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Re: questions for discussion
by Boris Stremlin
05 October 2002 06:35 UTC
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On Fri, 4 Oct 2002, Elson Boles wrote:

> 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?

Increasing global instability, more wars, weakening of US economic
position through the euro's becoming a currency of account (it will gain
strength the more the US tries to throw its weight around).  The key
nature of the differences is that the EU, being a project in formation
that it is, is ironically a status-quo power, whereas the US, a
long-established nation-state is basically a revisionist power.

> 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 I said, that was indeed a highly significant difference in the short
term.  However, my point was that the special moment in time in which this
war took place made it much more likely that coalition members would
overlook the Gorbachev/Primakov peace proposal and its sabotage by the US
and chose go to war, led by the US instead.

> 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.

Or if one is afraid that it won't be forthcoming.

  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.

NATO as a whole was not enthusiastic, for the reasons which the Harries
piece I cited mentioned (it's decline as a deterrent force).  Many were
also uncomfortable with the redefinition of the NATO role and the
violation of its charter.  Ultimately, the use of NATO as an global police
force aggravated US/European antagonisms (because of the huge imbalance in
spending which exists).  Recently, in the fight over US exemption from the
International Criminal Court, the US even threatened to "change its
role" in NATO if the Europeans refused to acquiesce.  The more poor
states of Eastern Europe are incorporated into NATO, the more chaotic and
irrelevant NATO will become.  That is the main reason why Russia has
acquiesced to NATO expansion.

> 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.

Probably, but by the same token the US wouldn't adopt the unilateralist
and militaristic policies if it did not feel ever more hemmed in by its


> 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.

By hedging their bets, they are delaying war and making military action
more problematic (if the attack does not take place during the optimal
months, the chances of success decrease; that's why Bush has been
insisting about ramming a resolution through the Security Council in
the shortest time possible, thereby alienating the other members of the P5
even more).  Ultimately, all one can say is that it's been nearly a month
since the Bush speech before the General Assembly, and still there is no
resolution which is imminent to go to a vote.  Meanwhile, Hans Blix has
struck an agreement with the Iraqis, and should be on the ground in about
2 weeks.  Once he gets there, his inspectors automatically become "human

> 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
> costs.

What if the war doesn't go as planned?  Or even if it has a successful
outcome, but fails to solve or aggravates the global economic situation?
Bush may not be thinking about this, but the Europeans and the Russians

> 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.

That's a possibility, but the more chaotic things get, the less of the
infrastructure of the "corporate-globalized empire" will remain.

Boris Stremlin

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