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Paper Tiger on the prowl.

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How far down the road to collapse is modern imperialism?

Imperialism will not last long because it always does evil things. It persists in grooming and supporting reactionaries in all countries who are against the people, it has forcibly seized many colonies and semi-colonies and many military bases, and it threatens the peace with atomic war. Thus, forced by imperialism to do so, more than 90 per cent of the people of the world are rising or will rise in struggle against it.

Mao Tse Tung: (September 29, 1958).

The world has changed profoundly since the 1950s, and that change is accelerating: yet when it comes to the diminishing imperial power of the last superpower not many people noticed, until recently, just how low this mighty power has fallen.  Now quite a few are noticing; but they are more often than not supporters seeking to arrest the trend and not left-wingers delighted at the progress. 

Take this example;

 ‘Bush and Cheney have done more than merely bungle a war and damage the Army. They have destroyed the foundation of the post-Cold War world security system, which was the accepted authority of American military power. That reputation is now gone. It cannot be restored simply by retreating from Iraq. This does not mean that every ongoing alliance will now collapse. But they are all more vulnerable than they were before, and once we leave central Iraq, they will be weaker still. As these paper tigers start to blow in the wind, so too will America’s economic security erode.

From this point of view, the fuss over whether we were misled into war—Is the sky blue? Is the grass green?—stands in the way of a deeper debate that should start quite soon and ask this question: Now that Bush and Cheney have screwed up the only successful known model for world security under our leadership, what the devil do we do?’

James K. Galbraith teaches economics at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin. He previously served in several positions on the staff of the U.S. Congress, including executive director of the Joint Economic Committee.

Galbraith is quite genuine he does not know what to do and he is not alone; the old foreign policy establishment warriors are all in spin.  People like Madeline Albright are being ignored and they are not happy at all.  They viscerally know that the result of applying the Bush policy for eight years is the destruction of their carefully constructed old world of ‘measured steps’ towards democracy in the Middle East.  Measured steps is their code words for actually maintaining the status quo of autocrats and rat-bags in power and impeding the progress of democracy.  They want pro US governments and unless a pro US government was to emerge (hell may freeze over first) they stand with the dictators and autocrats. 

The game is now up for the old US as it was for the British and French 50years ago when the Suez crisis, (actually a brutal if short war), demonstrated just how stupid some old imperialists could be. 

The US ruling elite (now looking every bit as doddery as Anthony Eden) are now realizing that there will be nothing left of the old policy position to even hope to rebuild from if the next President follows the same path; so a ‘mighty battle’ over who is to be President next is unfolding.  But I think it’s even worse than the old crowd imagines.  I think it doesn’t matter who is elected.  

It seems that Jupiter had no impulse of compassion when he crammed into Bush’s box all the problems that afflict the poor old imperialists; the box is open and they are out.  Opening the box a second time, won’t release the hope, sought by this discredited bunch of policy failures.  Hope was in Pandora’s Box.  

What the devil do we do?’  Go back to school that’s what.

War is the best school that the people attend, and the deaths of young soldiers make them first rate students.  Indeed the modern USA, was born in the people’s struggle over the US led war of aggression in Vietnam.

Nowadays, as a consequence, ruling elites, are kept on a fairly firm leash – by members of the ruling class itself - lest the lot of them, are done away with by an enraged populace many of whom have been already educated by earlier struggle.  The case for any war these days has got to be well made.


The case for the liberation of Kuwait was well made and the case for responding to Al
Qaeda by destroying the Taliban in Afghanistan was self evident.

9/11 let loose the leash and surprising results have happened.  When the Bush administration was forced by this attack to wield its political, diplomatic and military power in a strategic manner, the credibility of the ruling elite was stretched to breaking point.  They were forced to adopt a strategy that required a profound understanding of how the world works. Yet they could not shout this strategy to the world lest the Congress prevent the war or perhaps the people took some lesson and developed things further.


The Bush administration has found the going very tough despite the fact that in Iraq they are the side of the angels and have launched a war of liberation!  Imagine what shit they would be in if they really were (as many people imagine) actually trying to impose puppets in Iraq or expand the Israeli settlements in the West Bank!
They went into the war in Iraq with overwhelming support from the American people. .
But three years later, the Administration’s credibility is in tatters.  It would be just
‘spin’ to suggest that they have now built up support for a revolutionary war of intervention - rather than having lost support for a war that they had always maintained was to liberate the people of Iraq.

The Bush Administration is now both coping with the changes that have been building for the last 40 years, and demonstrating in the manner of its coping, that those changes have really happened.


They are in retreat but managing their retreat far better than the USSR did – due to the new and effective policy they have adopted.  The USSR had to stand by powerlessly while the world dramatically made the changes that everybody knew they had previously opposed.  Their defeat could not be hidden.


In contrast , the US has managed to disguise its retreat by voluntarily reversing its previous approach while at the same time  attempting to fool the world into believing that was sort of its intention all along  - even when it ‘made mistakes’. Not many in the international community are buying the spin. But it plays very well at home.

The US ruling elite must present this retreat as anything but a retreat, and they are substantially getting away with it; this can’t be helped much when there is no strong left able to point it out.

For the past 3 years we have been saying on LastSuperpower that 60 years after WW2  and having run out of all other options,  the Bush team are stuck with promoting bourgeois democracy as their only remaining policy option.


The fact that this is now the only policy they could follow - because any other policy would be more dangerous to their class - is still not widely understood by most people who think of themselves as progressives or “on the left”.

Of course ever since WW2, the US and its supporters have mouthed words about ‘democracy as a goal’ – even when they were actually busy installing tyrannies or keeping them in place. “This is the real world”, they say, “and though we wish it weren’t necessary, we have to take this unfortunate step in order to prevent something worse from coming to power. They used to say that this worse thing was communism and now they say Islamism.

Communists understand that eventually democracy will open the door to communism, and this is also in a certain sense understood by some of the old style US foreign policy establishment who might even think communism is dead.  These people are scared witless by what they see as the outrageous policy direction of the Bushies because they see their wealth and privilege as extracted from working people and democracy giving the lower classes greater power in the struggle to retain more of the pie.  They instinctively no that more democracy is against their interests.

Old scoundrels like Madeline Albright remind me of the even sillier old Soviet Generals. One only has to remember the absolute farce of the coup by these Soviet Generals, to get the point that by that time, the issues had ripened far beyond their control and they looked ridiculous.  After 9/11, there was no other choice really available to Bush - just as there was no real choice available to Gorbechev once things had reached the point where reform was required to prevent a complete breakdown. Glastnost and Perestroika were the desperate last policy choice after all the rest had been tried and failed

Most people who don’t have a clue about what is happening now are far too “sophisticated”. As Arthur said; Indeed many supporters of Bush (and all opponents), took it for granted that when using the terms “liberation” or “democratic government” what Bush actually meant was simply the installation of a government more "congenial" to the US.  They didn’t take Bush to be embarking on a course of action in which the Iraqi people would be free to choose their own government even if such a government was likely not to be particularly congenial to the US.  So it’s really small wonder that there is now the widespread perception that the US has actually failed in its imperialist venture rather than succeeded in carrying out its real (and only possible) policy of carrying out an orderly retreat.

Now that the US has been forced to back bourgeois democracy in the Middle East other imperialists can’t impose tyrannies and can no longer even provide much support to existing tyrannies.  All they can do is whine and talk about how terrible things are and what a mess the US is making. They cannot reverse the new US policy, nor thumb their noses and impose tyrannies themselves.  Neither could the US itself in the long term, liberate the Middle East but not fail to institute the same policy globally.
The French and the Germans and all the rest have no chance other than to tag along with the new policies as implemented by the US. The last superpower has now (finally) found that it must follow a policy of remaking the world in its own (bourgeois democratic) image rather than continue to stand in the way of global these developments.


Future wannabe powers like China will also be unable to do things in the old fashioned manner. Tyranny is finally on the chopping block world wide because bourgeois democracy is now realized  by the most far sighted members of the US ruling elite to be in the national interests of the last superpower -  and by extension all bourgeois democracies.

Until people understand that there was never even a vague possibility of the Coalition installing any form of puppet regime in Iraq, and that democracy is being established in Iraq because there was no other choice, they will not understand what is actually happening there.


Contrary to all the face-saving posturing and breast-beating coming from Bush et al, imperialism is in deep decay.  Realizing this is the key to grasping what is going on in the world today.

In Iraq there was no other choice because it is impossible in this century to hand back 80% of the population to a small bunch of fascist rulers, from a privileged 20% religiously determined sect. Once the Baathist army was defeated there would
be no going back, because no one would have the military capacity to put humpty together again. Nobody!

As for reversing US policy directions again; the contest for who is to be the next US president is to be fought within the ranks of the establishment over just this wider policy issue and it seems to me to be the logic of a Tweedledum and Tweedledee system in its dotage that either party could put up either type of candidate or any possible combination.

The result (if a return to the old policies candidate gets up) could only be to slow down the issue of this strategic retreat, because it can’t be undone, and that’s because it is now a process that is internal to the region; a region that is already free from being dictated to and having puppets installed.

So the direct US influence will continue to wane. Democracy is now going to unfold more or less slowly over the next decade irrespective of what the US wants. The current leadership wants it and when the time comes for the next presidential candidates to be chosen I suspect that both candidates will also want it.

Either way, the autocracies cannot hold out for very many years, once substantial progress has been made in Iraq and even more importantly a Palestinian state is established.

But in my opinion, Bush won’t deliver very much more on the second front, Palestine before he leaves office and they have never pushed this issue as hard as they ought to have, harming greatly the Iraq front in the process.  They will want to have successfully closed down the Iraq project in this Presidency and start the end game of the Israeli pull out in the next presidency.

My prediction is that the US will want to keep up sufficient pressure to get the withdrawal back to the Israeli apartheid wall and that they show that the wall is not final, by getting a few of it’s most shocking incursions undone and having it repositioned in these instances on the green line.

With deliberate foot dragging there are more than enough settlers for the Israeli government to pull out and settlements to hand over during this period, just to get them back to their rotten wall, that the real issues will be delayed that long.

After the Israeli elections there will be some very extensive pull outs of West Bank settlements unfolded bit by bit, as the Israeli Government takes unilateral measures to ‘impose a peace’.

The US will have done nothing much, in appearance because they have to save their effort for the last part of the withdrawal. They have to let the Israeli Government set the direction and take all the unavoidable early and middle steps.

If the Israeli government delays these last inevitable further pullouts they would be running the clock down on Bush, hoping to see a reversal or softening from the next administration, and Bush would be demonstrating further weakness and not any Lincolnesque pacing if at the end of his Presidency he hasn’t moved the process this far.

There are several orderly retreats in simultaneous progress in this period and all conflict with timing requirements. The US separate from the Israeli retreat; Hamas from its old non recognition stance; Fatah’s old corrupt guard being cleaned out and the organization made fit to govern again. How the combined timing works out is very much in the tea

In my view, the US should have been applying huge pressure to have had the Israeli government pulling out more settlements once Bush was re-elected and they have not.

True, the most stunningly provocative settlements, like in Hebron, simply make the settler movement look like the loonies that they are and undermines the whole failed war for greater Israel faster in the eyes of the Israeli and US public and world opinion generally, so I can understand why they would not apply pressure there.

However when one looks at the maps of the wall and the various settlements there are some areas that I would have expected to have been addressed in order to show others good intent. This shows a poor leadership unable to walk and chew gum. An alternative is that because everything is connected to everything it has to be all tackled at once
but I don’t buy that.

I accept that any ruling elite making a retreat of this magnitude would not want it to appear as a defeat in the eyes of their own people or globally and that this is a very big issue for them. So naturally they have to change the perception of what the war aims have been.

The war for greater Israel is in tatters but peace is not to come from an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank but rather from an ending of terrorism and the Zionists have to be made to wear the defeat as the US forces them to take the last steps, so that it looks like the US achieved its forty year goal of establishing a Palestinian state!

Looked at from the Israeli side, even they have to keep the most offensive settlements for now in order to convince their public that there really is no alternative but to abandon the whole failed Zionist dream.

But this thinking only goes so far.

Once public opinion has been created the steps have to be taken, and delays in one region affect issues in another so the period after the Israeli elections is crucial to determining just how good the Bush team are at applying the new policies.


The US isn’t capable of such an imperial task as was imagined by those that were taken in on the right and by the anti war movement; old style imperialism in general is no longer possible and we have entered a new era where the US is the last superpower.

Created by patrickm
Last modified 2006-03-26 08:17 PM

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