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Recent history should teach us that states will pretty much do as they damn well please, and where private individuals have to ask permission the state does not.
There's a growing divide beween the US and EU on this. My country has the august company of nations like China, Mynamar, and Saudi Arabia in continuing to execute prisoners. And the application of that penalty is applied disproportionately to people of color, so that a black man has is much more likely to be sent to his death for a crime that in many cases is no worse than comparable acts by white criminals.
I disagree entirely with the death penalty, and think that the power of the state to kill its own needs to be limited, and must never be loaned out to private individuals (look at the history of mercenaries in Iraq, they basically act as though they have sovereign immunity.) The Bush Administration and a large section of the US military is adamant that because they exercise power in the name of state, their actions can by definition not be criminal. It's the reason that the US Congress passed a bill authorizing the invasion of the Netherlands if a US soldier is brought before the International Criminal Court. And it's the reason the US will never sign the ICC.
You know what the problem with standing militaries is? These soldiers get all dressed up and then have nowhere to go, if you don't kill somebody somewhere after a while people begin to question why they're paying for all these bombs when that money could be used to provide healthcare for all or allow all students to go to college at no cost to them. Clearly if you have an interests in keeping a large military, you have to have something for them to do. And as a practical matter, the ability to kill your adversary is a fairly effective bargaining tool.
There's also an argument, that the principal US export is security. That other nations hold US dollars as a way to allow the US to spend beyond its means, because the US provides a collective good, security, that no other nation can provide at such low cost. It's one of the implications presented in a book called "The Pentagon's New Map", and it's really intriguing when you think about it.
The current level of globalization and the emerging mulipolarity and China and other countries come to the point that they can challenge the US hasn't really existed since the spring of 1914, and we all know how that story ended. When I had to select my areas of study for my masters, I choose comparative and American. American because that means I can find a job once I have a PhD and comparitive because I beleive that in 10 years the neoliberl framework of the current globalization will have collapsed. Hopefully around rather than on us.
If you really think that as an empirical matter the power of the state is limited, wait until Bush bombs Iran. Imagine the world's suprise when America drops a tactial nuclear weapon to eliminate fortified underground facilities. There will be a lot of bitching, outrage, and then nothing will happen. And the only way that's going to change is when the seams in the global economy begin to unravel. Eventually the trade imbalance between the US and China will have to be corrected, and that correction will mean the collapse of the American dollar, and the collapse of the Chinese economy when they lose their comparative advantage. And that could easily plunge China into divison and warlordism.
And do you seriously think that anyone is going to challenge Bush? The United States? Right or wrong, the current administration has no near peer, there is no country that can successfully challenge US military power, and has the power projection to pose a serious threat to the American mainland. Economics though is another matter. As an empirical matter, the US government and most other governments reserve the right to kill people when they challenge the established order. And no one can bring them to justice and that's why they do it. Without a countervailing power, that can't be changed. The only change that can come is from within.
Which is why international relations is largely meaningless, because the real game is in the nation's internal politics. 2006 looks to be a landslide year that will remove Bush's majority in Congress. However, so long as the imperial view of the presidency prevails change will not be forthcoming, and I'm not sure there is anyone in American politics willing to lead the charge to reinstall legislative checks on insane behavior by the American president (like attacking countries without provocation, without justification.) And the poison that has been laid abroad is coming back home.
This post and everything else on the internet is being reviewed for national security threats by computers in the US, and the US government is holding more than 14,000 people worldwide without charges for years. Some of them American citizens. And the power to restore what's been lost requires more than a change of the government of the day. It requires serious efforts to reinstall controls on the power of the state, which is much harder.
I've rambled enough I think, this is what you get for catching me nursing a hangover and unable to sleep.
And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
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