22 August 2003
Never has the meaning of the global village struck home in quite the way as in the present circumstances. Past empires have been able to hide behind distance and disinformation, but the current imperial project is, in spite of all the efforts to hide it, being built inside a goldfish bowl, where every move, every stratagem is immediately subject to scrutiny from a myriad of observers.
Never mind that the dominant media does its best to camouflage the process by dressing it up as something else (a ‘clash of civilisations’ or whatever), the plain fact is that in spite of everything, the motives of the rich and powerful are revealed for what they are; cynical ploys designed to hold on to privilege. With every passing day, as the mission is revealed as increasingly mission impossible, the Anglo-Saxon alliance has less and less room to change tack. The Empire has its back to the wall.
Blair – mutton dressed as lamb
The downside of this situation is that the population of the UK, disgusted and pessimistic about its government and wallowing in a world of conspicuous consumption and submerged in debt, have lost whatever faith they had in the political process. They view the machinations of their leaders, as merely self-serving. Indeed, the more Tony Blah’s speeches sound like Methodist sermons, the more people reject them.
This disjuncture between the ruling political class and the citizens is historically unprecedented. For unlike previous periods of crisis, there is no alternative present (even if an illusory one). The Tories are a spent force, effectively surplus to requirement, their core reason for existence, serving the interests of the rich and powerful, has been appropriated by New Labour. Even Thatcher’s core mission – to drag England into the 20th century – was only partially successful, such is the power of the ruling political elite and its servant, the civil service, steeped as it is in centuries of cunning (as Blah has found to his cost).
But Blah is caught in a trap of his own making. Fed up with 20 years of right-wing government, people gave New Labour an unprecedented mandate to rule. To rebuild the decrepit health, education and transport infrastructure left by 20 years of Tory neglect. New Labour promised to deal with poverty and discrimination and to produce a fair deal for the poor of the planet. In short, some kind of progressive platform based on the fact that the UK is second (or third) richest economy on the planet.
Instead, we got a government bent on a messianic mission to rebuild the world in the image of an age long gone, the British Empire, only this new one would be led by the US. How this came to pass, is probably the subject of a separate enquiry, but I think it’s safe to say, that aside from the historical connection that goes back well over 100 years between British and US imperialism, the key connection lies in England as the second most important financial centre in the world that along with the oil and weapons industries, makes for a natural alliance between the two countries.
But Britain, insular and intrinsically conservative, and still hovering on the edge of Europe, is now caught between two worlds. Having tied itself to US coattails, but realising that without the EU onboard, its mission is essentially compromised from the getgo, it is faced with a fundamental contradiction, that short of abandoning the project (not something it’s in a position to do), threatens to unravel in a spectacular fashion.
No place left to go
The twin contradictions that face it are Iraq and Israel, which united by an ill-conceived propaganda campaign – ‘the war on terror’ – and followed by an equally disastrous real war, leaves it with virtually no room for manoeuvre. The ‘good guy-bad guy’ routine that Blah has used to justify his craven submission to the US might work on the British public, but for sure it doesn’t work where it counts, in the Middle East and especially in Palestine/Israel.
As the farcical ‘road map’ shows, it’s clear that the situation that has been maintained through US bankrolling since 1948 is coming to an end, one way or the other. To paraphrase one Palestinian commentator on BBC’s ‘Today’ programme, ‘If you think the 2nd Intifada is bad, you ain’t seen nothing yet.’
There are effectively two routes open to the Israel of Sharon. Either, it formally reoccupies the West Bank and Gaza and incorporates them into a ‘Greater Israel’ or, mass expulsions that will end up as being the same thing. The alternative, a single, bi-national secular state is of course unacceptable to Sharon and his racist, imperialist cohorts. Yet unless one accepts the first option, there is no other alternative but the second. This is a stark fact of life. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate and indeed, as the world is coming to recognise, an endless Intifada stretching into the future is simply inconceivable either for the Palestinians or, and perhaps more importantly, for an overstretched Israeli/US economy.
And unable to go the route of the first option, without engendering the world’s wholesale revulsion, in the final analysis, the Israeli government really has no choice other than to accept the second. But much depends on Bush and Blah continuing to engage in so much self-deception and what it reveals about the abilities of these ‘new imperialists’. Stupid leaders are more dangerous than smart ones, simply because they’ve got no idea what they’re doing or critically, the consequences of their actions.
Putting a ‘spin’ on events for the punters is one thing, but you had better know what you’re doing in the real world!
So what’s it to be? Setting aside for the moment my own progressive agenda, even on Bush and Blah’s terms they are now in a no-win situation. As with the abortive road-map and the isolation of Arafat (whatever his shortcomings), essentially the same scenario is unfolding in Iraq. The puppet clique assembled by the USUK has no more credibility with the Iraqi population than Abu Massen has with the Palestinians. The pathetic Imperium is now faced with two intractable situations to resolve, whereas before, all it had was one.
What was it thinking of when it embarked on the path of Empire-building? Did it have no idea of the consequences of its actions? Has it deceived itself so totally? The problem is, the rest of the world has to pay for it. I’m reminded of Hitler’s self-deception as he embarked on building the Thousand Year Reich, which was also founded on what he believed to be overwhelming superiority, both militarily and of the Aryan ‘civilisation’.
Just as the US projects the notion of the ‘American Century’ and the Israelis project the notion of the ‘chosen people’ and along with the Brits, they collectively project the idea of a superior ‘civilisation’, ranged against them, is a world that not only doesn’t want what they have to offer, but one which realises that in the global village, there simply isn’t room.