Monday, September 3, 2007

The Impending Catastrophe: Can We Combat It?

It is not necessary to delve very far beneath the surface to realize that Democrats and Republicans are essentially of one mind. But they are also electoral competitors, obliged to appeal to (somewhat) different constituencies for votes and to (somewhat) different sectors of the ruling class for money. Thus they each have an interest in the other side foundering, and since they enjoy an effective duopoly, they each do best, or think they do, by situating themselves as close to the “center” as they can without losing their own supporters. The majority of their constituents may wish they were situated elsewhere, more to the left or to the right, but if their funders don’t, and if their constituents have or think they have nowhere else to go, there is no need to accede to their “base’s” wishes and good reason not to. This is why the 75% of the population now opposed to the Iraq War has gotten only words from the Democratic Party’s leadership. This is why too, should the Cheney-Bush administration decide to launch yet another war, this time against Iran, the Democrats can be counted on to do nothing to stop it. Indications are that plans for a major bombing campaign are already drawn up and that a PR offensive is about to begin . Given how the Democratic led Congress has operated since January, one wonders why Cheney and Bush even feel the need for PR.

Why indeed? Cheney and Bush seem determined to go for broke or, as more capable and saner minds might say, to go out with a bang, not a whimper. But having failed so thoroughly for so long, they must by now realize at some level that in seeking to save themselves by devastating Iran, they’re betting on the longest of long shots. They must also realize what every military theorist since Clausewitz has understood: that wars can’t be fought for long against the manifest will of the people whose soldiers are in harm’s way. Cheney and Bush are battling against public opinion – in Iraq. Should they bomb Iran, PR isn’t going to help them. That could pose an additional electoral problem – not for them, since they are the lamest of lame ducks, but for the Republican Party. They seem not to care. If that is the case, then the only ones who can stop them are in the ruling classes they serve. But, in all likelihood, those characters won’t move until the Republicans’ political problems become generalized social problems that threaten their own fundamental interests in the continuation of the regime. Cheney knows what the stakes are. He got a glimpse of what can happen when the center doesn’t hold in his formative years – when, like many of his hawkish contemporaries, his “priorities” led him to cheer on the Vietnam War without fighting in it. [Bush’s story is similar, though he may have been too oblivious then, and too dense now, to grasp the stakes.] This is why the only thing that can deter Cheney and Bush, besides a revolt in their own ranks, is fear that a spirit of rebellion will be reborn. The Democrats in Congress could deter them by defunding their wars, and they could distract them by impeaching the perpetrators of those wars. But they will do neither. Even if they had the courage, they are too wedded to the regime themselves.

Lying the country into yet another war would seem a fool’s errand, since the word is now out about how they did it before. But the Cheney-Bush forces are not deterred by folly, and their contempt for the public is limitless. With Democrats for opponents, they just might still get their way. Thus the situation is dire. Should Cheney and Bush get their longed for war, they’ll have finally turned on an opponent that can and will fight back – not just in the form of a disorganized resistance, as in Iraq, but in a more coherent and potentially dangerous way. The world will pay dearly.

The Iraq War is part of a larger plan to maintain strategic control over the Middle East and central Asia and its petroleum resources. Somewhat independently, the ideologues the Bush administration empowered also wanted to use the war to turn Iraq into a neo-con utopia – subservient to American and Israeli interests, exemplifying neo-liberal economic policies and as much American-style (i.e. capitalism and especially imperialism friendly) “democracy” as possible. Ironically, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. To be sure, there are American firms in industries close to the Cheney/Bush administration making bundles of money off of the murder and mayhem. But, for the most part, the war has harmed the economy more than it has helped it -- though the full extent of the harm may not become manifest for a while. This will redound eventually even back to the Halliburtons and Blackwaters. A low tide lowers all ships.

The war has also removed a potential, though minor, strategic threat to Israel. However, in doing so, it has set in motion a process likely to lead to a failed state in Iraq (an outcome far worse for Israel than Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was). Worse still, the Cheney/Bush wars have destabilized Middle Eastern governments friendly to American imperialism. Should some or all of them be replaced by islamist governments, Israel will rue the day the neo-cons got their way. From an Israeli point of view, there have already been setbacks. The election of a Hamas government in the Gaza Strip and the failed military adventure in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 are portents of things to come. To be sure, the Israeli economy is doing well, thanks to a burgeoning “homeland security” industry supported by the United States and Europe, and Israel still has overwhelming military superiority in the region. It still has unquestioning U.S. diplomatic and military support as well. But even if all this lasts for a while longer, it would be hard to make the case that, on balance, Israel has benefited from the Iraq War. In the not too distant future it may look instead like that war advanced processes in Israel/Palestine and outside it that make the prospect of a two-state solution – and therefore the indefinite survival of an ethnically cleansed “Jewish state” – more remote. The Israeli government and their representatives in the United States think a war against Iran can salvage all this. As much as Cheney and Bush, they are dreaming.

In fact, the main beneficiary of the Bush wars has been Iran. With the experience of the Iran/Iraq War still fresh and with its core issues still unresolved, the Iraqi army and the Saddam Hussein government posed a far greater strategic threat to Iran than to Israel. That threat is now gone. Of course, there is now a new threat from the Americans that spells trouble for Iran in the short-run. But, in the longer term, the situation the American invasion of Iraq brough about is a godsend, as it were, for the Iranian mullahs. Thanks to the Iraq War, Iranian influence over large segments of the Iraqi population has become enormous. Should Cheney and Bush get their way, it will become more enormous still. Should the U.S. bomb Iran, this will become evident immediately in Iraq, where, even with the vaunted “surge,” the occupation is enfeebled to the point of powerlessness. But Iraq is not the only place where Iran can cause trouble for the United States. The United States itself is such a place. But, then again, for Cheney and Bush, “homeland security” was never much of a concern.

The other main beneficiaries of the Cheney-Bush wars are, of course, the promoters of political Islam, including Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda suffered heavy losses in the early stages of the Afghanistan War. But the “coalition’s” incompetence and the Cheney/Bush government’s collusion with pro-Al Qaeda interests in Saudi Arabia and in the emirates of the Persian Gulf negated that advantage soon enough. Meanwhile, the perpetual war the U.S. has unleashed has exacerbated the threat of Islamic terrorism everywhere. The War on Terror – actually a self-inflicted war on American Constitutional principles and traditional liberties and on the rule of law itself – has been as abject a failure, in its stated aims, as the other Bush wars have been. Here too, the likely consequence of Cheney’s and Bush’s plans for Iran will be catastrophic. Should they get their way, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

If it we leave it up to the Democrats, they will get their way. Perhaps, if Cheney and Bush had it in mind to start a war against some other country, Venezuela perhaps or Cuba, having already failed so conspicuously on their own terms in Afghanistan and Iraq, common sense might prevail over Democratic “principles” and electoral calculations. But Iran is and has long been Israel’s first and foremost bugbear and the Democrats are in AIPAC’s pocket. On the “need” to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and/or impeding American efforts in Iraq – the two components of the coming PR campaign Cheney and Bush are about to launch – every Democratic contender in the current primary cycle, except of course the “unelectable” ones, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, have been unequivocal. Iran must be stopped; anything goes. Should Cheney and Bush go on the offensive, expect Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to be more abject and therefore more bloodthirsty than the rest; but they’ll all go along.

The call has gone out many times to support no Democrat who supports the Iraq War. As the nature of the Democrats’ support has become increasingly obfuscated though no less real -- to the point that they even Hillary Clinton is now officially “against the war” -- that call has fallen increasingly on deaf ears. But surely even types can demand of every candidate at every venue that they speak out against a war with Iran, and resolve to hold elected officials accountable should they, yet again, be Bush aiders and abettors in this latest, most dangerous, neo-con adventure. Public pressure alone will not suffice, however; not so long as it is confined to an electoral arena that marginalizes all but the palest dissent. To stop Cheney and Bush, it will be necessary to escalate the social costs for the regime, not just the political costs for the incumbents or would-be incumbents of its offices. That was the lesson of the anti-Vietnam War movement. It is a lesson that must be learned by the anti-war movement today. With the Democratic leadership dead set against impeachment, it makes no sense to play for time. There is no choice but to play for real.

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