[OPE-L] President Bush and the fear of the vacuum

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Sat Feb 17 2007 - 14:30:44 EST

Just a quick ideological scan, in between other things. I think I have
finally discovered a way to understand the "method in the madness" of US
foreign policy, though don't hold your breath.  It's a devastatingly simple,
unified theory: a fear of the vacuum. A vacuum could appear, and it could be
filled by, or suck in, anybody at all. It's a kind of metaphysical theory,
yes, but Mr Bush has reiterated that fear in numerous speeches recently. To
explain, here's an example of what Mr Bush says:

"Mindful of recent history, I ask you to think about what happened in
Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the United States helped Afghan freedom fighters
drive the Soviet Red Army from Kabul, and once the Soviets withdrew, we
decided our work was finished and left the Afghans to defend [sic] for
themselves. Soon the terrorists moved in to fill the vacuum. They took over
the country; they turned it into a safe haven from which they planned and
launched the attacks of September the 11th. If we leave Iraq before the job
is done, the terrorists will move in and fill the vacuum, and they will use
that failed state to bring murder and destruction to freedom-loving
nations." http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060329-6.html

Sometimes, however, there is not just one vacuum, but several:

"If we were to leave this young democracy before the job is done, there
would be chaos, and out of chaos would become vacuums, and into those power
vacuums would flow extremists who would be emboldened; extremists who want
to find safe haven."

The vacuum thus arises out of a chaos, and it causes a flowing movement (a
bit like currents in the air or the sea), that can suck in all the wrong

"And the reason why I say "disastrous consequences," the Iraqi government
could collapse, chaos would spread, there would be a vacuum, into the vacuum
would flow more extremists, more radicals, people who have stated intent to
hurt our people."

Bush thus says quite consistently that the new strategy in Iraq would mean
"the [Iraqi] government will have the breathing space it needs to make
progress in other critical areas."

If there is a vacuum, you don't have that breathing space obviously, you
cannot breathe. Still, some differences of interpretation remain. In the
case of Mr Snow, the suction of the vacuum clearly appears if US troops

MR. SNOW:  (...) And we think when the American people not only receive a
presentation of what's going on in Iraq and how it fits into the larger war
on terror, but also the simple question, if not this, what -- I think it not
only sets the basis for --

Q It's not "if what," it's to get out. That's the "what."

MR. SNOW: No, no, I'm afraid not, because if you leave and create a vacuum
you really do --

Q There are people there, they've lived there 5,000 years.

MR. SNOW: Yes, I'll rehearse the -- you understand the geopolitical
argument. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070118-1.html

However, in the case of Kenneth M. Pollack, Director of Research, Saban
Center for Middle East Policy, the suction of the vacuum was CREATED by the
US military and its allies:

"The problem was that we created a security vacuum. The United States pulled
down the Iraqi government, pulled down the Iraqi security services. We did
nothing to replace them. And what we've seen elsewhere in history is exactly
what we've seen in Iraq, which is that in the presence of a security vacuum,
in the absence of a government or some other force capable and willing to
provide security, vicious militias arise."

Whatever else you might say, it is not as though intelligent people aren't
thinking about the vacuum controversy. The vacuum problem turns out to be
quite a tricky one, because you could create a vacuum by doing something,
but also by not doing something, and before you know it, things and people
are being sucked in. It makes political behaviour very complex. How for
example did Afghanis get their arms, enabling them to fill a vacuum when the
Russians pulled out, then switching from freedom fighters into terrorists?
From the USA, as Mr Bush admits. So you might think you are plugging vacuum
here, but then a vacuum appears there. In fact, while plugging one vacuum,
you might create another, so you're in business for a long time.

The quest to restore order in the chaos becomes elusive: you keep running
around trying to plug new vacuums, it's a permanent battle really.  There
could moreover be different vacuums, for example "power vacuums" or
"security vacuums" as mentioned above, and one vacuum might change into
another, a power vacuum could mutate into a security vacuum. In the end you
need a vacuum expert, to work out just exactly what kind of vacuum you are
really dealing with, and how to deal with it. Whatever the case, when a
vacuum appears, you have to plug it somehow, and you have to keep it
plugged, until there's no more vacuum.

Sure, I admit this is a metaphysical theory of geopolitics, not a
scientifically proven one, but the advantage of it is, that it explains
everything, which is what metaphysical theories do. How does this relate to
global warming, for instance? Well, for a start, global warming, by changing
the weather patterns and sea currents, creates all kinds of new vacuums and
suction in the atmosphere, the sea and on land. You could also validly argue
that global warming is caused by existing vacuums, but then again, you could
validly argue it creates new vacuums. Whichever way you look at it though,
point is the vacuums are there, and they need to be plugged. Thinking it
through, we are going to be faced with an eternal reality that requires
eternal vigilance. You cannot avoid those vacuums, and you cannot avoid
having to do something about them.

Oh no, do I hear a giant sucking sound somewhere? Well anyway, I have to get
on with my life, I still have some vacuum cleaning to do myself, that I
didn't get around to. One thing is fairly certain: if I switch my vacuum
cleaner on, it will suck. If I switch it off, it stops sucking. That
inspires confidence already. And I did it myself.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Feb 28 2007 - 00:00:08 EST