Aggression, fascism, strategy and logic - discussion from previous LS site. Why, and when, should we support the US overthrow of fascist regimes?
If I understand correctly, the point being made is that people who
opposed the US aggression against Vietnam, the Vietnamese invasion
of Kampuchea, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Iraqi
invasion of Kuwait based themselves on a consistent principle "to
oppose acts of aggression" regardless of how much we may dislike the
politics of the victim.
That is certainly true and makes more sense than the unifying
principle perceived by most of the pseudo-left, namely that we
opposed whatever the US supported. The examples of leftists opposing
the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea, Russian invasion of
Afghanistan and Iraqi invasion of Kuwait refute the principle
asserted by the pseudo-left (though there were of course many who
adopted a pseudo-left position supporting the aggressor in each of
Although supporters of the current war prefer to describe it as a
"liberation" of Iraq rather than an "invasion" of Iraq, it certainly
meets the definition of an invasion and the war was clearly
initiated by the US, not by Iraq. This is clearly unlike for example
the situation in East Timor, where even most of the pseudo-left
supported Australian military intervention.
Departing from the logic of the principle we have adopted in the
past is said to require some over-riding principle such as Saddam
being fascist rather than just another "tin pot third world
Why then should we say Saddam was a fascist while treating Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar of Afghanistan as a freedom fighter? Specifically there is
a request for "some testable criteria about what Facism is and how
Saddam fits this criteria" as distinct from just saying that he is
"a bad person or even an evil one".
Fair enough, that is the sort of issue on a lot of people's minds
and it needs to be answered.
First, although this is a side issue it should be noted that only
the US and Pakistan pretended that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was a
"freedom fighter". He was in fact a particularly vicious Islamist
warlord (currently being chased by US and Pakistani troops in the
border areas). Whether or not he can technically be described as
"fascist", he was certainly vicious enough to justify a war aimed at
liberating or saving Afghanistan from being ruled by him or people
The Soviet Union and its pseudo-left supporters pretended that their
invasion of Afghanistan was to liberate or save Afghans from
Islamist warlords like Hekmatyar. The reason they pretended this was
of course that this would have been a perfectly good excuse for an
invasion if it was true - just as the Vietnamese invasion of
Kampuchea would have been justified if the propaganda they and their
supporters spread about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge was true.
But of course it was a naked lie. The government of Afghanistan was
dominated by a pro-Moscow revisionist "Communist" party. The Soviets
initially pretended to have been "invited" in by that government (as
with the invasion of Czechoslovakia) and then murdered the President
and established a complete puppet regime (based on another faction
of the same party).
Islamist warlords dominated the resistance and received all of the
CIA supplies and funding (with Hekmatyar getting the lion's share
and using it to attack and destroy progressive resistance forces).
As a result Afghanistan was plunged into utter darkness when the
resistance won, but the USA didn't care a damn about that since all
they wanted was to inflict damage on the Soviet Union, not to
The US even encouraged islamist terrorists from all over the world,
coordinated by Osama bin Ladin to flock to Afghanistan and form "the
base" ("Al Quaeda"). Furthermore, as documented in links from
Maintain your rage, the US even deliberately provided open CIA
support for terrorist attacks by extreme reactionaries like
Hekmatyar six months before the invasion with a view to encouraging
the Soviets to invade and thus lure them into the "trap" of their
Of course this US support for Islamist terrorism did not justify the
Soviet aggression and the Soviet invasion did not justify the US
support for Islamist terrorism.
Afghans suffered the most for the superpowers playing out their
"great game" and the rest of the world, including the people of New
York have also paid a heavy price.
The warlords still influential in Afghanistan are behaving a lot
better than they did when Hekmatyar was leader of the pack and they
were so bad that the Taliban was welcomed as an alternative. But
they are still pretty awful and what is needed there is more
international intervention to suppress the warlords and build a
modern democratic society. Unfortunately that isn't a US or European
priority and they are doing the bare minimum to improve the
situation. There ought to be a mass movement demanding that more be
done, whether we call the warlords fascists or not. They are evil
and vicious and should be driven out of power by armed force.
Second, the Baathist regime led by Saddam Hussein was as vicious and
evil as claimed by the US and British governments and the people of
Iraq deserved international support to liberate them from it,
whether we call it "fascist" or not. It was not just some "tin pot
third world dictator" but an exceptionally vicious regime.
That of course was not the main reason why the US and Britain
attacked it (and neither was WMDs). But it is a good enough reason
to support them doing so.
Third, that regime was "fascist" in the narrow sense of the term.
Check out the details of the origin of the Ba'ath party in the
fascist movements of the 1930s. See also my explanation of my use
of the terms fascism, social-fascism, etc in connection with the of
the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Third, although these are good reasons for supporting the liberation
of a country they are not decisive - either for the "Coalition of
the willing" or for leftists that support it.
If for example the strategic goal had been, as claimed by the
anti-war movement, to dominate the middle east, seize energy
resources etc then that would be grounds for opposition even if they
had happened to pick on a particularly bad regime.
The strategic goal of the Coalition is to modernize and democratize
the middle east, starting with the most "doable" country, Iraq,
before things get even worse.
That is a reversal of the previous US/Israeli strategy of seeking to
hold back the development of the middle east (to benefit from
cheaper oil etc, suppress communism and weaken the Arabs relative to
Israel) by supporting the most reactionary forces in each country
(the Ayatollahs against a nationalist regime in Iran, Saddam in
Iraq, the Saudi royals, Israeli zionism etc etc).
It is a reversal the US considers strategically necessary in the
light of the results of their previous Afghan policy supporting
Islamic terrorism and their general middle east policy supporting
reaction, as demonstrated spectacularly by 9/11.
They consider it urgent in view of the likely emergence of an Al
Quaeda regime in Saudi Arabia after the present regime collapses.
Giving Osama bin Laden "stinger" missiles to use against the Soviet
Union and encouraging Saudi Arabia to fund wahabi and salafi
terrorism seemed to them like a good idea at the time but it hasn't
seemed so clever since 9/11. Allowing Al Quaeda to acquire WMDs from
Arabian oil wealth doesn't strike them as a viable policy option.
Modernizing and democraitizing the middle east is the sort of policy
the left has always stood for and we're not about to change our
minds now. It certainly makes more sense as a means of defeating
Islamist terrorism then trying to hunt them down with police methods
while the madrassas keep churning them out - as advocated by the US
While many on the left support the war for "humanitarian" reasons
(overthrowing an exceptionally vicious regime), I see that as only a
subordinate part of the wider "strategic" reason.
The logic of the left in considering questions of war and peace is
not solely concerned with opposing aggression. That often appears to
be the dominant concern for a very simple reason - aggression is
normally resorted to by reactionaries in order to hold back
progress. Since the left opposes reaction and supports progress it
finds itself opposed to aggression (alongside pacifists and others
with quite different motivations). The left tradition of supporting
wars against fascism is simply a link between the two - fascism
fights against progress and uses wars of agression to do so.
But circumstances have and will arise when the strategic goal of
supporting progress and opposing reaction may justify an invasion
that was not aimed at liberating a country from an exceptionally
For example immediately before the second world war the then
revolutionary Soviet Union invaded Finland to seize a strip of
territory that was vital for the defence of Leningrad in the coming
war. There was no issue of liberating the Finns from an
exceptionally vicious regime (although the Finnish regime was pretty
bad, the war was to seize territory, not to liberate the Finnish
people who were in fact opposed to the Soviet invasion).
It was simply considered absolutely necessary as the consequences of
allowing Leningrad to remain exposed were far more grave than
violating Finnish sovereignity (despite the very real negative
political consequences of doing so).
Likewise the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were
annexed to provide defence in depth - not to liberate their peoples
from exceptionally vicious regimes.
The current situation is causing cognitive dissonance on the left
because people just can't cope with the idea of the US fighting a
revolutionary war to modernize and democratize Iraq and the middle
east in the light of its previous policies.
One major reason for that is that there are basically no functional
left organizations capable of analysing world affairs seriously as
the left has been swamped by a pseudo-left for a long time.
Another is that the US has gone out of its way to avoid being seen
as having to retreat from a totally catastrophic previous policy in
the middle east by hypeing itself as a mighty superpower rather than
a declining one.
US strategy is global democratic revolution
[owenss] Ok I think Ive got it now You think that we should
support the war effort because of the new strategic goal of the
coalition this being to modernize and democratise the middle east.
Well Im all for modernity and more democracy but I struggle to see
the evidence that this is what is happening.
Yes, I think you have now "got it" as to what I am saying.
Your tone now seems to be less sneering and more a matter of
reasonable argument. Please note however that as you have apparantly
only just "got it" as to what is being said, you have some
responsibility to review the evidence yourself (eg by looking
through the substantial amount of material on this site) rather than
just glaring at us expectantly.
[owenss] If your right then this process is about two years old. The
USA has its greatest degree of influence over Israel yet my
impression is that over the last two years Israel has ramped up the
level of oppression.
Yes, any credible strategy to modernize and democratize the
middle east must involve ending Israeli oppression of the
Palestinians and so far, the US has given the impression of moving
far too slowly on that front.
However it is important to understand that the US has a strong
interest in giving the impression of moving very slowly on that
front and therefore it is not surprising that people have gained
Over the last 2 years your "impression" that "Israel has ramped up
the level of oppression" has become nearly universal. That puts the
Bush administration exactly where it wants to be on this issue -
responding to a near universal consensus.
By committing itself to a viable Palestinian state within a set
timetable the US has thoroughly undermined the Israeli position and
greatly accelerated that perception of Israeli intransigence (which
in fact has not ramped up dramatically in the last 2 years but goes
way back without having been noticed as much).
During that 2 years most people have actually forgotton that the
original goal of the Israeli occupation was to annex the whole of
Palestine and prevent the formation of a Palestinian state. Instead
they now believe the only purpose of the occupation is to combat
Palestinian terrorism. This is very similar to what Nixon did in
convincing Americans that the goal of the US forces in Vietnam was
to recover US POWs - which he triumphantly achieved by agreeing to
withdraw all US troops! Likewise public opinion is being prepared
for the establishment of a Palestinian state as being a triumph for
long standing US and Israeli policy and a defeat for terrorists (led
of course by that arch opponent of a Palestinian state, Yassir
Withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and establishment of viable
Palestinian state represents a total defeat for nearly four decades
of Israeli policy which the US has spent many billions on backing.
Unlike the US support for reaction in the other countries of the
middle east generally, that US support for Israeli policy is well
known. Reversing it is a major defeat. Therefore there is nothing
surprising about a US government wanting to establish a broad
consensus before taking on the US zionist lobby (and putting itself
in a position where any counter-mobilization claiming that Bush is
hostile to Israel, soft on terrorism etc etc would just look silly).
For more on that, please review the thread re:Arafat posturing in
which I pointed out that the Israeli "decision" to remove Arafat and
the related US Security Council veto was just posturing, but others
here whose overall analysis is similar to mine were disagreeing. I
think the issue on which we were arguing has been pretty
conclusively settled by Sharon's announcement that Israel will not
My guess is that now Bush has the 87 billion he is relatively free
from constraints due to Congressional opposition and will proceed
rapidly both with troop rotations for Iraq and with a Palestinian
settlement along the lines of the Geneva Accord.
[owenss] In Iraq the picture is less clear the coalition has made
some steps towards rebuilding a civil society but I think Iraq poses
a unique problem and this is where comparisons with Germany and
Japan are misleading. Both Germany and japan were well ordered
homogenous societies rebuilt by Democrat newdealers not Republican
free marketeers. When people tell me that the USA can rebuild Iraq
just like post war Germany I ask yes but which war and which Germany
Wiemar or Federal.
The comparison with Germany and Japan is just a reminder
that "American occupation" is not necessarily synonmous with
"Vietnam quagmire". I agree that any further comparison is
The strongest evidence for the new strategy is of course that
without such a strategy US tactics in Iraq would make absolutely no
sense whatever. That's precisely what most of the US foreign policy
establishment and the anti-war people believe - with "explanations"
like "oil" being an admission of not having an analysis rather than
a serious attempt to explain what is going on. See What Bush is up
against for a discussion of the sort of tactics the US would be
following in Iraq if it was not committed to a strategy of bourgeois
[owenss] What happens in Iraq as happens in Turkey and Morroco and
Algeria when in free elections the Islamists get up.
Don't confuse Islamists with Islamic parties. In Turkey for
example the current governing party has been described as Islamist
but is actually more Islamic (like the Christian Democrat parties in
various European countries are Christian). Most of the major Islamic
parties in Iraq (including some Islamist ones) are already part of
the Governing Council collaborating with the occupation authorities.
This includes the Shia Hezbollah, Dawa and SCIRI and Sunni Muslim
Brotherhood (along with non-Islamic parties like the Kurdish
nationalists, "Communist" Party and Iraqi National Congress).
[owenss] Finally to that godforsaken place Afganistan I think Karsi
has done well not only to survive but to produce a constitution that
states that you cant head a private army as well as a political
party. And its interesting that the international force has ventured
beyond Kabal. However positive this may be the reconstruction is
underfunded fighting has started and stopped between rival warlords
the Taliban has recovered in some southern provices.
I would call Afghanistan God saturated rather than God
forsaken. There is a severe shortage of infidels ;-)
Afghanistan is not critical for the new strategy and the primary US
objective was simply to avoid US casualties while getting rid of Al
Quaeda (and hence incidentally getting rid of the Taliban).
Consequently they allied again with their old friends the Islamist
warlords (plus Dostum, a secular Uzbek warlord) and have been very
slow about promoting social revolution outside Kabul.
Nevertheless, as you have mentioned Karzai (who basically represents
US interests without much other base in Afghanistan) is now starting
to move against the warlords and NATO forces are taking up the slack
left by US disinterest and beginning to extend the regime beyond
Kabul. I agree with you that the reconstruction is underfunded. In
addition there are not enough "boots on the ground". That of course
is a call for more vigorous military intervention - directly
opposite to what the (much smaller) anti-war movement wanted for
[owenss] So what am I asking Im asking for evidence that the
strategic goal of the coalition is modernity and democracy.
Coincidentally, since you wrote that, I was interrupted
while replying to listen to Bush's speech at the National Endowment
for Democracy. Whereas previously I was basing my analysis on
careful reading of the tea leaves it is now pretty much "official
policy" with the strategic rationale fairly clearly spelled out by
Bush himself. See Bush commits to global democratic revolution:
"The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East
will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution."
"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack
of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe - because
in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of
liberty. As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom
does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment,
and violence ready for export. And with the spread of weapons that
can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it
would be reckless to accept the status quo."
"Therefore, the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward
strategy of freedom in the Middle East."
As I pointed out in an article for May Day, that made sense when
Noam Chomsky was advocating it and it makes sense when Bush
The "Western nations" of course actively promoted rather than merely
excusing and accommodating tyranny in the Middle East and the US was
"leader of the free world" in pushing that policy. But it would be
extremely stupid for Bush to spell out that this policy was
catastrophic and its continuation would be "reckless", unless he is
I mentioned last year that Bush was following Lincoln's policy of
never taking a step until it has become obvious that the step cannot
be avoided. The latest speech comes close to an "Emancipation
Proclamation". A global democratic revolution isn't what Congress
signed up to when they authorized a threat to use force to disarm
Saddam, just as abolition of slavery wasn't what Lincoln's Congress
signed up to. But they have just handed over the funds and are stuck
with it now.
Ignore the hype about how the US won democracy for Latin America etc
instead of retreating in the face of it and look at what Bush is
actually saying about the middle east. No other policy makes sense
from the standpoint of US imperialist interests. (As Rumsfeld
pointed out its pretty pointless chasing Islamist terrorists while
the madrassas keep churning them out unless you also have a long
term strategy for transforming the societies where that occurs).
Last modified 2006-08-06 10:51 PM