[Paleopsych] Logos J.: Juergen Habermans in Conversation: America and the World

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Jüergen Habermans in Conversation: America and the World

                               Eduardo Mendieta
    Q: Professor Habermas, let me begin by congratulating you on receiving
    the Prince of Asturias Prize and also the gold medal of the Bellas
    Artes Foundation of Madrid. You must have surprised many Spaniards, as
    you did me, when you confessed your admiration for two fiercely
    existentialist writers, Miguel de Unamuno and Miguel de Cervantes.

    A: This love goes back to school days and my university years. After
    the Second World War, when the Keller Theater was presenting masterful
    productions of French plays by Sartre, Mauriac and Claudel,
    Existentialism gave expression to our sense of life. A book by the
    Tuebingen philosopher, Friedrich Bollnow who would now be 100, like
    Adorno brought Unamunos Don Quixote to my attention at that time. By
    similar paths, I also found my way to Kierkegaard, to the later
    Schelling, and to the Heidegger of Being and Time. That I turned my
    back on Being and Time, and busied myself, rather, with social-,
    political-, and legal theory, had one simple reason: In the rather
    tattered mental and moral world of the Bundesrepublik, one could
    grapple better with what Jaspers called limit situations in the
    language of Marx and Dewey than in the jargon of authenticity.

    Q: To get back to the occasion of the prize, could you comment on the
    fact that Susan Sontag, Gustavo Gutierrez and Brazilian President Luiz
    Inacio da Silva, all distinctly figures of the Left, and loudly
    outspoken opponents of the war in Iraq, were among the prize winners?

    A: This prize enjoys an astonishingly high profile in the
    Spanish-speaking world. On reflection, the coincidence might just be
    an accident. Anyway, the street demonstrations in Spain against Aznars
    Iraq policy were even more overwhelming than in the other European

    Q: You, too, were very critical of the American-lead war in
    Afghanistan and Iraq. But during the Kosovo crisis, you supported the
    same unilateralism, and justified a form of military humanism, to use
    Chomskys expression. How are these cases different Iraq and
    Afghanistan on the one hand, and Kosovo on the other?

    A: Concerning the intervention in Afghanistan, in an interview with
    Giovanna Borradori, I expressed myself with some reservation: After
    September 11^th, the Taliban regime refused to renounce unambiguously
    its support of the terrorism of Al-Qaeda. Up to this point,
    international law has not been tailored for such situations. The
    objections which I had at the time were not, as with the Iraqi
    campaign, of a legal nature. Quite apart from the lying maneuvers of
    the current U.S. administration which have lately come to light, the
    recent Gulf War represents, on the part of Bush, since September 2002,
    a patent threat to the United Nations and a violation of international
    law. Neither one of the two preconditions existed which could have
    justified such an intervention: There was neither an appropriate
    resolution of the Security Council, nor was an attack imminent on the
    part of Iraq. It counts for nothing whether weapons of mass
    destruction might still be found or not. For a preventive attack,
    there is no retroactive justification: No one may go to war on a

    Here you see the difference with the situation in Kosovo, when the
    West had to decide, in light of the accumulated experiences of the
    Bosnian War think of the disaster of Srebenica! if it wanted to watch
    yet more ethnic cleansing by Milosevic, or if it wanted, in the
    absence of national interest, to intervene. Granted, the Security
    Council was blocked. Just the same, there were two grounds for
    legitimating actionone formal, the other informaleven though the U.N.
    Charter does not permit any substitute for the required consent of the
    Security Council: For the first, one may appeal to the obligatio erga
    omnes, binding on all states, the call for emergency assistance in the
    case of a threatened genocide, which, in any event, is firmly
    established in customary international law. For the other, one may
    place on the scale the fact that NATO is an alliance made up of
    liberal states, whose organizing principles comport with the
    principles of the UNs Declaration of Human Rights. Compare this with
    the coalition of the willing, which has split the West, and included
    states in contempt of human rights, such as Uzbekistan and Taylors

    Just as important is the perspective of the Continental European
    countries like France, Italy and Germany, which served to justify, at
    the time, their participation in the Kosovo intervention. In
    expectation of eventual ratification by the Security Council, these
    countries understood this intervention as an anticipationof an
    effective law of world citizenship - as a step along the path from
    classical international law to what Kant envisioned as the status of
    world citizen which would afford legal protection to citizens against
    their own criminal regimes. Already at that time (in an article for
    the April 29, 1999 issue of Die Zeit), I had posited a characteristic
    difference between the Continental European and the Anglo-American: It
    is one thing for the U.S.A. to employ, in the course of what is also
    an admirable political tradition, human rights instrumentally as
    surety of a hegemonic order. It is another thing if we understand the
    precarious transition, from classical power politics to the state of
    world citizenship, as a learning process to be mastered collectively.
    This more comprehensive perspective requires greater caution. The
    self-empowerment of NATO should not become the rule.

    Q: On May 31^st, you and Derrida published a kind of manifesto with
    the title: The 15^th of February, or: What Binds the Europeans. A Plea
    for a Common Foreign PolicyFirst of all, in Core-Europe. In a
    foreword, Derrida explains that he subscribes to the article that you
    wrote. How is it that two intellectual heavyweights, who for the last
    two decades have regarded each other suspiciously from across the
    Rhine, and who have beenas some insisttalking past each other,
    suddenly so well understand each other, as to publish, together, so
    important a document? Is it simply politics, or is the text you both
    have signed also a philosophical gesture? An amnesty, a truce, a
    reconciliation, a philosophical gift?

    A: I havent a clue what Derrida would say in answer to your question.
    To my taste, you have pitched the thing too high with these
    formulations. First of all, this was concerned with a political
    statement in which Derrida and I were in agreementas has often been
    the case lately, by the way. After the formal conclusion of the Iraq
    war, when many were fearing a general prostration of the unwilling
    governments before Bush, I had sent a letter to Derridaas well as to
    Eco, Muschg, Rorty, Savater and Vattimoinviting them to participate in
    a common initiative. (Paul Ricoeur was the only one who preferred to
    hold back because of political considerations; Eric Hobsbawm and Harry
    Mulisch could not participate for personal reasons.) Now, Derrida was
    not able to write, at this time, his own article, as he was obliged to
    be undergoing unpleasant medical tests. But Derrida wanted very much
    to be part of this, and suggested the procedure which we then
    followed. I was happy about this. We had last met in New York after
    September 11^th. We had already been recording our philosophical
    discussion for some years, in Evanston, in Paris and in Frankfurt. So
    no grand gesture was now required.

    When he received the Adorno Prize, Derrida, for his part, gave a
    highly sensible speech in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, in which the
    spiritual affinity of these two minds was impressively manifested.
    This kind of thing leaves one not unmoved. Actually, over and beyond
    all the politics, what connects me to Derrida is the philosophical
    reference to an author like Kant. Admittedly and though were roughly
    the same age, our life histories have been very different what
    separates us is the later Heidegger. Derridas thinking has
    appropriated the Jewish-inspired perceptions of a Levinas. In
    Heidegger, I confront a philosopher who failed as a citizen in 1933
    and especially after 1945. But even as a philosopher, he is suspect to
    me because, in the 1930s, he received Nietzsche precisely as a
    neo-pagan, as it was then the fashion to do. Unlike Derrida, whose
    reading of Andenken accords with the spirit of monotheistic tradition,
    I take Heideggers botch-job Seinsdenken as a leveling of that epochal
    threshold in the history of consciousness that Jaspers had called the
    axial age. According to my understanding, Heidegger committed treason
    against that caesura which is marked, in various ways, by the
    prophetic-awakening Word from Mount Sinai, and by the Enlightenment of
    a Socrates.

    When Derrida and I mutually understand our so different background
    motives, a difference of interpretation must not be taken as a
    difference in the thing being interpreted. Be that as it may, truce or
    reconciliation are not really the proper expressions for a friendly
    and open-minded interchange.

    Q: Why have you entitled this essay The 15^th of February, and not, as
    some American might have proposed The 11^th of September, or The 9^th
    of April? Was February 15^th the world-historical answer to September
    11th rather than to the campaigns against the Taliban and Saddam

    A: This is reading too much into it. The editors at the Frankfurter
    Allgemeine Zeitung had actually published the article under the
    headline Our Renewal. After the War: The Rebirth of Europe. Perhaps
    they wanted to downplay the importance of the demonstrations of
    February 15^th. Allusion to this date would have reminded one that, in
    cities such as London, Madrid and Barcelona, Rome, Berlin and Paris,
    demonstrations had taken place that were bigger than any since the end
    of the Second World War. These demonstrations were not an answer to
    the attack of September 11^th, which had immediately moved the
    Europeans to such impressive manifestations of solidarity. The
    demonstrations gave voice to the infuriated, powerless outrage of a
    highly diverse mass of citizens, many of whom had never before gone
    out into the streets. The anti-war appeal was directed unambiguously
    against the dishonest and illegal policies of certain of the allied
    governments. I regard this massive protest to be no more anti-American
    than our Vietnam protests had been in their day - with the sorry
    difference that, between 1965 and 1970, we only had to add our
    protests to the formidable protests that were happening in America
    itself. So I was glad that my friend Richard Rorty spontaneously
    joined in the intellectuals initiative of May 31^st with an article
    that was, in fact, politically and theoretically, the sharpest.

    Q: Lets stay with the original title that had called for a common
    European foreign policy beginning in the center of Europe. This a
    little like saying theres a center and a periphery some who are
    essential, and some who are not. For some, this was an eerie echo of
    Rumsfelds distinction between the old and the new Europe. I am certain
    that the ascription of any such family resemblance gives you and
    Derrida a headache. You have been energetically in favor of a
    constitution for the European Union in which such gradations of space
    and geography should have no place. What do you mean by Core-Europe?

    A: Center of Europe [Kerneuropa] is, first of all, a technical
    expression, brought into play at the start of the 1990s by Schaeuble
    and Lamers, foreign policy experts of the CDU, at a moment in time
    when the process of European unification had still to solidify; it was
    intended to recall the vanguard role played by the six original
    members of the European Community. Then as now, France, the Benelux
    countries, Italy and Germany turn out to be the driving force behind
    the deepeningof  EU institutions. Meanwhile, at the summit in Nice of
    EU heads of government, it was officially decided there would be a
    provision for a strengthened cooperationof particular member states in
    particular political spheres. This mechanism goes by the name of
    structured cooperation in the draft European Constitution. Germany,
    France, Luxemburg, Belgium, and lately, even Great Britain, are making
    use of this provision for the common building-up of Europes own armed
    forces. The US administration is exerting what is, admittedly,
    considerable pressure on Great Britain to forestall the establishment
    of a European headquarters, though it would still be associated with
    NATO. To this extent, therefore, Core-Europe is already a reality.

    On the other hand, today, in a Europe deliberately divided and
    weakened by Rumsfeld and his underwriters, the term has its appeal.
    The idea of a common foreign- and defense policy emanating from the
    center of Europe arouses anxieties in a situation where the European
    Union, after its extension eastward, is barely governable, and it is
    especially anxiety-producing in countries which, for good and
    sufficient historical reasons, are resistant to further integration.
    Some member-states want to hold onto a national scope of action. They
    are more interested in the existing, predominantly inter-governmental
    mode of decision making, than in extending the jurisdiction of
    majority-rule supra-national institutions over an ever-greater range
    of political actions. Thus you see the newly admitted East-Central
    European nations concerned for their newly-achieved national
    sovereignty, and Great Britain frightened for its special relationship
    with the USA.

    Americas divisive policy found willing helpers in Aznar and Blair.
    This chutzpah struck at the long-latent European fault-line separating
    the integrationists and their opponents. Core-Europe is an answer to
    both: to the smouldering intra-European controversy over the finality
    of the unification process, which is wholly independent of the war in
    Iraq, as well as to the current stimulation of that opposition, which
    has its origin outside Europe. The reactions to the catch-phrase
    Core-Europe are all the more nervous the more external and internal
    pressures invite this answer. The hegemonic unilateralism of the US
    administration has thrown down the challenge to Europe to learn,
    finally, how to speak foreign policy with one voice. But in face of
    the frustrated deepening of the European Union, we can learn to make a
    start if, first of all, we begin at the center.

    France and Germany, many times over the course of decades, have
    undertaken this role. Precedence does not mean exclusion. The door
    stands open to all. The harsh criticism which Great Britain and the
    East-Central European countries, above all, have leveled at our
    initiative, is also explained, of course, by the push which a common
    foreign-and-defense policy has received from the provocative and
    favorably-timed opposition of the overwhelming majority of the
    population of all of Europe to Bushs adventure in Iraq. I viewed this
    provocation, as it respected our May 31^st initiative, as most
    opportune. Unfortunately, no fruitful discussion developed out of it.

    Q: We know, of course, that the United States has played new Europe
    against old even in the exercise of its influence within NATO. Does
    the future of the European Union lie with a weakening or with a
    strengthening of NATO? Should and can NATO be replaced with something

    A: NATO played a good part during the Cold War, and also afterwards
    even if it ought not again act alone, as when it intervened in Kosovo.
    But if the United States views NATO less and less as an alliance
    entailing obligations to consult, and more and more unilaterally as a
    mere instrument for the furtherance of its own national interests and
    world-power politics, then NATO has no future. It may be NATOs
    peculiar strength that powerful military alliance does not exhaust its
    definition; rather, its military might comes attached to a value-added
    dual legitimacy: NATOs existence is justified, as I see it, only by
    its being an alliance of indubitably liberal states, acting in express
    conformity with the human rights policies of the United Nations.

    Q: Americans are from Mars; Europeans are from Venus, Robert Kagan
    asserts in an essay, which has attracted much attention on the part of
    the neo-conservative Straussians in the Bush administration. One might
    view this essay, which was originally entitled Power and Weakness, as
    a manifesto in which Bushs national defense policy is mapped out.
    Kagan distinguishes between Americans and Europeans, calling the
    former Hobbesians and the latter Kantians. Have the Europeans really
    entered the post-modern paradise of Kants perpetual peace, while the
    Americans remain outside in the Hobbesian world of power politics,
    standing watch upon the ramparts that their European beneficiaries can
    not defend?

    A: The philosophical comparison wont take you far: Kant was, in a
    certain sense, a true student of Hobbes; he described, in any event,
    modern coercive law and the character of state sovereignty as soberly
    as Hobbes did. The connection, splashy but inadequate and misleading,
    which Kagan makes between these philosophical traditions on the one
    hand, and those national mentalities and policies on the other, should
    best be laid aside. Viewed long-range, what one may perceive as the
    difference between the Anglo-American and the European mentalities
    reflects long-term historical experiences; but I see no correlation
    with short-term changes in political strategies.

    In his attempt to separate the wolves from the sheep, Kagan is
    alluding, of course, to certain facts: The terror-regime of the Nazis
    was only brought down through the exercise of military violence and
    through invasion. The Europeans were able, during the Cold War, to
    build and extend their welfare states under the nuclear umbrella of
    the US. In Europe, and especially in its richly-populated middle,
    pacifist attitudes have proliferated. In the meanwhile, the countries
    of Europe, with their comparatively slender military budgets and
    poorly equipped armed forces, could oppose the bone-crushing military
    might of the US only with empty words. Well, Kagans caricatured
    interpretation of these facts provokes me to offer these comments:

     1. For the victory over Nazi-Germany, we have also to thank the
    costly struggles of the Red Army;

    2. Their social compact and economic importance, features of a soft,
    non-militaristic power, have given the Europeans an influence in
    global power relations not to be underestimated;

    3. In Germany today, as a consequence, also, of American re-education,
    a welcome pacifism reigns, which, however, did not prevent the
    Bundesrepublik from participating in UN actions in Bosnia, in Kosovo,
    in Macedonia, in Afghanistan, and lastly in the Horn of Africa;

    4. It is the US, itself, who wants to thwart the plans to build up a
    European military capability independent of NATO.

    This exchange of blows elevates the matter to the false level of an
    altercation. What I take to be false is Kagans stylization of US
    policy over the course of the last century. The conflict between
    realism and idealism in foreign and defense policy occurred, not
    between the continents, but, rather, within American policy itself.
    Certainly, the bi-polar power structure of the world between 1945 and
    1989, compelled a policy of balance of terror. The competition between
    the two nuclear-armed systems during the Cold War created the
    background for the towering influence which the realist school of
    international relations in Washington was able wield. But we must not
    forget the impetus which President Wilson gave to the founding of the
    League of Nations after the First World War, nor the influence which
    American jurists and politicians themselves exercised in Paris after
    the US retreated from the League. Without the US, there would have
    been no Kellogg-Briand Pact, nor the first international legal
    proscription of wars of aggression. But what fits least in the
    militant picture of the role of the US that Kagan paints, is the
    policy of the victors in 1945, initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
    What Roosevelt called for in his undelivered Jefferson Day Address of
    April 11, 1945, was for the world to seek not only an end to war, but
    an end to the beginning of all wars.

    In that period, the US was at the peak of the new internationalism,
    and spearheaded the initiative for the creation of the United Nations,
    in San Francisco. The US was the driving force behind the UN, which
    (no accident) has its headquarters in New York. The US set in motion
    the first international human rights convention, campaigned for the
    global monitoring of, as well as the juridical and military
    prosecution of, human rights violations, pressed upon the Europeans
    the idea of a political unification of Europeinitially, against the
    opposition of the French. This period of unexampled internationalism,
    loosed, in the ensuing decades, a wave of innovations in the field of
    human rights, blocked, indeed, during the Cold War, but implemented,
    in part, after 1989. As of that point in time, it was yet to be
    decided if the one remaining superpower would turn away from its
    leading role in the march toward a cosmopolitan legal order, and fall
    back into the imperial role of a good hegemon above international

    George Bush, the father of the current president, hadadmittedly,
    vaguenotions of world order, that were different from his sons. The
    unilateral action of the current administration and the repute of its
    influential neo-conservative members and advisors, reminds one, of
    course, of its precursors: the repudiation of the climate treaty, the
    treaty on atomic, biological and chemical weapons, the landmine
    convention, the protocols for the agreement on so-called
    child-warriors, etc. But Kagan is suggesting a false continuity. The
    newly-elected Bush administrations definitive repudiation of
    internationalism has remained its keynote: The rejection of the (since
    established) International Criminal Court was no trivial delict. One
    must not imagine that the offensive marginalizing of the United
    Nations and the cavalier contempt for international law which this
    administration has allowed itself to be guilty of, represent the
    expression of some necessary constant of American foreign policy. This
    administration, whose declared aim, to attend to national interests,
    has so obviously missed its mark, can be voted out of office. Why
    should it not be replaced in the coming year by an administration that
    gives the lie to Kagan?

    Q: In the United States, the War on Terrorism has veered off into a
    War on Civil Liberties, poisoning the legal infrastructure that makes
    a living democratic culture possible. The Orwellian Patriot Act is a
    Pyrrhic victory in which we and our democracy are the vanquished. Has
    the War on Terrorism similarly affected the European Union? Or has its
    experience with the terrorism of the 70s made it immune to the
    surrender of civil liberties to the security-state?

    A: I dont actually believe that. In the Bundesrepublik, the reactions
    in the autumn of 77 were hysterical enough. Furthermore, were
    encountering today a different sort of terrorism. I dont know what
    would have happened if the twin towers had collapsed in Berlin or
    Frankfurt. Naturally, we would not, after September 11, have laced up
    for ourselves security packets so suffocatingly tight, nor of such an
    unconstitutional reach, as the frightening regulations in America,
    which have been so clearly skewered and dissected by my friend Ronald
    Dworkin.  If, in this regard, distinctions were to be drawn between
    mentality and practice here and beyond the Atlantic, I would endeavor
    to place them in the context of historical experience. Maybe the very
    understandable shock in the USA after September 11 was, in fact,
    greater than it would have been in a European country accustomed to
    war. How to prove this?

    Certainly, the patriotic upsurge following upon September 11, had an
    American character. But the key to the curtailment of fundamental law,
    which youve referred to, to the breach of the Geneva Convention in
    Guantanamo, to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security,
    etc., I would locate elsewhere. The militarization of life
    domestically and abroad, the bellicose policies which open themselves
    up to infection by their opponents own methods, and which return the
    Hobbesian state to the world stage where the globalization of markets
    had seemed to have driven the political into the wings, all this the
    politically enlightened American populace would have overwhelmingly
    rejected, if the administration had not, with force, shameless
    propaganda, and manipulated insecurity, exploited the shock of
    September 11. For a European observer and a twice-shy child such as I,
    the systematic intimidation and indoctrination of the population and
    the restrictions on the scope of permitted opinion in the months of
    October and November of 2002, (when I was in Chicago), were unnerving.
    This was not my America. From my 16^th year onward, my political
    thinking, thanks to the sensible re-education policy of the
    Occupation, has been nourished by the American ideals of the late
    18^th century.

    Q: In your keynote address to the Philosophical World Congress during
    August of 2003 in Istanbul, you said that international security,
    under the conditions prevailing in post-national configurations, is
    being threatened in new ways and from three sides: By international
    terrorism, by criminal states, and by certain new civil wars arising
    in failed states. What interests me particularly is this: Is terrorism
    something that democratic states can declare war on?

    A: Whether democratic or not, a state can normally only make war on
    another state, if the word is to have a precise meaning. When a
    government, for example, deploys military force against an
    insurrection, the means do indeed suggest a war, but this force is
    fulfilling another functionthe state is concerned for tranquility and
    order within its own territorial borders, in circumstances when the
    police organs will no longer suffice. Now, when this attempt at
    enforced peace misfires, and the regime itself degenerates into merely
    one of several contending parties, the term is civil war. This verbal
    analogy to war as between states holds in one circumstance onlywhen
    the collapse of state power gives rise to the same oppositional
    symmetry between intra-state parties as normally obtains between
    warring states. Anyhow, whats missing here is the proper subject of
    acts of war: the organized coercive power of an opposing state.
    Forgive this conceptual pedantry. But in international terrorism,
    worldwide and dispersed, far-reaching and decentralized, and only
    loosely reticulated, we are encountering a new phenomenon, which we
    should not be too quick to assimilate to what we already know.

    Sharon and Putin can feel themselves encouraged courtesy of Bush,
    since the latter has thrown all of them into one pot, as if Al-Qaeda
    were nothing other than a territorially bound Partisan terrorist
    independence or resistence movement (as in Northern Ireland,
    Palestine, Chechnya, etc.) . Al-Qaeda is also different from the
    terrorist gangs and tribal warriors, the corrupt war lords of a
    miscarried decolonization, and also different from criminal regimes of
    states making war against their own inhabitants through ethnic
    cleansing and genocide, or which support worldwide terror, e.g., the
    Taliban. The US administration, with its Iraq war, has undertaken what
    is not only illegal, but unfeasible: to substitute an asymmetrical war
    between states for the asymmetry between a state armed with hi-tech
    weapons, on the one hand, and, on the other, an elusive terrorist
    network that, up to now, has worked with knives and explosives. War
    between states is asymmetrical when an aggressor aims at the
    destruction of a regime, rather than at a conventional defeat, because
    their relative strengths are so transparently fixed a priori. Think of
    the month-long troop deployment on the borders of Iraq. One neednt be
    a terror expert to recognize that this is no way to destroy the
    infrastructure of a network, or to engage Al-Qaeda and its off-shoots,
    or to dry up the milieus which nourish such a group.

    Q: Jurists are of the opinion that, according to classic international
    law concepts, the jus in bello entails inherent limitations on the jus
    ad bellum. Already, the detailed provisions of the Hague Land War
    Convention aim at restraining force, exercised in war, against the
    civilian population, against soldiers taken prisoner, against the
    environment and the infrastructure of the affected society. The rules
    for the conduct of war are also supposed to enable a conclusion of
    peace acceptable to all sides. But the monstrous disproportion in
    technological and military strength between the United States and its
    respective adversariesin Afghanistan or in Iraqmakes it near
    impossible to abide by the jus in bello. Must not the United States be
    indicted and prosecuted for war crimes, obviously committed by America
    in Iraq, but deliberately ignored by us?

    A: Now, the American Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in just
    this connection, waxed proud over the deployment of precision weapons
    that were supposed to have kept civilian losses at a comparatively low
    level. When I read, in the late edition of the New York Times of April
    10, 2003, a report concerning the Iraqi war dead, and learned of the
    regulations pursuant to which Rumsfeld accepts civilian casualties,
    this alleged precision no longer offers any consolation: Air war
    commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary
    Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned air strike was thought likely to
    result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes
    were proposed and all of them were approved. I do not know what the
    International Criminal Court in The Hague would have to say to this.
    But given that this court is not recognized by the USA, and given,
    also, that no judgment can be leveled by the Security Council against
    a member with veto power, the entire question is going to have to be
    posed somewhere else.

    Careful estimates place the Iraqi dead at 20,000 altogether. This
    number, monstrous when compared with their own losses, throws a
    spotlight on the moral obscenity that we sense when we see, on our
    televisions, the carefully controlled, if not entirely manipulated,
    images from this asymmetrical war. This power asymmetry would take on
    a different significance if it reflected not the super-powerfulness
    and the powerlessness of the warring parties, but the police power of
    a world organization.

    The United Nations, today, by its Charter, is already charged with the
    ensuring of peace and security, as well as with the worldwide
    enforcement of human rights protections.  Let us assume, contrary to
    existing facts, that the world organization were up to the task. It
    would be able to fulfill its functions, then, under the condition that
    it would wield, uniquely and non-selectively, sanctions of a daunting
    superiority against rule-breaking actors and states. With this, the
    asymmetry of power would have assumed a different character.

    The infinitely troublesome and still improbable transformation from
    idiosyncratic and selective punitive wars to police actions authorized
    by international law requires more than just an impartial tribunal
    adjudicating adequately-defined crimes. We also need to develop
    further the jus in bello into a law of intervention that will very
    closely resemble internal police law, inasmuch as the Hague Land War
    Convention, which is only directed to the waging of war, is not
    tailored to such civil concepts as obstruction of justice and
    enforcement of sentences. Because innocent lives are always at stake
    in humanitarian interventions, such force as may be required must be
    so finely regulated that the declared motives of a world-police action
    will lose the odor of pretext, and as such, be capable of winning
    worldwide acceptance. A touchstone might be the moral feelings of
    global observers not that sadness and sympathy could possibly
    disappear, but rather that spontaneous outrage that many of us felt at
    seeing the heavens over Baghdad lit up, obscenely, week after week, by
    rocket strikes.

    Q: John Rawls envisions the possibility of democratic just wars
    undertaken against unlawful states. But you go further, and argue that
    even undoubtedly democratic countries may not arrogate to themselves
    the right to wage, at their discretion, war against a purportedly
    despotic, peace-threatening or criminal state. In your Istanbul
    address, you say that impartial judgments can never be pleasing to any
    one side; accordingly, on these cognitive grounds, the unilateralism
    of a hegemon, however well-meaning, must necessarily lack legitimacy:
    That the good hegemon has, itself, a democratic constitution, cannot
    compensate for this lack. Has the jus ad bellum, which made up the
    core of classical international law, become obsolete even in the case
    of the just war?

    A: Rawls last book, The Law of Peoples, has been justly criticized
    because he relaxes the strong principles of justice, which a
    democratic constitution must embody for dealing with authoritarian or
    semi-authoritarian states, and places the guardianship of these
    weakened principles in the hands of individual democratic states.
    Rawls cites, in this connection, Michael Walzers concurring doctrine
    on just war. Both regard justice among nations as desirable and
    possible, but they want to entrust the enforcement of international
    justice, in specific cases, to the judgment and discretion of
    sovereign states. Rawls thus seems to be thinking with Kant rather
    than with the liberal avant garde of the international community;
    Walzer, with the respective participating nations, completely
    independently of their internal constitutions. Unlike Rawls, with
    Walzer there is a mistrust of supranational operations and
    organizations that is motivated by communitarian considerations.
    Protecting the integrity of the way of life and established ethos of a
    nation state, so long as it doesnt encompass genocide and crimes
    against humanity, should enjoy precedence over the global enforcement
    of abstract principles of justice. The considerations referred to in
    your question are better illustrated by Walzers conception than by
    Rawls half-hearted defense of international law.

    Since the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, wars of aggression have been
    proscribed by international law. The exercise of military force is to
    be permitted only for self-defense. Thus the jus ad bellum, as
    understood by classical international law, was abolished. Because the
    institutions of the League of Nations, founded after the First World
    War, proved to be too weak, the United Nations, after the Second World
    War, was vested with authority to conduct peacekeeping operations and
    to impose sanctions, although at the price of a veto for the
    then-great powers. The UN Charter stipulates the precedence of
    international law over the legal systems of the several nations. The
    coupling of the Charter with the Declaration of Human Rights, and the
    wide-ranging authority which the Security Council enjoys under Chapter
    VII, have set off a wave of legal innovations whichthough, since 1989,
    they have remained an unutilized fleet in beinghave been correctly
    understood as a constitutionalizing of international law. The world
    organization, which, meanwhile, comprises 192 member states, has a
    veritable constitution, which sets forth the procedures according to
    which international breaches of the rules can be determined and
    punished. There have been, since, no more just and unjust wars, only
    legal or illegal ones, justified or unjustified under international

    One must bear in mind this enormous advance in the rights revolution
    in order to realize the radical breach that the Bush administration
    has wroughtas much with a defense doctrine which willfully ignores the
    applicable legal preconditions for the exercise of military force, as
    with its ultimatum to the Security Council that it either give its
    blessing to the United States aggressive Iraq policy, or sink into
    meaninglessness. In the rhetoric of legitimation, there is in no
    realistic redemption of idealistic notions. To the extent that Bush
    wanted to eliminate an unjust system and democratize the region of the
    Middle East, these normative goals were not contrary to the program of
    the United Nations. In dispute was not the question whether justice
    between nations was actually possible, but only as to the means for
    its accomplishment. The Bush administration, with moralistic phrases
    ad acta, has laid aside the 220-year-old Kantian project for the
    legalizing of international relations.

    The comportment of the American administration allows for only one
    conclusion, that, as they see it, international law is finished as a
    medium for the resolution of conflicts between states, and for the
    advancement of democracy and human rights. These goals, the world
    power has made the official centerpiece of a policy that no longer
    relies on law, but rather on its own ethical values and moral
    convictions: it has substituted its own normative rationales for
    prescribed juristic procedures. But the one cannot substitute for the
    other. The abstention from legal argumentation always betokens an
    abandonment of previously recognized general norms. From the
    restricted vantage point of its own political culture and its own
    understanding of the world and of itself, even the most thoughtful and
    best-intentioned hegemon cannot be certain if it is understanding and
    considering the situation and interests of the other parties. This
    goes for the citizens of a democratic superpower as well as for its
    political leadership. Without inclusive legal procedures, which
    embrace all the parties involved, and contain their conflicting
    perspectives, there is nothing compelling the predominant party to
    give up the central perspective of a great empire, or to engage in the
    de-centering of meaning-perspectives that an equal consideration for
    the cognitive point of view of all interests requires.

    Also, an ultra-modern power like the US relapses into the
    pseudo-universalism of the ancient empires when, on questions of
    international justice, it substitutes morality and ethics for positive
    law. From Bushs perspective, our values are the universally valid
    values which all other nations should accept in their best interests.
    This pseudo-universalism is part of an all-encompassing ethnocentrism.
    And a theory of just war, deriving from theological and natural law
    traditions, has nothing to set against this, even when it appears, as
    today, in communitarian garb. I am not saying that the official
    rationales of the American administration for the Iraq war, or that
    the officially expressed religious convictions of the American
    president concerning the good and the evil-doers satisfy the Walzerian
    criteria for a just war. Walzer-the-political-commentator has left
    nobody in the dark on this score. But Walzer-the-philosopher has
    extracted his criteria, reasonable as they may be, solely from moral
    principles and ethical considerations, outside the framework of a
    theory of law which ties judgments on war and peace to inclusive and
    impartial procedures for the generation and application of mandatory

    In this context, what interests me is only one consequence of such an
    approach, namely, that the criteria for judging just wars is not being
    translated into a matrix of law. But only by doing so are the
    ever-controversial elements of justice translated into the verifiable
    category of legality as regards to war. Walzers criteria for just
    wars, even if they can be found in international customary law, are
    essentially ethical and political in nature. Review of their
    application in particular cases is withdrawn from international courts
    of law, and reserved rather more to the sagacity and sense of justice
    of individual states.

    But why should the impartial adjudication of conflicts within the
    medium of law be assured only within states? Why should not the same
    be brought to bear, judicially, on international conflicts? This is
    not trivial. Who is to determine, on the supra-national level, if our
    values truly merit universal acceptance, or if we are truly exercising
    universally recognized principles, or whether we are perceiving a
    conflict situation truly non-selectively, for example, or whether,
    instead, we are taking into consideration only what is relevant to us?
    This is the whole point of inclusive legal procedures which condition
    supra-national decision-making upon the adoption of reciprocating
    points of view and consideration of reciprocal interests.

    Q: Though you cherish your Kantian project, are you not, on its
    behalf, acting like an advocate for a military humanism?

    A: I am not familiar with the precise context of the expression, but I
    imagine that it is alluding to the danger of a moralizing of
    antagonism. Its precisely on the international plane that a demonizing
    of adversariesthink of the axis of evilcannot contribute to conflict
    resolution. On every side today, fundamentalism is growing, making
    conflicts incurablein Iraq, in Israel and elsewhere. Carl Schmitt,
    incidently, also made this argument his whole life long in defense of
    a non-discriminatory concept of war. Classical international law, he
    argued, had regarded war as needing no further justification than as a
    legitimate means to resolving conflicts between states, and, at the
    same time, as an important condition for the civilizing of warlike
    disputes. With the criminalization of aggressive wars, introduced with
    the Versailles Treaty, war itself was made a crime, unleashing a
    dynamic of limit-lifting as the adversary, adjudged morally,
    metamorphosed into a despicable enemy, who is to be annihilated. If,
    in the train of this moralizing, one opponent can no longer regard the
    other as a worthy adversaryas a justus hostislimited wars degenerate
    into total wars.

    Now, as total war dates from the time of nationalistic
    mass-mobilizations and the development of weapons of mass destruction,
    this argument is not wrong. It only lends support to my thesis, that
    justice between nations cannot be achieved through moralizing, but
    only through the legalizing of international relations. Discriminating
    judgment only contributes to strife, as when one party presumes to
    pass judgment according to its own standardsupon the alleged crimes of
    the other party. We must not confuse this kind of subjective judgment
    with a judicial condemnation of a proven criminal regime and its
    henchmen by a forum constituted by the community of nations, for the
    latter extends the protection of the law to an accused party, to whom
    the presumption of innocence applies.

    Admittedly, this distinction between moralizing and the legalizing of
    international relations would not have satisfied Carl Schmitt; for him
    and his Fascist-minded comrades, the existential struggle of life and
    death possessed a weird vitalistic aura. Hence, it was Schmitts
    opinion that the substance of the political, the self-asserting of the
    identity of a Volk or of a movement, will not let itself be tamed by
    norms, that every attempt at domestication through law, must accrue to
    moral savagery. Were the pacifism of law to triumph, we would be
    robbing ourselves of the essential means to the renewal of authentic
    being. But we need not concern ourselves further with this abstruse
    conception of the political.

    We do need to concern ourselves with the purportedly realistic
    propositions, asserted by Hobbesians of the left and of the right,
    that the law, even in the modern guise assumed in constitutional
    democracies, is never anything but the reflex and mask of economic or
    political power. On this assumption, legal pacifism, which seeks to
    extend law to the international state of nature, is a sheer illusion.
    Actually, the Kantian project of constitutionalizing international law
    sustains itself by an idealism that is free of illusions. The form of
    modern law has, as such, a clearly moral core which makes it a gentle
    civilizer (Koskenniemi) in the long run, whenever law comes to be the
    medium through which a constitution is formed.

    The egalitarian universalism, which is immanent in law and its
    procedures, has, as an empirical matter, perceptibly left its mark on
    the political and social reality of the West. The idea of equal
    treatment, in which the law of peoples as of states has such an
    investment, can fulfill its ideological function only at the price of
    serving, at the same time, as the standard for ideological critique.
    Therefore, opposition and liberation movements throughout the world
    have access to the vocabulary of human rights. And as soon as these
    movements serve oppression and exclusion, the rhetoric of human rights
    may be trusted to oppose this abuse.

    Q: Precisely as a defender of the Kantian project second to none, you
    must be deeply disappointed by the Machiavellian machinations that so
    often dominate the practice in the United Nations. You yourself have
    called attention to, and addressed the monstrous selectivity of the
    Security Council in making up its agenda. You speak of the shameless
    precedence which national interests always enjoy over global
    responsibilities. How must the institutions of the United Nations be
    altered and reformed, so that, from a shield for the prosecution of
    pro-Western interests and goals, it may truly become an effective tool
    for the securing of peace?

    A: Thats a big topic. It isnt a question of institutional reform. Some
    change in the power relationship of a reasonably composed Security
    Council, as well as some restriction of the veto right of the great
    powers, certainly are necessary, but dont reach far enough. Let me
    single out a couple of aspects of this unwieldy complex.

    The world organization is, quite properly, invested in full
    inclusiveness. It stands open to all nations who commit themselves to
    the words of the UN Charter and of its Declarations, which are bound
    up with international lawirrespective of how remotely its own internal
    practices actually accord with these principles. Thus, measured by its
    own founding principles, there existsdespite the formal equality of
    membersa fall off in legitimacy between liberal, semi-authoritarian,
    and sometimes even despotic member states. This becomes conspicuous
    when, to pick an example, a country like Libya assumes the
    chairmanship of the Human Rights Commission. John Rawls deserves
    credit for having pointed to the fundamental problem of graduated
    legitimation. The head-start which democratic countries have in regard
    to legitimation, upon which Kant had already fixed his hopes, hardly
    lends itself to formalizing. But those who would take account of it,
    can develop habits and practices. From this perspective as well, the
    needed reform of the veto of the permanent Security Council members,
    is important.

    The most pressing problem, of course, is the restricted capacity to
    act of a world organization which has no monopoly of force, and is
    dependent on the ad hoc support of more potent members in particular
    cases of intervention and nation building. The problem, however, does
    not lie in the lack of a monopoly of forcethe differentiation of basic
    law from executive state force, we have also seen elsewhere, for
    example, in the European Union, where EU law infringes national law,
    while the nation states still exercise command over the standing means
    of the legitimate resort to force. The United Nations suffers, apart
    from its want of funds, above all from a dependency on governments
    which, for their part, not only pursue their national interests, but
    are themselves dependent on the assent of their respective publics.
    Until the self-conception of member states changes, whose
    social-cognitive understanding of themselves is still as sovereign
    actors, we must think about how a relative uncoupling of levels of
    decision-making can be achieved. The member states could, for example,
    without restraining their national legal rights over the disposal of
    their military forces, hold a designated contingent expressly
    available for UN purposes.

    The ambitious goal of a world domestic politics without a world
    government will remain, realistically, only an aspiration, if the
    world organization confines itself to its two most important
    functionsmaintaining peace and the global enforcement of human rights,
    and hands over political coordination in the areas of the economy, the
    environment, transportation, health, etc., to mid-level institutions
    and frameworks for negotiations. But this plane, upon which global
    players with capacity and scope of action can hammer out compromises,
    belongs, so far, to only particular institutions such as the World
    Trade Organization. The kind of felicitous reform I envision for the
    United Nations cannot be effected if the nation states in the various
    parts of the world do not integrate in continental governments after
    the model of the European Union. This would make for a modest
    beginning. Herenot in the reform of the UNlies the properly Utopian
    element of the status of world citizenship.

    On the basis of a division of labor within such a multi-level global
    system, the legitimation needs of a UN capable o f action, in even a
    halfway-democratic manner, might actually be met. A world public has
    formed, up to now, only intermittently, for major historical events,
    like September 11. Thanks to the electronic media and the astounding
    success of non-governmental organizations operating world wide, such
    as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, these may some day
    assume a firmer infrastructure and attain a greater continuity. In
    such circumstances, the idea of establishing a second chamber
    alongside of the General Assembly, a parliament of world citizens
    (David Held) would no longer be absurd, or, barring that, at the least
    an expansion of the existing chamber to include the representation of
    citizens. Thus would an evolution in international law, which has been
    long in the works, find its symbolic expression and institutional
    fulfillment. Meanwhile, it would not only be states, but also citizens
    themselves, who would be the subjects of international law: As world
    citizens, they could, if necessary, assert legal claims against their
    own governments.

    Of course, an idea as abstract as a parliament of world citizens will
    easily give rise to humbug. But in view of the limited functions of
    the United Nations, one must keep in mind that representatives in this
    parliament would be representing populations which of necessity would
    not be bound together, like the citizens of a political entity, by
    thick traditions. In place of the positive solidarity of a national
    citizenry, a negative consensus would suffice, to wit: a common
    outrage at the aggressive warmongering and human rights violations of
    criminal gangs and regimes, or a common horror over acts of ethnic
    cleansing and of genocide.

    Admittedly, the resistance and reactions to be overcome along the way
    to full constitutionalization will be so great that the project can
    only succeed if the USA, as in 1945, takes it on itself to be the
    locomotive at the forefront of the movement. This is not as improbable
    as, it appears at the moment. For one thing, it is a lucky accident of
    world history that the sole superpower is the oldest democracy on
    earth, and hence, contrary to what Kagan would have us believe, has,
    so to speak, innate affinities with the Kantian idea of the legalizing
    of international relations. For another, it is in the interest of the
    United States of America itself to make the UN capable of action
    before another, less democratic, great power rises to superpower
    status. Empires come and go. In the end, the European Union has
    agreed, just now, on countering the international law-breaking
    pre-emptive strike with a preventive engagement, on principles of
    security and defense policy; it might be able to exercise influence on
    public opinion in our American ally.

    Q: The contempt of the American administration for international law
    and international treaties, the brutal exercise of military force, a
    politics of lies and blackmail has provoked an anti-Americanism which
    has extended to our own current government, and not without
    justification. How should Europe deal with this spreading animus so as
    to prevent worldwide anti-Americanism from swamping the West
    altogether in its wake?

    A: Anti-Americanism is a danger in Europe itself. In Germany, it has
    always been associated with the reactionary movements. Thus, it is
    important for us, as in the time of the Vietnam War, to be able to
    make common cause, side by side, with an American domestic opposition,
    against the policy of the American government. If we can relate
    ourselves to a protest movement inside the United States, the
    counter-productive reproach leveled against us of anti-Americanism is
    shown to be empty. The anti-modern emotion directed against the
    Western world as a whole, is another matter. In this regard,
    self-critique is appropriatelet us say, a self-critical defense of the
    achievements of Western modernity, which signalizes openness and
    willingness to learn, and above all dissolves the idiotic equation of
    democratic order and liberal society with unbridled capitalism. We
    must, on the one hand, clearly and unmistakably draw the line against
    fundamentalism, including Christian and Jewish fundamentalism, and, on
    the other hand, we must face up to the fact that fundamentalism is the
    child of a deracinating modernization, in which the derailments of our
    colonial history and the failures of decolonization have played a
    decisive role. As against fundamentalist self-quarantine, we can, in
    all events, show that the legitimate critique of the West borrows its
    standard from the Wests own 200-year-old discourse of self-criticism.

    Q: Two political itineraries have lately ended up in the shredder of
    war and terrorism: The so-called road map that was supposed to lead to
    peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the imperialist
    scenario of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Bush. The scenario for the
    conflict in Israel was supposed to be written together with the
    scenario for the reconstruction of the entire Middle East. But the
    policies of the United States have fused anti-Americanism with
    antisemitism. Anti-Americanism today is feeding old forms of murderous
    antisemitism. How can we defuse this explosive compound?

    A: This is a problem, particularly in Germany, where, at the moment,
    the floodgates of a narcissistic preoccupation with its own victims
    are opening, and, supported by official opinion, seeking a hearing and
    legitimacy, breaking through decades ofquite necessarycensorship. But
    we will be able to cope with that mixture, which you so rightly
    described, if the legitimate job of criticizing Bushs fatal vision of
    a world order can succeed in keeping itself convincingly free of every
    admixture of anti-Americanism. As soon as the other America once again
    assumes discernible contours, it will also pull the ground out from
    under that anti-Americanism which serves only as a cover for

    This interview was conducted by Eduardo Mendieta (Dept. of Philosophy,
    SUNY Stony Brook) and was translated from the German by Jeffrey Craig

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