Watching the imperium collapse

I apologize that I got too busy doing book publishing over the past few days to comment directly on the shameful decision by the Obama administration to veto last Friday’s Security Council resolution that condemned Israel’s continued settlement building program.
What on earth were they thinking?
Answer: They weren’t doing any real-world strategic “thinking”, as such. They were triangulating their chances of being able to retain AIPAC’s powerful financial-aid program through the next electoral cycle here in the U.S. (Which– hullo!– we’re still at the very beginning of, anyway.
Luckily, others have written good analyses of what was happening. Including Steve Walt, and Glenn Greenwald.
Greenwald included his little analysis of the terrible effects, as well as the terrible nature, of the veto decision as one of four items in a great piece titled (with great irony) “This week in winning hearts and minds.”
The other three were:

  • The Raymond Davis incident in Pakistan. (Today, by the way, the CIA admitted that Davis, who killed two people in Lahore last week, was indeed working on contract for them.)
  • The fact that most– though not all- of the dictatorial regimes that have been toppling and coming under threat over these past weeks have been “cherished allies” of Washington; and
  • The fact that the local tribal elders in Kunar, Afghanistan, say that many or most of the 64 people killed in NATO’s latest air-raids there were civilians…

    There are many other ways, too, in which the heavily militarized and diplomatically tone-deaf policies that Washington has pursued for many years now toward the majority-Muslim parts of the world (and elsewhere) have ended up actually undercutting the American people’s interests around the world.
    And now, with Washington continuing these policies in an almost completely solipsistic way, the imperium that the US military has been maintaining throughout (and over) most of the Greater Middle East is crumbling more and more visibly every day.
    I believe they don’t have any idea what to do about the vast challenge of (not entirely irrational) anti-Americanism in Pakistan. The WaPo’s Gregg Miller wrote this morning that though, under Pres. Obama, the CIA has significantly stepped up the use of killer drones to launch extrajudicial killings against “suspects” in the northwest of the country, they’re still not managing to kill any more of the (allegedly) “high value targets”:

      CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed at least 581 militants last year, according to independent estimates. The number of those militants noteworthy enough to appear on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists: two.

    See the graphics here.
    In Afghanistan, NATO (most likely U.S.) air raids have been busy killing scores of people in Kunar province (as noted by Greenwald)… and the very best case anyone can make as to how the U.S. could be described as “winning” this war, as made here yesterday by Fick and Nagl, was just a mishmash of wishful thinking.
    In Tunisia and Egypt, the U.S. has lost the compliant, totally toadying leaders it had been relying on for many decades– and whatever governments now get formed in those countries will have to be a lot more responsive to the popular will than Presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak ever felt they needed to be.
    Libya is in the middle of an extreme, megalethal crisis. Right now. With citizens being mowed down in their hundreds by a gun-happy military.
    Bahrain– home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet– is in the midst of huge upheavals.
    The rulers of Saudi Arabia, long a key pillar of the U.S. imperium in an area stretching from north Africa to Pakistan, are almost unable to do anything to arrest the decay. They are (as I’ve noted here several times before) locked into their own very long-drawn-out succession struggle. They have a crazily misdesigned society that is totally reliant on the contribution of contract laborers from elsewhere (including a large proportion from Pakistan) and on the deliberate exclusion of people from neighboring countries like Yemen… Where there is also right now, let’s not forget, a major social-political upheaval (along with truly shocking levels of mass impoverishment and also, ta-da, intermittent killings from U.S. drones.)
    * * *
    There is, indeed, too much going on right now to make easy or swift sense of it all. What is clear, though, is that throughout the Arab parts of the Middle East, a new spirit of liberation and self-empowerment has been unleashed that will change the politics of the region forever.
    What is also clear is that the the great big structures of war-fighting that the U.S. has supported throughout the Middle East, and the actual wars it has waged within it, have done nothing to protect the interests of the American people, but rather, have massively undercut our ability to have sane, friendly relations of mutual respect with the peoples of the region.
    And that is even without looking at the vast financial burden that all this militarization has imposed on us. Add that in, and the true craziness of the way our policies have been militarized since 2001– under George W. Bush and also under Obama– becomes stunningly, tragically clear.
    Time for a large-scale “re-set” in our priorities.

5 thoughts on “Watching the imperium collapse”

  1. “There is zero strategic benefit to the U.S. in blocking this resolution (unless one assumes that the U.S. desires settlement growth to continue).”
    It is very likely that the US government does want settlement growth to continue.
    Clearly the government shares the aims and objectives of the Netanyahu government, and all Israeli governments for many years, which include pushing settlements to expand Israel’s borders. And then, at the appropriate time taking more land in south Lebanon perhaps, gradually taking it over by ethnic cleansing and settlements..
    Such has been the history of the Israeli project.
    As to the US view, it is more likely to be a rationalisation than a settled strategy, and it will be on the lines that once Israel becomes powerful enough, annexing enough land its survival as a US ally will be assured. In fact the US will be able to withdraw and leave Israel to run the entire region for it.
    The idiocy of these policies is now crystal clear but that is no argument against their being persisted with.

  2. Bevin, I share your anger, but not the rest of your reasoning. No one in the US realistically sees Israel eventually controlling the middle east without the US. I don’t think any realist even sees Israel, in its present form, surviving without the US. The veto was purely an issue of domestic, US, politics. It was merely appeasement of AIPAC and the Israel Lobby by a craven President and Secretary of State. Rice, I believe, was just the good soldier, carrying out orders.

  3. It’s domestic politics because… what, Jack?
    Because Israeli propaganda has made it so?
    And the US politicians had nothing to do with it?

  4. THe point Jack is that, after making a decision for ‘purely domestic reasons, that decision has to be explained. For the general public this is fairly easy: cheap demagogy about the only democracy in the middle east, nods and winks to remind Americans that the Israelis are white Europeans and therefore culturally advanced while the ‘natives’ need time to adjust to the calls of self government, etc etc..Ian Smith rides again.
    But such reasoning cannot wash among the Macchiavelian elites. They want more substantial fare. They need to hear about US interests, not just US ‘values’. They need to hear what the ‘end game’ is. I don’t think that Wolfowitz or Dennis Ross would argue that Israel is being supported in order that tax money can be laundered and re-used to finance elections in the US. Or that Florida’s electoral vote hangs in the balance.
    So if the Israel as our imperial fortress argument doesn’t wash with you, and I’m not wedded to it, what does? I’m afraid domestic electoral calculation, though it may be the reason cannot serve as the rationale. And neither can the old flowers in the desert, returning after a couple of millenia in exile, guff either.
    But maybe I’m making the fatal mistake of overestimating the intelligence of the American ruling class. Its not something I’ve been accused of in the past but…
    Here’s another thought: US foreign policy has been founded, since 1948, on an agreement between linberals and conservatives. The conservatives were reluctant to get involved in the obvious madness of dominating the world. They could see all manner of advantages for their class interests but, on the whole, they felt they had done pretty well going it alone, keeping clear of international bodies like the UN the ILO and cutting costs to keep taxes low etc.
    It was the liberals who wanted a war against socialism. They insisted on it. And the deal they made was this: you support the Cold War and we will give up the unions and the New Deal. Israel was very much a liberal cause. For the Taft Republicans there was nothing very sympathetic about a Jewish state, run on ostensibly socialist lines by a Labour party built on a Trade Union Federation and kibbutzim.
    On the other hand Taft Hartley was the key to winning the war against the unions, which is what really interested them.
    It is the liberal origins of bi-partisan US Foreign Policy which are being so clearly exposed by current events: one can almost see Obama’s mask slipping and the death’s head skull of the 60 year holocaust of socialists and trade unionists revealing itself for what it always has been. A bargain whereby the liberals would turn the planet into their kind of America, and the businessmen would have a non union world to exploit.

  5. I agree, Bevin. In the US “cui bono” stakes the class-struggle test is a test that always comes up with a result.
    If you ask, in any of the twists and turns, how does this work out in class-war terms, you always get an answer that makes sense.
    It also makes sense to a commie like me that the biggest anti-communist class-warriors are found among the so-called “left”, i.e. in the US Democrats and the British Labour Party. This is because the anti-communists are infiltrated and bred in those environments, with an intensity that you will not find among the bourgeoisie itself.

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