[OPE] Pondering international relations: a column on the poverty of imperialist policy

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Fri Jun 06 2008 - 16:29:05 EDT

"If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective," Transportation Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz told the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/990867.html

This kind of statement exemplifies the violent, murderous and destructive nature of imperialist policy. Of course, it is basically a kind of elite grandstanding. You have to bear in mind that this guy is the Transport Minister and a vice president, not the chief of the IDF, so basically it's just noize. If Israel really unilaterally attacked Iran, you can kiss Israel goodbye, in the long term, that would be my judgement, because once you set that kind of precedent, you've got a big enemy not just for life, but for the afterlife as well. 

Sane people would say that Israel and Iran ought to cooperate, because they can benefit from that. Right now, that seems a ludicrous, absurd, insane idea, but practically speaking it is very true. Ordinary people do not benefit at all from a fight between Israel and Iran, and they ought to oppose it tooth and nail. Why should they be killed or injured in a fight that make no sense whatever, just because some bourgeois goes into a hysteria? Israel has plenty of weapons of mass destruction, as Jimmy Carter acknowledges. But the challenge in the modern world is not how much you can destroy, but whether you can create a better world. That is also what I understand to be Barack Obama's message - there's got to be a better way, somehow, because a lot of the problems people face are unnecessary, needless suffering, they are the result of people pushing dogmas that don't make any sense. Barack Obama might not be the perfect person, and you can obviously criticize him, but at least he has common sense, i.e. a sense of which the so-callled common people who are ruled out from elite politics are really at. I have to admire his energy.

The basic pathological hangup that you still see in Israeli circles is, that they think that they have to be tougher than the Nazis were, and they have to stamp out threats to the Jewish way of life today, tomorrow, and for eternity. Plus, they have an ingrained persecution complex. But this leads to insane exaggerations and gyrations in policy, which do not in truth correspond to where people's lives are at at all. What do they know about eternity, or even what will happen in 20 years time? Nothing, because they haven't been there. It is just a paranoid discussion about threats which might, or might not, occur. They say a week is a long time in politics. In that case, what eternity will bring is anyone's guess. We don't make a better future by itemising all the threats that might possibly occur. We make a better world by taking constructive action in the here and now to bring a better world into being. The real Nazis are the people who murder "just in case", "pre-emptively".

Zionist reasoning seems to be, well, we bombed Iraq and we bombed Syria, so we can bomb Iran. But that is a very, very false analogy in my opinion, and therefore I hope for their own sake they will not do this. Militarily they could do it, but would be a case of "win the battle, lose the war". 

Let's hypothetically suppose that Iran decided to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel (if they had one), even although Iran says that this is contrary to Islam and contrary to its interests. Could Iran do so (evading the Israeli air defence system) without killing a lot of non-Jews? Well, it is rather obvious that they couldn't. In this sense, I am in perfect agreement with John McCain - the problem with nuclear warfare is that you cannot just hit only the people you want to hit, you also hit a large number of people who have nothing to do with the issue, and might even be on your side. So nuclear warfare, apart from being murderous and immoral, is basically stupid and creates more opposition than you ever imagined. It doesn't solve any problem. Then why does the US support India's nuclear arsenal? Behind the rhetoric, it is all hypocrisy and empire building. French President Chirac quipped candidly it would not even matter if Iran had some nuclear weapons... a statement which was hastily retracted as a faux-pas, but which is perfectly true.

Here in Holland, one of the newspapers ran a survey recently on how many people would favour or oppose unilateral military intervention in Burma to save the Burmese, whose lives have been stuffed up by a natural disaster. Whaddya know, close to two-thirds said they would favour that, a sort of gung-ho Dutch imperialism (a certain fascization is occurring here with liberal dropout "mother Rita Verdonk", as if the Dutch need another mother to rule over them). Yet, the vast majority of those Dutch people have never been to Burma and do not speak Burmese, their knowledge of how things really work in Burma is zilch. What then entitles them to argue that unilateral military intervention in Burma would be okay? It's just middleclass philistinism based on television reports. One of the biggest culprits in the final death toll in Burma is in truth the American government, which has done everything possible to stigmatize and isolate the Burmese government. Can you really blame the Burmese government for refusing to let US military into the country to rescue people in that case? Why would you let people into your country, whose explicitly stated aim it is to destroy your political system and who pulled out all the stops to frustrate your foreign relations? This is obviously not the way to "move the process forward" as Americans like to say. They have plenty military power, but no political nouse right now.

In a recent speech (the FT printed it in full), John McCain declared:

"The right change recognizes that many of the policies and institutions of our government have failed. They have failed to keep up with the challenges of our time because many of these policies were designed for the problems and opportunities of the mid to late 20th Century, before the end of the Cold War; before the revolution in information technology and rise of the global economy. The right kind of change will initiate widespread and innovative reforms in almost every area of government policy -- health care, energy, the environment, the tax code, our public schools, our transportation system, disaster relief, government spending and regulation, diplomacy, the military and intelligence services. Serious and far-reaching reforms are needed in so many areas of government to meet our own challenges in our own time."  

This contains some nonsense obviously, because the "global economy" existed all along. But suppose you are honest - how can you argue all this, and AT THE SAME TIME try to export your domestic policy abroad? If you acknowledge yourself that your own domestic policy is a mess, what entitles you to export your way of life to other countries and try to impose it on them? John McCain wants to argue that America is in deep shit, but nevertheless he wants to promote the American way of life aggressively around the whole world. Now that is precisely what does not make sense at all - yet, there is not even one American thinker who clearly articulates this point of view! If you start to discourse about "our great country" and at the same time confess your country has very serious problems, there is a serious flaw in the argument somewhere, and anyone with a modicum of intelligence cannot fail to see that. Europeans can understand that, looking at it from the outside, but, apparently, American politicians cannot.

I don't have any particular illusions about what Barack Obama can accomplish - if as a European I prefer his presidency over the other contenders, it's because America has the largest military power in the world but has lost any good sense of who the "enemy" really is. It is the largest exporter of food, but cannot even agree about the causes of the food crisis. Naturally if you have a military force of a million people with the largest destructive force anywhere, there's got to be an enemy around which justifies all that. If there is no enemy, the Pentagon will invent one, even just to save their budgets. The "food weapon" is also a nice argument to have on the table, of course.

In that case, the world is better off with a US president who believes at least in constructive engagement and talking with people. Because with neocon nutters at the helm there, the world will really go to hell. There are, it is true, just wars and unjust wars. But wars which make no sense at all, and about which people are continually debating as regards the real motives, are wars which ought to be avoided at all cost. Because the more nonsense, the more hell there will be. The traditional task of the Left is to deliver us from nonsense. But what if the Left doesn't do it? Well then we have to start again, get back to basics, as it were. It starts with very basic ideas such as,"how do you know an enemy is an enemy, if the supposed enemy hasn't done you any harm?".


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