Toward Barbarism: US Imperialism Unleashed
The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization.
Rosa Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet
With signs of a global economic downturn mounting, US aggression across the Middle East and North Africa ratchets up. Once again, US imperialism stands poised to open the gates of Hell.
According to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook report released last week, the “risks for a serious global slowdown are alarmingly high.” The report projects the world economy to expand just 3.3 percent this year and 3.6 percent in 2013 — both projections down from the IMF’s July forecast. As Joseph Davis, chief economist at the Vanguard Group, cautioned to the Wall Street Journal, “The odds of a global recession are not fully appreciated.”
Indeed, as the Financial Times reports, the Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery, the Brookings Institution-Financial Times index of the world economy, finds severe problems “in both advanced and emerging markets.”
“The global economic recovery,” Brookings’ senior fellow and index creator Eswar Prasad warned, “is on the ropes.”
And, though the IMF continued to peddle the harsh elixir of austerity for the depressed economies of the euro zone periphery, in its latest report the Fund also came to tacitly acknowledge the limits of austerity.
“The IMF now says global efforts to slash deficits and debt may have hurt growth because they occurred too quickly and too widely,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
But, with the limits of austerity as a means of resolving the present crisis apparent, the last remaining card for the capitalist elite to play in their attempt to regenerate global capitalism appears to lie in unleashing the forces of “creative destruction” wrought by military aggression. As Henryk Grossman warned in his Law of Accumulation, “The destructions and devaluations of war are a means of warding off the immanent collapse [of capitalism], of creating a breathing space for the accumulation of capital.”
And it is thus out of the need to renew the impetus for global capital accumulation that the iron fist of US imperialism slips its velvet glove and gains free rein once more across the full spectrum of what American neo-conservatives deem the “arc of instability.”
US Imperialism on the March
According to the New York Times, the Pentagon is readying military strikes in Libya in retaliation for the September attack on the US compound in Benghazi. As the paper reports, “The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command is compiling so-called target packages of detailed information about the suspects.”
“Potential military options could include drone strikes, Special Operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden and joint missions with Libyan authorities.”
At the same time, the Pentagon has dispatched a task force of 150 military “planners” and “specialists” (i.e., special operations troops) to a Jordanian military base along the Jordan-Syria border. Speaking at a NATO conference in Brussels last week, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed that the task force was sent to help Jordan “monitor chemical and biological weapons sites in Syria.”
The specter of chemical weapons has been increasingly used as a pretext by the Atlantic powers to threaten military intervention into Syria. As President Obama declared in August, the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces would be a “red line,” which would force him to change his “calculus” on intervention.
“Once again,” an editorial in the state-run Xinhua news agency of China said in response, “Western powers are digging deep for excuses to intervene militarily in another conflict-torn Middle East country.”
Sure enough, as the New York Times reported, discussions have already taken place about using the Jordanian-stationed US task force to help establish a buffer zone within Syria.
(In addition to the deployment of troops along the Jordan-Syria border, CIA operatives are presently active along the Syria-Turkey border, facilitating the flow of arms to rebel forces. Meanwhile, a recent report in the Los Angeles Times noted that the US military is currently using aerial surveillance drones to monitor Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles.)
Of course, the stepped-up targeting of Syria cannot be decoupled from the joint Israel-US campaign against Iran. After all, as hawks Michael Doran and Max Boot argue in a New York Timesop-ed, the first reason American intervention in Syria is now merited is because it “would diminish Iran’s influence in the Arab world.”
The road to Tehran, we see, may very well lead through Damascus; however, the urge to fly non-stop to Tehran may just prove too strong to resist.
Marching Toward Tehran
According to a report in Foreign Policy by David Rothkopf, the US and Israel are actively planning a joint “surgical strike targeting Iranian enrichment facilities.” Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official and Editor-at-Large of Foreign Policy, cites his source as stating that “the strike might take only ‘a couple of hours’ in the best case and only would involve a ‘day or two’ overall.”
Rothkopf goes on to trumpet the idea of a “surgical strike” as a potential October Surprise Obama could use to silence the Republican critique of his Iran policy in the remaining weeks of the closely contested presidential election.
Of course, peddling the notion of a so-called “surgical strike” on Iran is nothing particularly new. In March, Jeffrey Goldberg reported for Bloomberg that Israeli talk of striking Iran had assumed a rather optimistic bent.
“One conclusion key [Israeli] officials have reached,” Goldberg wrote after a trip to Israel, “is that a strike on six or eight Iranian facilities will not lead, as is generally assumed, to all-out war.”
Such assessments, though, are rather dubious, given that they directly contradict war game simulations determining that any strike against Iran would quickly spiral into a greater regional conflict. As the New York Times reported earlier this year, a war game simulation run by the Pentagon forecast that an Israeli strike “would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead.”
Likewise, a September war game organized by Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, resulted in a dangerous escalation from both sides. As the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported, “The game showed how easy it was for each side to misread the other’s signals.”
“Misjudgment was the essence of this game,” Ignatius continued. “Each side thought it was choosing limited options, but their moves were interpreted as crossing red lines. Attacks proved more deadly than expected; signals were not understood; attempts to open channels of communication were ignored; the desire to look tough compelled actions that produced results neither side wanted.”
“War,” as Clausewitz wrote, “is the province of danger.”
US imperial dreams, however, are not confined to the Middle East. Imperial ambitions — rooted in the capitalist logic of endless expansion — are inherently limitless. Thus, we see the US today readying to light a powder keg under the greater Middle East, while simultaneously “pivoting” to the Asia-Pacific region in order to “contain” a rising China.
US imperialism, though, is destined for defeat (and sooner rather than later). The US, after all, can only use its immense military power to keep potential competitors in check for so long. Change cannot be held back by the barrel of a gun in perpetuity. As Lenin asked and answered in his pamphlet Imperialism: “Is it ‘conceivable’ that in ten or twenty years’ time the relative strength of the imperialist powers will have remained unchanged? Absolutely inconceivable.”
But imperial powers are always deluded by their power — impervious to its ultimate limits. As a George W. Bush administration official once remarked to the journalist Ron Suskind: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
(We would be mistaken to believe that such hubris is not as present in the Obama White House as it was in the Bush administration.)
Such pretensions of the power elite, though, are but a byproduct of the imperialist imperative of endless expansion and conquest. And it is this very imperative that today compels US imperialism ever closer towards igniting a global military conflagration sure to unleash unimaginable human misery and suffering.
Nothing less than barbarism thus threatens. The only hope for humanity, then, lies in the struggle for a socialist alternative. Our choice is truly one of socialism or barbarism.
Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his website.
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