Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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4.5 Criticisms of pre-emption or a preventative war

Robert Kaplan writes that Sam Huntington, the author of The Clash of Civilizations, whose work we briefly considered last section, considers the world

... a dangerous place, in which large numbers of people resent [US] wealth, power, and culture, and vigorously oppose our efforts to persuade or coerce them to accept our values of human rights, democracy and capitalism. In this world America must learn to distinguish among our true friends who will be with us and we with them through thick and thin; opportunistic allies with whom we have some but not all interests in common; strategic partner-competitors with whom we have a mixed relationship; antagonists who are rivals but with whom negotiation is possible; and unrelenting enemies who will try to destroy us unless we destroy them first.

(Kaplan, 2001)

Yet, for other commentators, anti-American sentiment is fuelled just as much by the US’s actions as by its existence. Peter Bergen is one of the few Western journalists to interview Osama bin Laden. For him, bin Laden’s hostility toward the US owes much to his opposition to:

... its policies in the Middle East. Those are, to recap briefly: the continued US military presence in Arabia; US support for Israel; its continued bombing of Iraq; and its support for regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia that bin Laden regards as apostates from Islam.

(Bergen, 2001).

Writing in May 2003, Noam Chomsky – a longstanding left-wing critic of US foreign policy – argued that the US is not interested in pursuing

pre-emptive war, which arguably falls within some stretching of the UN Charter, but rather of something that doesn’t even begin to have any grounds in international law, namely, preventive war. The doctrine, you recall, was that the United States would rule the world by force, and that if there is any challenge perceived to its domination, a challenge perceived in the distance, invented, imagined, whatever, then the US will have the right to destroy that challenge before it becomes a threat. That’s preventive war, not pre-emptive war ... . [As a result] they will have institutionalized the doctrines of imperial domination through force and preventive war as a choice.

(Chomsky, 2003)

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