The North Korean nuclear test has led to the US Secretary of Defense labeling North Korea and Iran as rogue states. It has some years since we last heard of the term that was first presented by President George W. Bush, in the State of the Union speech January 2002, when describing Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil” accusing them of seeking to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The circumstances and the terms are at the fore of world concern. Given the commonality that should any state attain or threaten to use nuclear capability then the community of states will rue the consequences of their weaknesses in local defenses and deterrence, Israel included There is no doubt that international history has shown that should the issues not be acted upon then, the consequences will be devastating. It is the different approaches or the means to the end that is arguable.
The Bush Doctrine, considered that pre-emptive military action would be the solution to nullify the capabilities of states rogue to the international community. Pre-emptive war is based upon the inability to defend and deter hence the offence is considered the best form of defense. Iraq has been dealt with. There is no Obama Doctrine but the President needs to address the issue or else rue the consequences of his inaction.
There is a conceptual similarity in international security facing the world at the onset of the 21st Century, to that faced by the European Great Powers at the end of the 19th Century. This can be viewed through The Hague Conference of 1899 that failed to effect the purpose for which it was originally called to disarm the larger Powers. At the time many states, particularly Germany, were unwilling to agree to international consensus on weapons limitations, much less a reduction of any form of armaments. The failure to effect agreement at the Hague Conference in part led to WWI and hence WWII. The historical precedents of the consequences to restrain the build-up of arms are all too clear should the current international political process of diplomacy fail to restrain North Korea and Iran.
The Hague Conferences then and the United Nations today, are important showing the diplomatic process of the international community of states. This process presents nations, acting as an international society, meeting to seek agreement upon measures for common interest to the world’s welfare. This is to be led by the hegemonic power, currently the United States. As noted in hindsight after the onset of hostilities during World War I there is pressing obligation on the hegemonic power to ensure international consensus at such global conventions. Failure to do so, has had devastating consequences.
Given this, the United States as the world’s sole hegemonic power is at the start of the 21st Century now facing what the European Great Powers faced at the start of the 20th century. This is evident in comparing the debates of the Hague Conventions (1899/1907) with those of the United Nations prior to the Iraq War (2003) and those currently underway regarding North Korea and Iran. That is the need to restrain states from attaining capability and intent that tend towards the periphery of the society of nations by flouting and even rejecting the principles of international law and consensus.
It is the nexus between technology and radicalism that invoked a vulnerability military strategy for pre-emptive disarmament against Iraq. The accepted norms of international consensus are decades of diplomatic processes. Time is running out for diplomacy with North Korea and Iran. The value of diplomacy is not lost however the strength of diplomacy rests on the hegemonic power’s threat of uni-lateral military action should negotiation fail. This is both diplomatic leverage as well as a form of deterrence. Should diplomacy fail, it is justifiable to expect a linear approach of initial uni-lateral use of armed force against the rogue states followed by a multi-lateral global convention.
There is no Obama Doctrine but Israel is expecting President Obama to visit on 20 March where Iran will be on the agenda. There needs to be an Obama Doctrine that links diplomacy with a credible intent to use force. This will provide diplomacy with teeth in the perceptions of rogue states. The hegemonic power, the United States, must show willingness to project armed force offensively as pre-emptive defense. There is a need for strong hand, a determined resolute, with the reminder that the United States didn’t hesitate with Iraq and will not hesitate with North Korea and Iran. The rogue states will understand that there is no escape from the resolve of the majority. Dithering, muddling through and quiet words will only lead to a syndrome of “too little, too late”.
Dr Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication.