Fighting and dying for the environment (response to Mark)

Mark Jones markjones011 at
Wed Dec 4 11:58:38 MST 2002

Lou Paulsen wrote:

> I am sure that some limitations on our standard of living in the
> imperialist
> countries may well be on the agenda, but my question is under what
> circumstances populations will really have to 'give their lives' or 'be
> sacrificed' by the socialist order.  Even if the population of
> the planet is
> in the throes of famine, plague, and water shortage at the time of the
> revolution, and the environment is collapsing, I would think that the
> transformation to socialism would free up a lot of resources and
> dramatically
> improve the situation, so we can begin the process of environmental
> reconstruction while ensuring everyone at least the means of physical
> survival.  The attacks on the environment are mostly not due to
> the strains of
> producing the clean water and calories *necessary to the survival* of 6
> billion people.  They are mostly due to other stuff.

Michael Keaney posted a nice article by Pepe Escobar to the A-List today and
I hope Lou forgives me for crossposting it here. Then I'll try to answer
Lou's prfectly reasonable questions:

Part 1: Theatrical militarism
By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times: December 4 2002

RIO DE JANEIRO - At the end of his autobiography "Interesting Times - a
Twentieth-Century Life", British historian Eric Hobsbawm notes that today
nobody controls the United States and for this reason its enormous power is
capable of destabilizing the world. The world has indeed become unstable
since US foreign policy was hijacked by a group of neo-conservatives - a
kind of neo-imperialist school.

Washington has tried by any means necessary to portray al-Qaeda as a
well-established, ubiquitous Ultimate Evil Power, responsible for terrorism
from the Philippines to Palestine, from Kashmir to Chechnya, from
Afghanistan to Yemen, from Lebanon to Bali. This enthronement of terrorism
as a Universal Force has institutionalized nothing less than a state of
permanent global war. Some extremist American pundits like Norman Podhoretz
already consider this to be the Fourth World War, the Third being the Cold
War. But the current situation is rather what The Nation's Katrina van den
Heuvel describes as "perpetual war fever used for political purposes".

The expected US war against Iraq is being packaged and sold as an episode in
the non-stop war against terrorism. But the fact is, most of the planet is
largely peaceful. There are only a few hot spots: the Middle East, Chechnya,
Kashmir, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Congo, Nepal, and the Philippines.

US allies and client-states are extremely uneasy in the brave new world
dominated by the interventionist, preemptive Bush Doctrine, where "either
you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" and international treaties
are regarded as subversive documents. South Korea has constantly reiterated
that it does not feel threatened by the North's archaic Stalinism. And since
the Beirut Arab summit last March, Kuwait has made clear that it has solved
its problems with Iraq. As far as US strategic competitors are concerned,
the absolute priority for Russia and China - and also for a regional power
like Iran - is economic development. Their exclusive strategic imperative is
to resist provocations by Washington's hawks - the Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld,
Wolfowitz, Perle club.

All over Latin America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the US
after September 11 is increasingly perceived as a dangerous, aggressive,
narcissistic imperial power, and no longer as the "indispensable nation"
(copyright 1998, then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, justifying a
200-missile attack on - who else? - Iraq).

The recent string of US financial scandals - Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, etc -
has revealed the true face of the "greed is good" ethic, and the moral
weakness associated with unbridled greed. And this is the key question the
world is now asking the US: Why is it that no-holds-barred liberalism can
only conceive and promote an ethic by which Good coincides with Greed? Could
America - and the liberal West - live by values other than Greed?

As the Bush administration's propaganda machine went into overdrive after
September 11, it was clever enough to present war not as a conflict of
material interests, but as a struggle between irreconcilable worldviews -
while taking pains to emphasize at every available opportunity it was not a
war against Islam. This may sound paradoxical, but it was an offer many
could not refuse. More than one year after September 11, and after a string
of corporate scandals, war is now also being sold as a demonstration that
America, in spite of greed, still has values to promote and uphold. The Bush
administration is selling war as moral behavior: US idealism will lead to a
world that is freer and safer.

The rest of the world is not convinced of this idealism, and large sections
of the Muslim world are not convinced this is not a war against Islam.
Hobsbawm believes that "there will be a period of great instability, because
Americans believe they can engage in aggressive wars in any part of the
world which will be won under any circumstances". Due to the US's undisputed
military, political, economic and cultural preeminence, any criticism of
Washington's policies, especially in the Anglo-American media, is
immediately branded as "anti-American". So we set out to check what those in
power in Washington are up to by examining the thoughts of key authors and
personalities of the American Establishment, like Zbigniew Brzezinski,
Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, Paul Kennedy and Henry Kissinger.

The result is surprising: these eminences all have their nuances, but they
present the same view of a US that is not invincible. On the contrary: the
US now has to deal with the irreversible loss of its power in an
increasingly developing world. These authors do not diagnose an empire at
its apex, but rather a reluctant empire, increasingly fragile and
threatened. Washington's geopolitical bible is still "The Grand Chessboard:
American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives" (Basic Books, 1997), in
which former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski stresses the
necessity and the means for the US to establish an asymmetrical domination
over Eurasia.

In a January 1998 interview to the respected French weekly Le Nouvel
Observateur, Brzezinski went on record to confirm that the US in fact
created the jihad in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union on July 3,
1979, almost six months before the Soviet invasion of December 24, 1979
(according to the official version, the CIA only started helping the
mujahideen in 1980).

Pakistani intelligence sources also remember that when Pakistani military
intelligence wanted a Saudi prince to direct the Afghan jihad, there were no
takers. Saudi Arabia's rulers then recommended one of the heirs of a rich
family very close to the monarchy - none other than Osama bin Laden. Osama
arrived in Peshawar just in time to listen to Zbig - then Jimmy Carter's
National Security Adviser - manifest his full support for the jihad.
Brzezinski's intuitions that Uzbekistan and Ukraine were vital for the US
may be debatable: he believed it was crucial to annex Ukraine to the West
and to use Uzbekistan to detach Central Asia from Russian influence. But he
was right on the mark on Eurasia: it is the center of the economy and
population in the developed world in the 21st century, and he was positively
alarmed by the fact that the US, isolated by two oceans, was so far away
from the action. At the time his book was published in 1997, Brzezinski knew
for sure that the goods and money essential for maintaining the US's very
high standard of living came from Eurasia.

* * *

Perhaps the crucial myth of America is that it pursued a completely
different road to development from a corrupted and cynical Europe. But
America's isolation in the 19th century was only military and diplomatic:
its whole economic development was based on two vectors imported from
Europe: capital and labor. Europe invested heavily in America - by exporting
cargos of literate and cheap overseas immigrants. At the end of the 19th
century, America was largely self-sufficient, a massive producer of raw
materials with a large trade surplus.

One century later the picture is completely different. The US
current-account deficit - the broadest measure of the US foreign-trade gap -
shot up in the go-go '90s and reached $417 billion in 2001. To balance its
external debt, the US needs to swallow foreign capital. The US today cannot
live on its own production. As we move to a more stable world in terms of
more democracy, more educational opportunities, and more demographic
control, we are confronted by a frightening possibility: the world might
find out that it can live without the US, while the US discovers it cannot
live without the world.

For all the talk about the merits of globalization, economists like Brazil's
Jose Fiori would say globalization in the end is little else than a
technique for profit optimization in a historically-specific world
environment, ie, the situation today of a relative abundance of literate
workforces outside the main industrialized countries.

Washington's hawks certainly know that their main objective is not to defend
a liberal and democratic order that is becoming meaningless inside the US
itself. Nothing much changed since State Department planner George Kennan
set out the basic framework for understanding US foreign policy in 1948: "We
have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its
population . In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and
resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of
relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity
without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have
to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming: and our attention will
have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives."
(State Department Policy Planning Study, cited by Noam Chomsky in On Power
and Ideology: the Managua Lectures.)

In the Middle East, Kennan's "pattern of relationships" has included a
stream of client regimes serving US interests - Israel, Egypt and Saudi
Arabia (before Osama). US interests were also handsomely served by Iraq
before fateful August 2, 1990, the day Saddam Hussein, from a trusted ally
and friend of Washington and London, instantly became "the new Hitler" (in
George Bush senior's phrase). CNN may find in its archives splendid footage
of a beaming Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983 (a
photograph of the event exists in the Globo Network archives).

America of course will always need staggering provisions of goods and
capital. To make this happen, the strategic objective was long ago amplified
to exercising total political control over the world's resources. But how to
control these resources and eliminate competition when there are too many
literate people and too many democracies around? The US is not really
threatened by the Axis of Evil: Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il or the
intolerant mullahs faithful to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have only rhetorical
firepower. The real strategic competitors are in fact the European Union,
Russia and Japan in the short term, and China in the long term. It's
unthinkable to apply the preemptive Bush doctrine against these players. In
each of these cases, the US has to negotiate.

The problem of its economic dependency remains, but the US also has to find
a way to be at the center of the world - at least symbolically - to convince
all of its "hyperpower". This mechanism is what French historian Emmanuel
Todd describes as "theatrical militarism".

The strategy means that Washington should never come up with a definitive
solution for any geopolitical problem, because instability is the only thing
that would justify military action ad infinitum by the only superpower,
anytime, anywhere. In practical terms, this means there is no real
initiative to find an acceptable solution for both parties of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This means there will be no comprehensive
solution for Afghanistan - where the US is now confronted by a jihad
launched by disgruntled Pashtuns to kick out foreign invaders. This means no
American push for a definitive solution in Kashmir. This means the usual,
endless litany of "special envoys" playing for the cameras in assorted
trouble spots with off-the-cuff "peace plans".

Washington knows it is unable to confront the real players in the world -
Europe, Russia, Japan, China. Thus it seeks to remain politically on top by
bullying minor players like the Axis of Evil, or even more minor players
like Cuba. The US propaganda machine will always be warning of tremendous
threats (Iraq has the fourth-largest army in the world, its renewed nuclear
program will incinerate us all, etc). And to keep the illusion going,
Washington continues to develop new weapons designed to increase its already
smashing military supremacy, fuelled by the Pentagon's astronomical budget
and benefiting the US military-industrial complex. Gore Vidal is one of the
few US insiders to deconstruct the process which feeds on the logic of an
unending, unstoppable arms race.

Does all of this constitute an American Empire? Hardly. A little more than a
decade after the implosion of the Soviet Empire, the world may be confronted
by the possibility that the American Empire is beginning to decompose.

Empire or republic?

At the beginning of the Iranian Revolution, Shi'ite ideology was starkly
denouncing the injustices of the world. This had tremendous revolutionary
potential - just like the original Protestant metaphysics which considered
Man and Society as corrupted. Luther and Calvin were in fact the Western
ayatollahs of the 16th century. And they were instrumental in the birth of a
pure society: America.

America was as much an offspring of religious exaltation as was Ayatollah
Khomeini's Iran. The similarities don't stop there. Samuel Huntington - an
expert in counter-insurgency in Vietnam during the Johnson administration -
came up with a theory of the clash of civilizations that is essentially
affiliated to the concept of jihad. The theory is nothing but a conceptual
double of Khomeini's belief in the clash of civilizations.

In religious terms, the US is indeed involved in a jihad to purify an evil
world. In military terms, it's more complicated. Until Pearl Harbor, the US
was basically a naval power, like Athens was. It was certainly an
isolationist power. It could never be accused of being imperialist in a
Roman way. America's world came into being in 1945 - a consequence of
overwhelming military and industrial supremacy. The two main prizes were
what could only be named "protectorates" - Germany and Japan. Germany was
the second largest industrial power before World War II, and Japan is the
second economic power today. The US established its power by military
means - absolutely essential for controlling the world economic system. In
this context there are indeed similarities with the Roman Empire.

After its victory over Carthage, Rome took over the Middle East and the
Mediterranean. Rome had unlimited resources, land, money and slaves. If we
study the social history of Rome, we learn that peasants and artisans in
Italy lost their value in the new "globalized" Mediterranean economy - a
process that increased the social polarization between an economically
worthless plebeian mob and a predatory plutocracy. This process caused the
implosion of the Roman middle class. As the mob could not be eliminated,
Rome came up with the sublime concept of panem et circenses - bread and
circuses - to keep them pacified.

Modern American-led globalization also is not an apolitical phenomenon. A
liberalized economic world with no nation, no state, no military power
simply does not exist. Whether we study it through a pattern based on Athens
or on Rome, the modern globalized economy is the result of a
political-military process.

The Goddess of the Market remains the supreme myth in the great US
universities. It's one of the major cultural exports of the US. But just
like another major export - the Hollywood movie - it's not exactly
realistic. The basic principle of globalization is asymmetrical: the rest of
the world produces so the US can consume. There's no balance between exports
and imports in the US. The new economy bubble burst, and there are plenty of
traffic jams on the information highway. The general atmosphere is more like
panem et circenses - this sublime concept implemented by Rome to pacify the
empire's unruly mob.

* * *

Strategically, it was Russia that won World War II on the European front.
Russian human sacrifice - before, during and after the siege of Stalingrad -
was lethal to the Nazis. The invasion of Normandy in June 1944 happened when
the Russians had already reversed the tide and were on the brink of invading
Germany. It may be difficult for Americans - and Asians - to understand that
for countless Europeans, Europe's liberation was due to the fact that
Russian communism had defeated German Nazism.

Observers like British military expert Liddell Hart in his History of the
Second World War pointed out that in the European theater, US troops were
too slow and too bureaucratic. In military terms, on the ground the US is
not Athens, and much less Rome. The US, by contrast, has recently adopted
the concept of zero-death war: war with minimal casualties for its own
forces, and maximum damage for an enemy helpless to combat massive air
power - as seen in the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The result of such
a war implies no occupation by ground troops, and so no expansion of
territorial empire as we know it. All that is needed are compact military
bases - like the ones in the Gulf and now all over Central Asia - and
strategically-positioned aircraft carriers.

People tend to forget that the distribution of US forces before September 11
was still mired in Cold War mentality. There were more than 60,000 US
soldiers in Germany, more than 40,000 in Japan, and more than 35,000 in
South Korea - followed by a little more than 10,000 each in Italy and the
UK, and less than 10,000 scattered around Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland,
Greece and Turkey.

So the really important possessions of the so-called American Empire are
really what could be defined as the European and East Asian "protectorates".
Without them, there would be no US world power. Before the increasing
likelihood of an attack against Iraq, there were only 10,000 US troops in
the Middle East - almost 13,000 if we include Turkey. Recently they have
been also moving to the borders of the old communist empire: around 10,000
are in Afghanistan and no more than 1,500 in Uzbekistan. But the crucial
point remains that 85 percent of American military personnel abroad were
getting their bed and breakfast from the crucial "protectorates" of Germany,
Japan and South Korea.

* * *

The euphoria on Wall Street, while it lasted, was totally disproportionate
to the real growth of the American economy. It was a sort of rich man's
inflation. The actual exploitation of people in the developed world and the
over-exploitation of people in the developing world would never pose a
problem to the balance of a globalized society if ruling classes -
especially in Europe and Japan - were benefiting. But the US's vulnerability
to the regulatory mechanism of the whole thing is now a threat to these
classes, in Europe and Japan as well as in developing countries.

When we know that a significant part of the world's profits goes to Wall
Street, and when we know that the US economy is not exactly productive -
hooked as it is on increasingly massive imports of consumer goods - Wall
Street starts looking like a fiction. Money injected into the US falls
literally into a mirage. In a Merlin the Magician syndrome, what for the
privileged few living in America's orbit means capital investment, for
Americans themselves means a blank cheque enabling them to consume goods
bought from all over the world. Nobody knows the consequences in the long
run. No economist can predict when and how the implosion of the whole system
will happen.

Unbridled neoliberalism is now being acknowledged by economists from Asia to
Latin America as a deterrence to growth. Professor Hobsbawm observed that
the recent election of the former metalworker Lula as president of Brazil,
with 53 million votes, "is a direct consequence of the application of IMF
reforms, of market fundamentalism, to Brazil. It was the response of
Brazilians from all social classes to what used to be called the Washington
consensus. This is the proof Washington-styled globalization originates a
massive, contrary political and social reaction."

In the short term, this type of globalization allows the US to perform the
role of indispensable consumer, while the rise of social inequalities
everywhere - a key consequence of the system - allows profits to swell.
These profits feed the US with fresh funds necessary to finance all the

America's military power cannot be compared to the brute force of Rome's.
America's power is fundamentally based on the consent of the ruling classes
of allies, who duly pay their dues. But if the system moves beyond an
acceptable level of financial insecurity, the voluntary servitude to the US
imperial project becomes inevitably meaningless.

To prevent this from happening, Washington could do worse than to treat its
partners as equals. A universalist America would have to convince the
world - rhetorically and economically - that "we are all Americans". But in
a Washington controlled by fundamentalist hawks, practically everybody else
is now getting no more than second or third-class treatment.

To a certain extent, Anglo-Saxons respect differences. The British Empire
was an overseas empire, established because of immense technological
superiority. It never tried to integrate the conquered, to turn Indians,
Africans or Malays into perfect British specimens. The key to the system was
indirect rule. So no wonder the decolonization process was relatively easy.

The French, on the other hand, wanted to turn Vietnamese, Senegalese and
Algerians into perfect French specimens. No wonder France went through
enormous pains accepting the end of its empire. The French are eminent

The US, when it was really an empire - after the end of the World War II -
had a lot of curiosity and respect for the diversity of the outside world.
There was a time when the US mixed its military and economic power with a
heart-warming intellectual and cultural tolerance.

The US after September 11 is far from tolerant. Its capacity for tolerance
has always been limited: it stops when other countries start posing
challenges, or are becoming potential opponents. The elite in power in
Washington right now seek to incarnate an exclusive ideal, and to possess
the key to any form of economic success. Narcissistic expansion and social
and cultural hegemony betray a sign of fear. Incapable of de facto
dominating the world, this version of America has unfortunately retreated to
a negation of any form of autonomous existence. And it has retreated to a
negation of the amazing diversity of worldviews in different societies
everywhere. "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

The obsession with Islam

The model of contemporary American behavior in international relations was
set by Bush senior's Gulf War. Yet nobody has told the real story behind
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 2, 1990.

The US might have encouraged Saddam Hussein to fall into the abyss, as he
understood that the invasion was "acceptable" to Washington. April Glaspie,
the American ambassador in Baghdad and the last American official to see
Saddam Hussein eye-to-eye five days before the invasion of Kuwait, was
"retired" by the State Department, and has flatly refused to talk ever

Kuwait was involved in slant-drilling. In Texas, people get shot for
slant-drilling. Kuwait was simply pumping out something like $14 billion in
oil from Iraqi territory. When Ambassador Glaspie visited Saddam, CIA photos
were revealing a massive presence of Iraqi troops on Kuwait's border.
Glaspie told Saddam that the US was neutral. But a few days later, Kuwait's
foreign minister - encouraged by the US - was saying "Let them occupy our
territory . We are going to bring in the Americans". Since late 1989, while
the CIA was advising Kuwait to put pressure on Iraq, a CIA-affiliated think
tank was advising Saddam to put pressure on Kuwait.

European Union intelligence sources confirm that in November 1989 there was
a secret pact between the CIA and General Fahd, Kuwait's chief of internal
security. The plan was to profit from Iraq's economic deterioration due to
the staggering cost of the Iran-Iraq war, to keep up the pressure, and to
force Iraq to accept a final border agreement with Kuwait. The CIA engaged
itself to protect the Emir of Kuwait, Jaber al Sabah - under any
circumstances. At the same time Saddam Hussein was convinced that the US
understood his own strategy - which was to increase pressure to force Kuwait
to negotiate. On July 31, 1990, only two days before the invasion,
under-secretary of state for the Middle East John Kelly told Congress that
the US had not ratified a treaty including the use of US forces in case of
trouble between Iraq and Kuwait. This seemed to confirm what April Glaspie
had told Saddam three days earlier. The outcome of the whole saga - the
"liberation" of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation - sent a message to any Third
World leader daring to step out of the US line. It also opened a new chapter
in US history: it led to the engagement in a sequence of conflicts with
military midgets, all of them categorized as "rogue states", so US might
could be demonstrated for all to see.

Any rogue state is weak by definition. It's interesting to note that
communist Vietnam has been left alone. Vietnam has real military
capabilities, as it showed the last time the US got involved there. So, no
messing with Vietnam. Now, North Korea opens an even more interesting front:
it's a rogue state alright, but it has a nuclear arms program: it could
possibly flatten Seoul or Tokyo. So, no messing with North Korea either:
let's talk.

Iraq, on the other hand, is the ideal rogue state. Apart from the crucial
economic fact that it literally floats over a sea of oil, its government is
universally despised, it "may" have weapons of mass destruction, and it is
located in the Arab world - which, for Washington Islamophobes, is a world
of losers.

The post-September 11 New Afghan War certainly followed Bush senior's model.
And the model is what historian Todd describes as "theatrical
micro-militarism": "To demonstrate America's necessity in the world by
slowly smashing insignificant enemies." Nothing more apt as far as the
Taliban were concerned: their version of "command and control center" was
two turbaned fellows holding walkie-talkies. All the props of theatrical
micro-militarism, though, were not enough to apprehend or kill Osama bin
Laden, Mullah Omar or any of al-Qaeda's top commanders.

In Afghanistan, the US demonstrated that Hell is airborne for any country
that does not have good anti-aircraft defenses, or some kind of nuclear
program (like Pakistan or North Korea). When it comes to a ground battle,
it's another story. All US operations in Afghanistan from Tora Bora onward
were a failure. On the ground, the US relied on local warlords (usually the
wrong ones, or the wiliest ones, who handed a few poor souls to their US

The real structure of the so-called American Empire can be perceived by the
distribution of American forces around the world. Until September 11, they
were predominantly in Germany, Japan and South Korea. After Afghanistan,
most of America's military force is now concentrated in the Muslim world - a
prelude to the atttack against Iraq. This concentration is officially due to
the "war against terrorism". But if we accept Todd's concept, we conclude
that "war against terrorism" is nothing less than the latest official
formalization of "theatrical micro-militarism". Which leads us to America's
obsession with Islam.

The US is obsessed with Islam for a number of interelated reasons. Islam was
considered by Samuel Huntington to be the number one menace because most of
the world's oil production is in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran. As the US is
not a paradigm of economic efficiency anymore, it has to be increasingly
obsessed with Arab oil: so the US suddenly "discovered" that its Saudi
Arabian ally was a focus of radical Wahhabism, that this state religion plus
tons of petrodollars were exported to finance all kinds of extremism all
over the world, and that most of the September 11 kamikazes were Saudis. As
the US is not a paradigm of military efficiency on the ground, nothing
better than to attack a weak enemy - the militarily impaired Arab world. And
as the US is not a paradigm of tolerance anymore, nothing better than to
manifest its newfound crusader intolerance toward a civilization and culture
that, according to Islamophobes, has lost its way.

If this US manipulated by Washington's hawks is more and more intolerant
toward the rest of the world, it positively hates the Arab world. This is a
primitive, visceral antagonism. It goes much deeper than Huntington's clash
of civilizations. The problem is, this irrational confrontation has been
catapulted to the core of international relations.

The war against terrorism - as conducted by the Pentagon propaganda
machine - instilled a kind of Final Judgment in Americans against the
Afghan, and then the Arab, anthropological systems. As the US loses its
universalist perspective, it becomes increasingly difficult for average
Americans to try to understand the motivations, expectations and
frustrations of the Arab and Muslim world.

The US military presence in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, the pathological
obsession on attacking Iraq (Bush junior: "He tried to kill my Dad") and
endless confrontation with Iran may constitute what passes for America's oil
strategy. But contrary to received wisdom, this is not about controlling oil
for the US. It's about controlling the world's sources of energy - and most
of all the sources of energy for Europe and Japan, the two key
"protectorates" essential for America's world power. So in this aspect at
least, the US is definitely behaving as an empire.

US historian Chalmers Johnson in Blowback compares the $50 billion spent on
"defending" the Persian Gulf from Saddam Hussein in roughly 8 months from
1990 to 1991 with the $11 billion spent by the US on imported Middle Eastern
oil which represented at the time only 10 percent of US consumption. But the
same amount of oil represented 25 percent of Europe's consumption during the
same period, and 50 percent of Japan's consumption.The average US citizen
may not register the implications, but the rest of the world does.

This is never mentioned in plain English by the US media: but the US has in
fact lost control over Iran since Khomeini's revolution, and over Iraq since
Desert Storm. And the US now runs the risk of losing Saudi Arabia as well.
One day the Saudi military base will have to go - and it will probably be
under Prince Abdullah's orders. No number of aircraft carriers can sustain
military bases so far away from the US without the consent of the nations of
the region. The Saudi land base and most of all the Turkish land base at
Incirlik are much more important for the US than a collection of
billion-dollar aircraft carriers.

So maybe we're not confronted with an expansion of the American Empire, but
rather with the fear of the would-be empire of losing key bases. We see a
lot of angst, not a demonstration of power. The US may be afraid of becoming
economically dependent on the rest of the world: lack of oil is just part of
the equation. And the US may be afraid of losing control of its two key
"protectorates" - Europe and Japan.

The Muslim and especially the Arab world could not be a more convenient
target of theatrical militarism and for the US to demonstrate its
geopolitical omnipotence. The Arab world is being pushed into the role of
sacrifical lamb. The reasons can be found as we read Samuel Huntington. He
pointed out that there is no Muslim core state. Neither Saudi Arabia nor
Egypt, Iraq, Iran or Pakistan are capable of resisting the US in terms of
population, military power or industrial power. For the US
military-industrial complex, nothing is more convenient than the familiar
territory of videogame victories against weak foes deprived of anti-aircraft
defenses - Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan - and the constant menace of
totally asymmetrical war against anyone daring to cross the US.

This is the easiest and cheapest solution in terms of economic, military and
even conceptual investment. To put it in the crudest way, from the US hawks'
perspective Arabs have oil and no military capabilities. And the myth of oil
is strong enough for anybody to forget about what really matters - the fact
that the US is globally dependent for its supplies of practically any type
of goods. And to top it all, there's no reasonably efficient Arab lobby
inside the US - while even CNN is now on a public relations drive,
broadcasting in Arabic.

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