Le Monde, France
The End of the Hyperpower
By Delphine Lagrange
Translated By Simon Wood
19 June 2014
Edited by Laurence Bouvar
France - Le Monde - Original Article (French)
A wall knocked down, oil wells set on fire, towers toppled, a dictator hanged; international events reduced to a few snapshots, a memory reacting to a flood of information, a process aided by the weight of emotions. More than any other area, the Middle East, and at its center Iraq, has found itself playing a leading role in the construction of a modern world. It’s an emblematic situation; Iraq is experiencing a time of new challenges that expose, or confirm, the limits of American hegemony.
The call to a “new world order” in American discourse indicates gestating inclinations toward benevolent domination, driven by a sense of moral duty and, at the same time, self-interest. This exceptionalist self-perception founded a policy of protean interference, a rhetoric of democratic reform hammered home at every opportunity to enter into war, as in Iraq. It is hardly benevolent here; on the contrary, it has been a series of decisions that have made the Iraqi people the first victims: embargoes, bombardments, intervention pressed on selected allies, torture of prisoners.
To this absence of legitimacy is added an increasing questioning of domination itself. If the presidency of Mr. Bush Junior revealed the limits of the United States' capacity in Afghanistan and Iraq, then that of Barack Obama shows an absence of intent. We can no longer talk about a power which is likely to act on a global level, even for a conflict in which the country bears an immense share of the responsibility. At the moment, the American president prefers to highlight the mistakes of the Iraqi prime minister's policies. It is not a question of regretting this reluctance to intervene, but rather noting that the U.S. rests on its twin constitutive pillars: capacity and intent.
The Jihadis Kill Muslims First
As if this were not enough, there is also the fact that the rogues, the failed citizens, all these “enemies” of the United States prove to be impossible to circumvent. The strength of these players who have become the professionals in this dispute for a “new world order” is that they have grasped the new nature of the international system better than their adversaries. Universalization has reinforced interdependence. Consequently, the mighty, powerful actor who has the economic and military resources finds that it is prevented from deploying its controlling capacities on the international community by the weak, excluded, damned one. This is not about American hyperpower here but rather a hyperexposure of the dominant actor, which has become a privileged target of all forms of dispute. Some nonstate actors are benefitting greatly from an activism which receives media coverage inversely proportional to its popularity, including locally.
Remember that Jihadis Kill Muslims First
If they are able to occupy the vacuum left by the state or oppose contested regimes, they have seized the opportunity to take full advantage of the menace which has been exacted on the world order.
While the end of the Cold War encouraged people to think about unipolarity, the crisis in Iraq confirms that this is no longer the case. There is not one pole in the sense of a gravitational leader, nor even several. There is, of course, a centrality around the U.S. in the structure of the international order.
Diplomacy Is Invisible in the Middle East
And France? Its diplomacy is invisible in the Middle East, while its overall interventionism still remains in Africa. Laurent Fabius’ declaration on Iraq has the appearance of a translation of Mr. Obama's position, adding passivity to the inconsistency. The Arab policy ended Jacques Chirac’s presidency, and with it, the existence of a discordant voice, in particular on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the regional Gordian knot. The strategy of differentiation on Iraq did not survive. At the U.N. in May 2003, Resolution 1483, French leaders voted for what they had fought for in March of the same year, i.e. legitimizing the presence of a coalition led by the United States. The setup of the international system, however, offers French diplomacy room for maneuver. The chair of this United Nations Security Council permanent member wants to launch a multilateral action, because there is a strange aspect to the Iraqi crisis which could be transformed into opportunity: It joins the most heterogeneous actors together on the same side: Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Kurds, Turkey, the United States, Europe and Russia.
In a European context marked by an absence of solidarity, the French government would gain from seeking to cure this dysfunction while acting for the Middle East. While acting in accordance with U.N. policy toward Iraq, France could go back to the original intent of the European project as well as to the program set out by Francois Hollande, the socialist candidate, by rethinking its policy on welcoming refugees. This would allow France to suggest a concrete course of action which would go beyond the self-satisfied rhetoric of France as “the home of human rights” to work together with Germany, which has already taken strong actions on behalf of Syrian refugees, and to assume a share, a minimal share given what is at stake, but a share nonetheless of its responsibilities.http://watchingamerica.com/News/241539/the-end-of-the-hyperpower/