Professor Daniel C. Maguire
shows that when the nature of power changes,
leaders are usually the last to know...as in
the United States today.
Like the kings and czars who failed to understand
a power shift even as
their palaces were being stormed, our leaders
are mired in anachronistic
notions of "superpower" status. While
focusing on our preeminence in
kill-power and cash power we are hobbled by
multiple forms of
unacknowledged impotence--some self-inflicted,
some inherited. The
military power that makes us "a superpower"
is a Maginot Line that global
insurgency is showing it can easily circumvent.
purpose of national power and the twin goals
of statecraft are the
defense and promotion of life--survival and
thrival. Our de facto power
is in default on both counts.
are threats to our national security before
which our nuclear
missiles and technical military prowess stand
mute and helpless.
warfare specialists at the Pentagon say that
coordinated attack by thirty computer whizzes
with a budget of less that
ten million dollars could bring the United
States to its knees, shutting
down electric power grids and air traffic control
more food we need, the more vulnerable we become.
fish farms provide newly accessible targets
that small farms and the wild
fisheries did not.
nuclear, biological, and chemical genies are
out of the bottle,
available for trading on the open market. The
weapons on which we base
our superpower claims failed to defend our
buildings (9/11)and our ships
(USS Cole) but these are mere harbingers of
a deeper, growing
vulnerability. A single rifle in the hands
of a disturbed man could
change life for 22 days in the nations capital
and in Virginia.
Terrorist groups followed that story on CNN.
Several hundred trained and
motivated terrorists with rifles could devastate
our economic and social
the strait of Malacca, between Malaysia and
Indonesia, passes a
quarter of the world's trade in largely unprotected
ships, ships that
could be rammed like the French Limburg near
Yemen by a speedboat loaded
with explosives. Osama bin Laden praised this
tactic in a recent audiotape,
sending the signal that it is a paradigm, not
an isolated event.
other ways too, our power is not super. Since
oil is our energy
resource of choice, we are weak dependents
on those who are
very term "war on terrorism" is an
oxymoron. "War" assumes a
visible enemy that can be found and defeated.
(That is why Iraq is so
attractive to the Bush warriors. It would let
us play the old game.)
What we face is a preter-national insurgency
driven by deeply felt
grievances, and the insurgents hold the trump
unpredictability, and an infinite variety of
weapons choices. There is a
power to deal with this but it is not in our
leadership is Maoist in its belief that the
truest form of
power comes out of the barrel of a gun. Hence
the recent surge in our
war budget. Other forms of power are needed
to face the current global
insurgency. As feeble as these may sound to
warrior ears, the forms of
power that bring security today are economic
power, moral power and
Gorbachev noted that the battlefields of the
futures are in the market
place. Our militocracy doesn't get it. The
mounting hatred of us
abroad, shown dramatically in recent polls,
limits overseas marketing and
turns U.S. businesses into terrorist targets.
Meanwhile nations like
China are following Gorbachev's advice. The
U.S. since 1945 has
intervened abroad 67 times causing twelve million
deaths by overt and
covert action. Even a mobster might advise
us that "this is not good for
compassionate America could be a moral superpower.
Moral power is
manifested by compassion and understanding.
American moral power is at
low ebb, shrunken by our current arrogance
toward all nations and
indifference toward the world's poor. In 1969,
The Commission on
International Development, chaired by Canada's
Lester Pearson, said that
in this new world, if we wish "to be secure
and prosperous, we must show
a common concern for the common problems of
all peoples." We do not
show that and so our prosperity is brittle
and our security is threatened
on all sides.
power to understand the needs and cultures
of others is crucial in a
shrinking world. This includes the needs and
cultures of our enemies.
Our nation no longer inspires, it subdues.
Once we were seen as a
realization of ideals. Not now. As Harold Laski
said, social power
comes "from idealism", not from pragmatism,
from "spiritual promise" not
from "materialistic prospects." "Evil
empire," "axis of evil," is
crude fundamentalist language of theocratic
American foreign policy.
George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden both evince
this crude religious
dualism. It is deemed heresy even to admit
that al Quaeda or other
groups may have legitimate and negotiable needs
and grievances. We seem
the poorest of candidates for sensitive diplomatic
outreach and for
sophisticated understanding of the needs of
other peoples. Hands grown
rough from bludgeoning are poor candidates
for doing needlepoint.
power is the only realistic power in an interconnected
bristling with abundantly available weaponry.
The decision to go it
alone is provocative, making us an increasingly
more likely insurgency
is no longer the case that we have nothing
to fear but fear itself.
Ironically, our only hope may lie in our growing
fear, which as the
Hebrew scriptures said, can be the beginning