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National Law Journal, January 8, 2001  p. A21
A global view is 
vital for Bush Jr.
TO MANY, it is a truism that globalization has dramatically changed the stage upon which foreign policy is played. National states are in decline, while power gravitates to corporations and individuals empowered by the Internet and other means of instantaneous communication. The need for new international regimes either to foster investment or to control its abuses is manifest. The great “game” of the super powers shrivels to near irrelevance.

Now, however, President-elect George W. Bush’s appointment of Condoleeza Rice as national security adviser may foreshadow an administration that disdains international law and is anxious to pursue foreign policy as a national power game.
Amid the somewhat dimly lit stars in the Bush firmament, Ms. Rice shines as brightly, and as intransigently, as Polaris. Mr. Bush has shown diffidence regarding foreign policy and will rely heavily Ms. Rice who “can explain to me foreign policy matters in a way I can understand.”

Bright but disdainful
Assured and self-confident,  Ms. Rice disdains “Wilsonian thought” and those who are discomforted by advancing purely national interest as foreign policy. She has little respect for those who support “a reflexive appeal instead to notions of international law and norms, and the belief that the support of many states—or even better, of institutions like the United Nations — is essential to the legitimate exercise of power.” See Foreign Affairs, January/February 2000.

She’s right to blame Woodrow Wilson for the concept that principles of international law and justice must guide American foreign policy. In summarizing his 14 points for peace to Congress in 1918, President Wilson stated: “[A]n evident principle runs through the whole program I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another, whether they be strong or weak.”

But Mr. Wilson is not the sole culprit. American courts have long recognized the simple fact that the United States is subject to principles of international law. As those principles have evolved, so have the obligations and rights of the United States as a member of the international community.

No game of solitaire
Beyond Ms. Rice’s disdain for the place of international law is the danger that the Bush administration may miss altogether the simple truth that we desperately need more of it, not less, and that it is no longer a great-power game, even for a single great power wishing to play solitaire. All around us, the power of nation-states is collapsing.

In the Dec. 19 New York Times, Thomas Friedman pointed out in relation to the Bush nomination of Colin Powell as secretary of state (and, by extension, the nomination of Ms. Rice), that the international scene has changed since 1992, the year W’s father lost the presidency to Bill Clinton. We have entered an era of super empowered corporations and individuals who use the Internet and e-mail to cast shadows across the path of the most confident national administration.

In some cases, superpowered individuals have the capability to wreak havoc on a scale unimagined before: witness terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. In other cases, humanitarian goals have been advanced by coalitions of nongovernmental groups that national states, even the United States, ignore at their peril. Witness Jody Williams, who organized agitation for the land mine treaty, or the coalition of environmentalists, human rights activists and organized labor that stopped big power negotiations at the World Trade Organization dead in its tracks in both Paris and Seattle.

Ms. Rice’s attachment to national interests over the demands of international law and humanitarian concerns reveals a mindset that may be dangerous.

The clock cannot be rolled back on globalization The fundamental foreign policy challenge facing the United States is whether we globalize freedom or exploitation. The struggle will be between the economic interests that Ms. Rice prizes and the human rights interests she would put on the back burner.

President Wilson had it right. American prosperity and security has never fared well in the pursuit of selfish interests. Our real security is in a world that respects the very norms of international law Ms. Rice disdains. Maybe, one hopes, she’ll be a fast learner.

Mr. Klotz, a Manhattan attorney, is an accredited Sierra Club representative at the United Nations.

This article is reprinted with permission from January 8, 2001edition of the National Law Journal
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