November 14, 2007


Destroying the Nation-State (Alan W. Dowd, November 06, 2007,

Buried deep in a recent Washington Post piece deriding former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s penchant for firing off memos, we find this morsel:

“In one of his longer ruminations, in May 2004, Rumsfeld considered whether to redefine the terrorism fight as a ‘worldwide insurgency.’ The goal of the enemy, he wrote, is to ‘end the state system, using terrorism, to drive the non-radicals from the world.’”

Love him or hate him, Rumsfeld was right about this. He was also consistent, recognizing that the jihadists’ worldwide insurgency—or global guerilla war, if you prefer—is not the only challenge to the nation-state system. In fact, Rumsfeld also spoke at length about international institutions that undermine the nation-state system.

“We see respect for states’ sovereignty eroding,” he said during a 2003 conference in Germany. “We see it, in my view, in the International Criminal Court’s claim of authority to try the citizens of countries that have not consented to ICC jurisdiction…We see it in the new Belgian law purporting to give Belgian courts ‘universal jurisdiction’ over alleged war crimes anywhere in the world.” [...]

In short, Rumsfeld understood that the nation-state system is under assault from two unrelated sources—international, supra-state organizations and transnational, terrorist organizations. Both seek a stateless world, although their visions for what such a world would look like are dramatically different. After all, one is utopian, the other dystopian.

The solution, in Rumsfeld’s clear-eyed view, is first “to strengthen states, including their ability to effectively govern their territory.” The United States has been hard at work on this since the end of the Cold War. Consider the U.S. military missions in Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, to name just a few.

The second part of Rumsfeld’s solution is “to strengthen and reform the institutions that facilitate multilateral action by, and cooperation between, sovereign states”—institutions like NATO and the UN. This challenge is not new. As Winston Churchill said of the UN, “We must make sure that its work is fruitful…that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action and not merely a frothing of words.” And, we might add, that its actions serve to strengthen rather than weaken the very system it was enshrined to protect.

Though it is obviously necessary not to be truthful about this, an effective transnational organization is one that does Anglo-American bidding.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 14, 2007 12:13 PM

We see it in the new Belgian law purporting to give Belgian courts ‘universal jurisdiction’ over alleged war crimes anywhere in the world.

Ironic in that in a few months to a few years, Belgian courts will probably not even have jurisdiction over Belgium.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 14, 2007 3:37 PM

Yes, in a short time it is more likely that courts in Brussels will be issuing warrants only for Americans (capitalist icons, Republican cabinet members, etc.).

Posted by: ratbert at November 14, 2007 9:56 PM

I forgot to include American military personnel, of course.

Posted by: ratbert at November 15, 2007 1:41 AM