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Re: US compromise
by CAS
22 October 2002 19:38 UTC
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I couldn't agree more with Elson's confident assessment of world affairs . . . Really? Unless, of course, the whole thing of Mr. Bush plotting war against Iraq with the whole world and "the people" watching . . . was a charade.

How about Mr. Bush, in fact, undermining the warmongers? You know what they say about politics - it is a lot more complicated.

Claudiu A. Secara

-----Original Message-----
From: wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu [mailto:wsn-owner@csf.colorado.edu]On
Behalf Of Elson Boles
Sent: Tuesday, October 22, 2002 9:42 AM
Subject: US compromise

There seems to be compromise, not unilateralism, on the horizon both now
(see the article below) and in the middle run future.  And since I
started this message, Bush now claims that "regime change" also means a
changed regime ("..if he were to meet all the conditions of the United
Nations, the conditions that I've described very clearly ... that in
itself would signal the regime has changed.'')

This comes in part because of Russian and French resistance in the UN.
Why?  To reiterate my view, I think Russia and France are opposed
primarily on grounds of economic gain or loss, not because of potential
US unilateralism by hawks regarding Iraq and other states (and/or the
missile defense program for first-strike capability).  As for Russia's
reasons for resistance, add to the potential loss of oil access the huge
debt that Iraq owes to Russia.  There is the possibility that it would
be ignored by a new regime, and so it is among the negotiating chips.
Conversely, Saddam is being pressured by Russia to make sure he pays it
back and gives special attention to French and Russian oil-field
development enterprises (who made contracts with Iraq for the
post-sanctions era) in exchange for France and Russia's resistance to
the US and for his staying in power.

Regarding Steve's last message about a historic trend of unilateralism:
It is relevant to keep in mind that the hawks may not be in power in a
few years if we see the a return of a Clinton-style government.  The
opposition to US hawks in power today can easily be overblown as
symptomatic of a long-run trend as opposed to the coming and going of an
administration.  Of course, it is true that we're in the politics of a
"B" phase or down turn, and thus, for most of the past 30 years,
conservative Republicans have been in power: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush
Sr., Bush Jr.  (But then, Bush Jr., got less than 50% of votes, in
contrast to Saddam, who got nearly 100% -- hence neither are fully
legitimate even by the standards of bourgeois democracy).  Over the
middle run there has been a "Reagan Revolution" which includes a
chauvinistic foreign policy.  However, not until Bush Jr. came into
office on a fluke election, did the hawks gain unfettered power in a
post-cold world who are allegedly willing to "scuttle the US version of
the "enlightenment."  No doubt there is a real possibility that
successive Bush or Bush-like administrations could lead to a real rift
with Europe and other states, but the point is precisely that this
remains to be seen.

The question is, how far has this scuttling really gone?  Certainly it
has not been a scuttling of Neoliberalism or "free trade" as Steve
claims.  So far, it has merely meant tougher negotiations on behalf of
respective corporate interests.   That is, Europe's policy regarding
free trade has been just as contradictory as the US's.  As a supporter
of the  Agricultural Industrial Complex -- ADM, Monsanto, Cargill, etc.
-- Clinton's team engaged in contradictory "free trade" policies, such
as continuing subsidies for big agribusiness operating in the US while
also calling for reduced tariffs abroad for companies that didn't even
produce goods in the US, like Chiquita, DelMonte, and Dole bananas, and
to achieve increasing their access to markets abroad, working through
the WTO and IMF.  Europe has done the same for it's farmers.

The Clinton Administration -- as bad as it was -- was closer to Europe
than Bush Jr.'s regime on "green enlightenment," which gained steam over
the 1990s.  If a Clinton-style government comes back into power with
pseudo greens the likes of Gore, wouldn't the US position be largely
similar, or at least not radically different from, that of Europe's
Green leaders who are in power?  I think it would. 

Above all, are the differences between the US and Europe greater than
their commonalities in governing over the world (with the general
support of their constituent majority middle classes)?  I don't think

In fact, Steve's comment, "There is no shared mission, and no single set
of institutions with increasing legitimacy" borders on the absurd.  The
UN's legitimacy is growing significantly in this crisis, and the US
can't stop that.  Unilateral action on Iraq would only increase the UN's
legitimacy in the eyes of the world which opposes any invasion.  The
shared mission is the continuation of capitalism.  We are not headed
towards the kind of rifts, indeed world wars, that characterized core
relations in the three past periods of chaos.  This is manifest not only
in the political incorporation of the periphery creating a world free
for MNC investment everywhere (what Arrighi calls a "free enterprise
system"), but also in the rise of not a similar, but larger and
militarily more powerful, hegemon, but a number of smaller wealthy
cities and half-states (S. Korea, Taiwan) and occupied states -- Japan.

Further, the idea that the guiding values of [US hegemony ["human rights
(narrowly conceived), democracy (again, narrow version) and free
markets"] has suddenly been abandoned just because Bush came to power is
similarly absurd.  It is hard to not notice the increase of
quasi-democratic states and the demise of dictatorships over the past 20

Of course US power is on the wane, and many people are sick or bored of
US cultural domination, or at least to some extent. (Yet on that latter
issue, the debate regarding the "homogenization" thesis put forth by
Schiller and the like, vs. hybridization or local interpretation put
forth in response to Schiller, etc. by people like Beynon and Dunkerley,
David Howes, John Thompson, etc., show that the US cultural imperialism
thesis is significantly inflated as it is not fully supported by the

But let us not forget another commonality between the US, Europe, and
powers in East Asia:  racism.  With the fall of the Iron Curtain arose
the wall around Europe and the US to keep immigrants out and to repress
those already within, and Japan isn't about to start become
multicultural with significant immigrant inflows.

In all, it just doesn't add up to a real rift between US and Europe.  To
suggest so, under the excitement of recent headlines centering on a
hawkish administration in power just two years, is to abide by
Wallerstein's prognoses despite middle run realities (which is just the
opposite of what he suggests we ought to do in "The Itinerary of
World-Systems Analysis, or How to Resist Becoming a Theory.")

One should not exaggerate a few of the short run differences between US
and Europe to the exclusion of how these federal states increasingly
work out deals in the WTO, IMF, WB, etc. in pushing forth Neoliberalism,
a mild human rights agenda, and pro-corporate democratic governments,
even though they may dispute some details and frequently are deeply
contradictory in their actions.  European states often talk the talk,
but are really quite far from really pushing sustainable
economic-political changes that would create a socialist world-system.
At most radical, Europe seems a bit oriented toward Swedish-like reforms
for the core, which would put but a small dent in global inequality.


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

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