Desperate Martians Now Wooing Venusians

Mar 08

The reality is that the old game of domination and
occupation continues, and the US is not winning. The triumphalism that
accompanied George W. Bush's tour of "Old Europe," with his brand new
Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, at his side, was a public
relations effort to counter the reality of the spread of a wide and
deep resistance in Iraq. There is not only the military resistance that
we witness day-to-day on television. There is also a political
resistance that is broader than the military resistance. There is, as
well, massive civil resistance-which encompasses not only trade union
opposition but all those acts ordinary citizens engage in day-to-day to
deny legitimacy to the occupation that James C. Scott calls the
"weapons of the weak."

The US: Losing in Iraq

The truth is that the US is losing the war in Iraq,
both politically and militarily. The number of governments in the
so-called "Coalition of the Willing" is now so reduced that the
Pentagon has dropped the term and started using "multinational forces"
instead. The 135,000 US troops are stretched thin, their numbers unable
to stop the wildfire rise of a guerrilla insurgency. Estimates of many
military experts of the minimum necessary number to fight the
guerrillas to a stalemate range from 200,000 to a million. It is
impossible to attain these numbers without provoking massive civil
unrest in the US, where the majority of the population now sees the
military intervention as unjustified. Mr. Bush may have won the
elections but it was not because of public support for the war, and he
knows this.

In the US military itself, more and more troops,
even in active duty, along with their families, are speaking out
against the war. A few weeks ago, television audiences worldwide
witnessed an assembly of troops applauding criticism of Defense
Secretary Rumsfeld by an officer who accused him of sending the troops
to war without sufficient protection. We have also witnessed an
American unit that refused to deliver supplies to a city several miles
away because they said their vehicles were unsafe. There are probably
more and more such incidents if journalists bothered to look instead of
"embedding" themselves with the Pentagon.

The US Army, one must recall, fell apart internally
at the last stages of the Vietnam War owing to demoralization, which
took the form of, among other things, the "fragging" of officers, or
throwing grenades at them. With about 40 per cent of the Army troops in
Iraq being non-regular forces with the National Guard, who are not
fulltime soldiers, the steady erosion of morale among US units must not
be underestimated. Probably the only soldiers that can resist
demoralization are the stupidly gung-ho Marines, but they are a
minority in what is otherwise an Army show.

The Crisis of Overextension

But the US is not only overextended in Iraq. Iraq
has in fact worsened the crisis of overextension of the US globally.
The key manifestations of the imperial dilemma stand out starkly:

Despite the recent US-sponsored elections in
Afghanistan, the Karzai government effectively controls only parts of
Kabul and two or three other cities. As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
has said, despite the elections, "without functional state institutions
able to serve the basic needs of the population throughout the country,
the authority and legitimacy of the new government will be
short-lived." And so long as this is the case, Afghanistan will tie
down 13,500 US troops within the country and 35,000 support personnel

The US war on terror has backfired completely, with
Al Qaeda and its allies much stronger today than in 2001. The invasion
of Iraq, according to Richard Clarke, Bush's former anti-terrorism
czar, claims, derailed the war on terror and served as the best
recruiting device for Al Qaeda. But even without Iraq, Washington's
heavy handed police and military methods of dealing with terrorism were
already alienating millions of Muslims. Nothing illustrates this more
than Southern Thailand, where US anti-terrorist advice has helped
convert simmering discontent into a full-blown insurgency. – With its
full embrace of Ariel Sharon's no-win strategy of sabotaging the
emergence of a Palestinian state, Washington has forfeited all the
political capital that it had gained among Arabs by brokering the now
defunct Oslo Accord. Moreover, the go-with-Sharon strategy, along with
the occupation of Iraq, has left Washington's allies among the Arab
elites exposed, discredited, and vulnerable. With the death of Yasser
Arafat, Tel Aviv and Washington may entertain hopes of a settlement of
the Palestinian issue on their terms. This is an illusion, and we
probably will see this in growing support for Hamas among the
Palestinians at the expense of Mr. Abbas' PLO.

Latin America's move to the left will accelerate.
The victory of the leftist coalition in Uruguay is simply the latest in
a series of electoral victories for progressive forces, following those
in Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil. Along with electoral
turns to the left, there may also be in the offing more mass
insurrections such as that which occurred in Bolivia in October 2003.
Speaking of the turn towards the left and away from the empire, one of
the US' friends, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda,
assesses the situation accurately: "America's friends.are feeling the
fire of this anti-American wrath. They are finding themselves forced to
shift their own rhetoric and attitude in order to dampen their defense
of policies viewed as pro-American or US-inspired, and to stiffen their
resistance to Washington's demands and desires."

This is the global picture that belies the
triumphalism that accompanied Bush's European tour. This enterprise
sought to enlist diplomacy in the service of countering the erosion of
the American position. It was a trip undertaken out of desperation. One
can, in fact, say that while the papers have been filled with bellicose
words from Washington against Iran, Syria, and North Korea, the reality
is that, owing to its being pinned down in an endless war in Iraq, the
US is in less of a position to destabilize these governments than it
was in 2003, before the invasion of Iraq.

What we are witnessing is the third major PR effort
to convince the world that Iraq has been pacified. The first was the
famous declaration of victory on board the aircraft carrier Abraham
Lincoln in May 2003. We all know what happened afterwards. The second
was the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people last June. A sharp
escalation of the resistance followed that forgettable episode. Now,
this effort to convince the world, relying on television images, that
elections carried out under military occupation and amidst widespread
resistance-which were boycotted by millions of Iraqi voters-were an
exercise in "freedom" and "democracy."

Wooing the Venusians

Europe is, of course, the special target of the Bush
strategy. The shift in the assessment of Europe's position brought
about by the hard realities of the Iraq resistance is illustrated by
the neoconservative ideologue Robert Kagan. In 2002, Kagan spoke
disparagingly of Europe's approach to world order, with his notorious
comment that "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus." In
2004, the same Kagan had changed his tune somewhat, writing in Foreign
Affairs that "Americans will need the legitimacy that Europe can
provide, but Europeans may well fail to grant it."

Fortunately, Europeans are not being taken in by the
"new," "conciliatory" Bush. The liberal Financial Times regards the new
approach as constituting a "belated recognition that the US is
overstretched and is in need of allies," though it cautions Europeans
against adopting a "do-nothing attitude" towards the Bush initiative.
Yet, unfortunately for the Times, on the question of Iraq, there is
really little the Western European governments can do since their
peoples continue to be strongly against participation in the US war by
large majorities. Indeed, even in less anti-American Eastern Europe,
the US is losing allies, with Hungary formally leaving the coalition
and the Polish government stating its wish to pull out the Polish
contingent as soon as "circumstances allow."

Bush's diplomacy is, in fact, running against the
long term currents. The Atlantic Alliance is dead. Iraq was merely the
coup de grace to a relationship that had been savaged by escalating
conflicts with the US on trade, environmental, and security issues.
Indeed, not only is the basis of common action disappearing but, as
American expert Ivo Daalder contends, "not a few [Europeans] now fear
the United States more than what, objectively, constitute the principal
threat to their security." Already, European experts such as Marco
Piccioni are arguing to a receptive public that the US presence in Iraq
is part of a larger Middle East strategy designed to exclude Europe
from oil producing areas by force if necessary.

If France and Germany went the distance in refusing
to legitimize the American invasion of Iraq and, at this point,
pointedly refuse to make any commitments, it is not simply because of
the anti-war sentiments of their citizens. It is also to discourage any
future US moves that might pose a direct threat to their own national
security. European civil society was largely a spectator during the
Bush tour. Despite the deep rift between their governments and
Washington, citizens' movements in Europe cannot let down their guard.
Indeed, European disengagement from the Iraq War is incomplete. Despite
large majorities in their populations opposing participation in the
war, the Blair and Berlusconi governments continue to maintain military
units in Iraq. Knocking Britain and Italy out of the war against the
people of Iraq is the top priority in the agenda of the European
anti-war movement in the next few months.


Leave a Reply