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|From: Church & State: Editorials|
|Date: January, 2017|
Globalism: Humanity Re-Asserts Itself?
Globalism: Humanity Re-Asserts Itself?
The political structure of the world appears to have altered significantly during Barrack Obama's Presidency of it. Russia has stopped its political disintegration and taken its place in world affairs as a capitalist and Christian democracy, with the ability to influence events beyond its borders which are dangerous to it. And Iran, which seemed to be marked down for destruction by the United States, has not only survived the Western Christian sanctions designed to destroy it, but has become politically active, constructively, beyond its borders, in Iraq and in Syria, while consolidating itself on the basis of its Islamist system at home.
Central to this turn of events was the 2003 decision of the USA, under the Bush Presidency, to make war on the disarmed Iraqi state, made helpless by the shredding effect of ten years' United Nations Sanctions, incautiously allowed by Russia, which under Gorbachev and Yeltsin had lost the ability to calculate its interests.
The United States had more than ten years to consolidate the mastery of the world that had fallen to it with the falling apart of the Soviet Union and the moral collapse of the Russian State. It had been seeking this opportunity since the mid-1940s when Wendell Wilkie, Roosevelt's ideologist, proclaimed "One World".
The outcome of the chaotic World War, capriciously launched by Britain in 1939, and fecklessly prosecuted by it, was a world of two effective sovereignties—the Soviet Union, which had done the main job of winning it, and the USA, which had forced Britain back on the Continent in 1944, in time to meet the Russian forces in central Germany.
The United States got the Weapon Of Mass Destruction after Germany was defeated and when the main power of Japan had been broken. It got it too late for use when the outcome of the World War was still in doubt, but it used it anyway, in the tail-end of the Japanese War, when all that was seriously at issue was the terms of Japanese surrender.
There were British peace-lovers, the best-known of which was the philosopher, Bertrand Russell, who urged the nuclear bombing of the Soviet Union so that there might be world unity and world peace. But Washington, which had used these weapons for a comparatively trivial purpose against Japan, delayed using them for a global purpose against Russia until it was too late. Moscow made its own nuclear weapons in 1948, and that took Wilkie's One World off the agenda—until the sudden Soviet collapse of 1990.
Unexpectedly the USA found itself master of the world. But it did not know how to act in a situation which it had sought but had not expected to achieve. Then, in a kind of displacement activity reminiscent of Britain's in 1938=9, it made war on its ally, Iraq, after encouraging it to intrude into Kuwait, which had been pilfering its oil while it waged a containing war against the Islamist revolution in Iran. (It is not disputed that Saddam consulted the US Ambassador before his intervention in Kuwait and was given a green light, but neither is it mentioned.)
The Iraqi Army was easily driven out of Kuwait, and was slaughtered on its way home in what an American pilot described as a "turkey shoot". But the Iraqi State system was not destroyed.
Iraq was put under UN sanctions and supervision, policed by the USA. The public utilities, on which the civilised life of its large cities depended, were shredded systematically by the Clinton Government during the eight-year interval between the two Bush Government. All that Iraq had in prospect under Clinton was an indefinite continuation of the same, with Saddam's tyrannical regime continuously patching up what Clinton was destroying.
Then Bush junior took over, invaded a country that had no means of defending itself, with Britain tagging along, and destroyed the State system that had kept it going.
The reason given for invasion and destruction was that there was a remote possibility that the Iraqi Government, under close UN supervision, policed by the USA, had somehow acquired nuclear and/or chemical weapons. If that remote possibility justified what was then done to Iraq, what would such a degree of possibility not justify?
The way the invasion was conducted indicated that the invading Powers did not entertain any possibility that they would be met with nuclear or chemical weapons.
The main force they were met with, after they had pulverised the liberal Baath State, was the force of fundamentalist Islam, which had been kept in check with comparatively little repressive force by the Baath regime.
The USA itself had fostered and modernised Islamic fundamentalism for the purpose of undermining the liberal secular regime in Afghanistan, in the 1980s, which was in alliance with Soviet Russia. And it triggered that development in Iraq when it called for mass uprising against the Baath regime by those who felt oppressed by it.
After that force was set in motion, one thing led to another until Russia made an alliance with the Baath Government in Syria which prevented it from being overthrown by the miscellany of fundamentalist groups which was recognised as the legitimate authority in Syria by the USA and Britain and was supported by them politically and with battlefield weapons.
Obama inherited the Iraqi mess from Bush. The Libyan mess is his own doing, as is the Syrian (and the Egyptian). But in Libya he accomplished the overthrow of the tyrannic liberal State by bombing the regime and enabling the Islamist militias to take over, while in Syria he pulled his punches, encouraging the fundamentalists but not engaging in any open military effort against the Government which he had de-legitimised.
He claimed that there was a liberal and democratic secular force active in the insurrection against the liberal but undemocratic secular regime, and that that is what he supported. This force was allegedly democratic as well as liberal and secular, but there is no evidence that it was any of these things. When it was demonstrated that the favourite insurrectionary group was in active alliance with Al Qaeda, he undertook to sever that alliance, only to admit some time later that he was unable to do it.
Though he failed to single out the alleged liberal, secular, democratic element from the Islamic fundamentalists who dominated the Opposition, or get it to stand alone, and support it with heavy weapons, Obama continued to treat the Opposition in general as the legitimate political authority in Syria, and shared with it the object of overthrowing the Assad Government as a usurping tyranny. It was this paradoxical position in the War On Terror proclaimed by the USA itself that made possible the effective Russian intervention.
One can hardly disagree with this comment by the London Daily Telegraph (a right-wing Tory paper) on December 12th:
"Since it was apparent that there would be no Western involvement, the real crime was then to encourage rebels in Syria to hold out as though one day there would be. If we were not going to provide the means to defeat Assad then it was wrong to keep saying that he would under no circumstances be allowed to win. If this conflict had ended earlier then many thousands of lives might have been saved and the Russians would not have a foothold in the area…" (14.12.16).
The logical American target in the Middle East after the collapse of the Soviet Union was Iran. It chose instead to attack Iraq, which had assaulted Iran on behalf of the West at a moment when the Shia revolution was in full flow and the makeshift Gulf States were feeling uneasy. Was it that Washington understood that there was a great depth of integral civilisation in Iran which would ensure that it would not crumble if attacked?
Iraq, however, was an easy target. It was a piece of the Ottoman Empire without any trace of nationalist cohesion in it. The Ottoman State did not operate by nationalism and its component parts were free of nationalist culture. When Britain conquered the Middle East in its Great War (helped by Tom Barry) it began at first to govern it as an extension of its Asian Empire. Then it changed its mind and decided to carve up the Middle East into a series of 'nation-states', regardless of the absence of appropriate national sentiment—and to import a Jewish population into Palestine to colonise it and form it into a Jewish State. (This was long before the European Holocaust.)
Under the Baath regime a sense of Iraqi nationality was being cultivated, but in 1990 it still had little spontaneous national life. Its nationality depended to a considerable extent on the regime, and a collapse was probable if the regime was assaulted.
There was no demonisation of the Baath regime in Iraq until 1990, when it was decided to make war on it. The demonisation was of Iran. Iran was saved from a major war when Washington decided capriciously to make war on Iraq instead. Iran was given a breathing space in 1991, and a valuable example of how things would be done in the world after the Cold War. Then, a dozen years later, it was given another breathing space when Washington, discarding the UN fig-leaf, invaded and occupied helpless Iraq, and wrecked it further, with a Coalition of the Willing.
And now Iran is a Regional Power, playing a part in clearing up the American mess in Iraq, and frustrating its ambition to destroy the Baath State in Syria.
The American Presidency of the World is passing away. Obama's Presidency contributed to the decline. He saw the increase in Iranian influence while continuing to demonise Iran. And he asserted that the United States is "the only indispensable nation", and that its position in the world is "exceptional", being the first President to say these things plainly: but he says them as they are ceasing to be the case. He is Hegel's Owl of Minerva who sees clearly at dusk what used to be the case.
As Obama was living out his last days in Office, his scheme for Syria was being nullified by an alliance between a restored Russian State, the Turkish regime which Russia helped to save from an anti-regime coup made in America, and Iran. And BBC radio broadcast a New Year survey of the condition of the world in which Carl Bildt, the Swedish Minister closely associated with the neo-con Establishment, and who facilitated the 2003 invasion of Iraq by trading on his country's reputation for neutrality, said that the restoration of the Russian State now poses a global danger.
The Russian restoration, and its achievement of the status of a Regional Power in the Middle East, follows from the erratic conduct of US foreign policy in choosing to destroy its allies rather than confront its undoubted enemy.
Bildt said that the revival of Russia places the world in what he called "the Thucydides trap". Thucydides wrote the history of the Athens/Sparta War, the Pelaponnesian War, two and a half thousand years ago. Bildt sees the Athens/Sparta relationship being reproduced today—the relationship between an established Power and a Power whose strength was growing and had to find a place for itself in the world. Sparta was the dominant Power then, the USA is now, and the difficulty arises of how the US can accommodate the rising power of Russia.
Assuming it to be the case that Sparta held something like the dominance held by the USA during the past quarter century, its relationship with Athens bears no resemblance to that of the USA with Russia.
The USA, which has undoubtedly been dominant in the world for a generation, is an aggressive democracy, driven by an inner obsession to expand its power. The aggressive democracy in Greece was Athens.
Furthermore, Athens lived in a 'progressive' culture, a culture that could not settle down conservatively into a traditional way of life. It pulled life apart to see what it was like, and a way of life is not the sort of thing that can be stuck back together again. The most famous statement of its most famous citizen is that "the unexamined life is not worth living" (Plato). That meant, of course, that the lives of others, lived in existentially unproblematic cultures, were worthless. And that is the view of the great, restless power of the United States today.
Russia, the constructive power in the Soviet system of states, shared the world with the USA at the end of Britain's 2nd World War—in which Britain itself became little more than an onlooker. They shared the world in spheres of dominance, but competed for the extension of their power by wars on the margin.
When the Soviet system collapsed in 1990, the USA found itself alone in the world and did not quite know what to do. What it did was try to reduce Russia to a US economic hinterland. Russia was at its mercy all through the 1990s. Then, in an unexpected development, it restored itself as a viable state, but with a conservative culture. It was reviled for 70 years as atheist. Now it is reviled as Christian.
Western Europe sickened of itself as Christian but maintained a Christian veneer. It now finds itself confronted with a major state in which there seems to be a revival of authentic Christianity—and it is shocked and bewildered.
Dialectical materialism did not prove to be a viable popular culture for the Bolshevik state. Peoples do not live in scientific analysis. Dialectical materialism provided orientation and guidance for those who ruled. Most people did not rule, and did not want to rule. Objective understanding of the socio-economic process was not something to live by. Therefore, since life cannot be lived in the emptiness of analysis consistently applied, Christianity persisted in actual life.
The alternative to dialectical materialism in the great division of the world that resulted from Britain's 2nd World War was development through the pursuit of increased marginal profit in an international division of labour that strove to be global, and that had the opportunity to become global after 1990. But global capitalism cannot exist autonomously.
Capitalism was not a spontaneous growth that sprang up around the world of its own accord and in which the world could settle comfortably. It was an Imperialist construct, and the cultures of many peoples were destroyed so that the efficiencies of the international division of labour might be realised. Globalist capitalism is Anglo-American Capitalism mastering the globe for its own advantage. And it is proving not to be a possible mode of existence for the world.
Over a century ago Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Fein on his insight that human life is not possible in a uniform cosmopolis. There must be intermediary forms of life between the individual and humanity in general. That insight has been rejected in recent years even n Ireland—and the Agencies of the United Nations seem to be dedicated to engineering global uniformity. But the human material that shaped itself into different forms over centuries, and millennia, is resisting. The abstract "economic man" who will move about within an international division of labour in pursuit of marginal advantage has not evolved into existence. The migration of recent years is the consequence of destruction.
The most unexpected opposition to American Globalism has come from the United States itself. Its white working class was not content with seeing itself painfully dissolved so that American capital could perform its global mission. The "most qualified candidate ever" for the Presidency lost the election to a non-politician, a businessman, whose programme was to keep American capital at home, and accept the fact, in international affairs, that the Russian State had restored itself as a viable state which would have its place in the order of the world.
This retreat from Globalism was identified as Fascism by the English chattering classes, and there was of course an echo in Ireland.
This led to an interesting discussion about Fascism on the BBC's political programme for the intelligentsia, Newsnight, on November 3rd, when it was beginning to seem just possible that the uncouth, nationalist, racist, misogynist, outsider from another world would be sent to the White House by a selfish working class that was unable to see itself in historical perspective.
The participants were BBC interview, Emily Maitlis, and American literary novelist Paul Auster. They agreed that a Trump victory would be Fascist. And they agreed that they had often wondered what they would have done if they had been present in the appropriate place in 1933. They assumed that they would have known what was happening and would have done the right thing. And it was just possible that they would have the opportunity to do what they felt they would have done in 1933.
But Auster suddenly had doubts. He saw Trump as Hitler. But there were people who regarded him as a liberal living in a bubble of illusion. and sometimes he thought: "Yes, that's me!"
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