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" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Wed, May 9, 2007 5:56 pm -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sunday, May 6, 2007 CLOSE-UP KAREL VAN WOLFEREN Insights into the new world disorder http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070506x1.html By DAVID McNEILL 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 system. 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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