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Re: questions for discussion
by Elson Boles
04 October 2002 13:38 UTC
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I agree with much of Boris' contextualization of the circumstances of
the wars in a previous post.  However, there are a couple differences.
But above all, we need to address the key issue: if there are growing
differences between the US and Europe, what is the nature and
significance of these differences for the future of the world-system?

First, one disagreement with Boris on this statement: "However, the
response to the Iraqi invasion was by no means a necessary outcome."
That's a bit of a strawperson, insofar as nothing is "necessary."  My
point was, given US "national interests," that Desert Storm was much
more likely to be supported by allies than this new invasion of Iraq,
and by the same token, no action was a likely course in Rwanda.  As for
Kosovo, I mostly agree with Boris' analysis.  He points out that Clinton
was hesitant to get UN approval for the action.  However, I would add
that Clinton didn't need to take his case to the UN, because unlike
today, there was far more legitimacy to acting in Kosovo before further
more "ethnic cleansing" took place.  One doesn't go in search of
legitimacy unless one is lacking it.  Also NATO wanted to be part of the
action, which reduced the appearance of US unilateral action (even
though the continued existence of NATO is about US power in/over
Europe).  Recall  how the UK was excited about the NATO operations.

So, it was far easier to build US public support and that of allies for
military intervention against Iraq in 1990 and the Serbs than it is to
convince people today that Saddam Hussein is a threat to anyone.  Even
the Kurds oppose the idea of a US invasion.  Hence, Bush II's position
is weak, except with the majority of American people, who can be relied
upon to support a war that doesn't get too bloody.  Abroad, the US case
for the Iraqi invasion has been weak enough to give significant
legitimacy to those who protest for whatever reasons, and weak enough,
for example, to give legitimacy to Schroeder's decision to take
advantage of anti-war protest and oppose the US, so that he can get a
second term.  I suspect he wouldn't have taken that position had it not
been for the weak case the US has for invading Iraq.  

But to be sure, it wasn't just or even primarily the moral high ground
that is missing in this war.  Part of the real reason for the opposition
by other allies is that this about access to oil wealth.  For example,
as I brought to your attention in an earlier post, "former CIA director
R. James Woolsey, who has been one of the leading advocates of forcing
Hussein from power.  "It's pretty straightforward, France and Russia
have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if
they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do
the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies
work closely with them.  If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will
be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi
government to work with them."  His views are naturally supported by the
new Iraqi government-in-waiting.  Faisal Qaragholi, the "petroleum
engineer who directs the London office of the Iraqi National Congress
(INC), an umbrella organization of opposition groups that is backed by
the United States" says that "Our oil policies should be decided by a
government in Iraq elected by the people."  Ahmed Chalabi, the INC
leader, put it more bluntly: a U.S.-led consortium needs to be created
to develop Iraq's oil fields, which would replace the existing
agreements that Iraq has with Russia and France.  "American companies
will have a big shot at Iraqi oil," Chalabi said.

Note also that Bush and company have a personal stake in unilateral
action.  According to Leroy Sievers and the Nightline Staff at ABC,
"Dick Cheney's [and George Bush's] Halliburton Co. had interests in
Iraqi oil production after the [Gulf ] war."  Not only Cheney, but also
Scowcroft and others.  

But Bush et.al. has a weak case, transparent to many, hidden to most.
To get Security Council support, Bush et. al. finally had to try and get
some public moral ground by going the UN route, (which was also needed
to get the Congress' support for unilateral action).   But again the UN
route in that regard is only the surface, the one needed for public
legitimacy.  Getting that public legitimacy laid the ground work for the
real negotiations over with Russian and France.  The Bush team's
struggle is one of applying greater pressures and offering better
incentives to allies than can corporate counter-parts in Russia and
France who'll be at the loosing end of "regime change" with regard to
oil development.

The Bush team may have already succeeded.  The new resolutions show that
Russia and France are not opposed to an invasion per se.  Their
alternative resolutions are to hedge their bets.  If resolution #1
works, and Saddam is still in power and made to heel, French and Russian
corporate sponsors stand to gain more.  But if Saddam doesn't heel, they
are going to support the US invasion, and as I suspect, for doing so
they have been offered a share of the spoils.  But they know Bush will
invade with or without them, regardless of the resolutions, so they
needed to cut a deal.  The details of the deal, including the
involvement of French and Russian troops if the invasion occurs, has not
yet been disclosed, as far as I know.  The more reliance on US troops,
the larger the US share of the spoils will need to be to cover the

It must of course be admitted that allies are concerned about this
post-cold war era precedent set by US unilateral military action, that
is, invasion of a state that is "minding it's own business."  But are
they concerned only insofar as it affects access to sources of wealth?
Or do they oppose on grounds of principle?  I suspect the former.  To
the extent that this is about present and future "inter-imperialist
rivalries," then one has to question just how deep the political
differences between Europe and US elites really are.  I don't believe
this is an ideological rivalry, unlike the Cold War. I believe it only
has the potential to become that if (a) US unilateral action involves
protracted wars that lead to protracted movements that European and
other governments cannot legitimately ignore or (b) if the US hogs the
spoils of these unilateral actions, even if they are short and
contained,  and/or (c) the US wars lead to such global instability that
capital everywhere begins to take the side of the movements, at least
superficially.  Otherwise, Europe and Japan will be happy with their cut
and will insist, quite opportunistically if needed, as with Schroeder,
that there can disagreements among "friends."

However, there is also the possibility of a middle-road over the "middle
run" in which a combination of these factors leads Europe to gain the
political moral hand on the world-stage of policy with the urging of a
European left and that this takes us into an "Enlightened Global Age" of
some less-than-really-meaningful adjustments to misdistribution of
global wealth in what thus will continue to still be a
corporate-globalized empire.  In this scenario, the US will slip in
importance with grace or, like now, with a fight, but either way,
strengthening the empire by delegitimizing its own actions and making
Europeans and Japan look more civilized.

Elson Boles
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Sociology
Saginaw Valley State University
University Center
Saginaw MI, 48710

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Boris Stremlin [mailto:bstremli@binghamton.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 2:43 PM
> To: Elson Boles
> Subject: Re: questions for discussion
> 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 coldness.
> 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
> bstremli@binghamton.edu

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