[OPE-L] A few clear pithy comments from Karel van Wolferen in the Japan Times on the new world disorder (excerpts)

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed May 09 2007 - 20:06:53 EDT

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Subject: A few clear pithy comments from Karel van Wolferen in the Japan
Times on the new world disorder (excerpts)
From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date:    Wed, May 9, 2007 5:56 pm

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Insights into the new world disorder

Special to The Japan Times

QUESTION Didn't people also worry, though, during the Vietnam War era that
U.S. power was out of control?

I don't know if the Vietnam War is a good example of American power out of
control. There are signs of American military might becoming an
uncontrollable entity. [Former U.S. President Dwight D.] Eisenhower saw
that. [Eisenhower famously warned of the dangers of America's
"military-industrial complex" in his presidential farewell address in 1961.]
But I don't think that was on display in Vietnam. Vietnam, of course, is
dragged into the debate by a lot of antiwar people in the U.S. But the two
cases - Iraq and Vietnam - are very different. This is not to say that
Vietnam was a good idea - it wasn't - but it is a very different story.

What is happening in Iraq is not sufficiently understood. A state has been
destroyed, a state with all the things that made a state work: police
protection against crime, infrastructure, electricity, schooling, medical
facilities; everything that allows a society to function, even though under
Saddam Hussein it was a tyranny. That state is no longer there! The
discussion about the so-called civil war in Iraq among antiwar people
conveys a degree of ignorance that is horrendous. I'm talking here about
people whose heart is in the right place and who are horrified about what
this war of choice has done to the U.S., but they share in the general
American ignorance of the fact that in Iraq you have a vacuum. This has
caused private security militias to emerge, and yes, it so happens that
members of these militias identify very intensely with their Sunni or Shiite
backgrounds and so turn against each other. Don't talk about civil war or
the ingratitude of the Iraqis who have an opportunity for democracy and
don't take it. What do you mean democratic opportunity? Where are the
institutions? As if you can deliver democracy by FedEx or something. All
that commentary reveals plain and unforgivable ignorance.

There is so much ignorance among educated people about how civil
institutions are supposed to function, and ignorance of what a true civil
war normally entails, that the unleashing of civil war has become the
central criticism. What we essentially have in Iraq are groups that have
turned against an invader. You can't actually speak of occupation either
because the U.S. doesn't have the means of an occupier at its disposal; it
squats and has no control over the country whatsoever. Amid these very
heavily armored squatters who earlier destroyed the Iraqi state, the
militias fight everyone they see as a future threat to themselves, since
they know themselves to be unprotected by law, by a functioning state. (...)

QUESTION I wonder if you think the U.S. has blundered into Iraq with the
best intentions or is there a malevolent political agenda here which would
include oil, of course, but also imposing its will on the region,
strategically redrawing the map of the Middle East and so on.

This is conceptually a very challenging question and deserves a lot of
attention. Analysts like [radical scholar and U.S. foreign policy critic
Noam] Chomsky always postulate the existence of an active agent bringing it
all about. But I think this business about agency and choice is built into
liberalist interpretations of political life. I think our tradition of
liberalism is still politically most rewarding, but at the same time you
realize that history is not a string of events that were the result of
conscious agency or choice. Take what Eisenhower in his farewell speech
correctly identified as a monster that was getting out of control - the
military-industrial complex. He referred to something that was set up for
understandable purposes but began to lead a life of its own. Certain
political and business interests are obviously served by this, and they want
it to continue. They haven't created the military-industrial complex, but
they become agents for its continuation. Or take the lobby phenomenon.
Politicians need a fortune to get re-elected, and businesses want favorable
laws. Before you know it you have a plutocracy; but no one designed it.

On a national level, the U.S. ceased to be a democracy some time ago; I
think it is stretching the term too far to still speak of democracy. It is a
plutocracy. The new democratic majority has not brought significant changes
with regard to the biggest thing which is going on - military action that is
causing incredible suffering and hundreds of thousands of deaths. You have a
corrupt Congress that does not reflect the wishes of the electorate. You
have an out-of-control vice president who is almost certainly calling the
shots. You have a president who should never have come close to office; who
would not have had a position in government in almost any country where
there is some parliamentary control. He is totally unsuited and unqualified.
This is understood today by a majority of Americans and yet he is still
there, destroying America's position in the world! It is not just the U.S;
you see it with Tony Blair in Britain. The British have gone further in
analyzing cause and effect and the rot within, but yet Blair remains.

I recognize the achievements of Western political culture, but there is
still no reason for us as Americans or Europeans to turn to any other
country and say we're going to teach you how to organize your political

There is a clear task here for the European Union, which has so far not been
taken up: Europeans ought to form a collective voice simply reassuring the
world: "We do not endorse this. We are not in favor of aggressive war. We
want to stick to the U.N. charter. If the British government doesn't want to
join, this will speed up what is inevitable anyway - a two-speed, core and
peripheral, Europe.

The big problem for Europe is its Atlanticist addiction, which is
particularly strong in The Netherlands. It leads to widespread denial of
global reality. There is no trans-Atlantic alliance at all; it has
unilaterally been replaced by a system of vassalage that does not protect
Europe. Europe does not share the imperialist ambitions of the U.S., and so
the prime condition for an alliance - identity of purpose - is missing. NATO
has essentially become a reservoir of auxiliary troops for American
militarist projects. But the roots that Cold-War defense arrangements
developed went deep and are still there. You have military entities in
Europe that are insufficiently under the control of national parliaments.
Again, we have here something that no one has chosen or wanted, but that has
grown into something with a life of its own. The Dutch Air Force, for
example, is simply an appendix of the American Air Force. They intend to go
ahead with this new joint-strike fighter; that incredible plane designed to
fight a nonexistent enemy, which can only fly with software that is
controlled in Washington. The EU members - Bulgaria and Romania - have both
accepted new American air-force bases, from which the Middle East or Central
Asia can be bombed. And the Czechs and Poles have said 'yes' to becoming
part of the American missile defense system - which in fact means part of
long-range plans for space-based military control. In my view that is
tantamount to welcoming a fifth column into the EU.

Like Japan, European countries run the risk of being sucked into American
adventures that will bring disaster to all. Does that make me sound
anti-American? Then I am in the same league as many Americans I know. For
them it is terrible having to live with what has become of their country,
something they thought could never happen. But then there are others,
including quite a few antigovernment commentators, who suffer from a bad
case of collective narcissism. Sometimes I wish there would be such a blow -
hopefully not too punishing - as to wake those parochial minds up to the
fact that they're not the center of the universe and have not created the
perfect model of society or the economy.

QUESTION Wasn't that 9/11?

No, not at all, although 9/11 should have done it. The public was ready to
discuss the possible reasons why terrorists committed that huge crime. But
that kind of sobering talk became taboo within a few months after the
attacks. In the beginning there was a genuine effort to understand Islamic
radicalism, but the country was hijacked through politics of deception that
in the U.S. had never sunk to such depths before. What made all of it
happen? Some basic conditions were there. There is this military-industrial
complex. There is a plutocracy. There is a media world no longer capable of
informing citizens about fundamentals they need to know, because it is
corrupted and current media owners have never been interested in what we
consider the task of journalism. There is an opposition party too cowardly
to have halted rightwing excesses. In this environment a couple of people
came to power, Dick Cheney and [former Defense Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld,
who had a traumatically disorienting experience in their recent past - the
end of the Cold War and the demise of the Soviet Union. The political reason
for their being disappeared. They tried very hard to recreate a big enemy .
That ridiculous category of rogue states, justifying a Cold War-era defense
budget, has not been quite credible. Then these two, as well as the master
of political deceit [presidential adviser] Karl Rove, were handed on a
silver platter a magnificent new enemy. Without it, China would have been
the prime candidate for the role.

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