911, American praetorian unilateralism and the impact on state-society relations in Southeast Asia
Date of Issue2002
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 have sharply refocused American foreign policy, elevating homeland security above other concerns. Three factors: the globalized Al-Qaeda terrorist threat; the neoconservative ideology of key Bush Administration officials, and the increasing policy influence of the post-Cold War American military establishment, have combined to generate a policy posture of "praetorian unilateralism". Thus while seemingly engaged in considerable multilateral activity with Coalition partners in the war on terror, the resources of allied nations are actually being orchestrated by Washington so as to expeite the effective unilateral exercise of American power. The American posture is also praetorian for three reasons: it emphasizes military solutions over other measures; it demands and expects compliance with its policy preferences from Coalition partners; and it is quite willing to "go it alone" if need be. Praetorian unilateralism will be ultimately counterproductive for three reasons: first, the threat of radical Islamic terrorism cannot be neutralized by military measures alone; second, an overly miltary emphasis would actually inflame global Muslim opinion, further increasing sympathy for Al-Qaeda and finally the resulting civilization enmity between the West and Islam will spill over into Southeast Asia, destabilizing multi-ethnic, multi-religious polities.
RSIS Working Papers ; 026/02
Nanyang Technological University