When the Iraq invasion was in full swing, it overwhelmed world news. The usual attention given to East Asia and the rest of the world was missing or at least subdued. Even the important confrontation generated by North Korea was usually buried in the back pages of the newspapers. It was all Iraq. Iraq is only a step in the broad strategy that the George W. Bush administration has set for itself, however.
There are two other events that deserve equal attention: the perhaps permanent weakening of the UN, and the broad implications of the spread of SARS from China. It is still too early to judge the impact of all three of these events on the shape of the 21st century. But clearly, we are entering an entirely new world.
America was, and remains, the principal target of terrorist attacks. Sept. 11, 2001 gruesomely awakened the country to the fact that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) can be available and used by any group or country directly against the US.
The result, a year later, was the publication by the White House of the National Security Strategy. Much of the attention this got in Taiwan's media was due to favorable comments about Taiwan and its democracy included in it. Those that follow international affairs throughout the world, including Taiwan, however, focused on the very fundamental change in US policy -- the need, and the right, to launch preemptive strikes against those who want to attack the US with WMD.
There are eight elements in the strategy paper: human rights, global terrorism, regional con-flicts, WMD, economic growth, democracy, coalitions and reform of national security institutions. The strategy paper was published last September, and one can already put events since then into many of these eight strategy elements. Afghanistan, Iraq and North Korea have gained much public attention and are included in coalitions, regional conflict, WMD and terrorism. Pushing free trade agreements is another.
While there is wide support for active and cooperative counter-terrorism policies, few countries consider themselves major targets of terrorism. In addition, the question that naturally follows is who decides when, and against whom, such preemptive attacks should be made. The UN, obviously, was the most popular choice of the media and the general public.
The problem with depending on the UN was that it took considerable time just to get an agree-ment that Iraq had been operating for years in open violation of UN-sanctioned rules. There was some hope when Resolution 1441 was passed, but when it became time to enforce the rules by sanctioning an invasion by UN members, agreement could not be reached.
There will be books written about the US-led forces that invaded Iraq, and with time include what they accomplished. There will also be books written about the demise, or at least the fundamental weakening of the UN, as a result of its inability to resolve the differences between permanent members of the Security Council on this issue. It has become clear that the UN is not structured to deal with such a responsibility, and there has always been little support of making it so.
What we see now is only the beginning of America's new security strategy that will go far beyond the invasion of Iraq. Already the Bush administration has turned again to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. And more recently there was a suggestion by President George W. Bush to pursue free trade agreements with countries in the Middle East.