The ‘Old School’ on the Pirates By William Bowles

15 December 2003

SaddamWhat connects Saddam Hussein to Zbigniew Brzezinski? Well aside from the fact that Hussein can be considered one of Brezinski’s former ‘assets’, they both belong to the ‘Old School’, the era of the Cold War, and they both represent a world that no longer exists but which both must be wishing, did. Yet both in their own way are instrumental in giving birth to the ‘new’ imperium.

In an essay by Brzezinski in the Washington Post, “America’s credibility gap: U.S. image, ideals take a hit” we have, to some at least, the bizarre experience of a former ‘cold war warrior’ of the ‘old school’ apparently taking on the ‘neo-cons’ of the Bush imperium. Who would have considered such an event taking place a scant ten or so years ago, when the utterances of Brezinski differed little from those we read today? If we ever needed a better expression of the deep disarray of the US capitalism this surely must be it. But close reading reading reveals something quite different, for what is revealed is less of a fundamental difference over objectives, rather that the strategy of the Bush clique threatens to undo all the hard work of the Cold War period that Brzezinski was so instrumental in formulating!

And what does Brzezinski’s article actually have to say? Not a whole hell of a lot frankly, but what he does say is quite revealing about how little things have actually changed in spite of all the rhetoric to the contrary.

“The loss of U.S. international credibility and the growing U.S. isolation are aspects of a troubling paradox: American power worldwide is at its historic zenith, but American global political standing is at its nadir.”

Brzezinski also tries to sell us the propaganda that surrounded the rationale for the invasion by invoking the same old hoary lie about the ‘failure’ of intelligence:

“In recent months, we have experienced perhaps the most significant intelligence failure in U.S. history. That failure was fueled by a demagogy that emphasizes worst-case scenarios, stimulates fear and induces a dichotomous view of world reality.”

Close analysis of the essay reveals something very profound about the ‘old school’ namely that when all is said and done, Brzezinski has no fundamental problem with the notion of ‘pre-emption’, far from it:

“It is important not to plunge headlong into the tempting notion that we will preempt unilaterally on suspicion, which is what the doctrine now amounts to. We simply do not know enough to be able to preempt with confidence.” [my emph.]

In the final analysis, Brzezinski’s view differs little with the overall thrust of current US policy, more with what amounts to the rank amateurism in the way it is being carried out. What is important for us to note here, is the role the Democratic Party as that of an ‘interregnum’ between unbridled imperialist governments that even a superficial analysis of the past thirty or so years reveals:

  • Nixon/Ford then Carter
  • Reagan/Bush Snr then Clinton
  • Bush Jnr then Dean?

Moreover, during the Democratic Party years, although the rhetoric may have been less strident, there were no fundamental policy shifts. In fact under Carter, the US saw a massive increase in spending on weapons and so too under Clinton, with all his talk of bringing democracy to the world, we saw the Balkanisation of the former Yugoslavia and the creation of the pre-conditions that enabled the Bush doctrine to ‘triumph’ in the Middle East. Brzezinski calls for a ‘return’ to the ‘old school’:

“Bipartisanship in making foreign policy has been the tradition from the days of President Harry Truman and Sen. Arthur Vandenberg until recent times. And it has led us not only to a triumph in the Cold War but to our emergence as the only global superpower with special responsibilities.

“We should cooperate not only with each other at home, but with our allies abroad. While America is paramount, it isn’t omnipotent. We need Europe, which shares our values and interests, even if it disagrees with us on specific policies. But we cannot have a relationship if we only dictate to or threaten those who disagree. Sometimes we may be right. Sometimes they may be right. But there is something transcendental about shared values that shouldn’t be subordinated to tactical requirements.”

Brzezinski is clear about what made America the pre-eminent power, but in the post-Cold War period how realistic is this view of the world? Europe, no longer seeing itself threatened by the Soviet Union now sees the US as the major threat — as an economic competitor in an ironic throwback to the pre-Soviet era. In other words, the removal of the Soviet Union has once more revealed the fundamental contradictions of capitalism, namely the struggle for markets.

But there are now major differences that previously did not exist. The revolution in production that the digital revolution has brought about has unleashed productive forces on an unimaginable scale. The globalisation of production and distribution has altered the nature of metropolitan capitalism to such a degree as to effectively marginalise the old industrial countries and increasingly impoverish the working people, who in the past were able to gain some of the ‘crumbs’ from the table of capitalism. But no more as production has shifted to rapidly industrialising sections of the developing world.

It is also clear that the ‘managers’ of capitalism were not only unprepared for the implications of the revolution in production brought about by the digital domain but had also not thought through the implications that the defeat of the Soviet Union would bring (and which occurred at approximately the same time).

It would appear then, that if there is a ‘conspiracy’ it is one that resides within capitalism itself, that it is unable or perhaps incapable of understanding the very forces that it has itself unleashed on the world.

All of these processes are intimately connected and point toward a capitalist class that is totally out of its depth. As ever, serendipity rules when it comes to the forces of capitalist production and reveals – just as Marx showed in his analysis of Industrial Capitalism in the 19th century – that the US, as the most powerful capitalist nation, is driven by forces that are essentially beyond its control. Everything it says in its increasingly desperate propagandising, is mere posturing as it resorts to ever more desperate measures.

And whilst the imperium will crow over the capture of Saddam and I might add, the humiliating way he was exposed to the public that further reveals the true nature of the gangsters who run the imperium, my prognosis is that the crowing will be shortlived. Capturing Saddam will do nothing to alter the fundamental problem that confronts the imperium namely: Where to next? They may well propagandize that with the capture of Saddam, it will somehow justify the occupation and lead to the Iraqi people to now welcome them with open arms (as opposed to RPGs), though what exactly this is based on, is not revealed except wishful thinking.

There is an irony that has escaped the mass media of the West in the image of Saddam Hussein, namely of a very tired old man, who looks more than relieved to be finally captured. This is the man the West bankrolled
for two decades in their Middle Eastern machinations over oil and as a pawn of the Cold War?

Not surprisingly, the most rabid rightwing voices seem disappointed that he didn’t put up a struggle and ‘conveniently’ die in the process. As Bruce Anderson, the Independent’s ‘resident’ rabid rightwing voice put it in today’s edition (15/12/03, p. 35);

“It might have been more convenient if Saddam had not been taken alive…. However exposed, Saddam’s corpse might have been an easier solution.”

Easier for whom? And what the rabid Anderson doesn’t offer however, is a reason but one can assume that should Saddam actually go on trial, he may just ‘name names’. Instead, he quotes an unnamed senator talking to arch-terrorist of the Reagan years, Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s deputy in the State Department talking of Osama bin Laden (former client of the above-named State Department when Armitage too was last at his ‘zenith’ arming the Contra terrorists and doing guns for drugs deals to arm the Ayatollah):

“I hope we catch that sonofabitch Bin Laden, and parade him through Kabul in a cage.” “I hope we kill him, tie his bullet-ridden body to the ass-end of a donkey, and parade him through Kabul that way,” replied Mr Armitage. “But hell, I’m only a diplomat.”

Well, it takes a terrorist to know a terrorist.

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