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Re: questions for discussion
by Boris Stremlin
02 October 2002 18:43 UTC
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I should clarify, first of all, that in speaking of a European trend
vis-a-vis US wars in the last 12 years, I meant specifically to depict it
as a negative trend (the language I used may have appeared misleading).

All wars have different contexts, especially in the short term.  Analyses
of the short term are completely legitimate, but frameworks such as
world-systems analysis also operate on different time-scales and allow one
to visualize continuities which otherwise remain obscured.  It's true that
the Gulf War constituted a clear violation of sovereignty (though the US
role in engineering this violation was obvious to anyone who cared enough
to look).  However, the response to the Iraqi invasion was by no means a
necessary outcome.  The grand coalition assembled by Bush I was
unnecessary from a  military standpoint, and diplomatically, it was only
possible in the context of the end of the Cold War.  The Soviet Union was
certainly against the Gulf War, but its use of veto-power in the Security
Council was an impossibility given Gorbachev's efforts to dismantle the
empire and to integrate the USSR into Europe.  The 'New World Order' -
enunciated by Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was
a proclamation of the US as a responsible hegemon in a uni-polar world -
it was multilateralist (used international institutions), and it
recognized the concerns of regional actors (by promising Arab states that
it would prevent Israeli response to Scuds and that it would drag it to
the negotiating table in Madrid after the war was over, e.g.).  And of
course, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in itself could have only
taken place at that specific time (because Soviet restrain on its client
states had collapsed along with its empire).

As for Kosovo, it's true that many in Europe were reticent to act because
of the proximity of the conflict.  On the other hand, many in Europe
(notably the German government) wanted to act precisely because they
believed that the proximity of the conflict would prove destabilizing to
the EU if measures were not taken (as Elson also notes).  However, it is
also important to remember that the form the war took owed a great deal to
a reticence on the part of the Clinton administration to take their case
to the UN and to insist that military action proceed under the auspices of
NATO only.  This strategy was not dictated by the geographic locus of the
conflict, but by the growing unilateralist tendencies of the US.  The
outcome of its decision, as Owen Harries noted in the New York Times
shortly before the end of the air campaign, was that "with its ability to
overawe diminished, the United States will have to resort to force even
more often".

This time around, Bush has gone to the UN under pressure from Powell and
the Europeans, but he has gone there with an ultimatum which threatens
action even in the event of the defeat of its proposals and with questions
about the legitimacy of the institution itself.  The comparisons with the
League of Nations, which now abound, are not a healthy development.  Nor
is the attempt to undermine the UN indicative of its future as a rubber
stamp of US expansionism (that would completely contradict its charter).

As for the possibility of a Cold War, consider these two cases:  first,
when Wallerstein appeared on a C-SPAN call-in show in early July to talk
about his article in _Foreign Policy_, a caller, outraged with this
critique of the US position on the International Criminal Court suggested
that if he hated the US so much, he ought to go to Europe.  That's quite
an interesting twist on the Vietnam-era slogan.  Second, at a talk at the
American Enterprise Institute which took place about a week earlier, the
panelists (all of them senior figures at the institute) agreed that the EU
was a successor entity to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  I hasten to
add that these positions are not representative of the US mainstream, but
infortunately, the people who run the AEI also run the Defense Policy
Board, and their views are quite weighty in determining US policies.  The
German election and the recent antiwar protests are part of the blowback
for these sorts of pronouncements (and their consequent actions).  Bush's
refusal to congratulate Schroeder even exceeds Cold War protocol in its

On Mon, 30 Sep 2002, Elson Boles wrote:

> Steve: I think you still miss the forest for the trees.  That there are
> growing differences of global policy between the US and Europe heads of
> state, no doubt.  Will the differences grow?  Quite likely.  But just
> how "deep-seated" the differences are, and whether they will it become a
> real rift, something even approaching the Cold War, seems rather far
> off.  I think they have much more in common than not, and increasingly
> the conflicts are being resolved through the UN.  What seems to be
> happening is perhaps analogous to when classes became state-oriented in
> pursuing their interests, which was to strengthen the interstate system.
> Increasingly, national-ethnic classes (workers and enterprises), ethnic
> and other status-based groups, are pursuing their interests globally and
> becoming UN-oriented.  The question is, over then next 20 years or
> longer, which will grow faster, the intra-core rivalries or the ability
> and power of the UN to resolve those rivalries?
> That the war with Iraq contributes today to the general differences of
> global policy between US and EU or even Security Council states, no
> doubt.  But it is hard to not notice, as Boris notes, a trend of
> European support for US-led wars, or non-involvement.  Again, I haven't
> seen any convincing evidence that a US invasion of Iraq will cause in a
> real rift between Europe and the US.  (And what is new about Russia or
> China's opposition?  Nothing.  Iraq's another bargaining chip!)
> Boris: As for the Gulf War, yes, it is (and was) unimaginable that
> anti-war sentiment would have conditioned an election in Europe at that
> time.  But that is because the context was radically different: Iraq had
> blatantly invaded another sovereign state for one (a state that the US
> had gone to great lengths in arming Iraq to ensure, in part, that it
> wouldn't be invaded by Iran).  In Kosovo, Europeans hesitated to
> escalate with ground troops in part because the fighting was at their
> backdoor, and in part for the same reasons the US politically preferred
> air strikes.  But they all went ahead with an even more massive air
> assault than that on Iraq because the ethnic cleansing on both sides of
> the conflict embarrassed Europe and didn't tie-in well with EU
> unification, and justified NATO.  And let's not forget Afghanistan which
> everyone went along with for the most part, again because the outward
> violence against the US was blatant (not covert), and next to impossible
> for allies others to openly oppose even if they had wanted to.  But of
> course, they didn't want to because politically Afghanistan isn't the
> Middle East, and does open oil line possibilities.  (And we might make
> mention of Rwanda in '94; all agreed to simply ignore the genocide of a
> million lives -- or so-called "acts of genocide" -- and hoped no-one
> noticed that they knew exactly what was happening but chose to not get
> involved because they didn't have any "national interests" at stake --
> and they succeeded fantastically in this).
> The bit of resistance to the campaigns in Kosovo and Afghanistan wasn't
> based primarily on, as it is with the US-planned invasion of Iraq today,
> practical grounds or political grounds that can be ignored (as with
> Rwanda).  The grounds today that can't be ignored include the fallout of
> Middle East instability from a US invasion and the overthrowing of a
> government that isn't actively undermining the sovereignty of other
> states, or pursuing communist policies, or involved in ethnic cleansing
> in Europe, or international terrorism against the US.
> In planning to undermine a state that is basically minding it's own
> business -- which of course can't be said of any of the core states --
> the US is setting a new post cold-war precedent to advance with a
> blatant military invasion the interests of those corporations that have
> the greatest influence on the US government (most of them being
> US-based), and to leave German businesses out in the cold for not toeing
> the line.  These are the sharp differences of Iraq today compared to
> Afghanistan, Kosovo, or Rwanda.
> Elson Boles
> Assistant Professor
> Dept. of Sociology
> Saginaw Valley State University
> University Center
> Saginaw MI, 48710
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu
> > [mailto:wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu] On Behalf Of Boris Stremlin
> > Sent: Monday, September 30, 2002 1:29 AM
> > Subject: Re: questions for discussion
> >
> >
> > It is hard not to notice a distinct trend in European (not to mention
> > Arab) willingness to go along with US-led wars since the end
> > of the Cold War. In that "wonderful moment" in late 1990, not
> > only did everyone support the war to bring about the New
> > World Order, but a great many countries actually sent troops
> > to support the US in Desert Storm.  In Kosovo in 1998, the
> > support was much more tenuous, and as a result, the use of
> > ground troops was ruled out (ultimately ensuring that the
> > final settlement would be a negotiated one).  Today, there is
> > widespread opposition, and the success of any possible
> > resolutions supporting war against Iraq in the Security
> > Council is up in the air.  There are also governments in
> > Europe elected on a platform of opposition to US foreign
> > policy - a stance which would have been unimaginable 10 years
> > ago.  Even assuming that the US eventually obtains support
> > and achieves a quick and decisive victory in Iraq, there is
> > every reason to suppose that this trend will continue,
> > because the Bush administration will continue to press for
> > war against other countries, because the rebuilding of Iraq
> > will likely be no less haphazard than that of Afghanistan,
> > and because European corporations will get short-changed in
> > the division of the spoils.
> >
> > It is also not entirely accurate to argue that the European
> > opposition is momentary, and triggered by the policies of a
> > particularly hawkish administration.  Although it is true
> > that the present administration is especially militaristic
> > and prone to hardball foreign policy, the difference between
> > it and previous administrations is not as great as looks.  We
> > should recall that the first Gulf War was engineered by the
> > first Bush administration, which initially gave the green
> > light for Iraq to invade Kuwait, and then purposely sabotaged
> > Gorbachev's peace plan. The same thing happened before the
> > Kosovo War at Rambouillet (who can forget Madeleine
> > Albright's immortal phrase "what we say, goes"?)  There are
> > plenty of hawks among Democratic foreign policy people (the
> > most influential is Albright's mentor Zbigniew Brzezinski,
> > whose strategic blueprint has the US taking control of
> > Central Asia).  So the opposition between European and US
> > interests appear quite deep-seated, and growing.
> >
> > PS - In his translation of Patrick Tyler's NYT article, Steve
> > noted the pious wishes of the administration regarding
> > eventual support of the US position by France, China and
> > Russia.  I would only add that these pronouncements regarding
> > UN support are almost identical in tone to the president's
> > insistence that those who are getting into the market right
> > now are "buying value".  This sort of magic is the red thread
> > that runs through all the policies of this administration.
> >
> > --
> > Boris Stremlin
> > bstremli@binghamton.edu
> >
> >

Boris Stremlin

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