There are some who look forward to economic superiority through the
establishment of a world order led by NATO and the United Nations. They
would do well to heed a warning given by Edmund Burke in the 18th
century. Although supporting the ascendancy of a British empire on
which the sun would never set, he argued that the people of Ireland, the
American colonies, and India had God-given rights that neither King
George nor Parliament could destroy.

As the founder of modern conservatism, Burke warned English
mercantilists that economic control of the colonies could not be
maintained “by the might of armies, but by the majesty of the law.”

Today, even some conservatives believe that it is only armed force
that safeguards our present prosperity. Similarly, a majority of
Democrats regard the Burkean view as reactionary and outmoded. Under
attack from both the left and the right, it seems now the law itself has
lost its majesty. The grandeur of justice is being replaced by the
glamour of the main stream media — with moral judgments determined by
public opinion polls.

In Nuremberg at the end of World War II the allies created a form of
international law to govern the use of warring armies. We established a
principle that war could not be justified unless it was in defense of a
nation’s security. Consistent with that principle we prohibited NATO
from engaging in aggressive non-defensive wars.

It was Nuremberg that also spawned the United Nations. Yet the basic
principles of the U.N. are now being obfuscated. Throughout the recent
bombing of Yugoslavia most media commentators failed to mention that our
government has broken faith with Nuremberg and violated the following
officially proclaimed U.N. tenets:

    Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and
    sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the
    object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by
    the Parties to the conflict [Article 18 of the Geneva Convention On The
    Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War]. …

    It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render
    useless … objects indispensable to the survival for the civilian
    population, such as foodstuffs … drinking water installations …
    [and] works or installations containing dangerous forces … even where
    these objects are military objectives [Protocol II (8 June 1977) to the
    Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949, Article 14].

These days on such programs “Crossfire,” “Hard Ball,” “Reliable
Sources,” “Capital Gang,” and “Larry King Live” little if any mention
is made that NATO has committed what the U.N. has proclaimed as “Crimes
Against Humanity.” Largely ignored by the mainstream media is a recent
statement by former Nuremberg prosecutor for the United States, Walter
Rockler — who said with respect to the 1999 attacks on former

    We have engaged in a flagrant military aggression, ceaselessly
    attacking a small country primarily to demonstrate that we run the
    world. The rationale that we are simply enforcing international
    morality, even if it were true, would not excuse the military aggression
    and widespread killing that it entails.

As implied by Mr. Rockler, our objectives are not purely moral.
A factor also being largely ignored in the media is that of Andrew
Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University,
who has told Insight Magazine,

    One of the interesting things about this war is that we won by
    visiting rather substantial destruction upon civilian society. But NATO
    has not offered the number of civilians they killed. What’s driving it
    … is the perception of commercial imperatives. This whole argument
    that the president and [National Security
    Adviser Samuel L.] Berger make is that the level of prosperity that we
    currently enjoy depends on continuous expansion of trade and the
    opportunities to invest. …

Fortunately, sometimes even the New York Times cannot restrain
itself from providing a forum for criticizing the very type of economic
expansion that flies in the face of Burke’s 18th century warning to his
British countrymen. On June 23, 1999, Oscar Arias, the former President
of Costa Rica (who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize published an op-ed
article titled, “Stopping America’s Most Lethal Export,” stating,

    Americans have shown great concern about the reported loss of
    classified nuclear secrets to the Chinese. But they should be just as
    outraged that their country gives away many other military secrets
    voluntarily, in the form of high-tech arms exports. By selling advanced
    weaponry throughout the world, wealthy military contractors not only
    weaken national security and squeeze taxpayers at home but also
    strengthen dictators and worsen human misery abroad.

    After the cold war, arms manufacturers realized that their business
    would be threatened by falling demand. To protect their profits, they
    have lobbied to maintain high levels of spending in the United States
    while also promoting unprecedented levels of military exports.

    This two-pronged approach serves the manufacturers well: by shipping
    top-of-the-line arms overseas, they create greater dangers to surmount.
    They can then argue that continued American supremacy requires the
    development of even more sophisticated weapons systems — weapons that
    translate into lucrative defense contracts. …

    While the arms industry profits, people throughout the world suffer.
    Americans are hurt when the defense budget squanders money that could be
    used to repair schools or to guarantee universal health care. Overseas,
    American-made arms are often turned against civilians or used to
    strengthen dictators. …

Currently, we are being governed by a president and a Congress
that have transmogrified our government into the very kind of force that
Burke opposed — and that our founders revolted against. However, to
date, neither the New York Times’ editors nor other mainstream media
commentators seem prepared to ask the moral question:

Will the United States restore the majesty of the law?

Jerome Zeifman formerly served as chief counsel to the House
Judiciary Committee. Comments may be sent to: [email protected]

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