The war with Iraq will constitute one of those momentous turning
points of history in which one nation under the guidance of a
strong-willed, self-confident leader undertakes to alter the
fundamental state of the world. It is, to use the language of Hegel,
an event that is world-historical in its significance and
scope. And it will be world-historical, no matter what the outcome
Such world-historical innovations transcend the conceptual categories
of the old world, and call into existence an entirely novel set of
categories. Each one of them, by its very nature, is a crossing of the
Rubicon, from which there is no turning back, but only a going forward
– and a going forward into the unknown. This means that we must take a
hard look at even our most basic vocabulary – and think twice before
we rush to apply words like “empire” or “national self-interest” or
“multi-lateralism” or “sovereignty” to a world in which they are no
Since the events of 9/11 the policy debate in the United States has
been primarily focused on a set of problems – radical Islam and the
War on Terrorism, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,
and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein in
The liberal world system has collapsed internally: there is no longer
a set of rules that govern all the players. Such rules are
trans-cultural. They constitute the precondition of any politically
stable system, for without them there is the danger of cognitive
anarchy – a situation in which no one can any longer predict with
confidence what the others will do. This collapse of the well-ordered
liberal system has come about exclusively from the side of the Islamic
world. And the cause of this disruption is the lack of a sense of the
realistic on the part of certain elements in the Islamic world.
Indeed, this is the common thread that unites Iraq, Al Qaeda, and
The threat that currently faces us comes from groups who have utterly
failed to create the material and objective conditions within their
own societies sufficient to permit them to construct, out of their own
resources, the kind of military organization and weaponry that has
constituted every previous kind of threat.
If we look at the source of the Arab wealth we find it is nothing they
created for themselves. It has come to them by magic, much like a
story of the Arabian nights, and it allows them to live in a feudal
What Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have in common is that their
power derives entirely from the fact that the West had committed
itself, in the aftermath of World War II, to a policy of not robbing
other societies of their natural resources simply because it possessed
the military might to do so. The quite unintended consequence of the
West’s conduct is: the prodigious funding of fantasists who are
thereby enabled to pursue their demented agendas unencumbered by any
realistic calculation of the risks or costs of their action.
Nothing but force can break these from their illusion. Not because
there is something wrong with them as a race, but simply because they
are acting like any other individual who has been permitted to live in
a dream world – they continue to fantasize.
The greatest threat facing us – and one of the greatest ever to
threaten mankind – is the collision of this collective fantasy
world of Islam with the horrendous reality of weapons of mass
We now live in a world in which a state so marginal that it would be
utterly incapable of mounting any kind of credible conventional threat
to its neighbors or to anyone else – such a state could still
make a devastating use of a nuclear weapon that literally chanced
to come into its hands.
The act of violence need possess only a magical or fantasy
significance to the perpetrator in order to motivate him to perform
it. It need not bring him any other goal than the sense of achievement
in having brought it off.
And beyond this, there is even a danger of rogue states, unable to
maintain their domestic viability, degenerating into being merely
front organizations for the social force of radical Islam, much as
occurred in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
The motivations of those who want to murder us are not complicated: To
watch an American city go up into a fireball is its own reward.
The fantasy ideology of
radical Islam does not want the West to fulfill its will, but to cease
to exist. And to achieve this end, any historical catastrophe will do.
This is the lesson that 9/11 should teach us in dealing with the
fantasists of the Islamic world. A fantasy does not need to make any
sense – that is the whole point of having one.
They are not playing by the
same rules of realism that we are. And it is this that renders so much
public debate so historically dated.
The US must be willing to discard the Clausewitzian goal of making
another nation state merely fulfill its political will. It must in
fact be prepared to dismantle and reconstruct the other state, if,
like Iraq, its behavior poses a threat to the general international
There is only one solution, and that is for the United States
consciously to adopt a policy of what might be tentatively called
At the heart of the dialectically emergent concept of neo-sovereignty
is a double standard imposed by the US on the rest of the world,
whereby the US can unilaterally decide to act, if need be, to override
and even to cancel the existence of any state or regime that proposes
to develop WMD, especially in those cases where the state or regime in
question has demonstrated its dangerous lack of a sense of the
If any social order is to
achieve stability there must be, at the heart of it, a double standard
governing the use of violence and force. There must be one agent who
is permitted to use force against other agents who are not permitted
to use force.
In its role as neo-sovereign the United States, in pursuing its
selfish policy, is also forced to increase the general level of
security throughout the world.
If we are to teach others a sense of the realistic, it is imperative
that we not lose our own. We must not let our noble ideals betray us
into betraying our very ideals. The only way that these ideals will
find a place in the world of tomorrow is if we are prepared to defend
them today – and to defend them at whatever cost is required.