October 25, 2006

The Good News

The good news is that overt imperialism hasn't worked well for the past 50 years.
50 years ago the British, French and Israelis tried to grab the Suez Canal from Egypt. It didn't work.
49 years ago the Gold Coast gained independence from the UK as Ghana, and the whole of Africa began its decolonization.
In the 1960s the US tried to take over Vietnam; they were driven out in the 1970s.
In 1979 the USSR tried to take over Afghanistan, hoping to drive further south and have a port on the Indian Ocean; they were driven out by the end of 1989.
Partly because of the Afghanistan Adventure, the Soviet Empire lost first its satellites, and then most of its non-Russian components.

Maybe Francis Fukuyama hoped, when he wrote "The End of History", that with the end of the Cold War all the rules had changed. Unfortunately for the NeoConservatives, imperialism still doesn't work well. The world is too aware, with mass travel, mass media, mass communication; we know (even if only in a partial way, and with our own biases) what is going on in other countries, and why.

At the end of Bush Senior's presidency, Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby produced the "Defense Planning Guidance" for Dick Cheney, the Secretary of Defense. It called for the United States to maintain a monopoly on global power, so that it would be unchallengeable by enemies or allies. With regard to the Middle East, it called for an improved position in terms of its permanent military bases and its control of oil. When the report was leaked and much of the world protested, Dick Cheney disowned responsibility for the report.

However, PNAC (the Project for the New American Century, whose name clarifies its intent to dominate the world for the next hundred years) provided a vehicle for the continued advocacy of those ideas. In PNAC's 1997 Statement of Principles we find the same demand for US military domination, the signatories including Cheney, Wolfowitz and Libby, as well as Fukuyama, Donald Rumsfeld, William Bennett, Steve Forbes, Jeb Bush... even Dan Quayle. In 1998 PNAC wrote to President Clinton about Iraq; to preserve US interests "means removing Sadam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy." They urged taking "the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council."

So the Bad News is that PNAC came to power, took the opportunity provided on September 11, 2001 (when a handful of dissident Saudis based in Afghanistan attacked symbols of American commercial and military hegemony) to stir up the American people, lie to them, and lead them to invade Iraq in conjunction with whichever foreign politicians they could buy. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children have been killed; a trillion dollars has been diverted from improving life in the United States to destroying the infrastructure of an already poor country; the outpouring of sympathy and support for the United States from all countries in the wake of September 11 has been squandered and turned into fear and loathing; the development of the UN, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming and similar useful agencies has been set back 20 years; and it was done by an ignorant frat-boy of a President with a yee-haw attitude, who stole Florida to get elected in 2000 and stole Ohio to get elected in 2004.

But the Good News is that the US, having tried to take over Iraq, is proving again that imperialism really doesn't work very well any longer.

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