Confrontation or Cooperation? - the growing isolation of the United States by Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll, Jr., USN (Ret.)

Address to Physicians for Global Survival and the Group of 78
Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll, Jr., USN (Ret.)
Ottawa, Canada
30 September 2000

Confrontation or Cooperation?

You, as Canadians, know more of events and conditions in the United States far more I regret to say than U.S. citizens know about Canada. There are many reasons for this but two standout. First, as major trading partners, more than 80% of all of your exports go south while slightly less than one quarter of U.S. exports come here. If the U.S. economy sneezes, Canada may contract pneumonia. You are wise to keep a wary eye on us Yanks.

The second reason is what I want to discuss this evening, one which I believe must be a continuing, irritating problem for Canadians. This is the growing isolation of the United States stemming from an acute case of national hubris. Our Secretary of State says the United States stands taller, sees further than other nations. The President declares that we call the shots. Senator Jesse Helms stands astride the U.S. Senate, a chauvinistic jingo who rejects the concept of a global community based on the rule of law. Washington speaks as the sole superpower and international norms are for lesser nations.


It is true, perhaps, that never in the history of the world has a single nation ever exercised the preeminent influence globally which the U.S. wielded in the 20th Century. The question now becomes, what lies ahead in the 21st Century? Will it be another American Century? Or could this great power slip away, be thrown away, and the 21st Century become the anti-American Century?

The answer is that it depends on whether the U.S. attempts to perpetuate an American global hegemony as the world's only military superpower - or if they seek to exercise constructive leadership as a cooperative member in a peaceful world community governed under the rule of law. Confrontation or cooperation?

Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress and the Executive seem determined to make military power the primary instrument of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. is the only nation in history which has formally divided the globe into military zones and appointed a General or an Admiral to be Commander-in-Chief within each zone. There are nearly a quarter of a million uniformed troops permanently assigned to these Commanders, heavily armed and fully combat ready to intervene militarily in not one, but two conflicts anywhere on earth and to win both wars nearly simultaneously. President Clinton has proclaimed that he will act multilaterally where possible but is prepared to act unilaterally when necessary.

This aggressive posture is called forward presence, in current jargon. In truth, it is no more than gun boat diplomacy which through the implied threat of military action is intended to influence and control events to U.S. advantage. This confrontational approach to foreign relations is extremely negative because it is based upon coercion rather than efforts to develop constructive approaches of mutual benefit. It also creates pressure to use military force when significant issues lead to public awareness of pending problems with another nation. All too often the United States finds that gun boat diplomacy has put us in a position where the use of force will not resolve a problem but we will look foolish and impotent if we fail to act after threatening to do so. Kosovo is only the latest example of this process.

Yet another dangerous, potentially fatal, form of confrontation is intensifying through U.S. nuclear policies. In 1995 the U.S. led efforts to extend the Non-Proliferation Treaty indefinitely. To inspire the non-nuclear states to agree, we joined the other four nuclear powers to make a formal pledge in a statement titled, "Principles and Objectives For Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament." This contained a joint commitment to: "The determined pursuit by the nuclear weapons states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of eliminating those weapons..." That is an unequivocal commitment to get rid of all nuclear weapons.

Despite this, two years later President Clinton flatly renounced any intention to honor that commitment. In Presidential Decision Directive #60, parts of which were revealed to the media, he approved a policy which declared that nuclear weapons would remain the cornerstone of U.S. security indefinitely. A senior Pentagon official reaffirmed that statement recently by stating that nuclear weapons are an essential element of major power status and "that would never change."

Then, of course, there is U.S. determination to proceed with a National Missile Defense system despite the fact that it will violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. As the indispensable partner in the North American Defense Command, Canada obviously has a major stake in the outcome of this misguided effort.

These policies and programs are an open affront to all of the nations which consented to the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty at U.S. urging and it openly confronts other nations with the need to create their own nuclear weapons.

Turning from dangerous confrontational military measures, consider another form of confrontation. This is American unwillingness to enter into or support constructive cooperative measures within the community of nations. As the world's superpower we stand aloof from the community. Such growing isolation is pernicious and endangers our long term interests economically, politically and militarily. Several specific examples follow, one of which is of special concern to Canada.


The starkest example of growing isolation is epitomized in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Negotiations on this major effort to develop international law began in 1958 with strong U.S. participation and leadership. This process took 24 years to come to fruition in the 1982 LOS Convention and it reflected virtually every U.S. demand except for the Article XI provisions concerning seabed mining. For this reason, the industrialized states led by the U.S. refused to ratify the Convention.

Twelve more years of negotiations followed while the U.S. insisted on changes in Article XI which led finally to U.S. signature and the Convention coming into force in 1994.

Six years later the U.S. still has not ratified it. In short, we are isolating America from the development of a body of international law which covers 70% of the earth's surface and protects freedom of navigation, fisheries, the oceanic environment and the wealth of the global seabed. Worse, we are doing this even though the provisions of the Convention have been shaped through strong U.S. leadership to protect all of America's political, economic and security interests. It is difficult to conceive of a more foolish, shortsighted failure to advance the rule of law in the world order, nor one more certain to generate unnecessary confrontations with other nations in the future.

In 1998, a similar failure occurred in Rome. In this case negotiations were on the provisions for an International Criminal Court. During the early phases of this initiative the U.S. was a leading proponent of a permanent international tribunal which would have jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. In effect, we were working to create a permanent successor to the Nuremberg Tribunal and obviate the need for ad hoc arrangements for special bodies such as the one now sitting in the Hague to consider crimes committed during the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

Unfortunately, our efforts were directed toward creating a Tribunal which would remain firmly under the control of the U.N. Security Council. There we
could exercise a U.S. veto if the ICC moved to act in a way considered inimical to U.S. interests. During increasingly acrimonious deliberations in Rome, U.S. insistence on retaining a means to deny jurisdiction to the ICC created a storm of criticism of the U.S. position by even our closest friends and allies. The final vote in Rome on the Statute for the ICC was 120-7 against the U.S. position. Even worse than the crushing defeat is that we found America voting with nations such as Iraq, Libya and Yemen, radical states little noted for their devotion to human rights and the rule of law. It is sadly ironic that the world's leading democracy has chosen to exclude itself from this initiative. It is even more disheartening that this is only one more among many efforts to establish just and peaceful international norms to which the U.S. refuses to accede.

Another example of U.S. rejection of constructive steps to create a safer and more peaceful world is the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Landmines which came into force last year with strong Canadian leadership. President Clinton has conceded that at some date in the future we will consider adhering to the Treaty but first we must find military alternatives to these indiscriminate killers of soldiers and innocent civilians alike. Meanwhile, we ignore the fact that more than 133 nations are already committed to the ban while we stand in opposition with such nations as China, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Congo and Cuba.


It seems clear that in attempting to perpetuate a concept of foreign relations based on military power the United States is wasting a priceless opportunity to move from a confrontational posture to a cooperative one. Jonathan Schell's latest book, "The Gift of Time," focuses on the need to get rid of nuclear weapons while there is no active threat to American security except nuclear weapons. By extension, the U.S. can use the gift of time to build a new, long term approach to security in the 21st Century.

On that point, there is an analogy between the need to get rid of all nuclear weapons and the need to achieve a cooperative world community of nations living together in peace and governed under the rule of law. The first similarity is that no one, no individual or group, is wise enough today to say how or when we can actually achieve either goal. It is
impossible today to foresee or prescribe all of the conditions which must exist before nuclear weapons are abolished; or, how a system of global governance can be established. Today the realities are that the most powerful nation on earth declares that nuclear weapons are the cornerstone of our security and the same nation refuses to surrender the smallest scintilla of national sovereignty in the conduct of its international relations. How do ideals triumph over such realities? The answer is the same for both efforts. One step at a time.

With respect to nuclear abolition the steps are ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the universal declaration of a no first-use policy; the de-alerting of strategic weapons; the separation of warheads from delivery vehicles; significant reductions in nuclear arsenals until 32,000 weapons become 5,000 and then 1,000 and then 500. Then we hope that those who follow us will be wise enough to work out the means of eliminating the last nuclear weapons on earth. Can we be certain of success? No, but we can be certain that as we proceed the world will become progressively safer each step of the way. As the danger of nuclear catastrophe fades, each
successive step will become more obvious and more beneficial until the rewards of abolition are irresistible and inevitable.

In an absolutely parallel process, progress from confrontation to cooperation can be advanced one step at a time through practical measures of international cooperation such as U.S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In this one step the U.S. would accept the jurisdiction of international tribunals and panels capable of peacefully resolving international disputes in regions covering 70% of the earth's surface.

Another step is to achieve U.S. acceptance of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and increased submission of disputes for adjudication by the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Accession to the Ottawa Anti-Personnel Land Mine Treaty would be another affirmative action. All of these individual measures already have strong acceptance in the world community and active constituencies in the United States.

Just as patient, insistent progress toward nuclear disarmament will one day make it possible to eliminate nuclear weapons as a threat to humankind, so step by step progress in international cooperation will make it possible to increase confidence in and support for the concept of global governance. Only then can we finally turn to the United Nations and help it to grow into the role of world peacekeeper for which it was created 50 years ago.

Once again the United States must lead the way in the 21st Century. As long as U.S. leaders are committed to the belief that as the world's most powerful nation we alone are empowered to proclaim and enforce American standards and judgments everywhere in the world, we are doomed to confrontation and growing isolation in a world increasingly ready to adopt global norms and the peaceful conduct of international relations. The vote in Rome of 120 to 7 against the United States was only one more ominous harbinger of the dangers ahead because of chauvinistic reliance on American power to promote U .S. political and economic interests in an interdependent world community. Perhaps today U.S. leaders may believe that we are able to pay the costs of such behavior but the option of standing alone as the world's only superpower will soon no longer be affordable, or possible.

The future security and well being of all North Americans rests on far more than aircraft carriers, strategic bombers and a National Missile Defense System. As the present tragic situation in Kosovo demonstrates vividly, America's magic superpower wand cannot make long standing problems disappear. In truth, there is no military solution to the ethnic, religious, political and historic disputes which underlie the violence there and elsewhere in the world. Our security, and the solution to such problems in the future, will be promoted far more effectively through wise U.S. foreign policies that lead away from confrontation and to the creation of a peaceful, just and cooperative world order in the 21st Century. I know that we can trust Canadians to be proud, active, and creative participants in the effort to create such a world.

Shalom

Home | How You Can Make a Difference | Problem Identification Topics |
Proposals/Solutions | Information Resources | Who's Who | Upcoming Events
1998.  Permission to reprint is granted provided acknowledgment is made to:
The Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace
Last update:  16 Oct 2000