[Marxism] Reconstructing the Bush administration and theRepublicanascendancy?

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Sat Oct 29 12:37:33 MDT 2005

Fred Feldman replied to me under the thread above, but mistakenly failed to
send the post to the whole list, though it is obviously so intended. I have
therefore included it immediately below. My own reply follows his post.

Fred Feldman wrote:

> I'm sorry to have confused David. My use of "anyway" referred to the
> question mark at the title.
> The item does represent thinking in media res, that is, unfinished.  But
> this was not really one off my half-baked premature posts.  I know about
> them.  I wanted to get my thoughts on the list, partly in response to
> the items by Marvin Gandall and others, and to see what everybody thinks
> about.
> I admit I have also been rethinking some of the views expressed by Nick
> Halliday, who has especially recently expressed some important
> perceptions about Iraq -- the likelihood of broader Shia resistance as
> the next stage, and the rather grim prospects for the Iraqi people in
> the next period despite what they have accomplished for the oppressed
> and exploited of the whole world.
> In a sense, the ruling class is recognizing, I think, that the Bush
> administration has lost the war it launched against Iraq, but US
> imperialism still hopes to undo some of the damage, resume progress
> toward the broader goals, and salvage some of the hopes for bases
> etcetera. And they deeply fear that accepting defeat in Iraq -- even
> though the immediate result is likely to be a successful revolution
> there as in Vietnam -- will be even more catastrophic for US imperialism
> than Vietnam.
> I still disagree with Nick on some of his positions as I understand
> them.  I disagree that there is a unified national resistance in Iraq
> that encompasses the Baathists and the broader Sunni forces as well as
> Sadr.  I reject that the Iranian government is hostile toward the
> current Iraqi government, that it effectively boycotts the current
> government, that it considers this government a US "puppet."  None of
> this bars relations with Sadr who has a mass following.  Sadr, though he
> has national aspirations, cannot escape the fact that in this divided
> situation he is primarily a Shia religious leader and politician.  He
> cannot support the Baathists, for example, who are an important fact in
> the (also divided, I believe) Sunni resistance.  He cannot break
> decisively with Sistani, nor can Sistani break decisively with him.
> The most striking thing about Iraq has been the failure of the US to
> develop or maintain real clients as the basis of an old-style
> imperialist protectorate or base of operations, such as Iraq and Iran
> once were, and which the administration and the so-called "neocons"
> thought could be developed in Iraq with "democratic" modifications.  The
> US has been defeated by not just the armed resistance and its attacks
> but by a broader refusal of Iraqi classes and forces to subordinate
> their interests to Washington.  The whole thing turned out to be
> completely alien to the reality of their country.
> Even forces that started out as simple clients -- Chalabi and Allawi --
> are forced to operate, despite the dangers, more on their own.  Because,
> divided or united, Iraq cannot be a simple "client regime."  The day of
> that continues to fade.
> I believe the tendency of Iraq to divide is imposed by the fact of the
> occupation and the overthrow of the Saddam apparatus without the
> existence of a popular movement in the country capable of doing so.  A
> divided Iraq was not the goal of the Bush administration (though it was
> raised primarily by some of the skeptics as a  fall-back goal).
> The Iraqi resistance (military and otherwise) has made the occupiers
> powerless to really direct the situation, in my opinion.  The initial US
> goal was a unitary state in the old style, but with US-managed
> "democracy." A state that could be a pro-US power hostile to Iran -- a
> strong unfied US base in the way that Iran once was. They assumed, for
> instance, that they could eventually turn on the Kurds in the
> traditional manner of imperialists who have achieved their goals.
> The current level of Kurdish independence -- the fact that it is the
> only part of Iraq where US occupation troops are not only absent but
> barred -- is a product of the Iraqi resistance, even though most of the
> armed resistance and even most of the Iraqi population is quite hostile
> to this development.
> I think the US is far from creating an instrument for Iran
> pro-imperialist "regime change" with a Shia face around Sistani, the
> SCIRI militia, and so on. (Related to this, Nick claims that Sistani has
> a broad following in Iran.  What is his evidence for this?)
> Frankly, I think the Iranian leadership would have to have degenerated
> into paranoia to view the non-Sadr Shia movements  In fact, I think the
> long-term Tehran regime goal of integration of Shia Iraq economically
> and even politically with Iran has made progress.  Of course, the
> resistance broadly defined has also been a factor in making this
> possible, so I do not pretend that the Iranian stance is one of
> pure-and-simple opposition to the Sunni-based armed resistance. It is
> also not pure-and-simple support.  They pursue different goals and
> different concepts of getting the US out, while both oppose the
> occupation in principle.
> The US occupation has failed to "take" -- this is much deeper defeat in
> a sense than the problem in Vietnam, where a popular revolution defeated
> it.  It indicates the fundamental irreversibility of the colonial
> revolution, at least in the key regions and countries. I believed this
> was true, but I admit I am happy and relieved to find it to be so. It
> indicates that the invasion was based on a pipe dream, but for
> imperialism, ending the invasion is not so easy.  What is the
> alternative, since the defeat helps demonstrate that revolutionary and
> popular alternatives are not readily stoppable imperialism.
> Frankly I think the immediate future of Iraq -- with or without
> occupation is grim -- and that is why I think we have to hail how they
> met the challenge that Washington confronted with.  They did their duty
> as soldiers of humanity, despite their limits of consciousness and
> leadership and even though they may suffer far more and gain much less
> than beneficiaries in other parts of the world -- Cuba, Venezuela,
> China, etc.
> Of course, these are still uncompleted thoughts, but I don't think
> sending them is an error.
> David, Nick, and others.  Help me out here.
> Fred Feldman
> Does that mean withdrawal and an end to the US war is near? Maybe, but
> not necessarily.  But as Washington is defeated, the crisis of the unity
> of the country and the political weakness of the Iraqi leaderships they
> have been able to create in the face of the US adventure,

David McDonald writes:

In thinking about who defeated US imperialism in Vietnam, what actually
drove the US to leave, I keep returning to the idea that the US leaving
Vietnam -- this relates to Iraq, I'm getting to it -- had to be the result
of some calculation of benefits vs demerits. Now, as everybody who was
conscious in the 60's knows, there was an overall ferment from many sources
that impeded the warmakers ability to make war: Black people, women, gays,
draftees, and many others were in motion in a big way. Black troops in
Vietnam could, at times, watch tanks rumbling down the main streets of their

Things were starting to seriously spin out of control in society. There were
revolts by Black people in cities all across America. An advanced detachment
of Black fighters created their own political party independent of the
Republicans and Democrats. When the invasion of Cambodia became public,
there was a country-wide student revolt that caused the shutting down of
most of the country's universities following numerous, widespread battles
with the police pretty much everywhere. I remember a campaign speech by
Camejo in Detroit in 1976 in which he amusingly recalled the discussion in
the Boston branch of the SWP during "Cambodia" week, in which discussion the
comrades raised their bundle of Militants for street sales from whatever it
had been to 5000.

Nevertheless, in retrospect, that outburst died down and was contained.
School started up the next fall. No social institution seriously threatened

The institution that *was* seriously threatened, that seemed about to fail,
that did not bounce back that fall and in fact has never totally bounced
back, is the US military. So my short answer for what stopped the Vietnam
War, and what we can look forward to stopping the Iraq War, is the
degeneration of the US armed forces to the point that they cannot be relied
upon to fight.

Stopping that process of degeneration and descent into worthlessness as a
fighting force was the upside that made it worthwhile for the US to accept
defeat in Vietnam. Now of course that degeneration of a crucial institution
was quite dependent on the overall social ferment going on and the feedback
into the military of the titanic forces rocking American society at the
time, piled upon the aimlessness of the US war effort in Vietnam and the
gigantic scale of casualties. I am arguing that the general social
contradictions were *concentrated* into extreme expression and exacerbated
the battlefield aimlessness and constant exposure to danger that were a part
of the US's first real modern experience of a war with no front, i.e. war of
occupation. This is just a sketch to make a point, so I will not attempt to
round out the picture, but move on to my main thesis.

My view is it will require some similar deadly threat to the overall rule of
the imperialist ruling class to bring an end to the Iraq War. There is
simply too much at stake: oil, domination of the Mideast, a staggering
defeat for the idea that the US can stand alone on top of the world and
forever get what it wants through force and threat of force. The stakes are
larger than in Vietnam, in my opinion, because Vietnam was, when all is said
and done, a propaganda defeat with little other immediate consequence,
whereas Iraq has 4,000,000 reasons per day and the possibility of sparking a
wider revolt against imperialism with completely unforseeable consequences.

What's the upside in this context? In the face of the negative consequences
of defeat, what could make it worthwhile for the US to exit Iraq now? I
submit that the deaths of 2000 of other peoples' kids is not sufficient, nor
is the huge number of casualties (which had reached a division's worth over
a year ago when all the repatriations are counted), nor is the spending of
vast amounts of the citizenry's money, nor is the cuts in social benefits
comtemplated to pay for all this continued warfare, which is pretty much a
business bonanza for most of the people who make decisions in the United

In sum, there is today no upside of sufficient weight to make the
imperialists decide to cut and run from Iraq now. Thus the leading
Democrats -- Biden, Clinton et al -- have carefully positioned themselves to
take over the war from the Republicans, arguing mismanagement. They are
preparing to do the other thing they do, besides co-opting moves to their
left -- be the go-to guys for imperialism in its time of need. Of course the
Democrats are not making independent decisions on this, they are responding
to what they hear from the actual rulers. As we know, that it what it means
to be a corporate party. Otherwise, if constraints from the ruling class
were not operable, one would have to believe that smart, mature, long-time
politicians like Hilary Clinton are gobbling stupid pills. Her job for the
next three years will be to contain elements within the Democrats who do
wish to opportunistically take advantage of antiwar sentiment to ride it
into power.

I believe it will take much further grinding-down of the US armed forces, to
the point of shattering their overall effectiveness for this or any war, to
make getting out of Iraq an attractive proposition to the US rulers. I also
believe there will be an attempt to re-institute the draft, because even the
shitstorm that will accompany that initiative is a lesser evil to
withdrawing from Iraq.

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