Friday, December 18, 2009

The Sovereignty of Muslim Nations

A Casualty of US Foreign Policy

The United States has adopted an invasive foreign policy that violates the sovereignty of many Muslim nations. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter promulgates: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Territorial integrity and political independence are the principles of national sovereignty -- key principles of the UN Charter and post-colonial international law – which empower nations to freely determine their political, social, economic, and religious institutions, without external coercion, diplomatic pressure, war threats, and economic sanctions. Philosophically, these principles respect human diversity and presume that no system, including liberal democracy, can be the singular model for all nations. The principles caution against any mindless importation of legal and political systems successful in other nations. Accordingly, the peoples of the world are free to institute political systems of their choice, including constitutional monarchies, presidential systems, secular or religious forms of government.
Contrary to the UN Charter, and in blatant violation of the principles of territorial integrity and political independence, the US is determined to forcibly shape the Muslim world in its own image. Part of this determination mirrors the American mindset that Muslim nations would indeed be better off if they simply borrow secular institutions of the United States. This evangelical mindset presumes that Islam is a reactionary religion that impedes material prosperity and social justice. Part of this determination reflects the dark side of American self-pride and super-power exceptionalism, which sees most other nations as the lesser children of God in need of American guidance. Undoubtedly, the US foreign policy is also geared toward obtaining key natural resources (such as oil) and maintaining strategic military dominance in various Muslim regions of the world.
For most part of the twentieth century, Muslim nations, some emerging from the colonial yoke, approached the US for economic assistance, development, and even protection against regional and global enemies. For example, the US played a supportive role in the independence of Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation. The fear of the Soviet Union, which had occupied Central Asian Muslim nations and later invaded Afghanistan, drove many other Muslim nations to seek US patronage. For a variety of reasons, the US succeeded in constructing strategic alliances with key Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran under the Shah.
The relations with the Muslim world, however, began to fracture as the US foreign policy favored Israel in the Middle East conflict. The 1979 Iranian revolution painted the US as the Great Satan, and highlighted the immorality of US foreign policy that subsidizes cruel and inhuman occupation of Palestine and institutes puppet governments in Muslim countries. A few years later, the Al Qaeda, an international militant organization, launched asymmetrical warfare against US targets to draw attention to the occupation of Muslim lands. In countering terrorist attacks, the US bombed Tripoli and Khartoum, the capitals of Libya and Sudan, ratcheting up the conflict with Muslim nations.
The 9/11 attacks and subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have further fractured relations with the Muslim world. The US homeland security and the associated legal rhetoric of self-defense and the war on terror have been invoked to establish a new justificatory paradigm for violating territorial integrity and political independence of Muslim nations. The phraseology of “Islamic fascism” and “Islamic terrorism” paints Muslim militants as inherently violent individuals who kill to please God and to go to heaven. Almost every Muslim nation, foe or friend, is under intense US diplomatic pressure to launch attacks on national militants even if such attacks kill innocent civilians.
The US logic of homeland security is weighing heavily on Afghanistan, where the war machine has killed thousands of civilians in pursuing the dubious goal of defeating the Taliban. Even Pakistan, a subservient ally, has been subjected to drone attacks while Pakistan’s democratically elected government and its armed forces are helpless in protecting the nation’s territorial integrity and political independence.
In addition to military attacks, the US foreign policy employs subversive modus operandi. The 2006 Iran Freedom Support Act allocates millions of dollars authorizing US intelligence agencies to support groups opposed to the Iranian government. This law is fashioned after the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, a law that paved the way for invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The threats of attacking Iran are in the air. Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies enjoy the legal mandate to destabilize the Iranian government and possibly reverse the Islamic revolution by sowing seeds of confusion and anarchy.
Unfortunately, these massive violations of the UN Charter, specifically of the principles of territorial integrity and political independence, go unnoticed. The UN officials are silent over these violations as if Article 2(4) does not exist. The US foreign policy remains the same under President Obama, who promised to mend relations with Muslim nations. Meanwhile, US policymakers continue to talk about winning hearts and minds of Muslim populations. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, Iran, with so many Muslim countries on the US hit-list, it is unclear how a foreign policy of territorial aggression, invasion, and subversion can generate goodwill that the US seeks in the Muslim world.
Ali Khan is professor of law at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas and the author of A Theory of universal Democracy (2006).