Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.
-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address
As a bolt of lightning that flashes across the darkening sky is witness both to the approaching storm and to the unbearable tension which is giving birth to it, so the fires of the Gulf War have thrown a lurid light on the menacing return of a critical imbalance in world politics, and on the deep-rooted malaise - political, economical and social — in today's America. As to the actor who holds the international and the domestic halves of our globe together, President Bush's concern for image rather than reality has been little diminished.
Despite his inaugural pledge in 1989 of a “kinder, gentler” nation, the only “thousand points of light” the president has set ablaze are the civilian and military targets that his air force and navy, and those of his client states, destroyed with a ferocity unequalled since the Second World War. George Bush's words that it was not our goal to “destroy the nation of Iraq” — have been drowned out by his deeds: the total, unremitting warfare of the colossus among today's “military industrial complexes” against a small, Third World country, and his unabated efforts to erase that country by stoking the flames of its civil war. Iraq has been “bombed back to the stone age.” Following the war, it is expected to assume the staggering costs and reparations of a total war it did not even have the capacity to start.
The Gulf War has been “neo-colonial,” or two-faced. Shorn of its “high-tech” twenty-first-century trappings, it is embarrassingly reminiscent of the imperial extermination expeditions of yesteryear, such as that conducted — with the aid of native askari — by Lord Kitchener against Abd Allah's Sudan in 1898. Revealingly, the war has also moved in the time hallowed tradition of political Crusades, in particular those of the Puritan-Calvinist type, redolent of Manifest Destiny. Here, the American executive's efforts at mobilizing the entire civilian population for permanent war (by enlisting one and all in the propaganda levée en masse of the “Homefront") was at least as important as the military offensive abroad. Bush's 1991 State of the Union pledge of “a hundred years of peace” thus should be understood as simply another facet of his “psywar” operations. What a desperate way of preparing his people for the sacrifices ahead!
In fine, the disregard for diplomatic compromise and the single-minded concentration on offensive ways and means — against militarily inferior countries — which have characterized the Reagan and Bush administrations have made probable, also, that the twentieth century will end even more bloodily than it began: with colonial wars (and wars over colonies) escalating into continental conflicts and, if allowed to rage on, with eruptions into world-wide conflagration, domestic and international.
The global auspices are plain. In the gathering storms between the three major economic blocs: the Americas, ruled by the Dollar; the Indo-Pacific rim lands, dominated by the Yen (an area once known as the Dai To-A Kyo-e-ken, or the “Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere"); and Europe assembled under the leaking umbrella of the Deutsche Mark, America's Establishment, goaded by an every-worsening domestic crisis, has now let it be known that it will stop at nothing to assure its hegemony in a “New World Order” by exploiting the destructive capacity of its military and propaganda apparatus to the hilt. Thus, to paraphrase America's first wholeheartedly Imperial President, Teddy Roosevelt, “We'll speak loudly and carry a big stick.”
The former Soviet Union, on the other hand, will play the role of a Global Gadfly, possibly as a reaction to the conditions of economic, social and political near-anarchy into which she has plunged herself in 1991-92. After the unsuccessful coup by the Kremlin reactionaries (in which President Gorbachev played a murky part), Russian and the surrounding republics seem to be undergoing a replay of the March 1917 revolution. As then, the leaders and frontmen make up a volatile mix of the ancien régime (Gorbachev), the “social revolutionaries” (Yeltsin) and various Manchester Liberals who have just rediscovered Adam Smith. Will Yeltsin prove to be the new Kerensky destined to lead Russia into an even more radical upheaval, to be climaxed either by a remade proletarian Maoism or a return to Great Russian nationalism backed by the Pamyát ("Remembrance, Tradition") or related movements? Whatever the outcome, we will not have to wait long. The end result will also depend on the state of politics and economics in America.
Some Western observers, particularly in Poland, may wish for Russia's total dissolution. Perhaps they pine for the days of that other Boris and the False Dimitrij of the Time of Troubles at the end of the Rurikid dynasty in the early 1600's. But so negative a course of action would be unwise.
Yes, the subject nations from the Baltic and the Ukraine to the borders of China must be, and are being, accorded independence and sovereignty. But, for economic reasons and as a countervailing force against an overly dominant China, we should seek to support a multicentric, yet externally strong, Eurasian Confederation to take Russia's place. Could anyone doubt the fact — even before Secretary of State Baker's official visit to Beijing in mid-November, 1991 — that a strong and stable Chinese State will needs reclaim, by diplomacy or force, those millions of square miles of territory lost to Russia during the nineteenth century and before? It bides its time, awaiting these conditions:
The world stands on the threshold of the stage of history when those conditions will be fulfilled.
Violence will continue to tear the social fabric of the state of east-central Europe, as ethnic and economic warfare spreads and balloons. Those cobbled together artificially by the 1919 Dictate of Versailles will suffer most. Marriages of force and convenience between disparate nations, growing out of a mosaic of minorities, they were re-established by frightful violence at the end of the Second World War. Now, in 1991-92 and for years to come, in so-called Yugoslavia ("South Slavia") the ancient nations of Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Islamic Bosnia, the Turks, the Albanians and Hungarians will battle to overthrow the armies of overbearing Serbs; in Romania, millions of the underprivileged, the Hungarians, Bulgarians, Transylvania Germans, Greeks, Armenians, et al., will struggle for their freedoms; in Czecho-Slovakia, the sad repository of a history of violence and brutality exercised by the ruling, Czech, minority against a majority of Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians and Ukrainians, the Slovaks and their neighbors, the Moravians, are striving desperately for national self-determination.
No doubt, these and other violent struggles for freedom might give an adventurish Russia more than one opportunity for interference, as of old. No doubt also, the great nations of Central Europe might profitably join forces in a Rhine-Elbe-Danube Federation, as they did for 1,006 years prior to 1806.
In the Near East and in South Asia, the war against Iraq may, far from defeating aggression, have given a final push to the area's seething cauldron of interstate and internecine violence. From the Atlantic to the Aegean, and from the Jordan to the Indus, especially at the junction of the borders of Pakistan, Kashmir, India and China, the world must brace itself for ever escalating rounds of mass conflict. Nor has the Muslim world, from Mauritania to Indonesia to Washington, D.C., yet spoken its final word.
How on earth have we blundered into this mess? More important, how can we get out of it?
The tentative answers to these questions will keep us busy for the remainder of this paper, examining the power-political, military, historical and the moral-oeconomic dimensions. There can be no simple answer. But there can be an orientation: an overall view that sees the traditionalist, or partly traditionalist, majority of the societies of the earth trying desperately to survive, salvaging their most precious values, while caught in the ever tighter grip of global industry and trade, of global politics and of “modernizing” ideologies. To that end they are adopting the most powerful features of the so-called model, developed, society: arms, industry and, above all, enforced social-political cohesion. Failure to do so means loss of national independence, social and economic chaos, technologized and unlimited mass murder carried out against the weak by the strong, and, for those misérables who manage to survive physically, the most thorough, the most dehumanizing enslavement devised during the last 5,500 years of human history - totalitarianism at last.
A caveat: it can also happen to us. Perhaps it already has.
A key word is “weakness.” In the case at hand, both Iraq and the USA are weak, though in different ways. Saddam Hussein and his “Arab-Socialist” Ba'ath regime, all claims to the contrary, were in 1990 still exhausted by the eight-year war with Iran, despite carefully selective military aid from the United States, France, the Soviet Union and China. Indeed, it was this weakness, together with strong historic claims, that prodded the Iraqi leadership to take increasingly active steps against oil-rich Kuwait, with official encouragement from the U.S. More fundamentally, the Ba'athists had inherited an Iraq comprising disparate ethnic and religious communities, weighed down by poverty and inequality, riddled with illiteracy and saddled with a high rate of population growth (features most of which fit America to a “T"!). Caught in a classic situation of underdevelopment, the Ba'athists, who came to power following the 1958 Cassette revolution, decided to modernize Iraq through social-economic reform carried out by an authoritarian regime — measures sure to keep them busy, and militarily and economically inferior relative to their rival Saudi Arabia and their enemy Israel, for decades to come.
In contrast to an Iraq that has been faced with the stark choice of modernization or death, the United States, under Presidents Reagan and Bush, has seemed intent on turning its back on even the modest social reforms enacted and institutionalized during the five decades preceding 1981, in its professed program for allegedly “recapturing” the simpler values of a nineteenth century dominated by laissez-faire capitalism and classical liberalism.
In reality, however, the United States is a classical case of a society suffering from Over-cum -Underdevelopment: the Establishment's increasing readiness to fight undeclared wars and its uncompromising commitment to world-wide trade and development have split twentieth-century America into two camps. An ever-wider societal gulf gapes between the Upper Cliques on one hand, and the shrinking middle and burgeoning lower class on the other. The old song grows true: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” The former, internationally engaged, are free to secure and expand their financial and economic domination at home, and exploit it by political superiority. The middle and lowers, harried by rampaging living costs, by chronic under- and unemployment, menaced in their very lives by crime rates gone wildly out of control, and descending precipitately from social anxieties to concrete, often self-alienating, fears, have all but given up on participating in, much less exercising control over, the political processes, save in one respect: that of mouthing formulas handed them from “above” and supplied by the electronic and print media, a consumer product designated in Orwell's 1984 : “prolefeed.”
In the Reagan-Bush years we have seen, if anything, a rigid reinforcement, an ossification, of the already huge and rigidly bureaucratized, military-corporate behemoth. Does this picture of congealing social stratification, galloping impoverishment and the accelerated growth of a super-powerful oligarchy bring to mind Imperial Rome in the third and fourth centuries A.D.? To be sure, there are obvious differences in style. But is the nominally free citizen of today better off — as a “morally autonomous” human being — than his ancestors, the serfs glebae adscripti of the older, greater, empire?
It is only fitting that the government of a plutocracy be headed by — to expropriate a felicitous phrase of 1928 — a “Cabinet of Billionaires” and businessmen, led by Bush, Quayle, Baker and Brady and ably represented in Russia by the Texas Trickster, Robert Strauss. One main reason for the appointment of this oil and gas wheeler-dealer, a former National Chairman of the Democratic Party, to the post of United States ambassador in today's Russia is the leeway this affords him and his coterie for plundering the natural riches of that giant country.
Questions: Will Yeltsin and his advisors prove strong enough to resist the economic-political-military blackmail exerted by the Bush-Baker-Bobby Strauss White House? Will today's Mother Russia prove strong enough to turn her vast natural resources to diplomatic advantage? Or will the coming instabilities of the World economy — when the outcry will be: “Save himself who can!” — plunge Russian-American relations to new lows?
Now traditional sentiment has it that such enterprisers act - or should act — with grave circumspection, reckoning risks, overhead and rational chances for profit, and perhaps even reflecting on an indeterminate entity known to previous centuries as “the common weal” (perish the thought!) bereft of rancor.
Bunk. A look at some of the motives that precipitated President Bush into the carnage of war against Iraq will teach the unbiased observer the facts of Life (that is: Death).
Some Specific Reasons for America's War With Iraq
Camouflage it all for the other nations (except the Russian) by passing it off as a con-dominium; call it the New World Order.
The plan worked brilliantly in 1990-91, chiefly because the then Soviet Union was too preoccupied with its own crises at home to run successful interference for Iraq. Reluctant, often financially strapped countries, such as the states of South America, the African members of the United Nations Security Council, as well as Egypt, Syria, Turkey, not to mention Israel and the USSR, were pushed and enticed over to our side, too, by showering them with promises of hundreds of billions of dollars, collectively, in aid and “debt forgiveness.”
Erratic policy, indeed, for a heavily bankrupt U.S. Government, whose citizens are expected to assume ever more crushing burdens in support of an ever smaller, ever more miserable, slice of the pie, while shouldering the world imperial predilections of the American Power Elite.
"Quo usque tandem, Catilina… ?" How much longer will this mix of domestic shrinkage and international aggrandizement stay glued together?
No one knows. Mindful of the considerations advanced above, and drawing useful nudges from the fields of history, politics, military affairs and the human oeconomy, we shall be able to arrive at a few suggestions.
Pacta Sunt Servanda, or: A Political History of Iraq
Iraqi claims against all or part of Kuwait (the islands of Warba and Bubiyan), anger at Kuwaiti slant drilling in the Rumailah oil field, and the very genesis and survival of the modern state of Iraq itself are part and parcel of the often violent processes of nation-building, of modernization, which is the legacy of the twentieth century for the peoples of Latin America, of much of Europe, of Africa and Asia. Iraq has often been the victim of both centrifugal and centripetal tendencies produced and exacerbated by a) its heterogeneous society, made up, among other groups, of the Indo-European speaking Kurds and the ethnic Turks, both Sunni Muslim, in the north; the Muslim Arabs, most of them Shi'ite, of the south; and the closely-knit Nestorian, Chaldaean,and Armenian Christian communities; b) successive waves of conquerors. The majority “Arab” culture of Iraq has undergone contradictory swings of frustration, reaction and accommodation vis-a-vis these tendencies.
From the beginning of recorded time, for over five thousand years, the land now known as Iraq and the sheikdom termed Kuwait have shared a common destiny. Taken together they form the central and southern portions of ancient Mesopotamia, which measure about 630 miles or 1000 km north-south, the “land between the rivers” of the Tigris, Euphrates and their confluence, the Shatt-al-Arab. Iraq, which means approximately “the roots, the rooted one,” can vie for honors as the cradle of culture, politics and civilization, and Kuwait has often been one of the border marches guarding its flanks against incursions from Arabia Deserta. The area has been marked and marred by vast contrasts: of climate, of untold wealth and grinding poverty, of ruler and ruled, and it lies athwart some of the most productive, and the most violently contested, routes for communication and trade on earth.
Before the First World War, when most of the Near East was under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire, southern Mesopotamia, including Kuwait, had been for centuries administered through the vilayet (government district) of Basra, the largest city in southern Iraq. During the course of that war Turkish rule was supplanted by British imperialism. Then, in 1919 and 1920, in the so-called peace settlements of Paris, Sèvres and San Remo, Britain carved up the entire, huge, Pivot of Empire stretching from the Nile and the Bosporous to the Khyber Pass and the Gulf of Oman, following secret treaties concluded between His Majesty's Government, France and Tsarist Russia (the latter was eliminated from the spoils-sharing in 1917). These agreements, the most brilliant of which was the package known collectively as the Sykes-Picot treaties of 1915-1916, ran directly counter to other pacts the British concluded, such as the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which created a “national homeland for the Jews” in Palestine, and, even more glaringly, the understandings reached with the administrator of the Muslim Holy Lands, Sherif Hussein of Mecca, who was persuaded to rebel against Ottoman rule (Lawrence of Arabia!) by prospects of a united Arabia extending from the Red Sea to the upper reaches of the Tigris River. (Sherif Hussein is the ancestor of both King Hussein of Jordan and the late King Faisal II of Iraq, who was killed during the anti-British revolution led by General Abdul Karim el-Kassem in 1958).
Britain grabbed the lion's share for itself. After plans for slicing up Mesopotamia were shelved in 1920 (due to its post-war role as a counter-balance to French influence in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, as a barrier against the spread of successful nationalism beyond the boundaries of Turkey and Iran, and, not least, to the rich oil deposits of northern Mesopotamia), most of it was constituted as “Iraq,” a British dependency nominally presided over by King Faisal I, a son of the Sherif Hussein of Mecca. It was camouflaged as a “Class A Mandate” granted to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations. Be it noted that the native Arabs demanded full independence from the very start, as reported by the American King-Crane commission sent to the Near East by President Wilson, and that they were not fooled by the British maneuvers for an instant.
It is unfortunate indeed that another U.S. president — in violent contravention of President Wilson's insistence on the right to popular self-determination — saw fit, in 1990-91, to maneuver the United Nations, successor organization to the Larmed might, including many sorties flown against civilian populations by the Royal Air Force. British “advisors” managed the tribal sheikdoms along the Gulf, including Kuwait. The ceremonial adoption of such documents as the Organic Law of 1924 (the constitution), the 1930 treaty with the United Kingdom (which provided for a twenty-five-year “alli'Ç)i2:(;:<º
The politicians who dominated Iraqi society until the 1958 putsch and the British rule which was enacted through them were characterized by these features: a) “gradualist” approach toward emancipation from colonialism; b) a conservative attitude to put it mildly toward social, economic,or political reform; c) the formation of an “Arab Federation” which comprised Iraq and Jordan; d) alienation from modernist Arab thought, then dominated by the Cairo of Gamal Abdel Nasser; e) widespread corruption; f) repressive rule. General Nuri es-Said was the period's most representative politician. Without trying to claim too much in favor of the 1958 overthrow of that ancien régime, or in favorof the “nationalist-modernizing” governments which have come to power since then (many through coups d'etat ), a very clear-cut choice has emerged for the majority of Iraqis: between a corrupt, repressive, colonial regime or one which is strong, nationalist, reformist, comparatively clean and, usually, dictatorial.
A third choice might be noted, one favored by such interested outsiders as Israel, Turkey, the United States and, formerly, the USSR (each for its own reasons): national weakness, civil war, chaos and dismemberment.
If America truly is in favor of regional and worldstability, an “Order” in which collective burdens (underdevelopment) and assets (human and natural resources) may be to an extent shared, then the first choice colonialism and the third dismemberment are precluded.
"Stupidity Is a Diplomat's Only Unpardonable Crime” (Talleyrand) or,
Nuclear Gunboat Diplomacy in the Global Village
In the twentieth century, perversely enough,the most powerful nation-states seem to have turned von Clausewitz's dictum that “war is the continuation of diplomacy by other means” upside down. Certainly Uncle Sam's international behavior seems to vary according to a Law of Inverse Proportion: the more “total” the military means applied, the less interest in negotiation through diplomacy. A second relationship determines the totality of means: the weaker a U.S. president perceives himself in terms of the economy and domestic politics, the more inclined is he to opt for war. This latter formula appears to apply to the Second World War (and to the First, with modifications), to the Korean and Indochina Incidents and to our Gulf War. As psychic distances in the realms of economics and politics shrink (the Global Village), and as America's financial and domestic situation becomes increasingly precarious, our leaders move us and the rest of the world further down the road to total belligerency. In style, Uncle Sam likely will favor the Iraqi model, or the “expanded-gunboat-diplomacy-in-Latin America” model, namely, intervention proceeding in stages of increasing violence: from embargo to blockade to all-out force in three easy steps, after which a country or a region of several countries can be reduced to international impotence, domestic strife and chaos, and thus easy manageability by Washington and Wall Street. This anticipated three-step pattern of intervention has been, in whole or in part, evidenced already during the Reagan and Bush administrations, which have targeted a succession of countries and regimes, whether “leftist” or “rightist,” that dared defy Washington's wishes: Nicaragu¸"<=>[email protected][s of government, these and other countries will be described as “democratic” if they accede to the wishes of America's imperial-minded power elite, “tyrannical” or an “aggressor” if they refuse.
In terms of unrestricted power politics it might be “logical” for us to engage in ever more ruthless applications of our ABC (atomic-bacteriological-chemical) and our PR (public relations) capabilities. Soon, however, the crying need for reforming our domestic and international relations might lead us to wiser choices: the models of ancient Rome, ancient Egypt, ancient China which, learning from their mistakes, elected prudently to conserve their strength and abstain from a policy of permanent expansion to the lasting benefit of mankind, and of themselves.
Professor Abbas Hamdani, of the history department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has analyzed the diplomatic steps taken with regard to the problem of Kuwait, before and after August 1990, in careful detail. But it is this paper's task to document the very absence of the stuff of diplomacy that has characterized recent U.S. efforts in the field (and to suggest ways toward improvement): to show the lack of intellectual substance and the erosion ofmoral integrity, the failure to achieve comprehensive vision, the decay of discipline.
Who can trust a government, at home or abroad, that attempts to straddle the powder keg of the Middle East while lighting the fuse of war?
The main stages of George Bush's descent into sham diplomacy have been roughly as follows: 1. His active involvement, as vice president of the Reagan years, in the mess of the Iran-Contra affair, a series of deeply corrupt transactions which involved secret arms sales during the Iraq-Iran War to Iran through Israel and, in the western hemisphere, illegal arms shipments to the rebels in Nicaragua. Many details are still densely shrouded in secrecy, but Congressional investigators learned that Vice President Bush made secret, official journeys to Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama. The climax to these seamy maneuvers, which ultimately benefited only the Zionists' deals, came with the dispatch of a bible personally signed by President Ronald Reagan to the Ayatollah Khomeini. 2. In the course of the December, 1989, invasion of the sovereign state of Panama by President Bush, the flagrant breach of international law and comity which occurred when U.S. troops stormed the extraterritorial premises of the embassies of Peru and Nicaragua, and threatened to do the same to the Vatican embassy. 3. The instructive exercises — either in duplicity or in deep ignorance — that took place when the United States ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, informed President Saddam Hussein that the U.S. viewed relations between Iraq and Kuwait as a purely “intra-Arab” affair, in July 1990, and when the official spokesmen for the State Department, Kelly and Tutwiler, openly and repeatedly declared that the United States had no “security arrangements” with or security concerns for Kuwait. In light of the fact that Iraq never has recognized the so-called independence of Kuwait, that it tried to incorporate Kuwait in 1961 and 1973, and that, in July 1990, there were obvious signs that Iraq was getting ready to occupy it, such official pronouncements must now be viewed as giving the “green light,” or at least the “amber light,” for action to President Hussein. 4. George Bush's bloodcurdling rhetoric, in the course of fall and winter 1990-1991, of inflicting death and destruction on Iraq, his carrot-and-stick method of “persuading” the permanent and non-permanent members of the United Nations' Security Council to issue Resolution No. 660, and the twelve resolutions which followed, calling for the “immediate and unconditional” withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait and for the unconditional return of “sovereignty” to Kuwait, and his giving the “cold shoulder” to attempts by a long series of interested parties - ranging from repeated tries by the Soviet Union; the European Community; the foreign ministers and governments of Italy, Germany, France; the chairman of the Socialist International and former German Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt; to the governments of Algeria, Iran, Pakistan and even U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez y Cuellar — to bring the Gulf dispute to a specific end, as well as to convene a Mideast peace conference for solving the area's crises comprehensively. 5. Disregard for the apparent willingness of the Iraqi government to cooperate with peace efforts short of “unconditional surrender,” such as the release of hostages; Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz's conference at Geneva with Secretary of State Baker; Aziz's proposal, again, of convening a comprehensive Mideast conference; and Aziz's flights to Moscow to appeal for Soviet mediation prior to the start of the violent phase of the land war. 6. President Bush's insistence on issuing unconditional ultimata followed by the application of raw force. Perhaps most serious of all, 7. President Bush's ignoring, passing over in silence, of the comprehensive peace plan that his own Secretary of State, James Baker III, had worked out with Soviet Foreign Minister Bessmertnkh, which was to have been included in Bush's State of the Union Address to the assembled houses of Congress, but was not. Apparently the timely intervention of the government of Israel, alarmed at the prospect of having to reach a just solution to the Palestinian question, sufficed to put a comprehensive treatment of the entire Middle East crisis on hold.
Let a further discrepancy not be forgotten, either: George Bush endeavered stringently to enforce Security Council Resolution No. 660 within weeks of the provocation, and at the cost of probably hundreds of thousands of lives, military and civilian, all allegedly for the independence of the small sheikdom of Kuwait. But he and his predecessors have done very little to enforce U.N. Resolution No. 242 of November 22, 1967. Significantly, this document emphasizes the “inadmissibility” of territorial conquest by war, shows the need fora just and lasting peace in the area, and calls for the “just settlement of the refugee problem.”
This extraordinary concoction of confusion, ignorance, groundless fears, hunger for unrestrained power and instant readiness to exercise unlimited violence is no way to pacify a region and a globe already suffering from a surfeit of force.
To be sure, Secretary of State Baker's “exploratory” trips to the Middle East and his meeting with a handful of Palestinian leaders deserve recognition. But these initiatives will remain charades aimed at television audiences unless the root problems of expansionism, lack of national self-determination and vast inequities in the distribution of power and wealth are addressed and corrected. This holds true especially after the exploratory Madrid conference.
Finally, George Bush far exceeded the bounds of action authorized by the United Nations resolutions, even if they did specifiy under U.S. pressure that “… all necessary means” be used to clear Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The invasion and occupation of southern Iraq by the United States, the encouragement of rebellion in the north and the south (if not an absolutely direct involvement in it), and open talk by American officials of establishing a lasting American presence and a “peace-keeping nerve center” in the Gulf region, all point to Bush's aggressive regional and global intentions.
Arguably, Bush, following in the footsteps of such imperious predecessors as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, has not merely honored the noninterference principle of the Monroe Doctrine chiefly in the breach, but has stood it on its head, replacing the defunct European colonial empires with a single, neo-colonial, world power as chief global interventionist: the United States of America.
Even the most determined “psy-warrior” can bend legal instructions only so far without rupturing them. In the form of the UN Charter they prescribe:
Article 33, 1: The parties … shall … seek a solution by negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice. 2: The Security Council shall,when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their disputes by such means. [Author's emphasis]
This is normative language. The use of peaceful means is not optional but mandatory. In short, George Bush has done violence to, not just the territories, the embassies and the peoples of sovereign nations, he has fractured international comity and law, and he has acted in open contemptof those and other allegedly sacred texts which ought to govern relations between nations.
Permanent War and the Military
"Quoi! tu veux qu'on t'épargne et n'asrien épargné!"
(What! You expect to be spared yet you have spared no one!)
- Corneille, Octave
There'll be no doubt that it's started. It will be massive. It'll be violent. It'll be fast. It'll be everything you ever wanted in a war and never got.
- General Norman Schwarzkopf
Do ends, no matter how sublime they are assumed to be, justify the employment of any means in the course of war? No, they do not, not if the commander-in-chief and his generals intend to conduct “civilized” warfare as codified, in the twentieth century, by the Hague rules and the Geneva conventions concerning warfare and the roles of combatants and noncombatants in war. Alas, it seems safe to say that, in the war against Iraq, the commanders had no such intention and that those rules were honored chiefly in the breach.
To judge by the reportage of the Pentagonized U.S. “news” media, all American and allied warriors, from the top down, threw themselves into the fight with gleeful abandon. Confronted by a numerically and technologically far inferior foe, they happily indulged in an orgy of organized mass killing and destruction. (On Saturday, February 23, 1991 — the official start of the land war — 801,030 U.S. and allied troops faced 545,000 Iraqi soldiers, most of them draftees. At the start of the air campaign, NBC-Television reported that Saddam Hussein had merely 70 aircraft capable of night operations; apparently most of them absconded to Iran, leaving thousands of U.S. and allied war planes, from F-16 to B-52's, to fly thousands of sorties per day.)
Pilots' references to a “turkey shoot,” to “Daytona Beach on a spring break” abounded, while independent journalists somberly described the route of retreat out of Kuwait of the Iraqi divisions as “apocalyptic devastation.” Northern Kuwait and southern Iraq were a “killing ground” on which Iraqi soldiers, seemingly confused by contradictory orders and exposed to murderous air attacks, were cut down by the tens possibly the hundreds of thousands. Accurate numbers are unavailable.
The civilian population of Iraq fared little better. In pursuit of a policy of total war and unconditional surrender reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt's endeavors during the Second World War and Winston Churchill and Dr. Lindeman's preoccupation with annihilating Germany by means of a strategic bombing offensive carried out by 10,000 heavy bombers, a technologically advanced space, missile, air and battleship campaign against an underdeveloped country of eighteen million (half of whom are under the age of sixteen) has wiped out Iraq's infra- and superstructure, to wit: schools, Moslem mosques and Christian churches — some of the oldest and greatest on earth — power plants, telephone exchanges, water and sewage facilities, bridges and mass transit, radio and television, as well as most other organized means of survival.
By March 1991, with no running water, sewage treatment, or electricity — even for hospitals — big cities like Baghdad, (with four million people), Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk faced widespread starvation and epidemic diseases such as cholera, with possibly hundreds of thousands, or millions, of civilian victims.
The sanctions (i.e., the total blockade) which the United Nations, under U.S. and British pressure, still enforces against Iraq, despite the ceasefire, have had to be relaxed somewhat to permit the shipment of a slight amount of medicine into the country.
As for “surgical precision” airstrikes: in Tikrit alone, asmall city of about 25,000 in northern Iraq, half of the population was reportedly killed when the town was leveled by bombing. Did Tikrit suffer because it was Saddam Hussein's hometown?
There can be no doubt that, by the start of the air offensive in early 1991, the restrictive language of U.N. Security Council resolution No. 660 had been replaced, at least temporarily, by much more far-sweeping objectives: 1. the removal of Saddam Hussein from office and from life; 2. the elimination of Iraq as any kind of economic or military factor in the Middle East; and therefore, 3. the occupation of a “security zone” in southern Iraq by the allies, cutting off the port of Basra from access to the sea; and 4. the literal annihilation of Iraq's armed forces as an effective whole, thus depriving her of any defense against her neighbors, adjacent or more removed; and 5. United Nations sanctions to keep her weak and divided for years or decades, or ripe for dismemberment when the time comes.
A special factor needs to be mentioned, too: that of the negative “image” of the “typical Arab” created by the controlled U.S. “news” media. Particularly in times of seeming emergency, he is depicted as a vicious “terrorist,” an exact reversal of reality, for most of the manifold states and groups of the Arab world have been victims, victims repeatedly of expansionism, imperialism, mass murder and mass terrorism. It goes without saying that the “news” media and their captive aud iences extend the same type of sterotypic scapegoating to all Muslims, whether Arab, Pakistani, Indian, or American. One of the many revealing cases reported during the public hysteria of the Gulf War involved a driver of an airport bus at Chicago's O'Hare Field, who refused to pick up an Algerian businessman because he “looked Arabic.” The F.B.I. was even busier than usual investigating Arab-Americans (recall that several years ago a number of resident aliens in Los Angeles were targeted for deportation — because they subscribed to a pro-P.L.O. periodical).
The many revealing facets of military performance and propaganda in the Gulf War can scarcely be done justice to within these pages. Even the war's purely tactical questions are difficult to assess, as all sides concerned have censored the news, not least the Pentagon. Still, from the limited evidence it appears that the Iraqi forces were totally outclassed, not only by American superiority in space, in the air and at sea despite Hussein's handful of obsolescent, restricted-range, Scud missiles but even on land, where the majority of abandoned tanks seemed to be 35-year-old Soviet T-55s and 25-year-old T-62s. A legacy of carefully selective Soviet arms shipments, weakness dating from the brutal Iran-Iraq war, or both? At any rate, President Saddam Hussein was a military strawman whom the Pentagon, well knowing beforehand, could savage with impunity.
By all indications, Saddam, his Western media image as a Foreign and Alien Devil to the contrary, was waging a strictly limited campaign with a limited objective, in the main by political means: the incorporation of Kuwait or, failing that, a phased retreat under face-saving but legitimate conditions, such as convening a conference to solve the Mideast's problems, with the proviso of liberating the Palestinians from Israeli oppression.
In fact, both Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and General Schwarzkopf have agreed that, in the early days of August 1990, the Iraqi armed forces could have — and,by implication, should have — captured the Saudi supply bases located along the Persian Gulf a few hundred miles south of Kuwait, such as Dhahran, Djubail, Ras Tannura and the island sheikdom of Bahrain itself, into which U.S. supplies were pouring at a feverish pace. In those days, the Iraqis could have done so even with their antiquated equipment, since American and allied forces were few. But they abstained.
This restraint was not reciprocated by Iraq's enemies. The Americans, the British (and their gulf protectorates), and their allies bided their time until they had amassed an overwhelming numerical and technical superiority, then launched not a limited Blitzkrieg with a few hundred tactical aircraft but a paralyzing, total war of extermination against Saddam Hussein, his administration (the army and the civil service), the nation-state of Iraq (or its viability as such) and, by extension, against self-determination anywhere in the Middle East. Aside from the quasi-political, final aim of unconditional surrender, politics or traditional diplomacy did not enter into the picture again, a very Rooseveltian total, but ultimately selfdefeating, pseudo-solution.
Doubtless strategists everywhere have drawn the obvious conclusions:
1. Forget about conventional diplomacy except for the purposes of blinding your own people to your real goals and fooling the adversary whom you have selected as your next victim on the road to internationalist rule ("we have global responsibilities"); 2. prepare the field for total war by total global propaganda: be sure to “satanize” your adversary; 3. when the time is ripe, having achieved surprise, destroy your foe-of-the-moment's country or region by massive media-and-military firepower, sparing nothing and no one; 4. if there is the ghost of a chance of determined resistance, pulverize that chance ahead of time, and if need be, the entire civilian infra- and suprastructure with it.
The spirit and the logical, realistic development of the lessons drawn from the war against Iraq lead directly to the possibility of a third world war against nations far more competitive with perceived U.S. interests than is Iraq. The smart bombs, the missiles and the laser deathrays of Gulf fame have concluded the post-war years (as, following today's fashion, we look longingly back to World War II) and have, at last, ushered in the pre-war years leading up to the next global war,with their attendant domestic as well as global ramification. To add two more points to the Four-Point Program outlined above: 5. the destruction of rationality in Washington itself which lately has not distinguished itself by reason or responsibility; 6. the total subversion of our political economy.
The Moral Oeconomy
"We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us” -- Pogo
Today, in a limited but technologizing world,in which a scarcity of human resources (i.e. “heart,” “mind,” “brains,” “guts") is chasing a rapidly proliferating shopping list of “goals” created by the analytical intellect driven by the will to absolute power, it is the first duty of public morality to intervene actively in the resulting “chaos,” in the economy of forces, in orderto preserve and enhance the value priorities of the human constitution and of the natural ecology.
The first human value to be preserved is freedom, the capacity to choose rationally amongst a near infinity of goods and bads. I write this despite the excesses of “license” indulged in during such events as the French Revolution of 1789. In a society ruled by the military-industrial complex freedom is the first value to go. There, it is also the most important human property, for only freedom can power us out of such a society's culs-de-sac : megalomania, totalitarianism,internal and external war, and the type of ossification described in Oswald Spengler's Der Untergang des Abendlandes.
Freedom has its domestic, group and individual (as it has its national, popular and international) dimensions. All are interrelated and intertwined. Today, as never before in history, all of our freedoms are in danger of being swept off the face of the earth by the technologized garrison state with its universal pretensions (perhaps disguised as a U.N. “New World Order"). Short of awaiting a natural cataclysm (such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs) we should take heart and act according to the following insights:
"Gemeinwohl geht vor Eigennutz" ("The common good takes precedence over private gain"). This maxim, coined, though not invented, by the great organizer of rural cooperatives, Raiffeisen, if correctly understood as a good through the principle of subsidiarity, flies directly in the face of the accepted gospel truth of present-day plutocracy: the allegedly greatest good for the greatest number through unrestrained,individual competition (society “red in tooth and claw"). The rather peculiar sort of Social Darwinism, as practiced by America and in America today, has but one result: the brutalization of domestic and international society (whether behind a facade of “Yuppie” conspicuous consumption and “United Nations” resolutions, or not). Raiffeisen's thought provides a timely antidote.
Too, "government of the people, by the people for the people “ should not perish from the earth, but can and should be revived.
As never before in the past, in the twentieth century the lords of mass “communications” have twisted and subverted the truth in the service of easy commercial and political manageability. We know, on the contrary, that he who shouts "Stop, thief!" the loudest actually is the thief, that those who accuse others of “shocking” misdeeds have in truth themselves perpetrated the most heinous crimes in history, physically, psychologically, morally. They are the killers of the human spirit, the murderers of freedom. They are the Enslaver. Day by day they seek to rule absolutely, through cliché and stereotype.
In brief, public morality as well as the more limited social, political and financial deeds of a commonwealth should form a Greater, a Moral Oeconomy. It might be defined, according to Webster, as the
… husbanding, the “careful management of wealth, resources (of a … community or government); avoidance of waste by careful planning and use … “ ( Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, 1986).
Has the U.S. government since 1981 excelledin any sense of this definition? Has it understood the basic human need for a Moral Oeconomy?
Indeed, the former CIA chief and U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger, has characterized “Reaganomics” as “the fiscally most irresponsible policy in history” - an apt hyperbole for most endeavors, domestic or international, of the Reagan and Bush years.
We might profitably recall some of the “highlights,” as the catastrophic impact of Reaganomics on the American people and on the world will be felt for decades to come.
I. “Conventional” corruption — In terms of the hundreds of billions of dollars directly or covertly misappropriated and swindled from the American people not to mention the thousands of billions stolen from the public on Wall Street and from coast to coast by dint of encouragement and rotten example from On High - the Reagan regime has left other presidential contenders for the crown of public corruption, such as Warren Harding (Teapot Dome Scandal) or U.S. Grant's administration (during the era of the Robber Barons), wallowing in the dust. The Iran-Contra affairs, the HUD scandal and similar deeds will figure prominently in the annals of decadence, from Byzantium to Babylon. Both political parties leapt into the muck. Of the “Keating Five” - the five United States senators involved in the murky deals of the Arizona Savings and Loan executive — the one singled out for public blame by his colleagues was California's Senator Alan Cranston, a former Democratic presidential contender.
II. Structural and attitudinal faults — A policy of “planned obsolescence” was applied to campaign promises from the start. Reagan and Bush administrations that had pledged to extirpate the national deficit raised it instead to undreamed of heights. “Adjusted” deficits (i.e., after more than $100 billion a year in Social Security payments — allegedly untouchable - has been “subtracted” from them) ranged from $200 billion to $245 billion annually, mostly in favor of new outlays for the military. In contrast, domestic programs were drastically slashed. Even President Bush's first, new budget proposed on January 29, 1990 — a pre-Iraq budget — raised spending to an all-new $1.23 trillion, with an alleged $63.1 billion shortfall for 1991. Instead of reducing the federal bureaucracy, as pledged, President Reagan installed 10,000 new bureaucrats in the Pentagon alone, according to former Secretary of the Navy Lehman, of “600-ship-navy” fame. No wonder $3 trillion were lavished on arms during ten Reagan-Bush years. No wonder the federal and the public debts skyrocketed. No wonder that existing disequilibria in the national economy worsened and that fresh financial problems and crises arose.
Impelled by the movement toward “privatization” of the public domain launched by the White House and fuelled by the same, quasi-nineteenth-century “rags-to-riches” career that Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken typified on Wall Street and in Beverly Hills (the latter was rumored to have turned a tidy profit of $1 billion in 1988), savings-and-loan institutions, big banks and gigantic insurance empires speculatedin real estate, multi-billion-dollar loans to developing countries such as Venezuela, Brazil and Peru, and floods of “junk bonds” all encouraged by the Reagan administration. When the developing economies defaulted on their debts and the real-estate market (particularly in office buildings) turned sour (since it was totally overextended), the bottom dropped out of the madly spiraling junk-bond-boom, during the last Reagan year. The consequences will be with us for decades to come. In one field alone, the débacles in the insurance business — formerly the very bedrock of bourgeois financial respectability — will send tremors of instability throughout the economy for years.
The S & L fiascoes will saddle the American taxpayer with a millennial debt of some $500 to $1000 billion dollars (as estimated by cleanup supervisor Seidman). The bank failures over two hundred are expected to occur in 1991 alone will incur even huger sums, sums which the U.S. government can no longer make “liquid” unless it sells trillions of dollars worth of national assets to foreign creditors. Also, some of the shiniest names in U.S. capitalism, the Rockefeller family jewels of Citicorp and Chase Manhattan, Manufacturers Hanover, Chemical Bank, and Bank of America, might follow the slide into nothingness of the Bank of New England. A severe and drastic currency-and-property reform might be the only rational solution. An easy solution is, and will be, an every-accelerating spiral of foreign wars.
Very likely the U.S. government, led by President Bush, will try a similar approach in “solving” his other crises, such as:an urban-and-regional planning picture and a physical infrastructure that is falling to pieces; an educational system that is seventeenth in literacy in the world; a health “system” that is nonexistent for more and more middle-income Americans and for the poor, one that is in last place (alongside that of the Republic of South Africa) in providing adequate and vital health care to citizens, amongst all industrialized nations; a grave lag in vital, basic, research, outside of military applications and “SDI"; and the disregard for energy and environmental policy during the Reagan years. Despite lip service to a higher, more intelligent, ideal the Bush government broadly follows in Reagan's wake. Perceived “emergencies,” once more, may induce bigger and better wars.
Let us elaborate a few illustrative examples. Urban, regional, and national planning — never America's strong suit, yet a vital function of any government that intends to endure — has been mortally neglected since 1981. The large cities that had been sliding downhill for decades under the growing burdens of blight, maladministration, poverty, a burgeoning proletariat and a murderous crime rate (in spite of rather spotty and symptom-oriented “help” from the federal government) have been cut off from any meaningful, moral, financial and administrative assistance by Reagan and Bush, and set adrift as national derelicts. In effect, the hundred million people who live in big urban centers are now considered so many “bums” on a collective skid row. Protracted, interrelated, planned efforts to reform and to clean up the nuclear industry (whether military or civilian); to build an energy policy; to rebuild the infrastructure of bridges, highways, and railroads; as well as projects to plan for new regional mass transit networks, have withered on the vine. Most of these, if carried out, would make a valuable contribution to a national environmental policy, and enable us to diminish our much-bruited dependence on imported oil.
What is indeed “the shame of our cities” is worse, even, than it was around the turn of the century, when their plight attracted the muckrakers' attention. Philadelphia, perhaps the most historic of America's big cities, in struggling futilely to survive physically, let alone financially, but no one in Washington raises an eyebrow. For the second time in sixteen years, there is talk of receivership for New York.
Yes, they can be saved and they should be saved. Yet for that to happen America must recast its entire government and society in the image of a Moral Oeconomy. We must reallocate priorities drastically. No longer should a U.S. president be in a position to donate more than $13 billion toward the construction of housing for immigrant Russian Jews in Israel (reportedly to reward Israel for “staying out” of the war against Iraq) while he allocates a mere $15 billion in federalbloc grants to all fifty U.S. states. Without a doubt, a single crisis-torn and crime-overwhelmed state such as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or California could easily put all $15 billion in federal support to good use by itself. Additionally, George Bush has donated, or “forgiven,” scores of billions of dollars to countries around the world, from Argentina to Egypt, Turkey and Poland, and — by implication - heavily subsidized the Soviet Union, all in the service of buying support for his military adventurism abroad. To top it all, he is spending, and is calculating to spend, further hundreds of billions of non-existent dollars for oppressive regimes around the world, and, for the development of exotic new weapons systems - even after the huge tribute to America's client states is considered. When will the bubble burst?
III. Skewed priorities and twisted logic — Why spend billions of dollars on expanded and “improved” armaments for the New World Order's millennial era of peace? It is indicative of White House paranoia that, instead of engaging in true, positive diplomacy to solve the root causes of crises, i.e. in the Middle East (or, alternatively, pursuing a hands-off, America First policy), in 1991 it is planning to construct a partial SDI Star Wars directed against imaginary missile attacks on the U.S. by Third World countries, at a cost of $30, 40 or 50 billion, knowing that a full-fledged SDI directed against the Soviet Union is technically impracticable. Furthermore, after misspending trillions of dollars on armaments, including the Stealth bomber and Stealth fighter (the stealthiest aspects of which were the secrecy with which they were kept from the American public), SDI, the MX, Minuteman and Trident missiles, the Reagan and the Bush administrations have prepared to spend a minimum of 280 billion additional dollars toward the construction of brand-new weapons systems: an ATF ("advanced tactical fighter,” either the Lockheed YF-22 or the Northrop YF-23), the Seawolf submarine and the LTH ("light tactical helicopter") when well-nigh overwhelming weapons systems are more than capable of continuing into the future and were developed in the recent past, at astronomical expense.
By contrast, even Bush's 1990 proposal for the 1991 budget already included $13.9 billion in cuts for domestic spending, $5.5 billion coming from a Medicare program that had previously undergone repeated slashes. One may predict with with confidence that if George Bush's popularity in 1991 assures his reelection in 1992, he will proceed to slash Medicare and other domestic “entitlements” — not excluding Social Security — with gusto, to subsidize his growing appetite for armaments and foreign aggrandizement. Beyond the unfortunate millions of the elderly and the infirm affected, perhaps even harder hit will be those 27 million Americans without any health insurance, including 12 million poverty-stricken children. Entire regions in the “Rust Belt” of the East and the Midwest, and in the rural areas of the South and the mountain states — already suffering from chronic, unregistered unemployment and grinding poverty — will disappear by the millions into the maelstrom of misery.
These are some of the dimensions of what President Carter was accused of calling the Misery Index, the vicious consequences of what bourgeois economists term Karl Marx's Verelendungstheorie.
They are very real, and they are growing.
What Can We Do?
"Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate"?
(Abandon all hope, you who enter)
- Dante's Inferno
The growing menace of the establishment of a total “garrison state,” with all that implies, at home and abroad (and it implies eventual “genocide,” mass murder, at home and abroad) does not decree its inevitability. Historical determinism exists in the minds of those who preach it. However, its superficial opposite, pollyanna chamber-of-commerce sanguinism, is even more misleading, for it lends itself to mass manipulation by the corrupt. The sane fight for the rational exercise of will.
America does have choices. What are some of them?
The first might be called, somewhat misleadingly, the Max Weberian alternative to Werner Sombart. The latter had written persuasively about the successive — and more or less successful — stages of capitalism, particularly about “Late Capitalism” (a phrase which seems to denote that the wish for its demise was the father to the thought). America's behavior since the Great Depression, at home and abroad, has in many striking ways corresponded to the various phases of Spät-kapitalismus; the Reagan-Bush era might be regarded as one of its ultimate stages of global panic. The “Reagan Revolution,” in other words, might be seen as a response to homeand world conditions, semi-consciously homologous to the cries of: "Après nous le dèluge!" and "Sauve qui peut !" from the French power elite before and during France's revolutionary crisisof the 1790's.
Yet there is an important component missing from this equation: that of global hegemony. Scientific observers note that the United States is the heir — not to the over-romanticized “Anglo-Saxon-tradition of liberty” — but, more accurately, to the instititionalized attitudes of absolute domination, conquest, power politics and plunder personified by the Norman founders of the “English” (and, fascinatingly, of the Old Russian) states. Now, a millennium after the original conquests, their descendants are facing off in their ultimate “showdown,” as de Tocqueville foretold in the nineteenth century. No one believes that the U.S.-Soviet “condominium” of the world of 1990/91 — a very cramped and one-sided — affair will last for more than a few years.
Today's Yankee Hot Warriors are in an enviable position geopolitically. Having conquered the Americas from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, or keeping them in a state of manifold subjection without the inconvenience of physical occupation, they are in a position to dominate all landmasses laved by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Indeed, at bottom they are not “capitalist” at all but “conquest plutocrats.” They would readily shed the latter part of this label, too, continuing their expansionism even as socialists.
Yet their decision to keep strategic portions of the Persian Gulf occupied, after making the mistake of attacking it physically rather than solving the problem politically-economically, reveals a glaring mental rigidity.
How much wiser to follow the advice of Max Weber, the great social scientist, given at the time of the St. Louis World Exposition of 1904: systematically to create a rationalized, limited state through the establishment of a service bureaucracy motivated by honor, the idea of duty and the common good, and the notion of economy as “avoidance of waste by careful planning and use.”
Is it too late for that now, in 1991? I admit that such a truly Prussian solution seems unappealing in the short run, perhaps anywhere in America and Europe. But in the long run, in a few decades and centuries, when the crises, catastrophes and cataclysms brought on by following the erroneous “ideal” of Conquest Plutocracy with altogether too much ardor will have at length exhausted themselves, then any new society and government which would embody something enduring will need to be built on rules close to Max Weber's heart.
In a political culture which de-emphasizes and punishes medium and long-range planning (even of the economic kind), the “crisis” most government leaders were concerned about inthe first half of 1991 is the prevailing, moderate (at least, government spokesmen anxious to appear confident of the future call it so) economic recession. Should these conditions worsen it could mean dire things for our economy, government and society: firms and industries saddled with heavy, unproductive debts through “leveraged buy-outs” by "arbitrageurs" find it difficult to adjust to the new, leaner, economic climate. They are forced to lay off thousands, tens of thousands, indefinitely. Some firms go under. A vicious cycle develops, in which growing unemployment - unalleviated due to government inaction — fuels a worsening recession while it drains the public treasury further through passive unemployment compensation. In order to “lighten the load” of an already disastrous deficit, the government feels called upon to cut “entitlements” further, plunging millions more of the middle-class and the poor into misery, and further reducing their buying power. Unemployment payments are slashed, too. More firms fail. The stock markets, which had been extremely over-extended and buoyant in the wake of a successful war of the “foreign-adverturist” kind, turn sour. The Dow Jones average plunges 600 points in a week. In the meantime, charges of brutality multiply against big-city police departments from coast to coast in urban regions which have lost millions of jobs over the last decade, collectively, and hundreds of thousands due to the recession. The economic picture worsens. Demagogues whip emotions to a frenzy. A single spark, in a society fractured along national, racial, and sub-caste lines, and race war erupts, tearing the fabric of society, throwing the economy into total chaos, causing trillions or more dollars in damage and killing thousands, and more, through violence, disease and exposure.
Such conditions of anomie might also provide a welcome chance for the Soviet — or Russian elite — to redress its grievances against the West and the U.S., either in step-by-step progression or, more likely, by means of a surprise attack. Thus, logically and historically, the dislocations and down-turns brought on by the “Reagan Revolution,” the late and lamentable outcome of several centuries of evolution, quite possibly will conclude with the much-dreaded World War and World Revolution. The ultimate plutocrats would then be the executors of Karl Marx's last will and testament.
In the short run, mankind might be granted a breather by the 1992 U.S. elections. Probably, President George Bush and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Allan Greenspan will pull out the stops in a last effort to create “rosier” economic conditions to achieve Bush's re-election. After that, it will be “every man for himself.” Despite (or because of) the economic union of Europe in 1992, Germany will not be protected by its fellow Europeans but, on the contrary, will be exposed to increased levels of financial and political blackmail by the U.S., Israel, Britain, France, Poland and Russia. Added to the increased burdens of integrating the old Soviet Zone with West Germany, and denuded of any practical military defenses after the enforced concessions of 1990-91 ("The New Versailles"), even Germany may be unable to stomach the redoubled demands. Economically, socially and militarily, her downfall would plunge Europe into ballooning disorder — unless America desisted from her Divide and Conquer foreign policy and intervened diplomatically to aid her strongest ally in Europe. But, for several reasons, that is unlikely. If reelected in '92, Bush will slash domestic “entitlements” in a desperate effort to right the capsized economy. He will try to “shoulder off” some of those outlays on Germany and Japan. Too, the probable increase in domestic U.S. unrest — heightened by the chauvinism left over from the Gulf War — will make Uncle Sam regard the comparative “tranquillity” for foreign competitors with a jaundiced eye. He will seek to export his troubles, imprudently knocking out his main props.
There are already many choices in the possibilities portrayed.
Here are some more, always keeping in mind that our preferred option is to create a dialectics, a rational dialogue between the idea of “community” in politics and economics and the idea of “freedom,” with emphasis on the “legitimate self-determination of peoples” on all levels of politics, from the township to the international arena.
Internationally, how intelligent is it for the United States,for instance, in its GATT-talks ("General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade") with the European Community to insist that the Europeans cut their farm subsidies to the bone while the U.S. does not reciprocate by slashing subsidies to its huge industrial “farms” in California, Florida and elsewhere? Such a move by Europeans would jeopardize the highly labor intensive, efficient, but tiny family farm in Europe, with roots going back four or five thousand years, would depopulate the countryside even more rapidly, adding to the urban proletariat and causing social-political crisis. After all, that's what happened two thousand years ago, in ancient Rome.
Will the “New Rome” of Wall Street and Washington recog nize its own interest in preserving and building communities abroad, after its total war and its victory in Iraq? There can be no "total victory."
The Bessmyertnikh-Baker plan for remedying the grave problems of the Middle East comprehensively, and the Palestinian situation in particular, brooks no delay. Despite the fact that the U.S. irrationally injured its own interest in preserving the status quo in the Mideast by smashing Saddam Hussein and creating a power vacuum ready to be filled through the designs of Iran, Turkey, Syria and Israel, thus destablizing regional and world politics, we should subject our “unique relationship” with Israel to an agonizing reappraisal. That is what President Eisenhower did in 1956 (how things have changed!) We all know that Israel is the nuclear-military superpower of the Mideast and need fear no one on earth. By means of suitable but swift diplomatic meneuvers, we should make it clear to the ruling, reactionary cliques of Israel that: America will not stand for the oppression of the Palestinians by Israel; we insist on implementing U.S. Security Council Resolution No. 242 and similar resolutions with a view toward establishing a state for the Palestinians via the PLO; and America will never accept Israeli designs on neighboring states, and on Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq in particular. What are the chances for success of such a scenario in a Bush administration?
Turkey is the tertium gaudens, far from the international limelight focused on such prime players as the U.S., Israel or Iran, yet laughing with the contented glee of a peasant who stands in the shadow of greater Powers and has struck a good bargain. The Sancho Panzaesque figure of President Törgut Ozal only reinforces that impression.
Of course, Turkey in a geographically much larger guise, as ruled by the once great Ottoman dynasty of sultans and caliphs (khalifa, the “successors to the prophet,” the titular heads, temporal and spiritual, of all Islam), was the declining imperial power of North Africa and the Middle East before the First World War. At its end, only the outstanding leadership qualities of General Mustafa Kemal (later proclaimed “Atatürk” or “Father of the Turk"), those of his aides, and the valor of the Turkish soldiers, combined with the squabbling of the prime imperialists: Britain, France and Italy and their tool, the Kingdom of Greece, as well as the assistance provided by the new Bolshevik regime of Soviet Russia, kept Turkey from begin ripped to shreds by the victors, preserving her from disappearing forever. A timely lesson for 1991.
The new, republican Turkey was confined largely to Anatolia and the littoral of the northeast Mediterranean. She was forced to accept the subjugation of large, centuries-old, Turkish minorities in the new states of the East, ranging from the southern reaches of the Soviet Union to Yugoslavia and all the way to northern Iraq and Iran. In 1991 her claims to some of these regions, particularly to oil-rich northern Iraq around Mosul and Kirkuk, rest in part on the existence of these minorities. Further, advancing pan-Turanian ideas, the Turks have cast their eyes on the related Turkic majorities of northern Iran and of central Asia east of the Caspian. If the U.S. after 1991 rearms her, replacing her obsolete arms with smart, hi-tech weapons systems, we can expect Turkey to play a much more aggressive role in the Mideast. In the future, she might prove troublesome to either a shrinking or an expanding post-Soviet Russia.
We need also to remember that republican Turkey has been no more lenient to her Kurdish minority than has Iraq. She will watch the masses of new refugees with eagle eyes and possibly misdirect them to advance her own aims against the Arabs. It is the tragic plight of the Iraqi Kurds to have believed the irresponsible pronouncements of an untrustworthy, and apparently irrational, Superpower.
As for the Soviet Union or, more correctly, Russia, she has been the Turks' chief enemy since the imperial-expansionist days of the great Tsar Peter around the year 1700. Traditionally, Russia has also sought to break up, or to dominate, neigh boring Persia (Iran). To the present day, her aim has been to extend her hegemony over as much of the Persian gulf region, and over Iran's eastern flanks of Afghanistan and Baluchi stan, as practicable. It has been her sad lot to see her main aim of sole autocracy stymied, in the nick of time,by an even more powerful and even more ambitious rival from across the seas: up to 1941 by Britain and since 1946 by the United States of America. Unless Russia commits suicide, or is extirpated totally, in her present Time of Troubles — which seems unlikely — she will reassume her accustomed role in the not very distant future, with a vengeance.
When — and if — she does, she will remember three past events. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War, when Stalin invaded Finland in the infamous Winter War of 1939-1940, Britain and France went to work to prepare a two pronged invasion of the Soviet Union: in the north, through Norwegian and Finnish Lapland, and, in the south, out of Syria and Iraq. The operation was finally shelved when Hitler pre-empted Churchill by striking north to Narvik and Norway. Today, once again, the Soviets have reason to worry about the strategic threat to their “soft underbelly,” especially with Georgia's declaration of independence on April 8, 1991, and the possibility of this setting and example all along the southern boundary of the USSR from Moldavia outside Romania (the Soviets annexed it in 1940) to the Muslim nations on the borders of Afghanistan and China. Let us not imagine that the USSR, or an imperial Russia, will tolerate a strong U.S. or NATO presence in the Gulf Region for long.
By contrast, Russia cherishes her memories of the time after June 22, 1941, when the leaf of history turned and she was in a position, again, to partition Iran between herself and Britain, supported by the U.S. In those halcyon times Stalin dominated Teheran. His power was sufficient to enable him to carve out virtual Soviet satellite states in Azerbaijan and the Kurdish areas, and to attmept to extend his sphere of influence by encouraging the “independence” of the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq. The famed Kurd leader, Mustafa Barzani, and his clan were trained in Moscow. Soviet agents infiltrated the entire region. Not until 1946 and 1947 did British and then American resistance stiffen sufficiently to make it prudent for Stalin to heed Iranian demands for withdrawal. The Soviets cleared out — but only for the time being.
A third event the Russians will bear in mind with distaste is the ill-disguised contempt they received at the hands of the Yankees before, during and after the war against Iraq, a former friend of theirs. Even though deep-seated divergences were “papered over” at the U.N. and for the television watching publics, the U.S. made it abundantly clear that she no longer deemed the Soviet Union a serious global factor diplomatically, economically or, for that matter, militarily. It is a glaring indication of the mismatch in “clout” at the White House that the objections of Israel — a Levantine dwarf state on the face of it — prevailed over the Bessmyertnikh-Baker agreement concerning a comprehensive solution to the Mideast's troubles, in which the foreign ministers of the two former World Superpowers had invested their prestige. No lip service to the “New World Order” for “a hundred years of peace” can gloss over that high-handed conduct. Not that hauteur is unrealistic, for the time being. But “realities” have a way of changing explosively, leaving those unprepared at the mercy of their panicky “flight-or-fight” response, whether inside the Beltway or at the Kremlin.
No doubt the seeming disproportion between American and Soviet power, and the sudden successes of American weaponry against the largely antiquated Soviet equipment and tactics of the Iraqis - as well as the exaggerated ruthlessnessof its application - meant but one thing to a Russian leadership worried about survival: the absolute necessity of once more catching up again to and, if possible, surpassing the U.S. in the creation of weapons of mass destruction — whether “conventional” or “unconventional” - in the shortest time possible. Thus, automatically, our war against Iraq has made the Russian leaders more rigid in their outlook and in choosing their ways and means. It has produced the exact opposite of its announced intention, has injured the peace, and dealt a body blow to the concept of international “law and order.” Did we want that to happen?
Naturally, when the motives of fear of the unknown, hatred for one's adversary, and ambition hold each other in approximate balance in both the White House and the Kremlin (with ambition overweening the former and fear dominating the latter) an uneasy truce could be maintained for a time. But the Warsaw Pact has dissolved itself. Except for the continued survival of their Communist parties, the USSR has lost most of its hold over its central European satellites. Yet far from reciprocating in kind, Uncle Sam is holding on tightly to his NATO allies, even readying the expansion of his force-shield to cover the former Soviet zone of Germany, which still “plays host” to 350,000 Soviet troops.
Indeed, leaning on his two main foreign props — Japan and Germany - financially, goepolitically and propagandistically, in 1991 Uncle Sam is accelerating rather than cutting his weapons expenditures, even though the Soviet menace seems to have diminished and the Third World should not be perceived as a “foe.” When a single aircraft of a single weapons system (the B-2 “Stealth” bomber) costs nearly $1 billion, and the costs of other armaments trail closely behind, one should be able to calculate the following rather accurately: 1. the time before the American economy, already unbalanced and distorted, spins totally out of control; 2. the same for Germany, Europe, and Japan; 3. the irreparable injury to the social, political, health and educational fabric, and perhaps to the national integrity, of the American people; 4. the desperate attempts by the USA and the Great Britain to reestablish the shattered “concert of nations” by force and through the United Nations Security Council, based on the far reaching and questionable poltical, financial, territorial and functional dictates imposed on a sovereign state, i.e., the far reaching precedents set by the U.N. in its subjugation of Iraq in 1991; 5. in case of failure: the rapid and unprecedentedly violent outbreak of global war.
But there are choices.
Here are some of them:
1. If America desires to extablish and to strengthen stability and legitimacy in the Middle East, we need to strike a just balance between powerful, violent Israel and the multitide of militarily and socially weak Arab states. U.N. Security Council Resolution No. 242 should be implemented so that the Palestinians can at last have an independent homeland (and state) on their native soil, secure from Zionist encroachment. Equally important, the much-quoted “comprehensive solution” to the region's historic, political, social, economic and military troubles needs to put in place a lasting, insitutionalized leveling of its abysmal divergences, a “regional development plan for all. A regional “community” of interest should be grown, like a plant, encompassing all cultures and religions, while cherishing all organically grown groupings.
Is it realistic to speak of such a modernized revival of theancient Ottoman millet system? Only time, and a nuclear-free zone stretching from the Mediterranean to the Ganges, and far beyond, can tell. Let's rid ourselves of the illusion that Israel is America's terrible swift sword in the desert.
2. America might choose to impose a New World Order through a superficially cordial entente with an ever-more desperate Russia. But we must face tha fact that by reason of clashing global ambitions, lasting cooperation between the two is undesired, by the White House, and unlikely, unless another convenient Foreign Devil, e.g. Japan or Germany, is found.
If, on the other hand, we desire to honor our loudly proclaimed “values” of freedom — infused into organic communities - and of popular self-determination, we should intelligently and actively support the independence of the anti-Communist republics of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Moldavia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and others, while Russia is preoccupied with its internal troubles.
Such action would incur the risk of war with the Russians. But by most accounts we could hold their feet to the fire before they rain fire down on us.
3. Above all, if, for the next several centuries, Americans wish their country to remain a nation worthy of its highest ideals, we might do worse than swear off our old Norman-Puritan habits of loot, plunder and mass destruction, as well as our immediate past of Plutocracy by conquest at home and abroad, and at last pursue a type of society and government that strives to do lasting and organized justice to the rooted human needs for community, freedom and truth, and to the cosmic demands of the ecologies of nature.
"Omnes cantant una voce tamen non est sinfonia”
(Though all sing with one voice that still does not make a symphony)
-- St. Thomas Aquinas
If we try to enforce rigid conformity at home and abroad, we shall come a cropper. Whipping up bellicose emotions, rebuilding FDR's detention camps of the Great American Dessert for dissenters and engaging in global interventionism will merely mulitply the crushing moral and material burdens already heaped on the sagging shoulders of the American people. How much wiser to promote community-building on all societal levels, in all political-geographic regions, a subsidiar ity of responsibilities!
At home, the American people — once we have recovered our healthy sense of skepticism — might elect to undo the Imperial Presidency, and choose to place in its stead a plural executive, a council of state patterned on Switzerland, with five to seven presidents, each to represent a major ethnic, racial or geographic constituency, with each president serving for the duration of one year. Abroad, let us shrug off the moral degradation, the abysmal functional and systematic failures of trying to be the World's Policeman! Encourage the formation, not of “pluralism,” for that term has become a synonym for chaos, but of multicentricity, the building of strong power blocs on all populated landmasses, not excluding North, Central, and South America. The latter solution to the worsening crisis of the Americas was already envisioned by President Thomas Jefferson.
Let us extend the hand of friendship to the peoples of Islam. Split and weak as they may be politically and militarily, and enslaved as they certainly are by underdevelopment and neocolonialism, they are the living heirs to some of the world's most brilliant cultures: ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Hindu and Moghul India and Indonesia among them. Islam has contributed immeasurably to the growth of Europe, and it can do so again. Let the West beware lest we drive Islam into the isolation of hate, from which only organized violence will offer escape.
Once they have divested themselves of the emanations of the will to absolute power, the preoccupation with exploits and exploitation - which have their most immediate origin in the Industrial Revolution and in the unreason of the Enlightenment of the 18th century - the great nations of Europe will be able to regain their historic callings: Spain, the great central European bloc that was the Holy Roman Empire, as well as Poland and Ukraine (the Old Ros), and others, will be re-awakened to new life. The spiritual, and political geographic center, the historic orientation, they had lost will be resurrected.
No matter what the future, the American People — the pre-eminent victim and foe of Conquest Plutocracy and the Imperial Presdiency - have greatness to give. A nation incomplete, a people not yet coalesced, which has brought forth such masters and masterworks as Herman Melville's Moby Dick ; Robert Frost in his almost German simple-hearted ness and profundity; Joseph Campbell and his supremely Protestant hyper-individualism, his longing for the merging of self with the Absolute ( a property of “late” historical eras); such a nation — once it has sloughed off the notion of being history's Chosen People, leading a lowly flock to an earthly paradise — has much to contribute to the good of this world. By definition, we note, an earthly paradise swamps the Moral Oeconomy with the rush of an infinity of manufactured supplies, it affects to abolish all suffering, all sacrifices for theattainment of some distant, greater, good; it is totally intolerant and destructive of any other path to perfection. In fine, it is evil incarnate.
The choice is simple. Beyond all administrative reform, we must bend our hearts and minds, freely, toward creativity and responsibility, or Totalitarianism will do it for us by obliterating all mind, all hearts.
Ponder the lines of England's poet laureate, of Alfred Lord Tennyson, written in 1842:
… For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens filled with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew,
From the heavens's airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder storm;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson, Locksley Hall
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Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 389-429.