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Pax Americana Is Changing - A New Survey.

Editor's Note: The geo-political face of the Middle East is expected to evolve in the coming years as the US wages its war on terror through financial and diplomatic means, as well as military confrontation. The "soft" Pax Americana of the 1990s, during which the US was seen to extend its power across the region though mechanisms like the Middle East peace process, ended on Sept. 11, 2001.

Today, the region faces a "hard" Pax Americana where there is less focus on consensus building and more on the application of various forms of pressure. There is less understanding shown for authoritarian systems or dictatorships, which are seen as the breeding grounds for terrorism, and there is greater emphasis on democratisation and economic liberalisation.

To critics in the Middle East and elsewhere, including the European Union, the new face of Pax Americana looks very similar to old-style imperialism. While a section of the US intellectual elite opposes any "neo-colonialistic tendencies", there is a vocal and powerful section of the elite, which argues for a muscular American approach to maintain its status as a sole superpower.

This latter group consists of powerful members of the administration, ranging from Vice President Dick Cheney, to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Indeed, the central elements of a hard Pax Americana were first expressed in a report written in September 2000, titled "Project for the New American Century" (see following pages).

Observers say it is quite likely that the neo-colonial approach will be applied in the region, with the degree of American intervention being directly proportional to the extent to which the regime is prepared to reform itself to the satisfaction of the US. The experts believe that that a system of reward and punishment will gradually be introduced to underpin the neo-colonial approach, with the worst punishment being military intervention aimed at "regime change" and the best reward being recognition as a member of the community of democracies with maximum trade, aid and strategic benefits.

From the perspective of the leaders in the Middle East, the key point is that the pressures that have emerged as a result of the WTC/Pentagon attacks are not likely to ease in the near future. While the memory of Sept. 11 is fresh, and it is likely to be kept fresh for the foreseeable future in view of the media focus on the issue on the anniversary each year, there will be little possibility for either a Republican or a Democratic administration to backtrack on key commitments made regarding the war on terror.

Yet an unstable Middle East can throw up serious obstacles in the way of Pax Americana, whether hard or soft. No one knows, for example, exactly how the Iraqi regime will respond to an invasion. Similarly, no one knows how the "Arab street" will behave in such a situation. What is known is that even if the US succeeds in rapidly ousting Saddam Hussein and establishing control over Iraq, what comes after Saddam in Iraq could be a confusing mix of rival faction influenced by external players. What is also known is that if there is no settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, an explosion of violence that could drag in outside players is only a matter of time.

This survey will review the way the changes brought about by the soft and hard versions of Pax Americana impact upon the countries in the region in economic, political and social contexts. It will begin with an overview and will be conducted on a country-by-country basis, in alphabetical order. It will last well into 2004, by which time it is expected that a much higher degree of clarity would exist on the methods and tactics of the parties on both sides of the war against terror. However, most indications are that the war itself will last much longer than that, judging by all the comments coming out of Washington.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Jan 20, 2003
Previous Article:Risks Of Political Chaos.
Next Article:PAX AMERICANA - Part 1 - Overview.

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