by Lothar Ruhl
January 31, 1997
At the beginning of President Clinton's second term, America offered, in the words of the re-elected president, "to build a bridge into the 21st century" for the outside world, a particularly inconsistent image, ruled by contradiction and double-meanings. As the world's single "world power", the USA dominates world politics for the foreseeable future, even if they are not able to decide the outcome of every conflict. But the goal is also, as has been made clear by State Department head Albright, to use the favorable hour which has been offered by the crises in Europe and the Far East to win back its dominance in world commerce. In the sphere of global information and communications networks this has succeeded thanks to English as a world language and to American technology;
At the same time this gradually emerging opportunity also has an effect on American politics and the relationships with other countries: whomever Washington declares to be an enemy, as "unfriendly" or even as a "rogue state,", as robber or pirate states, as Libya, Iran, Iraq, Cuba and also Burma are currently designated, will find themselves in a sort of "hue and cry" situation. All nations are expected to follow the US example and break off relations or end commercial business.
Along with that comes "human rights" - vigilance as morally defined for the US State Department but not as pragmatic when it comes to steadfast American interests, such as Afghanistan, where human rights are no better than in Burma or Cuba, and where the "Scientology Church" would not stand a chance of survival: that is where most recently the US has tried to make a "deal" with the religious intolerance and summary executions of the known Taliban opponents for the installation of an oil pipe-line from central Asia to the Indian Ocean. The attempt was for the benefit of the American oil companies as well as for the Turkish allies along with the Russian "security partners", who one did not want to confine to Europe, exactly as the enemy Iran had just been excluded from business there. This example of "Realpolitik" in Washington stands in lively contrast to the half pastoral ,half legitimate rhetoric of the Washington pronouncements of American positions in dealing with dictators.
The diplomacy of the USA has long since struck a shrill note in which the self-realization of its own good rights is being coerced by anglo-sachsen tradition, while the laissez faire of former times has disappeared. The public instruction of other governments has become more urgent - as it had once shortly done in Berne during a dispute over the "informationless accounts" in Swiss banks, in which all parties conducted themselves unseemly and provokingly, instead of seeking a possible settlement of interests.
In that instance American politicians such as the notorious Senator D'Amato and also the speaker of the State Department, Nicholas Burns, and countless media commentators of America handled Switzerland, their OSCE partner, the same as they would have a Banana Republic in Central America which is dependent upon United Fruit. The characterization of an unhappy, but in essence not incorrect, remark concerning the contemporary Swiss Confederacy State President Delamuraz by Burns as "silly" can already no longer be seen as something special.
In the conflict surrounding the "Scientology Church", which above all is led against German sect politics in the name of religious freedom of "American citizens" (so says Burns), the absurdity of the American argument as to the political dealings of allied countries is apparent. For the USA, repelling an invasion of a subversive organization becomes an attack upon the freedoms of speech and religion in the sense of the US Constitution, which was not known until this time to be regarded worldwide -- as nonsensical toward the human rights as is the US order to the European States to have no trade with Cuba, Libya or Iran. According to the judgment of the State Department the German defense against the "Scientology" sect in Germany is "a campaign of harassment and intimidation." Is this the way one speaks about a proven ally in a "transatlantic partnership" which one hopes to renew?
In Washington the readiness to get involved in the strange circumstances of the private American interests is counter-balanced with the welfare of the US public; contemporary US politics is counter-balanced by the welfare of mankind. The certainly unsuspicious American columnist William Pfaff wrote recently in Paris that America does itself no good in its new role as the solitary world power. And the corresponding US Paris resident columnist Flora Lewis asked whether Clinton didn't mean "hegemony" when he stated that the next century will see "the greatest democracy of the world leading an entire world of democracy." It is not really clear whether he plans to deal "with the responsibility or with the rivalry of the rest of the world."
Probably it has to do today more with an attitude of lordly self-righteousness in the full swing of power and no competition. Nevertheless, whoever does not want or is not able to be the "world police" surely does not amount to "world censor" or the "last word" over right or unright between nations.
copyright: DIE WELT