[OPE-L:8493] Re: On War

From: Cyrus Bina (binac@mrs.umn.edu)
Date: Fri Feb 21 2003 - 19:04:43 EST

Dear Doug,

[Note: I apologize for my unedited text, which contained numerous typos and
incomplete sentences in my first version of this note. Unfortunately, I did
the double mistake of sending the same to OPE-L as well.  I was between my
student appointments and making exams.  I also extend my apologies to all at

Hope all is well with you.  I appreciate putting my piece on your lbo-talk.
Copyright is not a first-order question at all.  The main point is
conversation and clarification.  The issue of war and American lost hegemony
is now more apparent than the first Persian Gulf War (1991).  The
question of building the so-called collision was flimsy then, but it is
farce now.  The question of NATO was in the undercurrent then, but it is in
the open now.

What kind of "inter-state" system (I mean in a sense of regulating global
polity) is in
place now?  What type of structured and regulating mechanism had emerged
rather rhetorical pronouncement of a single "superpower" polity? None. Let's
ask: short of world revolution, what kind of system (I mean in a fully
fledged sense that involves the economy, polity, and the entire global
social relations) is historically demanded at this juncture?  Probably a
system without hegemony (i.e., multi-polar) of any one nation-state.  Why?
Because of the evolution of social relations and development of global
capitalism that has already gutted the institutions that are to the dictate
of a nation or two (however defined), leading to the hegemony of "social

In order to see this evolution one has to simply look at the past
(international) system of Pax Britannica and its physical access to things
(direct system of plunder and direct administration) via classical (naked)
colonialism.  This system was imploded prior to world War I (1914-1918) and,
after a period of chaos and confusion, another bloody war (WWII, 1939-1945),
replaced by a US-dominated "inter-state system, called Pax Americana.
It should be realized that after the DEATH of Pax Britannica in the early
20th century, there was still quarrel over the nationalization of oil in
Iran (1951) and thus an anachronistic character, named Winston Churchill,
has dragged himself from the quiet graveyard of 19th century to stand
against a 20th century elected
premier, namely Mohammad Mossadegh, and preserve the British colonial
in Iran.

As you can see, the Pax Britannica was long dead, yet its stinking corpse
had been hanging over the world.  It had to be dismounted and dragged into
its grave by people like Gandhi and Mossadegh several decades later.  This
new system (i.e., Pax Americana), in many respects, was the opposite of what
naked colonialism
was all about: its mission was the spread of social relations of CAPITAL and
its rhetoric was "democracy."  It wanted to re-create the world after its
image. It re-created the world all right, but in its view of itself, in
words, and in its own fractured image, in deeds. Yet, historically, the Pax
Americana has changed the world in an irreversible manner.  It led to the
development (and preservation) of social relations of CAPITAL unevenly to
all four corners of the world.  Of course, the Soviets inadvertently (?) did
the rest.  One of the vehicles of these undertakings was the imposition of
U.S.-dominated land reform programs on many of the "Third World" countries
under its hegemony.

Speaking of hegemony, US hegemony was the result of the hegemony of the Pax
Americana, like the hegemony of England (this little island!), which was
upon the hegemony of the Empire itself.  One has to be careful not to
the United State with the Pax Americana itself.

Now, one of the significant differences between these two "empires" is in
direct versus indirect conduct of their affairs.  When I speak of conducting
one's affairs, I do not mean voluntaristically.  Such conducts are done in
conjunction with the characteristics of historically specific era. This goes
back to the comparative characteristics of these
two historical systems.  Why the naked force of colonialism could not be
effective any more?  Because it was no longer historically acceptable by
those who were ruled over and no longer manageable by those who ruled.  Why
"middle ground" system of Pax Americana went out of business (roughly
mid- to late 1970s)?  It went out of business because of the internal
contradictions of the system, collapse of its institutions, and unintended
forces of globalization (here, I do not mean "corporate globalization").
This system emerged, developed, and reached its peak through the MEDIATION
of its various institutions.

The recognition and analysis of the mediation institutions are extremely
important in the study of capitalism, particularly global capitalism.  When
there was direct intervention, it was not similar to direct intervention of
by the Pax Britannica.  But these interventions (i.e., respectively, by the
British Empire and the United States) on an equal footing are
methodologically wrong.  It is also historically anachronistic.  With the
Pax Americana gone, then speaking of hegemony is nonsense.  When one speaks
of "American Power," therefore, one also should know its historical limits.

I haven't read Chomsky's comments.  Yet, I gather from your description that
he might have read the "Aspects of India's Economy," Nos 33 and 34, December
2002.  This special(double)issue is devoted entirely to :Behind the Invasion
of Iraq."  The authors in its recent context raise the question of why the
U.S. government is trying to buy friendship from the Government of India and
how such a relationship is motivated by blocking China.  I have read this
last night after I have sent you the unedited and fragmented version of this

The core of this argument (and perhaps Chomsky's) is based on an approach
that I would call "third-worldist," for the lack of better term.  First, the
focus of the entire argument is on the traditional notion colonialism and
control.  Secondly, it implies that Pax Americana is alive and well and that
the United States is still the hegemon.  Third, it explicitly argues that
the impending U.S. war against Iraq is for oil.  Fourth, it states that OPEC
is a cartel. Finally, it proposes that the apparent and/or alleged shifting
of the Middle East oil producers from U.S. dollar to euro is the cause of
war.  Just for now, let me say that this sort of approach had stopped
thinking and living intellectually beyond at least a couple of decades ago.
Yet, it amount to insult on the injury when an individual like W. Clark (?)
via the so-called Independent Media Center focuses on only one of these
points, namely the so-called currency change, and write up more than 16
pages disconnected, unintelligible, uninformative, and seemingly
left-leaning piece in order to tarnish the credentials of the left (this was
already posted on OPE-L).

On the notion of inter-imperialist rivalry you raised, one has to address
 transformation of the whole (the entire global relation as a whole) before
coming to the recognition and thus analysis of the parts and their
relations.  The question of "inter-imperialist rivalry," therefore, is
relevant to the dynamics of a particular era and system.  For instance,
inter-imperialist rivalry within the Pax Americana must be analytically
treated differently from the "inter-imperialist" rivalry in the era of
globalization and post-Pax Americana.

With all good wishes,

(February 21, 2003)

Cyrus Bina, P.D.
Professor of Economics and Management
University of Minnesota
Morris, MN 56267
Phone: (320) 589-6193
Fax:     (320) 589-6117
E-mail: binac@mrs.umn.edu

----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug Henwood" <dhenwood@panix.com>
To: <rakeshb@stanford.edu>; "Cyrus Bina" <binac@mrs.umn.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 9:00 PM
Subject: Re: On War

> rakeshb@stanford.edu wrote:
> >  >
> >Dear Cyrus,
> >As you must know, anything insightful I had to say on OPE-L in response
> >to George Caffentzis was merely my attempt to restate what you have
> >taught me. Doug Henwood fwd your analysis to his lbo-talk list but did
> >not include the copyright though he is of course justly sympathetic to
> >the copyright concerns of writers and journalists.
> I'm sorry about that. I stripped away some headers & footers &
> cleaned up the formatting. I didn't mean to clip away the copyright;
> I'll post a correction.
> >  He finds your
> >argument generally persuasive esp in regards to the critique of
> >administered pricing but believes that you downplay US power (it's
> >important that we follow your lead in clarifying our varying conceptions
> >of hegemony if we are to have a clear debate about whether US hegemony
> >has declined) and that you underestimate how control of oil will give US
> >power over rivals. I don't know what exactly Doug means by the
> >latter--that the US will use up scarce Arab oil supplies all by itself
> >and then starve Europe and China of the oil which they need?!?
> The potential for blockade. This is Chomsky's line, and I think it's
> persuasive.
> >  I can't
> >believe that Doug as opposed to former pen-l contributor Mark Jones
> >believes that this is the power which the US is playing for, but then
> >I'm not clear as to what he is saying. Certainly inter-imperialist
> >rivalry is not occluded in your analysis--so I don't see how you ignore
> >that.
> I meant that it wasn't discussed; it's not incompatible with Cyrus'
> economic analysis, which I completely agree with.
> Doug

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Feb 23 2003 - 00:00:00 EST