Leading PostsMay June 2006

What ‘International Community’ Are We Talking About?

Farish A. Noor

Politics, particularly of the international variety, is often best served on a bed of dubious generalities. Witness the spectacular affront on human rights worldwide occassioned by the so-called 'War on Terror'; a dubious artificial construct if there ever was one. Thus far we have been fed a steady dose of lukewarm political dishes likewise predicated on amorphous concepts like 'freedom', 'liberty', 'humanity' and such like. Little effort has been put to filling out these grand concepts and telling us exactly what is the category of 'human' that we are fighting for.

At the moment there is in circulation yet another grandiose concept that sounds too good to be true: The 'International Community'. We dont exactly know who or what this community is, but apparently this community is quite annoyed with the government of Iran for doing what other governments in other parts of the world have been doing all along: developing the know-how and technological base for the development of nuclear energy as well as nuclear weapons.

In this respect Iran is merely the latest member of a steadily growing club of nations that includes the United States of America, Britain, France, Russia, China, India and Pakistan. Other members have chosen to conceal their membership for fear of courting the jealousy of their neighbours: Israel being a case in point, which the world knows already has nuclear weapons capability for a long time.

Nonetheless it would appear that the entry of Iran into the global nuclear club has incurred the wrath of the 'International Community'. President Bush Junior, the current occupant of the White House, seems to have intimate knowledge and relations with this 'international community' as he keeps referring to it in his speeches and diatribes against intransigent Iran. The 'International community', the President informs us, is deeply worried about Iran's nuclear capability. Then came the warning that the 'international community' will not rest till the question of Iran's nuclear status is satisfactorily resolved. Finally there has come the warning from the 'international community' that Iran's nuclear programme will not be tolerated and that decisive steps will be taken to ensure that Iran does not go fully nuclear.

Where does this near-mythical 'international community' reside? One wonders how come President Bush alone seems so close to this invisible community and knows so much about its secrets. Is President Bush a secret member of this 'international community' himself? Is, God forbid, the 'international community' actually hiding in his cupboard in his office?

If so, then this mysterious community has to be rather small indeed. Analysts and researchers have been looking for this fabulous international community for some time now. Apparently it is not found in the Assembly of the United Nations, for thus far the members of the UN have not spoken with a unilateral voice on the issue of Iran and her acquisition of nuclear arms and technology. At global forums and international forums one has not caught sight of this nebulous community either.

As time wears on, it has become evident that the 'International Community' that President Bush keeps talking about is made up of himself, his aides and allies and a handful of subservient middle-power states hovering around Western Europe that dont seem to have an independent foreign policy of their own. If the 'International Community' that President Bush talks about refers to the USA, Britain, France and a few other West European middle powers, then one can easily point out that it hardly ammounts to any international community at all. (They could have at least paid lip service to political correctness and invite at least one petty African or Asian state to join in the gang.)

So it would appear that all this rhetorical pyrotechnics about the concern and efforts of the 'international community' boils down to the unilateral efforts and ambitions of a sole superpower with a handful of other willing crony states in tow. Like the other grand notions and cloudy ideas that have been barterred by the USA of late, it would appear as little more than a guise for American unilateralism thinly dressed in rainbow colours to lend it an air of diversity.

The rest of the real world on the other hand – that means the rest of the planet that may not figure all that prominently on President Bush's mental map – seems to be more ambivalent about the Iranian nuclear programme; and few Asian, African, Arab or Latin American countries have shown any discomfort at Irans new status. Perhaps the reason for this is the simple fact that other Asian, African and Latin American countries have not tried to meddle in Iran's domestic affairs or attempted to interfere in the country's internal politics.

Listening to the rhetoric of the 'international community' that bears the heavy stamp of America and Americanism, one cannot help but make the same comparison with the title of the American sports tournament dubbed 'the World Series'. The title sounds typically American and pretentious enough, with its claim to global significance and import. But someone ought to remind the Americans that when they play out their 'World Series' they are in fact playing only with themselves. A case of deja vu perhaps?

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