It is one thing to see the "strategic class" and Democrat politicians try to out- hawk Conservatives on the "democratization of the Middle East" and it's shadow cause celebre', the War on Terror, but to see self identified leftists and progressives (whatever that is) adopt the arguments of New Imperialism and it's sloganeering, fetishism, and bankrupt intellectual gymnastics is disheartening and deserving of a reply. This will get windy, but it is crucial at this time.
Pundits such as Christopher Hitchens and Norm Geras have levelled charges at "the left" for it's moral failure in standing up against fascism and it's intellectual failure in poorly analyzing the universe newly created on 9/11 and using a "reductionist " critique on the response of Western powers to those tragic events. Bloggers of the left have jumped on this bandwagon in droves ,supporting and presenting arguments in favor of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. A purple finger fetishism seems to primarily motivate even the few serious commentators and in my opinion will cause lasting harm to building any sort of oppositional movement to the expansion of global capitalism. The great irony is these pundits use exactly the reductionist arguments they so vehemently ridicule, unable to acknowledge the complexity, interplay or historical aspects of the objective relations at work in the conflict. They have abandoned the existence of dialectics or attempts to explain historical developement in favor of real-politic analysis.I shall try to avoid that same tendency as well as personal attacks such as this pro-war left has directed at figures such as Cindy Sheehan or George Galloway which in my opinion is inconsistent with any serious discourse.
So, which stated goals of US foriegn policy shall we use to understand recent actions in Iraq? (I will narrow it to this particular conflict in the interest of brevity understanding there are connections to other conflicts) Do we accept that the historical imperative of Capital and it's fusion with State power has changed little in form and not at all in substance, that hegemonic ambitions still express the contradiction of over-accumulation and still inform the narrative of expansionism in service of markets, resource development and associated strategic interests both military and economic? If yes, then heres a reductionist slogan I can endorse: Follow the Money. What part of the economies of the developed world depends on producing armaments? Depends on the employment of soldiers in outposts literally covering the globe? Depends on re-building the infra-structure of war torn societies or financing the development of societies still emerging from the effects of a colonial past? A huge part.
Now we have to analyze two views concerning the motives of those who initiated the current conflict in Iraq. We cannot look into their hearts nor can we judge sincerity by their words, unfortunately politics is not so simple. Either we believe the Strausserian so-called neo-cons that they have embraced a radical departure from policies of the past (ala Condi Rice) or we believe this is a continuation of the global ,hegemonic project the existence for which I believe consensus on the left is established. In an effort not be reductionist I will entertain the possibility that a blending of these two motives could exist in the utopian-realist mindset of the right (although to me it is counter intuitive) but such an embrace of bourgeois democracy, even if it does happen to depose a brutal tyrant, is unacceptable for anyone adhering to the principles of the left.Our concern is with the people ,the conditions of their daily lives and their prospects for future self -determination and peace. To believe the first of these scenarios we would have to accept the Bush administation is incredibly idealistic and naive and even more inept, almost to the point of absurdity. Could they have believed, despite the lack of evidence, that WMD's did exist, that there was some connection between Saadam and 9/11? Could they have known nothing of the history of Iraq, nothing of the complex social forces and objective relations at work in the region? How else to explain the incredible lack of planning for the occupation? We can imagine thier devout faith in the righteousness of neo-liberal capitalism as the supposed path to democracy and peace, how they might blend that with a desire to rid the world of a fascist tyrant and in the ultimate utopian vision of a win-win situation, also end up with grateful friends in charge of the worlds second largest oil reserve. But a realist can be excused for being cynical about this sudden change of heart, this sudden idealistic belief after decades of real-politic and see Iraq as an extension of the same old geo-political strategy in place since world war one, morphed into the policies of the Cold War and now dressed up as what Arundahti Roy terms the New Imperialism. These strategies center on sheres of influence, on projecting power and in many cases purposefully de-stabilizing entire regions in service to the cause of capitalist expansion. Supporting the muhajadin in Afghanistan or Saadam in the Iran/Iraq war are but two of the most obvious and immediately connected examples but recent adventures in Latin America and elsewhere around the globe support this position. If we accept that global capital promotes "weak states" (and in some cases ,I would argue, even "failed states") the adventures in the Middle East and the War on Terror in general look less like the bumblings of idealist cold warriors and more like the tactics of the successful business people that they in fact are.In either case, those on the left who support this tragic mis-adventure have mis-analyzed the situation terribly.
In their own reductionist critique of the anti-war left, those who oppose the administrations foriegn policy, voice dissent concerning military strategy, or support withdrawal of US forces support terrorists, fascism or both. This is preposterous. It is also both intellectually dishonest and damaging to any kind of possible movement building in the cause of global justice. There are certainly much more effective ways of deposing dictators and fighting both fascism and terrorism, not to mention religious extremism than bombing countries, killing civilians and dismantling civil liberties. Our experience in Viet Nam should have taught us a little of the precautionary principle ,both when it comes to fighting insugencies and calling dissenters traitors.
"We are fighting terrorism there so we wont have to fight it at home". Concern for the oppressed Iraqis? After twelve years of sanctions in which 50,000 Iraqi children died? Shall we believe those who encouraged an uprising of Shia and Kurds after the Gulf War, only to abandon them to slaughter, have now become altruistic humanitarians? Where is this new "concern" for the Palestinians or the peasants of Columbia or the refugees of Sudan? Those on the left who ally themselves with these capitalist hypocrits have dramatically "lowered their sights" in the quest for peace with justice. Why are they not, like modern Orwells and Hemingways, rushing off to do battle with the forces of repression and fascism? Or sending their own children off to a war that has no identifiable enemy and no percieved end (unless that would be the death of every last "terrorist")?This type of hypocracy is expected on the right.
Had we been serious about fighting Islamic extremism in the region ("draining the swamp", in the new lexicon) we would have had to go in with 800,000 well trained (not reservists or mercenaries) professional troops, prepared to do a house to house search from Syria to Yemen and from Tehran to Karachi, who could then secure each village, defeat each warlord, dismantle each Madrassa. Or we could have spent the 500 billion dollars this adventure is going to end up costing us , decades ago, on building the civil society, infra- structure and institutions which could support truly democratic, socialist societies in the region and the rest of the developing world instead of hogging the wealth resources and power for ourselves. Coulda , shoulda.