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The Significance of Events in World Systems
by Syed Khurram Husain
27 April 2002 10:50 UTC
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What we are witnessing around the world right now is a jamming up of US
foreign policy.  America's foreign policy in East Asia was already
beginning to jam when rival factions with divergent interests regarding
China pulled the Presidency in so many different directions that Clinton
was forced to divorce the renewal of MFN status from any considerations on
human rights.  Bush came to office promising to treat China as an enemy,
but the free trader lobby in the Republican party could not afford to
alienate the powerful business interests behind them in pursuit of this
policy.  North Korea was a candidate that could be sold to East Asian
countries as a potential enemy to justify large military purchases from the
US (such as the TMD system that Japan finally agreed to buy after  N.
Korea's tested a long range rocket that flew over Japanese territory), and
the continued stationing of American bases across the region.  But even
here, with the collapse of the Agreed Framework that Clinton was trying
hard to establish as a permanent platform in America's relations with N.
Korea, the "axis of evil" line did not go over very well in East Asia, as
Bush found out on his tour of the region.

US foreign policy is also jammed up in Europe where the Bush
admininstrations abandonment of its treaty commitments in Kyoto, landmines,
the international criminal court, and the ABM treaty have not gone over
very well at all, not to mention the steel tarriffs.  And Latin America was
growing skeptical of Bush's promises to enhance NAFTA into FTAA, cooperate
with Fox on immigration legislation and none of these initiatives have seen
any movement since Sept. 11th.  The recent fiasco in Venezuela, and the
ongoing crisis in Argentina, has undermined US credibility even further.

What we are witnessing now is US foreign policy jamming up in the Middle
East too.  Crown Prince Abdullah's visit to Waco TX has only brought the
message home in very clear terms, and a lone, stuttering Bush trying to
placate the Crown Prince and his staunchly pro-Israel lobby within his
cabinet at the same time was a pathetic reminder of how badly he is stuck
in that region as well.

The picture, if you think about it, has some parallels with the situation
prevailing in the years leading up to WW I, with the machinery of diplomacy
being called upon to remedy crisis situations year after year, and steadily
jamming up.  Wars usually begin when diplomacy fails.

In this environment, as in the one leading to the outbreak of WW I, single
events can acquire great significance.  Consider the scenario floated by
Wallerstein, of a terrorist blowing up the Temple Mount, or an attack on
Jewish worshippers at the wailing wall which leaves scores dead.  An event
no doubt, but in an environment where diplomacy and foreign policy has
already jammed up, it could potentially unleash great forces.  

In these times, it is very important to watch events closely.  For
instance, watch the Israeli offensive, and you will realize that what they
are doing is turning the clock back to a time when the Palestinians had
little to no infrastructure to live on.  The war on terror hides this
deeper motive, which is something Sharon has always been an advocate of, of
strangulating the Palestinians out of the occupied territories.  If this is
indeed true, then we can expect to see much more trouble in that region.
But if its not true, and Sharon's war is indeed just that, a war to uproot
the infrastructure of terrorism, then things can potentially take a
different route which would involve a return to negotiations, a rebuilding
of the civilian infrastructure damaged in the operation, and a return to a
path leading to Palestinian soveriegnty over parts of the West Bank and

This operation also is a moment of lucidity, when a militarily strong
superpower is unable to leverage its military muscle into economic or
diplomatic gains.  It shows us something about the logic of the decline of
hegemonies.  There are so many ways in which the details of what is
happening in the Middle East and Afghanistan today are important for a
World Systems perspective, that I am a little puzzled by people who want to
go on with world systems without any talk of it.

Khurram Husain

At 09:03 AM 4/26/02 -0500, you wrote:
>I'd just like to remind folks that many of us are subscribed here to
>read and participate in dialogue and debate about World Systems Theory.
>Yesterday, I received a WSN post that was a forward-of-a-forward style
>post about the supposed "real story" of what happened in Jenin (that the
>place was wired like a giant bomb, etc.). 
>Posts of this nature (or forwards of forwards expressing opposing
>viewpoints) can easily be considered internet spam. Can we agree to
>place *some* limits on what kinds of things can be forwarded (e.g.,
>articles in online publications)?  
>John Till

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