segunda-feira, julho 26, 2004

Kennedy vs. Gaddis (parte 1)

O New York Times teve neste final de semana um ideia interessante: por que nao colocar em uma mesma mesa os historiadores Paul Kennedy e John Lewis Gaddis (ambos professores de Yale) para discutir a situacao atual dos EUA? Faco questao de reproduzir a entrevista -- que teve o formato de dialogo -- para os leitores do blog. A segunda parte, eu coloco mais tarde. Evidentemente, comentarios sao mais do que bem-vindos.

Kill the Empire! (Or Not)

AT Yale University, John Lewis Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett professor of history and political science and Paul Kennedy is the J. Richardson Dilworth professor of history. For several years now, along with their colleague Charles Hill, they have been discussing and debating foreign policy and grand strategy in a seminar limited to 24 undergraduate and graduate students. Barry Gewen, an editor at the Book Review, asked them to share some of their agreements and disagreements with a larger audience.

How Did 9/11 Change America's Thinking About Foreign Policy?

The whole premise of our thinking had been that threats come from states. Then suddenly, overnight, levels of damage were done exceeding those at Pearl Harbor by a gang most of us had never heard of. That is a profound change in the national security environment. It exposes a level of vulnerability that Americans have not seen since they were living on the edge of a dangerous frontier 150 years ago.

KENNEDY. I'd agree, and then add another slant. The whole system of international law was predicated upon states. There's no thought given in the U.N. Charter to nonstate actors. There needs to be agreement on what states can do now with threats from nonstate actors.

GADDIS. It seems to me that the Bush administration did immediately sense the significance of this new geopolitical situation. Fundamental reassessments of American grand strategy tend to take place in response to crises. And a surprise attack obviously is in many ways the most rattling kind of crisis. What the Bush administration did was to announce a strategy which had never totally been absent from American history -- the idea of pre-emption. That is, when sources of danger exist, the United States has the right to take them out. There was a long history of this kind of behavior in the 19th century.

KENNEDY. I'm not going to underestimate the impact of 9/11. But I would argue that the folks who came into office with the president were already fundamentalists. So that the basic change was not in reaction to 9/11. It was people who wanted to step aside from a considerable number of international treaties. They were beginning to alter the agenda in a way that Roosevelt and Kennedy would have thought a bit disturbing. And then comes 9/11, so you can focus all your attention on a crusade. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves: what was the Bush administration doing with regard to Iraq? One time it says it's concerned about weapons of mass destruction. Another time it says Saddam is planning nasty things in the Middle East. And other times he's a moral transgressor of the highest order. You have to wonder whether they were just digging into this big barrel, bringing out whatever was the best excuse for the moment.

GADDIS. My own sense is that when you see anyone providing that many different justifications, they have one big justification that is not being talked about. The idea, quite simply, was to frighten any state that might, in the future, be harboring terrorists. It's like the parking sign that Mayor Koch used to put up around New York. Remember those? ''Don't even think of parking here.'' Don't even think of harboring terrorists. This, I think, was the real reason we went into Iraq.

KENNEDY. Well, I think we have frightened states quite a lot. Look at the changeover in Libya in the past 12 to 15 months. Now, what I would suggest we begin to think of, in consultation with others, is a set of resolutions concerning states that harbor terrorist organizations. It may come to something as serious as saying that those states endanger their own sovereignty. This will be a hot debate, of course, since one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

GADDIS. Where I would like to be 15 or 20 years from now is living in a world in which the international community as a whole justifies action, retaliatory or pre-emptive as the case may be, whenever brutal authoritarian regimes are practicing their terrible arts on their own people. The world now must be made safe for democracy, and this is no longer just an idealistic issue; it's an issue of our own safety. And by ''our'' I mean not just the United States, but the international community as a whole. If you take a long historical sweep, this is not as improbable as it might sound.

KENNEDY. It's going to be harder to do than we think. You may recall, even after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, four permanent members of the Security Council voted for intervention, but China abstained. It just was not willing to vote for things like this. So how are we going to do it?

GADDIS. I never said it was going to be easy. It's a long-term objective. You're quite right to say that the Chinese government would not look kindly on external pressure. At the same time, it seems to me incontestable that the Chinese government these days does treat its own people far better than at any time within living memory. So the trend is there, and I think it is worldwide.

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