How do you define a so-called “rogue state?” The question might seem moot, for in the current days you don’t define rogue states as much as memorize them from a list transmitted by the Pentagon. But since belonging to the rogue state club carries significant implications these days — that of being a bombable piece of land with no recourse to the protection of international law — the definition is nevertheless relevant.
So here is my quick laundry list for rogue statehood: the defining characteristics of the rogue state are first, the accumulation of deadly weaponry — chemical-biological-nuclear being the ones to watch for — with the intention of using them against unarmed populations. A country should ideally also have a history of actually using these weapons against civilians.
This behavior necessarily implies a disregard for international law and conventions or, in the absence of signed treaties, mere humane values.
Now think about the United States. It not only has an arsenal of weapons capable of destroying the world many times over, but actually the primacy of having invented them and having used them against the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when the outcome of the war for which they had been developed had been all but decided. More recently, the U.S. government used mustard gas and napalm in over a hundred cases against the Vietnamese population.
The violations of international law by this country are so vast and well-documented as to make this space hopelessly small for including all of them. But it suffices to point to the death of certainly hundreds and probably thousands of civilians who have been mercilessly bombed in spite of the fact that their country, Afghanistan, never declared war and its leadership tried to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the dispute in point.
Such efforts were met with scorn, for negotiating is clearly not a prerogative of rogue states. One might also obviously point out the illegitimacy of a president who, after all, lost the presidential elections by some half a million votes.
One might think it a joke to call America a rogue state, but the joke is on us.
The joke is on we who tolerate and even support these infringements and violations of every law in the books; who sanction, through our tacit approval, the descent into barbarism, into the eye-for-an-eye mentality of the Hammurabi code; and who concede, through the mindless wave-flagging and pin-wearing, that other nations be massacred relentlessly, until they become a wasteland. And we turn a blind eye to the fact that a similar amount of money to that used on bombs could very easily be directed toward foreign aid.
Evil’s greatest stimulant, as has been said already, is the inaction and complacency of ordinary people.
Is it hard to protest against the unfair policies of one’s government when it represents and protects a nation pained and numbed by abominable acts of horror? Sure it is.
But we don’t take a man’s worth by his behavior in ordinary times; it is how he sails when the tides and winds are against him that make him great. A nation’s worth is measured not by the malleability and conformity of its citizenry, but rather by the resolve it displays in testing times.
The greatest favor one can do to America at this stage is not to affix a flag or hail to the chief, but rather to make its government stand by the principles of which it was created to uphold.
Gustavo Ioschpe GRD ’02 is a master’s student in international and development economics.