Terrorisme, guerre, mondialisation, démocratie...
Un choix de textes
pour garder les idées claires

Après le 11 sept. 01


Francis Fukuyama, professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University, Financial Times (15-16.09.2001)
The end of America's exceptionalism

As we sat around watching TV, in disbelief, the towers of the World Trade Center crumble into rubble last Tuesday, somebody pointed out of the window of our office in downtown Washington to the large plume of smoke that was rising from across the Potomac River. Moments later the TV reported that the Pentagon had been struck as well.

My immediate concern, on learning about the aeroplane that had crashed into it, was for the close friends I have who work there. The next few hours were spent trying to get in touch with them and, failing that, figuring out where their offices were in relation to where the newscasts were saying the aircraft exploded.

Only after ascertaining that all had fortunately survived the attack was it possible to begin thinking about how the world was now going to be irrevocably different, and how this terrible event could have the significance for my generation that Pearl Harbor had for my father's. December 7 1941 had a special implication for my family. Within two weeks, Roosevelt signed an executive order directing "people of Japanese ancestry" to report to relocation centers. My grandfather, who had painfully built up a hardware business in Los Angeles in the 1920s and kept it going through the Great Depression, had to sell it for a pittance and move with his family to camp in Colorado for the duration of the war.

But the changes that will follow the September 11 attacks, I suspect, will not produce a more repressive, intolerant, xenophobic, fractured, or isolationist America. Indeed, there are reasons for thinking that the tragedy may actually make American society stronger and more unified at home, and more constructively involved internationally.

Since the finger of blame seems to point, at this juncture, to Islamic fanatics in the Middle East, there are naturally reasons to worry about a backlash that targets Muslims as a group. Televised pictures of some Palestinians celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center does not help endear them to Americans.

But I doubt very seriously that this time around the government will get back into the game of ethnic profiling, despite the very real fears of further terrorism that many Americans now harbour. While there have already been ugly reprisals against individual Middle Easterners, the internment of Japanese-Americans during the second world war, and the broader civil rights struggles since then, has sensitised the society to the dangers of broad-brush categorisations of ethnic or racial groups.

Indeed, what was striking to many about the television coverage of the World Trade Center aftermath was the sheer diversity of the victims: there were whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, even some who looked as if they came from the Middle East, wealthy investment bankers and humble maids and busboys. None of them looked terribly different when covered with blood and ash. All were equally targets of irrational hatred, and all look to the same government to vindicate them.

Nor do I think that the attacks will lead to a significant loss of civil liberties more broadly, such as mandatory identity checks or authorisation for pre-emptive police actions. Air travel in the US is obviously going to become much more burdensome for everyone, but the American commitment to an open society is too deeply ingrained for even an event of this magnitude to change things.

As with individuals, adversity can have many positive effects. Enduring national character is shaped by shared trauma, as in the case of postwar Japanese pacifism or German monetary orthodoxy. The modern European state was forged under pressure of war and conflict, and conflict was critical to state-building in the US as well. The Civil War created for the first time a centralised federal government, while the second world war finally thrust the US into an international role.

Peace and prosperity, by contrast, encourage preoccupation with one's own petty affairs and allow people to forget that they are parts of larger communities. The long economic boom of the Clinton years and America's easy dominance of world politics has allowed Americans to wallow in such self-indulgent behaviour as political scandal or identity politics, or partisanship that has grown more strident as the underlying issues have narrowed. Many Americans lost interest in public affairs, and in the larger world beyond America's borders; others expressed growing contempt for government.

This was nowhere more true than in the world of high-tech and finance, where a kind of techno-libertarianism took hold in the 1990s. The government, by this view, contributed nothing useful and stood in the way of the true "value-creators". The nation state was said to be obsolete; technology and capital were inherently borderless and could evade efforts by national jurisdictions to tie them down. The apostles of the New Economy declared the irrelevance of everything invented before the internet, and of any skills other than their own. I was shocked when a portfolio-manager friend told me a while back that he was seriously considering renouncing his American citizenship and moving to the Bahamas to avoid paying US taxes.

In this respect, Tuesday's attacks on Wall Street were in this respect a salutary lesson. The weightlessness of the new economy will not protect you from falling concrete; your only hope in this kind of crisis is the heroism of firefighters and policemen (several hundred of whom were killed during the attack). Microsoft or Goldman Sachs will not send aircraft carriers and F16s to the Gulf to track down Osama bin Laden; only the military will. The 1990s saw the social and economic gulf widen between the Harvard- and Stanford-educated investment bankers, lawyers, and software engineers who worked in those twin towers, and the blue-collar types who went to their rescue.

This shared victimisation powerfully reminds Americans that they are all in the end mutually dependent members of the same community. The World Trade Center attack will also lead to salutary changes in America's relationship to the outside world. Over the past decade, both Republicans and Democrats have flirted with isolationism: with the former it takes the form of a rejection of global engagement; with the latter it is a matter of economic protectionism and an unwillingness to fund defence.

Now and for the foreseeable future, isolationism is off the table. No one should underestimate how angry Americans are, and what lengths they will go to see that their attackers are punished. Before Tuesday, there was a big argument over whether the US could fund a paltry Dollars 18bn increase in defence spending; now, much larger sums are in store whether or not a budget surplus exists. Priorities will change as well: missile defence will remain an objective, but will likely fall in priority relative to requirements for better intelligence, power projection, and capabilities to deal with so-called "asymmetric" threats.

But the bigger change will be psychological. Not since Pearl Harbor has an enemy been able to kill Americans on American soil, and that was in far-off Hawaii; Washington DC has been inviolable since the British burned the White House in the war of 1812.

This has laid the ground for a certain kind of exceptionalism in American foreign policy: US territory was always a safe haven; the US typically considered the pros and cons of intervention in foreign countries, but never had to contend with foreign countries intervening in the US. The consequences entailed by past US intervention were borne either by American allies, or by US interests abroad, and never directly by US citizens. The Gulf war and Kosovo were utterly antiseptic in this regard, and set up unrealistic expectations that the US could shape events without cost in American lives. This has now changed.

What is today labelled "asymmetrical" warfare has actually become symmetrical in the sense that America's enemies have for the first time developed the capability to reach out and touch Americans directly in response to US actions. This means, of course, that isolationism is not an option. But it also sets up a kind of deterrence, in which the US for the first time will have to consider the direct costs of its actions. This will not ultimately constrain the US from acting, but it will force on it a certain kind of realism as it interacts with the world.

Europe's big fear is, of course, that a re-energised America will lash out unilaterally against perceived enemies in a clumsy and self-defeating way. Whether this comes to pass, however, depends on how the US and Europe interpret and act on what has happened.

The first issue has to do with the nature of the threat posed by the terrorists. If, as Secretary of State Colin Powell has asserted, the attack was not a crime but an act of war, then the proper response is a military one, and not a matter of police enforcement. Following Pearl Harbor, the US didn't seek to put Tojo and Hitler on trial, or establish the guilt of the carrier pilots who carried out the attack.

There will, in fact, be a major problem between the US and Europe if Europeans underestimate how angry Americans now are, or interpret too narrowly the scope of the threat. Nato's declaration of support for the US is a hopeful sign, but it remains to be seen what kind of concrete support will be forthcoming in the months ahead.

If there is transatlantic convergence on the nature of the problem, then a new and potentially positive type of international engagement results - or, more properly, re-emerges. A war against terrorism means defeating your enemy militarily, which may require striking pre-emptively against those who threaten you, as the Israelis have done, and going after the states that support your enemies. An operation of this sort cannot be accomplished with pinprick cruise missile strikes carried out from the sanctuary of the US homeland, but will require sustained military operations in distant parts of the world.

The US, for all its power, cannot do this alone. If the objective turns out to be Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, then the US will need the help of, at a minimum, Russia, Pakistan, and perhaps China to provide a base of operations. It will need the political co-operation of moderate Arab states for intelligence sharing, and military help from its European allies. It will, in short, need to create a coalition, and cut deals to make the coalition work.

This is a formula not for unilateralism, but for co-operative engagement. The United States is likely to emerge from the attacks a different country, more unified, less self-absorbed, and much more in need of the help of its friends to carry out what will become a new national project of defeating terrorism. And it may also become a more ordinary country in the sense of having concrete interests and real vulnerabilities, rather than thinking itself able unilaterally to define the nature of the world it lives in.



Merci de me signaler les fôtes et les liens rompus!
Dernière mise à jour: 04.02.2003

François Brutsch - Genève - Suisse