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A Failed State


The results of polls such as this one, by Zogby International, which reported that as of December 20-21, one out of every two “likely voters” in the United States believed that the Bush regime has the legitimate authority under the U.S. Constitution and American laws to engage in the surveillance of American citizens, frighten me to no end. And ought to frighten the peoples of this world.

Think about it. The most dangerous complex of institutions in the contemporary world, the American National Security State, sits atop a domestic population whose intellectual and moral resources are so depleted overall that something on the order of one out of every two of them simply supports its actions—no matter what it does.

To adopt the kind of rhetoric to which American intellectuals resort when their favorite state sets out to prey upon other peoples and countries, the United States of America is a failed state. That is to say, it is a country wherein the institutions of state and domestic power have been completely decoupled from its domestic population, so that so-called democratic forms (e.g., national elections, the Congress and the Judiciary) are utterly lacking in substance, its citizens for the most part kept sealed up in a cookie jar on one of the bookshelves in the Oval Office. Nor can the peoples of the world outside its borders trust the citizens within to do the right thing—either for themselves or for the larger world beyond.

To quote John Zogby, whose firm undertook this opinion poll: “When you put the president and 9/11 and the war on terror together with NSA eavesdropping, you get great support among Republicans. It has become a wedge issue.” (“Americans split on feds listening in,” Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 29.)

He can say that again. With one caveat: That whatever wedge exists between the statist reactionaries who automatically line up behind the failed state and the rest of us slugs who do not, it is minor when compared to the wedge that exists between the Failed United States of America and the rest of the world.

International peace and security are threatened less by so-called failed states than by a conquering Super Predator State, bent on ruling the world by force. Small wonder, then, that Super Predator should have prefaced its National Security Strategy of September, 2002—some six-months-to-the-day before formally launching its military seizure of Iraq—with the dire warning that “America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones.” The very threat that Super Predator itself poses to the rest of the world, it projects onto the blank canvas of contemporary history, hoping to inscribe it there.

I often wonder what an honest survey of the likenesses and differences between the United States and, say, North Korea would turn up.

Here is one difference, just to get the ball rolling: The United States possesses a hell of a lot more nukes and the means of delivering them to any spot on the planet.

Now.—Can you think of any others?

Nation Split Over Bush Communication Intercept,” Zogby International, December 21, 2005

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 19, 2002. (For the PDF-version of the complete document.)

Failed States” (Homepage), archive of material maintained by the Global Policy Forum
The Failed States Index 2005, the Fund for Peace and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Foreign Policy, July/August, 2005
The ‘Failed State’ in International Law,” Daniel Thürer, International Review of the Red Cross, December 31, 1999
States at Risk and Failed States: Putting Security First,” Marina S. Ottaway and Stefan Mair, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September, 2004

Americans split on feds listening in,” Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, December 29, 2005
US intelligence service bugged website visitors despite ban,” Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, December 30, 2005
Covert CIA Program Withstands New Furor,” Dana Priest, Washington Post, December 30, 2005

Super Predator,” ZNet, October 7, 2005
Treason and the American President,” ZNet, December 18, 2005
A Failed State,” ZNet, December 30, 2005

Postscript (January 16, 2006): From the ranks of better late than never—however timid and apologetic in their approach to the altar of the Imperial Presidency both the Washington Post and the New York Times may be:

Unchecked Abuse,” Editorial, Washington Post, January 11, 2006
The Imperial Presidency at Work,” Editorial, New York Times, January 15, 2006 (as posted to Truthout)

Now. If only they had the nerve to invoke the same obligations erga omnes-, Chapter VII-, and “coalition of the willing“-type principles when it comes to the conduct of their favorite Power. I for one can think of a failed state in need of dramatic fixing. And a planet in need of liberation.

But—in another 12 months time, perhaps?

Treason and the American President,” ZNet, December 18, 2005
A Failed State,” ZNet, December 30, 2005
Attacking Domestic Society,” ZNet, January 8, 2006

FYA (“For your archives”): The text of Zogby International’s December 21 report of its findings, followed by the text of the Bush regime’s “Overview of America’s International Strategy,” September 19, 2002.

Released: December 21, 2005

Nation Split Over Bush Communication Intercept; Presidential Job Approval Improves To 44%, Up 6% In Latest poll, New Zogby Interactive Poll Shows

UTICA, New York – A narrow plurality of likely voters nationwide believe President Bush acted within his Constitutional powers when he authorized the interception of international communications without the approval of a federal judge, but the public is closely divided on the issue, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

Nearly half – 49% – said they think he has the power to authorize the intercepts, while 45% said he does not, the survey showed.

The interactive survey of 1,929 likely voters nationwide, conducted Dec. 20-21, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Asked if the President’s actions made Americans more safe or less safe, 50% said the nation was safer because of his actions, while 18% said the actions put the country more at risk and 26% said it made no difference in our level of safety.

However, 44% said they were concerned that the communication intercepts were a step toward stripping Americans of their privacy. Another 23% said they believe the secret intercepts are important in rare cases to fight terrorism, and 29% said they were necessary to combat enemies.

The New York Times reported last week that Mr. Bush had authorized the intercepts, and the White House has since mounted an aggressive campaign to explain their actions. Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for hearings into the matter.

The controversy, just days old, has not harmed the President, whose job approval rating has improved from a low of 38% earlier this month to 44% now – this as the nation has seen robust economic growth and the Iraq parliamentary elections last week were conducted with little violence and high voter turnout.

Asked whether they felt the nation was on the right track, 44% agreed, while 51% said the country was headed in the wrong direction, the poll shows.

A slight majority – 51% – said they now either strongly or somewhat support the war in Iraq, while 49% said they did not. In the wake of the elections there last week, 51% agreed that the war has been worth it. A Zogby International telephone poll taken the first week of December showed 49% believed the war was worth it.

I. Overview of America’s International Strategy (September 19, 2002)

“Our Nation’s cause has always been larger than our Nation’s defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace—a peace that favors liberty. We will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent.”

President Bush
West Point, New York
June 1, 2002

The United States possesses unprecedented—and unequaled—strength and influence in the world. Sustained by faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities, obligations, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom.

For most of the twentieth century, the world was divided by a great struggle over ideas: destructive totalitarian visions versus freedom and equality.

That great struggle is over. The militant visions of class, nation, and race which promised utopia and delivered misery have been defeated and discredited. America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few.We must defeat these threats to our Nation, allies, and friends.

This is also a time of opportunity for America. We will work to translate this moment of influence into decades of peace, prosperity, and liberty. The U.S. national security strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better. Our goals on the path to progress are clear: political and economic freedom, peaceful relations with other states, and respect for human dignity.

And this path is not America’s alone. It is open to all. To achieve these goals, the United States will:

- champion aspirations for human dignity;
- strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends;
- work with others to defuse regional conflicts;
- prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies, and our friends, with weapons of mass destruction;
- ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade;
- expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy;
- develop agendas for cooperative action with other main centers of global power; and
- transform America’s national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

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