[Marxism] Le Monde: Does a superpower still exist?
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Feb 25 09:44:36 MST 2007
The following article from Le Monde, like the previous post from Granma by
way of the Financial Times gives a glimpse of the growing doubts about US
imperialism's world domination. Removing such questions is one of the goals
the Bush administration is pursuing in planning a devastating air attack on
Iran, which they expect will remove Iran as a regional contender for power.
I am also increasingly convinced that the administration believes that the
attack on Iran, by crushing that country, will open the road to withdrawing
substantial numbers of troops from Iraq before the next election., on the
ground that the threats to US hegemony, and Isaeli security as part of that
hegemony, have been brought down. Iraq, they may reason, can then be left
to rot, as US-backed guerrillas divvy up Iran. Some people's idea of utopia
is a lot more like hell for the human race.
They aren't making promises about this, but the totality of evidence favors
this as one of their calculations.
Of course, this expectation is very likely to prove false, as so many of
their earlier expectations have. But such a hope makes it more difficult
for those who disagree -- and they are many and very high up from the
Pentagon to Wall Street -- to pull the administration back from the brink.
After all, no one knows for sure what the results of a devastating air
attack on Iran will be until it has been carried out.
Translated from *Le Monde* (Paris) by Professor Mark Jensen
DOES A SUPERPOWER STILL EXIST?
By André Fontaine
Le Monde (Paris) February 22, 2007
On Oct. 27, 1965, René Dabernat said on the front page of *Le Monde* that
given the state of the economy of the USSR, which he had just visited, there
was, contrary to Tocqueville's prediction, only one superpower: the United
States. Three years earlier, one of Kennedy's close advisers, Walt Rostow,
was already saying the same thing in the aftermath of the Cuba crisis, which
had seen Khrushchev pull back disastrously because he did not have the
missiles needed to thwart those of America: "As things stand, the Soviets
can make an effort at revenge by trying to catch up with us in the arms
race. In all likelihood, this would exhaust them. They can also try to make
peace. We're ready for both possibilities."
Reagan would pursue this reasoning to its logical conclusion by increasing
the American military budget from $178bn in 1980 to more than $292bn five
years later, which the Kremlin was far from being able to match. By
affecting the chief Soviet export, the decline in hydrocarbon prices would
do the rest. As early as 1983, Ogarkov, then chief of the Soviet military,
would confide to a *New York Times* reporter his conviction that "the Cold
War was just about over, unless it has already been won by the West." The
fall of the Berlin Wall would convince the most skeptical, and in 1990,
during the Gulf War, Bush I would announce the imminent advent, this time
for good, of the "new world order" vainly promised in 1917 and
1945 by his predecessors.
His son would go further by invoking the overwhelming superiority of the
armies of which he was the commander in chief in order to defend the thesis
of unilateralism, or, in other words, the right of the United States to
decide in the final analysis on the means to frustrate the undertakings of
bad guys of every stripe.
The attack on the World Trade Center could only confirm him in this resolve,
and would push him to claim as the precedent for his "Greater Middle East"
the forced democratization, after 1945, of Germany and Japan.
At present the balance sheet could scarcely be more disappointing. For every
Gaddafi who put a little cream in his mint tea, for every Somali government
that was willing to call in its hereditary Ethiopian enemy against the
assaults of the sinister Islamic Courts, how many failures, how many crises!
Afghanistan has once again become a battlefield for the Taliban, opium
traffickers, and assorted warlords. Bin Laden is moving in the vicinity with
complete impunity and preparing new attacks "against the Jews and the
Crusaders" and their Muslim allies.
These last are for the most part Sunni, Iraq being the only Arab country to
have a Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Owing his position to the
Americans did not prevent him a few days ago from attributing to Mr. Bush,
in stinging terms, a large share of the responsibility for the martyrdom of
The principal bastion of Shiism, of course, is not Arab, but Persian. With
its 70 million inhabitants, a GDP of about $8,000 per inhabitant, and an
annual growth rate of 6%, the ayatollahs' Iran is the second greatest power
in the world, after Saudi Arabia, when it comes to the size of its
hydrocarbon reserves. Extremely proud of its ancient imperial past and of
the monuments that continue to celebrate its glory, Iran demands at a
minimum the status of a regional power.
And these are not mere words. Tehran's massive aid to the Lebanese Shiites
of the Hezbollah was enough to explain the failure of the Jewish state's
attempt in the summer of 2006 to get rid of it *manu militari*, and the
repeated assurances of the Islamic Republic about the peaceful purposes of
its nuclear industry are not convincing anyone.
With North Korea going through a phase of reasonableness whose length cannot
be guaranteed, will the United States allow this third avatar of the "rogue
states" Bush II has talked about get a firm footing? Robert Gates, the new
secretary of defense, says that Washington is not preparing for war against
Iran. The temptation must be a strong one, however, for a president whose
policies are criticized everywhere, to take back the initiative by
launching, or by having Israel launch, a strike against the Iranian nuclear
There exist, fortunately, some signals pointing in the opposite direction.
To begin with, the manifest prudence of one very gentrified part of the
Iranian establishment; and the agreement reached in Mecca between the two
main Palestinian political groups on the creation of a national unity
government, which implies a tacit recognition of Israel. But for Israel,
this is not enough. And at the same time, George Bush cannot be unaware that
his friend Putin, the innocence of whose soul he used to claim to have
experienced *de visu*, is a great help Iran in rearming and is more and more
unwilling to put up with the deployment of NATO forces -- or pieces of the
"shield" destined to intercept long-range missiles -- in various ex-Soviet
Deeply in debt, the United States would be in danger of starving if the
supposedly Communist Chinese were not buing up its Treasury bonds, and this
makes it hard to ask them to be a little more attentive to the human rights
that they so joyously ignore. Similarly, the need for closer relations with
India, the newest champion of sustainable development, has led it to forget
about the way it has violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
And that's not all. Nothing is going well in Darfur. And then, Bush once had
a friend in London, Tony Blair, on whom he was always able to count: but
Blair, who is living out his last months at "Number 10," has lost the
support of the public, and has just announced, on Feb. 21, the beginning of
his troops' withdrawal from Iraq. In Latin America, the same disappointment,
with Hugo Chavez seeming more and more to be taking up where Fidel Castro
left off, but while holding the trump card of abundant oil resources.
Without necessarily going that far, about ten South American countries in
all are now on the outs with Washington, including immense Brazil -- which
is effecting a rapprochement with India.
If only by reason of the enormous size of its research and arms budgets, the
United States is still well placed to play the role of superpower. But it is
having more and more trouble enforcing discipline. As *Time* magazine
advised it with respect to Iran and Iraq, the time is long overdue for it to
come to grips with reality. It would be a shame should electoral
considerations prevent France, and the European Union along with it, from
having their word to say in this discussion, whose outcome cannot not affect
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