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Crusade for Civilisation or Year 510?
by Marko Beljac
22 May 2002
An article on the so called "war on terrorism".
Crusade for Civilisation or Year 510?
There have been a number of responses to the atrocities committed in New York. A particular ill-considered one, and one that provides no small insight into the nature of Western civilisation, is the rationalist island thesis. Some such as Christopher Hitchens would have us believe that to criticise the rationalist island thesis and the “war on terror” is to somehow justify the atrocities. This is akin to claiming that John Maynard Keynes, when criticising the Versailles peace settlement after World War I, was a Nazi. The absurdity of the argument is of course time and context invariant. We already have our first glimpse into the seriousness of the rationalist island thesis.
Basically the idea is that here in the West there exists a pure, peaceful rational civilisation where reason reigns. Over there, in the barbaric world, the most perfidious irrationalism reigns, a “civilisation” governed by crazy dogma. What gives one pause for reflection is the fact that this view has been articulated by some of the Western world's leading “thinkers”. A sample of these views are presented on a web site that brings some of these thinkers together which is referred to as The Edge . Here I want to survey some of these views in order to demonstrate just how irrational they are, although not all of the Edge contributors, such as Freeman Dyson, uphold the rationalist island thesis it must be stressed. Where lies the source of these views one can only speculate but they have little to do with reason it will be shown. The sad fact is that such views, if unchecked, can easily be used by centres of power to help justify a brutal agenda using the reputations of the authors to garner legitimacy. Indeed the reason why these views are surveyed here is because they are pretty representative of the dominant themes of discourse in regards to what we are told is a war to save rational civilisation itself. It is just then to subject these views to criticism.
Take for instance Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s leading biologists and long time campaigner against religion. We are to presume that what Dawkins finds so disturbing about religion is its adherence to faith based dogma rather than reason. Sadly Dawkins succumbs to that which he has so ardently criticised.
Dawkins writes that, “modern America is the principal inheritor, and today’s leading exponent of European scientific and rational civilisation. And that means the highest civilisation ever, not excluding the Greeks and Chinese” . There are some children crawling the rubbish dumps of Nicaragua trying to eek out a living who might disagree. As we will appreciate later the case of Nicaragua is instructive. There is a reason why children are forced to find food in rubbish tips in Nicaragua, and that reason is not altogether flattering for the greatest civilisation to have ever existed.
One might add that the holocaust emanated from “European scientific and rational civilisation”, indeed from that epochs principal inheritor (Germany was the capital of science prior to the United States) and leading exponent of rational civilisation and its self-proclaimed protector. This was, the Nazi’s argued, the first Western secular crusade against barbarism. Crusades, of whatever sought, are always justified as a defence against barbarism but themselves are acts of great barbarity.
Dawkins offers us a solution to the problem of terrorism. He suggests, “my own constructive suggestion is that we should listen to and support those brave former Muslims who have renounced their faith altogether”. Note the underlying assumption, which is assumed without recourse to evidence or rational exposition: international terrorism must be an Islamic preserve, certainly not engaged in by the rational, reasoned Kantian civilisation of the West. So it follows by logic that the proper response to the problem of international terrorism is to convert Muslims or to provide a sort of self-help service for conversion. Given that conversion to the two other Abrahamic religions is not a serious option this leaves us with the option of converting Muslims to reason and rationality. This is to presuppose then, it immediately follows, that Muslims are irrational beings in need of conversion like some previous irrational beings that were once converted with great vigour as readers from Australia and the Western hemisphere would be well aware of. For the Dawkins argument in regards to religion to make sense we must suppose that the September 11 atrocities occurred because of an inherent feature of the religion practised by the killers in this case Islam. If it cannot be shown via a reading of the Koran that terrorism is an inherent feature of Islam then we must look at the motives of the killers themselves thus rendering the Dawkins thesis invalid.
Dawkins, by way of conclusion, states quite revealingly that, “I agree with Steve Grand that an appropriate response to the current atrocity would be for us all to stop being so damned respectful”. So according to Dawkins the US was never condemned by the world court for international terrorism and aggression against Nicaragua it was busy being so damned respectful. If this is “rationalism” then what is irrationalism? If this is “reason” then what is blind faith? The reader will instantly recognise that the Dawkins argument essentially rests on little other than dogmatic supposition much like the Abrahamic religions. It cannot help but do so given the historical record. One ought to hesitate in using the word “religion”. Religion, it could be argued, is ideology. For both religion and ideology served and serve to provide the “necessary illusions” required of all hierarchical societies. Today’s religion is patriotism. If that’s the case then today’s great patriots are our age’s high priests. It should also be mentioned that the ruling classes are not patriots or nationalists themselves. Nationalism is a tool of population control; the ruling classes can be quite unpatriotic if it is in their interests.
Given that today power is not invested among the few with a hotline to God to criticise religion is interesting as far as it goes but not of much worth. Power has moved on, so should critique. Dawkins has yet to follow. The case of Nicaragua and Central America is instructive. Many priests and bishops were at the forefront of resistance to Western sponsored atrocities. Dawkins should remember that they gave their lives defending, completely unarmed, some of the most powerless and poorest people on Earth from institutions that he, by implication, alleges are the best ever to have existed on the face of the Earth. This includes the “school of the America’s” a US military institution that trained the killers of unarmed clerics. This all serves to demonstrate a simple truth that Dawkins cannot grasp. Religion is not inherently evil. Good and bad have come from it. What matters is toward what end religion is being used by human agents much like technology.
If we are serious about combating terrorism and getting the support of the Muslim world in doing so, then we should do something about our own terrorism such as killing thousands of kids a month in Iraq and helping to alleviate the political and social conditions that breed terrorism conditions which the imperialist powers bare a great deal of responsibility for.
The inventor of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, argued in his essay that, “I don’t think our recent foreign policy has been as consistently bad as it’s often portrayed. Somalia really was a humanitarian effort; our Balkans policy was late and confused, but not imperialistic, and at least better than Europe’s; the Clinton mid-East peace proposal was enlightened, respectful to all sides, and at least plausible; our man Mitchell is roving around the world talking sense to all parties” . Leaving aside the point about “often portrayal“, we are presented with an interesting paradox. One the one hand US foreign policy is a universal common good, such as air, but on the other hand the people who live with the consequences view it with such derision. How can that be?
Consider air. One will be hard pressed to find a rational person anywhere in the world who would disagree that air is a good thing, a good thing for everybody. This being the case how come that other universal common good, US foreign policy, is so derided in the domains of Western imperialism? Perhaps there exists a “virtual” foreign policy that the slobs of the world believe to be the “real” foreign policy, but somehow it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the people who live with the consequences of US foreign policy, say the parents of a limbless child in the plain of jars in Laos, are more attuned to actual foreign policy and that it is the intelligentsia that are attuned to virtual US foreign policy. Despite the intellectual accolades I submit it is they who have been led astray. The peasants have always had a better appreciation of political and social reality than the mandarins and jesters at court.
The reader will note that “Lanier’s paradox” is no paradox if we adopt the assumption that all Muslim’s (and others in the third world) are irrational nutcases, the Dawkins thesis.
The most mindless example of the genre comes from one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists, David Deutsch also author of an impassioned defence of rationalism entitled The Fabric of Reality. Deutsch begins, “what happens now is that we (by which I mean the West) eradicate state sponsored terrorism. And we can achieve that only by replacing all political systems that perpetrate or collaborate with terrorism, by systems that respect human rights both domestically and internationally”. I don’t think Deutsch is suggesting that Ariel Sharon (you know from Sabra and Chatila and now Jenin) and Israel fit the terrorist category or Britain, which under the great fighter of terrorism happily armed Turkey and Indonesia whilst they were engaging in state sponsored terrorism of massive proportions, as did Australia when the international crusader of “international crisis group” fame (sounds like something from Danger Mouse) was Canberra’s foreign policy chief. Today Gareth Evans lectures the miscreants of the world in the tools of proper diplomatic etiquette. Diplomatic etiquette refers to the practice of wearing elegant attire and attending nice cocktail parties whilst getting others to do the dirty work such as blowing infants brains out whilst they are sitting on a toilet trainer. You see some have not realised that you don’t have to get your own hands dirty enabling one to prune correctly. A perk of the job is being praised endlessly by the crowd of flatters that are referred to as intellectuals but in reality are a pack of cowardly bastards.
Let us consider Australia’s response to the Afghan crisis. On the one hand the Australian Government (and "Labor" opposition) have supported US policy in Afghanistan, seeking also to make a token contribution. The Taliban regime, quite rightly, was condemned for its tyranny. Yet both the Government and the "Labor” opposition have sought to deny access onto Australian shores for stranded Afghan refugees, including the female ones that Laura Bush and Tony Blair have a new found fondness for. Moral relativism of stunning proportions. But really not so stunning given the norms of diplomacy.
Australia is not participating in a “war on terrorism”. Australian policy has little to do with terrorism but has everything to do with the ANZUS “alliance“ and the operative (not the declared) conception of world order that lies at its core. Interestingly Article I of the treaty states, “the parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations”. Recall that the world court condemned the US for unlawful use of force against Nicaragua. In other words the US was found to have violated Article I of the ANZUS treaty and Canberra gave this its full support! Canberra’s policy on East Timor during the Suharto era, especially when Gareth Evans was foreign minister, was a flagrant violation of the provisions and spirit of Article I of the ANZUS treaty it should be added.
Any action without the sanction of the UN is an act of aggression; the world’s first secular crusaders were hanged at Nuremberg for the crime of aggression. Thus we do not have a war on terrorism but a war to ensure that terrorism is committed by the right blokes. This is in contrast to a principled war on terrorism. Of course a UN stamp of approval would not make the war any more just. The sanctions that are killing 3000 to 4000 children a month in Iraq are UN sanctions.
Ultimately the United States will defend Australia if it is in its own strategic interests, and those strategic interests involve Japan not Australia. Washington signed the ANZUS treaty in order to buy Canberra’s acquiescence to a peace and security treaty with Japan . Washington’s security commitment to Australia is marked by ambiguity. The ANZUS security commitment is the same as Article IV of the NATO treaty, which stipulates, “the parties will consult together” in the case of armed attack. Unlike ANZUS however in Article V the NATO treaty goes on to directly guarantee the security of the allies. Thus if NATO is an “alliance” what is ANZUS?
Why won’t the US formally guarantee through treaty Australia’s security in the manner provided for by Article V of NATO? Why doesn’t Canberra publicly ask for it? No Australian should be made to die for such an ambiguous piece of paper. Yet died they have and still the ambiguity remains. It does not matter how many Australians die for the American ruling class, they will defend us if it suits them. So why bother? Indeed Japan’s security the US formally guarantees yet not Australia’s. No Japanese army has yet to serve alongside a US one in combat although it has been known to be on the other side. The very fact that Australia is always compelled to make a token contribution to the latest US adventure as a part of its "strategic insurance policy" is a sign of the anxiety that exists in Canberra on this score. It is a sign of weakness in the “alliance” not strength. Therefore even if one were to ignore moral considerations, as we are told we must in international affairs and bank robberies, it is not obvious that it is in our interest to reflexively support US foreign policy. Even Australia’s top intelligence agencies have warned against Australia supporting US ballistic missile defence programs and the up yours attitude to the world that the program symbolizes. Of course, the Howard government ignored this advice.
The state is no moral agent, Washington will not defend Australia out of a moral compunction to adhere to a treaty (recall Article I) or because policymakers like Koala’s, BBQ shrimp or have a whimsical fascination for the expression “G‘day Mate“. Something to ponder next time we bang our chests whilst watching Prime Minister John Howard pray at a tennis match. He prays for multi millionaire tennis players so that they may win some match, not stranded Afghan women in the high seas for them its tough love. Laura Bush and Tony Blair have yet to express condemnation at this treatment of Afghan women. It should be added that these refugees, if allowed asylum, would end up eventually paying income tax in Australia in contrast to most elite multi-millionaire “Aussie“ tennis players.
It has recently been alleged that most of the boat people where not Afghan but Iraqi refugees as if this makes our policy towards them more ethical. Consider this. George Bush the elder alleged that Saddam Hussein is Hitler revisited, Australia supported him in this contention. As such these Iraqi refugees are fleeing from Hitler revisited, risking the lives of themselves and their children in the process. Instead of providing help we choose to let them hang out in the sea and ship them off, under gun point, to a third world Pacific Island country. This then, it follows by simple logic, is morally equivalent to the voyage of the damned when British authorities in Palestine refused to take in Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler. This comparison was made in the international press, outraging domestic opinion, but note that it’s quite accurate. In fact further thought demonstrates that this is not morally equivalent but morally worse. For the British authorities were not contributing to the holocaust. In the case of Iraq we (by which I mean the West) are bombing that nation almost daily, to protect Iraqi’s we are told, instituting and enforcing economic sanctions, a weapon of mass destruction killing countless, and to top it off armed and supported Saddam throughout his bloody rule prior to the Gulf war whereupon we bombed the country back to the stone age. But when Howard sternly leaves the refugees to their fate we cannot applaud him enough. Amazing stuff. It tells us heaps about the rationalist island.
In Australia today, as pointed out by columnist Phillip Adams, to be “un-American” is to be “un-Australian”. Those who uphold this fascinating doctrine are our great patriots, the sort of people who talk about “ordinary Australians” and cricket during election time with tears in their eyes wrapped in the flag whilst doing so, you know the one with the British Union Jack on the top corner. So the biggest Australian is the one who is able to grovel the best. After the election great effort is devoted toward economic policies that have little to do with “ordinary Australians”. When it comes to “market forces” the pride and the tears for those “little battlers” vanishes without trace to be replaced by stern lectures on “free markets” and “globalisation“. Thus demonstrating the validity of the earlier contention that the ruling class are no patriots no matter how tearfully excited they become at the MCG. Patriotism is for the working class watching the cricket from Bay 13.
Returning to Afghanistan Deutsch alleges, “painfully few (Muslims) can bring themselves to side with the victims now exercising their right of self-defence”. A Muslim may respond that Deutsch cannot painfully bring himself to express his concern for the victims of the West’s terrorism such as, say, the children dying in Iraq as a result of economic sanctions that as an act of policy deliberately targets them. That's terrorism. Note that the suffering of the people in Iraq is a key plank in Osama Bin Laden’s propaganda campaign. He too refers to his actions as “self-defence”. This is how he gets recruits. Of course Bin Laden has his own agenda, but I don’t see any reason why we should help him any; the chancelleries of the west have been real good at that, going way back to more friendly times.
In fact some of these victims of the atrocities in New York, the family members of the killed, have personally travelled to Afghanistan to campaign against the bombing and its effects upon ordinary people. These people have committed one of the most amazingly selfless acts in human history. They are just ordinary people; they are not scientists, philosophers, logicians or Tony Blair who have held court on the September 11 atrocities and its aftermath. If the history books were fairly written they would deserve a prominent mention certainly more than the assortment of moral pygmies currently holding court. They do more for America’s image in the world than the recently mooted Pentagon strategic propaganda office, thus demonstrating that “Lanier’s paradox” is well known to policymakers if not the intelligentsia. America most certainly is not Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. Murdoch is of course an ex Australian who realised he could do better by changing his nationality. Recall that his father built the Murdoch Empire by cashing in on Australian nationalism. Remember the ruling class are no patriots.
According to Deutsch, “mainstream Western culture has also exhibited a major failure: a refusal to distinguish between right and wrong”. As such Deutsch writes, “what comes next is that we must correct that failure, by incorporating into the Western tradition of critical rationalism an objective (my emphasis) conception of right and wrong”.
It should be stressed at this point, as pointed out by commentators, that the bombing campaign in Afghanistan began on the assumption that over time 2 000 000 Afghani’s may die as a result of the direct and indirect effects of the military campaign. Whether over the years that figure will be reached or approximated remains to be seen but the very fact that the campaign was conducted on the known real possibility that it may well do so tells us a great deal about the operative values of Western civilisation and our “thinkers“ who try to tell us something different. This is crucial given Deutsch’s contention.
Thus we need a moral code, obviously a rational one, that enables us to justify actions conducted with the known consequence that millions of innocent, Hobbesian, people may die to avenge the death of 4000, Kantian, people. One need not so search, such a doctrine has been employed already by a previous self proclaimed guardian of Western civilisation.
Recall that when the Nazi’s were claiming to defend Western civilisation from the barbarians of the East that the death of one German was avenged by the death of 100 non Germans, although this rational calculus was violated when the “terrorists” of Prague assassinated one of the most important and sadistic figures present at the Wannsee conference (that planned the holocaust). The Nazi’s got their revenge by destroying an entire Czech village in a “counter-terrorist“ operation of great savagery and brutality. Such standards are not good enough in today’s defence of Western civilisation and rationality, after all today’s ratio exceeds even the fantasies of the SS. Deutsch alleges that this would have nothing to do with revenge (for remember this is rationalism we are talking about) for, “in reality, the impulse for revenge plays no significant role in the political culture of the West. If it did, then the vast, peaceful, humane and diverse civilisation of the West itself would not be possible”. What then of World War I, World War II, the holocaust etc? Were these virtual events? According to Deutsch’s logic these things never happened or happened some place else maybe in one of those other universes that he delights in telling us about. The post-modernists have found good company.
Indeed the actions of the SS mentioned above were not advertised as simple revenge such actions were always justified on the grounds of “counter-terrorism”. To its eternal discredit the world's leading science journal, Nature, editorialised that “Western science” once again must assist Governments in their counter-terrorist operations , an obvious allusion to the illustrious contribution that “Western science” made to “counter-terrorist” campaigns in Indochina and Central America. Perhaps the editors of Nature should be taken to the third world’s graveyards to see first hand the human consequences of “Western science’s” contribution to “counter-terrorist” operations. It is also of interest to observe that an Israeli army officer has called for Israeli forces to assimilate the lessons learnt by the Nazi’s “counter-terrorist” operations in the Warsaw ghetto. This is not surprising, after all the counter-insurgency doctrines of the US military owe a great deal to the military doctrines of the wehrmacht.
This demonstrates how deep seated historical revisionism in the West is, at least in reference to its own gruesome history. We await the requisite trials on the falsification of history in Paris and London.
Most disturbing of all Deutsch surmises that, “to cleanse the Arabian peninsula of non-Muslims is an immoral aim, violating the human rights both of non-Muslim residents and Muslim residents who wish to associate with them (and, perhaps more pertinently, to seek their assistance in defending themselves). To cleanse Israel of Jews is an aspiration similar in kind but much more (my emphasis) evil both in its racist motivation and in its intention to destroy an entire nation”. Really? On what grounds?
Let us adopt a simple rational assumption: we are all human beings. If this is the case on what grounds would it be “much more” evil to cleanse Israel of Jews than to cleanse the Arabian peninsula of Muslims? Quite clearly one needs to drop the above assumption and assume that the Muslims of the Arabian peninsula are sub humans. Note also that only the human rights of “non-Muslim residents” and “Muslim residents who wish to associate with them” are violated in any cleansing of the Arabian peninsula, the rest can suffer. The human rights of the rest, one might add through simple rational logic, are not violated because not being human they have no such rights. Whenever one seeks to deny the human rights of “people” X whilst upholding those of people Y one is, quite clearly, affirming that X are not as human relative to Y. So much then for rational civilisation. Notice now that we have an “objective” conception of right and wrong. If “people” X are not as human as people Y it can be considered “objectively” right that “people” X do not enjoy the rights of people Y. I am sure Karl Popper would have been impressed.
To consider the sheer irrationality of the rationalist island thesis one need only return to Nicaragua. Recently Secretary of State Colin Powell has directly intervened in the electoral process there by claiming that the leftist leader, Daniel Ortega, has links to international terrorism. Recall that when the US was conducting its war against Nicaragua, when Ortega was President, the world court had condemned the US for unlawful use of force against Nicaragua, leading the US to veto a UN resolution calling on all states to abide by international law thus formally affirming that Article I of the ANZUS treaty is complete bullshit although the flatters have yet to notice. Where was Colin Powell at this time? He was deputy and then actual National Security Advisor to the President, Ronald Reagan. What rational conclusion then would one infer from these facts? Let us be objective.
Chomsky has argued that the system of indoctrination primarily targets 20% of the population, that is the educated intellectual or political classes. If some of the West's most well known arch defenders of rationalism are able to uphold such plainly irrational doctrines we then have a powerful demonstration of the accuracy of Chomsky’s thesis. To expose the irrationality of such doctrines despite the intellectual eminence of those who proclaim them is an important step in the mitigation and elimination of its appalling human consequences.
Eminent thinkers do not have a privileged track to social truths. Consider perhaps Australia’s “leading thinker” the theoretical physicist, natural philosopher and Edge contributor Paul Davies, well known to the public for his attempts to answer “the big questions” on TV. During “Australia day” he was asked, along with other public figures, what he finds most appealing about Australia and most disturbing about Australia. On the first question he states, “to a Brit, Australia seems refreshingly free of class prejudices” he goes on, “I enjoy meeting other people from many walks of life and treating each others as equals”. This is what he likes about Australia. On the other hand what he finds most disturbing “is the grotesque tax system” which is founded “in the guise of equity or some other nebulous ideological concept”. For him “equity” is what he finds most appealing about Australia but Australia’s supposed commitment to “equity” is what most disturbs him about Australia. Impeccable logic that. Perhaps a tax system that is regressive might be in order? Moreover equity for him is a nebulous concept but not “the mind of God” or the Cosmological argument for the existence of God, which “was, in my opinion, hard to fault until a few years ago”.
It has been, I am sure for many others around the world also, of great interest and pleasure to read via e-mail Michael Moore’s rendition of his America wide book tour. It is interesting to observe, as he travels to all those little towns of America we have not heard about, how he manages to get a full house of people in school gym’s and so on, in many cases overflowing with people, the sort of people who have propelled his book to the top of the best seller list despite attempts at censorship. His audience is working America, people with a thirst for knowledge and a critical vocation who want to think through these matters for themselves rather than be told what to think by the corporate media. Contrast this attitude on the part of these working Americans with the errant dogmatism displayed by many of those whom we are led to believe are our age’s “leading thinkers”.
Unlike some others, we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Rationalism is a powerful tool for all those concerned with human emancipation. Just because some of those who are well regarded for their defence of rationalism in other contexts lapse into the most crass irrationalism in this case is no reason for thinking otherwise. Indeed if we take emancipation to be the tendency to question and overcome systems of illegitimate authority then indeed rationalism, far from being a powerful tool, becomes the tool of emancipation.
Actually one will note that Dawkins and Deutsch’s arguments violate the thesis they have so eloquently and correctly sought to defend elsewhere namely that the rational faculty is a species trait. If we are to take them seriously in their political commentary then we must conclude that most Homo sapiens, who happen to live outside the rationalist island, do not as yet posses a rational faculty thereby it follows, according to them, that the rational faculty is a social construction. If they could only acquire a Western culture they too would become rational just like us. A pathetically absurd proposition.
We have thus exposed the philosophical core of the rationalist island thesis. Ironically the rationalist island thesis rests on irrationalist epistemology as shown above. For if science, as Dawkins argues, can be “European” or as Nature asserts can be “Western” then it at once must be a social construction. We have noted that Deutsch is an avid devotee of Karl Popper. Not surprising for as the Australian philosopher David Stove once pointed out, Popper is the first guru of irrationalism in 20th century philosophy of science. Perhaps advocates of the rationalist island thesis share something in common with Bin Laden after all? Science is science, period.
For all those interested just how seriously centres of power take the rationalist island thesis one need only consider an important document providing much insight into strategic planning drawn up by US Strategic Command, responsible for overseeing the nuclear triad. The document entitled Essentials of Post Cold War Deterrence states that nuclear “deterrence” (a careful demonstration of US nuclear strategy reveals that compellence would be a more apt phrase) is “a process that goes beyond the rational”. Furthermore, “it hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool headed. The fact that some elements may appear to be potentially ‘out of control’ can be beneficial to creating and reinforcing fears and doubts within the minds of an adversary's decision makers.” Indeed, “that the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project to all adversaries”. Osama Bin Laden would readily agree. Basically this is what we are seeing in Afghanistan now and may see in other places. Contrast this with Deutsch’s thesis concerning revenge and Western rational civilisation. Notice how both Washington and Bin Laden’s criminal mob both believe that the only thing the other understands is force.
Chomsky has observed that, “October 11 1992 brings to an end the 500th year of the Old World Order, sometimes called the Colombian era of world history, or the Vasco da Gama era, depending on which adventurers bent on plunder got there first”. In fact, “the major theme of this Old World Order was a confrontation between the conquerors and the conquered on a global scale. It has taken various forms, and been given different names: imperialism, neo-colonialism, the North-South conflict, core versus periphery, G 7 and their satellites versus the rest. Or, more simply, Europe’s conquest of the world”. Year 509 witnessed the first atrocity to be committed on the homeland of the conquerors by the conquered. Year 510 coincided with the start of the so-called “war on terror”.
Those who have been enraged and hurt by the September 11 atrocities and in its aftermath seek revenge should pause to consider the effects of the past 510 years of bloody history and think of the future. I recall a few years a go attending a military air show were the announcer joked, to the effect, how come there are so many department stores in Baghdad? Because there’s a Target on every corner! Imagine if in Cairo the following joke is doing the rounds: how come there are so many skyscrapers in New York? Because there’s a target on every corner! Imagine the outrage on Fox News. If people want to think this through one will quickly realise that this tells us a lot about our own civilisation. We joke about the suffering we cause others to go through yet when they cause us to suffer the outrage expressed knows no bounds. Just like children in a sandpit. One must express grave concerns for the future of humanity.
The state is an institution that ultimately relies upon the rule of force. The rule of force in human affairs, it can be argued, rests on the hierarchical nature of hitherto existing societies. When power, wealth and resources are concentrated amongst the few at the top leaving the rest at the bottom with the left overs it is to be expected that the few at the top must ultimately rely on force and the manufacturing of consent to rule. Consent would never be granted freely. What is true of domestic society is also true of international society. As such it’s always the ordinary people who suffer most when the ruling classes play their sick game called international relations. Some choose to spend their time, including self-proclaimed “critical theorists” devoted to “theorizing” this sick game. Others however should seek to banish it from the face of the Earth.
One doubts whether there will be anybody around in year 1000 especially if weapons of great destructive power ever fall into the hands of others who share US Strategic Command‘s conception of rationality. If we all believe that the only thing others understand is the use of force then weapons of mass destruction will proliferate and they will eventually be used, most probably by the rationalist island (actually it has already used them). Year 510, thus far, portends a grim future for Homo sapiens. It may well be that we are presented with a stark choice: self-induced extinction (taking along other innocent species with us) or emancipation. Our fate is in our hands.
1. Available at .
2. Richard Dawkins commentary available from .
3. Jaron Lanier commentary available from .
4. David Deutsch commentary available from .
5. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Security Treaty Between Australia, New Zealand and the United States [ANZUS] (San Francisco, 1 September 1951)”, Australian Treaty Series 1952 No 2 (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Services, 1997), available from .
6. Melvyn Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: The Truman Administration, National Security and the Cold War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2nd edition 2000), p431.
7. “Fighting Against Terrorism, Engaging with Islamic Science”, Nature 20 September Volume 413 Issue Number 6853, p235. Available from .
8. Paul Davies in “Australia, the good, the bad and the ugly”, The Age Saturday January 26 2002, pB4.
9. Paul Davies, The Mind of God (London: Penguin, 1993), p39.
10. United States Strategic Command 1995, Essentials of Post Cold War Deterrence, available from The Nautilus Institute, , p2.
11. Ibid., p7.
12. Noam Chomsky, Year 501:The Conquest Continues (London: Verso, 1993).