale, this police officer reserves the right to itself to designate and determine who's who and what's what.
Reminiscent of the famous La Fontaine quote, 'the opinion of the Biggest is always the Best.' Under the reign of the Biggest, the law and rules of morality only apply to the Others, not the Big ruler himself and certainly not to his gang of goons either.
The bottom line is that for the real rogue states, with their tremendous economic wherewithal, crimes do not matter. They are - sought to be - eliminated from the pages of history or transmuted into benign intent that sometimes goes awry as Noam Chomsky would say.
Due to the prevalence of collective amnesia and the endemic of selective memory, induced and sustained on a daily basis by mainstream media outlets of the wholesale rogues, much theorization is now needed to retain its relevance to the exigencies of a new era in which the once 'un-people' gradually regain confidence to speak out as the 'people'.
It will take more than swelling coffers funding huge propaganda machinery and disinformation campaigns to conquer the minds of the new era. Pure decency is needed to connect with the people and perhaps rule their hearts.