George Bush's America has been 'accused' of pursuing a unilateral agenda, of prosecuting a pre-emptive and illegal war, of flouting the authority of the international community, and disregarding the need for legitimacy under international law. Bush's America has been accused of being greedy for power, looking to extend its reach and protect its future through a complete domination of world power. The needs of other nations in the world – other free democracies – are ignored, as the US juggernaut rumbles on.
On the face of it, this looks like a bad thing, and on balance it probably is. Though, as with any major development in World Politics, there is never a simple black and white argument, but many shades of grey. Looking at the power games from an objective point of view, the US is attempting to increase its wealth and security. In a globalised world, that requires careful management of 'external' resources, and its image internationally is one of its most significant 'external' resources. The US economy will collapse if it finds itself isolated from foreign markets.
France and Germany are attempting to protect themselves from the emergence of the hegemon, and their calls for multipolarity require an almost arbitrary separation of former allies, given that the vast majority of global power now rests within the old alliance of Europe and America. This is not so easy. Alliances are constructed for many reasons, not least the common values and cultural similarities between the allying peoples. Forcing an arbitrary polarity serves only to weaken the power to protect those common values, and ultimately may prove counter-productive.
The difficulties with regard to pre-emption, and the argument against the Geneva Conventions as being outdated and irrelevant also have some merit. The globalisation process has changed the international dynamic irrevocably. Democracy, as envisaged by the Greeks, was originally intended not as a representative form of government, but as a participatory form of government where everyone in the state (that is, male and property-owning) participated in the deliberative process. Of course the optimum size of a State was one where the town crier could be heard from any part of that State – the city state. As countries grew, representative democracy took hold within the nation state, and fundamentally changed the notion of democracy, disenfranchising large swathes of the population, particularly in culturally diverse societies. Now, in the clichéd 'global village', we see a further change in politics, where people in Madrid claim that the US presidential election is more important than their domestic election, and instant twenty-four hour global news delivers for the Fourth Estate a new kind of power.
International Terrorism is now truly that. Terror networks began forming in the latter half of the twentieth century, across Europe (Lybia, Palestine, The Basque Country and Northern Ireland), across South America, and across Africa. Most of these networks were fighting similar ills in alternate geographies, and found strength in their networks. The development of Al'Qaeda was on a much larger scale, and organised on ideological rather than geographic grounds. Their cause is not linked to a common land, a common politics, or a common state, but to a common religion that transcends national boundaries. Not only that, it is the first truly trans-continental terror organisation, having launched operations in North America, Asia, Europe and Africa. There is no single state with which it is aligned; there is no coherent organisational structure, save that Osama bin Ladin is an apparently significant figure. And this leads us back to the Geneva Conventions.