American Friends Service Committee
Sara Burke, Managing Editor
Sam Diener, Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Washington's Imperial Agenda in Asia
Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs of the American Friends Service Committee's New England Region. The following article is adapted from a speech prepared for a conference organized by Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives in Seoul, November 2003.
In the run-up to President Bush's visit to Britain, few in the United States were aware that plans for massive popular protests had forced the White House to cancel plans for the traditional motorcade. The president had to fly onto the grounds of Buckingham Palace via helicopter in order to avoid the warm greeting and nasty photo ops being prepared by the citizens of our "special" ally. A month earlier, the White House had faced much the same problem on the eve of President Bush's departure for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Thailand. As the back pages of the US press informed us, President Bush was likely to "Face Asian Fears of New US Unilateralism."
Ironically, the Bush Administration is communicating its fear of the world rather than a confident sense of its role. By contrast, China -- with, for example, its high-profile diplomacy at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference -- has demonstrated increasingly friendly and stable relations with Southeast Asia. As the New York Times reported, "The perception is that China is trying to do its best to please, assist, and accommodate its neighbors while the United States is perceived as a country involved more and more on its own foreign policy agenda, and strong-arming everyone onto that agenda."
Given these trends, few could have been surprised when, for reasons
of "security," President Bush's state visit
to the Philippines -- one of Washington's two newest
"major non-NATO allies" -- was limited to just
eight daylight hours, while his time in Indonesia was limited
to three hours in Bali.
The National Security Strategy and Asia
The Bush Administration's dangerous National Strategy Statement (the most comprehensive official public statement of US foreign and military policy) proclaims that there is but "a single sustainable model for national success." Only those nations that adopt the US versions of "freedom, democracy, and free enterprise" can be assured "future prosperity."
The Strategy Statement announces that to "enhance our Asian alliances and friendships we will:"
Vacillating Policies Toward Korea
Divisions within the Bush Administration lead many to wonder if Bush and Cheney actually have a coherent Korea policy. Who can blame them? Rumsfeld has called for China to join the US in a regime change war against Pyongyang, while Colin Powell says the US is committed to negotiating with the DPRK. These mixed messages have been continual since George W. Bush seized power. On the eve of September's six-nation talks in Beijing, news of a new Pentagon war plan was leaked to the press, US and allied forces joined in training exercises to interdict North Korean ships, and Charles Pritchard, who favored putting forward a proposal that could serve as the basis of negotiations, was ousted from the US negotiating team. Predictably, the Beijing negotiations floundered. Surprisingly, China blamed the Bush Administration for the talks' failure. Washington reversed course by indicating its willingness to offer Pyongyang some form of a non-aggression pact.
Yet, within this confusing and dangerous policy vacillation, there remains at least one consistent bottom line: preventing the emergence of a rival to US regional and global dominance.
Washington fears possible Northeast Asian integration in a form parallel to the European Union. The Bush Administration and others in the US power elite perceive that over the long term, integrated Northeast Asian economies and political systems could marginalize Washington and challenge US regional and global dominance. To prevent this possibility and to provide political cover for a continuing containment policy toward China, the Bush Administration is using the crisis with North Korea to discipline its East Asian allies.
While Pyongyang uses brinksmanship to seek a non-aggression pact
from the US and access to the Asia-Pacific economy, Washington
is working to augment its diplomatic power through repeated military
and economic threats, including the restructuring of US forces
in South Korea, the build-up of US forces throughout the region,
the Proliferation Security Initiative (preparations to interdict
North Korean ships and planes), and the extortion of threats against
North Korea from South Korea, Japan, and the G-8. In recent US
actions and statements regarding North Korea, we are witnessing
the practice of "coercive diplomacy" not unlike that
targeted against Iraq in the months leading to the US invasion.
Nuclear Arsenals in the Region
Rumsfeld and many of his allies inside and outside the Bush Administration
have advocated engineering the collapse of North Korea or achieving
"regime change" by military means. Their realpolitik
agenda, a response to Pyongyang's announced efforts to
build a nuclear arsenal, is based on fears about what such an
arsenal would mean for the region as a whole. The structure of
Washington's Asia-Pacific hegemony is premised on a non-nuclear
Japan. Keeping Japan nuclear-free requires preventing the DPRK
from becoming a nuclear-capable power. Given Japan's advanced
nuclear and missile technologies and its massive stockpiles of
weapons-grade plutonium, it is widely anticipated that if Pyongyang
were to become a declared nuclear power, Tokyo would quickly follow.
This would frighten China, as well as the Koreas, ignite a dangerous
Northeast Asian nuclear arms race, and seriously undermine US
Asian Allies & the Iraq War
The Bush Administration is exerting enormous pressure on the Roh Government of South Korea to send up to 10,000 troops to augment the US occupation of Iraq. (700 South Korean Army engineers and medics were sent to Iraq in May). A recent press conference in Seoul provides what could pass for caricature of how military alliances actually work. Following a fact-finding mission to Iraq, Brigadier General Kang Dae-Young reported that "Iraq is becoming stable, with the threat of attack against international coalition forces showing signs of diminishing." "Korean forces," he said, "are expected to play a constructive role in rebuilding the war-torn nation." But as the press conference drew to a close, Professor Park Kun-Hyung, who had also participated in the delegation, exposed an inelegant collusion. The general's report, he told the press, was based on a four-hour visit to Mosul (where the Korean troops are to be deployed), during which the delegation "met only one Iraqi man for five minutes."
Yet the Korean peace movement is acting to prevent the deployment of additional troops, and trying to prevent the deployment of combat soldiers. During nationwide protests on October 25, 2003 (coordinated with actions across the US, in Turkey, and in Japan), peace protesters rallied in 30 Korean cities. Fifteen student activists were arrested during a sit-in at Kwanghwamun, according to the Korea Times. These protests, coupled with the continuing violence in Iraq, are swaying South Korean publi opinion.
Japan is playing its assigned and subservient role. On the eve
of President Bush's brief visit to Tokyo, Prime Minister
Koizumi reaffirmed the centrality of the US-Japan alliance. Under
his leadership, the "peace constitution" has been
further violated by the adoption of "contingency laws"
that open the way for Japanese military forces to join the US
in Iraq by the end of the year. In response to US demands for
"generous" Japanese support for the reconstruction
of Iraq, Tokyo has chimed in with an initial down payment of $1.5
billion. It tolerates US refusal to modify the Status of Forces
Agreement, even while this arrangement serves to protect US troops
based in Japan from accountability for rapes, assaults, and other
crimes. And the Japanese government and industry are deepening
their collaboration with the US "missile defense"
program, which is designed to serve as a shield for the US first-strike
weapons targeted against China and North Korea. Yet opposition
in Japan has forced the Japanese government to postpone the deployment
of Japanese soldiers to Iraq.
China: Collaboration and Containment
Since September 11, 2001, the coincidence of US and Chinese interests has fueled collaboration between the two nations, while both governments also prepare warily for the future. Both governments are anxious to contain and destroy divisive Islamist political forces. The US global crusade has provided an opening for sharper Chinese repression of Uigur nationalists and others who chafe under Han domination. Even as it was willing to risk making the public statement that the greatest impediment to the success of the six-nation talks was Washington's refusal to present a serious negotiating proposal, Beijing has worked closely with the Bush Administration to ensure that the Korean peninsula remains nuclear-free.
The "War on Terrorism" has nevertheless provided Washington with openings to pursue its campaign of encircling and containing China. The Pentagon is "diversifying" the forward deployments of US forces in the Asia-Pacific, moving their center of gravity further to the south to more completely encircle China and to reinforce US control over South Asian sea lanes. US troops are returning to the Philippines. The Pentagon is exploring renewing its controversial collaboration with the Indonesian military despite US domestic opposition. President Bush has announced that Australia is "the sheriff" for the region and is augmenting US forces and military installations there. The US's incipient alliance with India is being reinforced, and across Pakistan and Central Asia, the US has established a new network of military bases and installations. Trumpeting the "War on Terrorism," the US has pressed ASEAN and APEC to discipline governments and reinforce military and intelligence collaborations.
The Bush Administration has not been shy about its imperial agenda. Yet, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Massive world-wide public demonstrations have, as the New York Times editorialized early this year, illuminated the existence of "a second superpower" ñ international public opinion. Washington has largely lost the ability to win the world's hearts and minds. The United Nations has become a forum for international resistance, and a series of "World Social Forum" events from Porto Alegre, Brazil to Mumbai, India is bringing young people together to organize globally. The US's race to establish a unilateralist empire has inspired a level of resistance which may ultimately prove its undoing.