Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Let It Bleed, He Says

Poly sent me this link from her local paper last night, but it seems like I skimmed this very essay this weekend somewhere on the net. Anyway, somehow it elicited a sense of deja-vu.

The American Elections, the Future of Alliances, and the Lessons of Spain


"The United States' strength, to a crucial extent, has rested on its ability to convince other nations that it was to their vital interests to see America prevail in its global role. But the scope and ultimate consequences of its world mission, including its extraordinarily vague doctrine of "preemptive wars," is today far more dangerous and open-ended than when Communism existed. Enemies have disappeared and new ones - many once former allies and even congenial friends - have taken their places. The United States, to a degree to which it is itself uncertain, needs alliances, but these allies will be bound into uncritical "coalitions of the willing."

But the events in Spain over the past days, from the massive deadly explosions in Madrid to the defeat of the ruling party because it supported the Iraq war despite overwhelming public opposition to doing so, have greatly raised the costs to its allies of following Washington's lead.

Several points. There will be a democratic backlash that was already inevitable among those nations who have allied themselves with US vis-a-vis Iraq. I predict that many of the superreactionary Republicans in this country will call Spain's new government "cowards," dulling but also brightening the greater insult intended: the Spanish who elected them are cowards or just "easily demoralised," and by the way democracy sucks. But the outgoing party of Spain was NOT elected on a War On Islam mandate. Indeed, the Spanish government's stance on Iraq was massively unpopular, and so Train Bombings or not, faced a reprieve at the ballot-box.

But Spain won't be alone. John Howard's similar stance in Australia is massively unpopular, as was and is Blair's in Britain. Italians aren't as fond of Berlesconi post-Iraq as they were before. The Poles have a deeply unpopular government, though it seems that on the issue of Iraq the electorate is fairly evenly split. I think these leaders, including Bush, who have abused their mandate will all pay at the ballotbox, with the possible exception of Blair, who has no savoury opposition, and Kwasniewski of Poland, whose Prime Minister has been removed and who so recently extended his middle finger of diplomacy to the EU, giving delight to largely nationalist Poles who wish to have their EU-cake and eat it too.

Now to his point of alliances. I agree the world is entering an era of short-term alliances the likes of which we have never seen in modern times. I also agree that the US is greatly disrupting the natural axis of Western Democracies with its unilateralist ways. But then the natural axis could and would not be as strong as the old "Free World" alliance was, because militant Islam is not the monolith that communism was. As the Western enmity and Communist distrust bestowed on Nasser, Nehru and Tito showed, it was a much easier choice in those days of being not only a fish or a fowl, but a certain KIND of fish or fowl.

Nowadays, a more reserved allegiance, a more tenuous alliance is the natural state. The US is not used to this, obviously, but like the spoiled geopolitical child it is, it thinks tantrums (unilateralism) can solve this mild impasse. Of course militant islam is a far more incorrigible brat, but the parodox is that its tantrums unfortunately strengthen its (internal, non-state) alliances. This is of course easily explained by the fact that the America is built on a different model than is militant islam, and thank god; pity the leaders of America aren't aware of the fact, but then as Senator Borah once said of another war, "you don't fight Prussia by Prussianizing the United States."

"So long as the future is to a large degree - to paraphrase Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - "unknowable," it is not to the national interest of its traditional allies to perpetuate the relationships created from 1945 to 1990."

No shit. Oh it was in their interest -- it's in all Western governments' interests to fight jihad -- but they can't trust US enough anymore, post-Iraq, to sign a blank cheque of alliance, much less an alliance on the model of the Cold War, which is what the United States unrealistically expects.

"If Bush is reelected then the international order may be very different in 2008 than it is today, much less in 1999, but there is no reason to believe that objective assessments of the costs and consequences of its actions will significantly alter American foreign policy priorities over the next four years.


As dangerous as it is, Bush's reelection may be a lesser evil because he is much more likely to continue the destruction of the alliance system that is so crucial to American power. One does not have to believe that the worse the better but we have to consider candidly the foreign policy consequences of a renewal of Bush's mandate.

Now it gets really interesting. The old manoeuvre of Don't Stop The Bleeding Because Only When He's Dead Will We Know The Worst. Or, put another way, Bush sucks so much that he will sabotage American unilateralism permanently. Therefore it may be wise to vote him in so that he may thoroughly discredit the neoconservative policy that sneers at every supranational institution (the UN, the EU, NATO when it suits US) and every good-natured but sensibly skeptical offer of support from our friends (like Canada, or Mexico before Fox was bribed). Since Bush and His whole Hee Haw gang are so thoroughly retarded it's guaranteed that he will continue his policy of destroying the remaining goodwill the world has for US post 9/11, the goodwill that is (was) aided by common interest. His unilateralism and cowboy stupidity will eventually drive off everyone who has stayed with US through Iraq, if the democracies at home don't pull them from the alliance before it. Therefore, after 2008, the United States will be forced to behave itself and act thereafter multilaterally.

Obviously, this wouldn't be an issue were Dennis Kucinich or Howard Dean not so demonised by the press and so "electable" or at least viable candidates opposite Bush. Mr Kolko, the essay's author, correctly notes that a Kerry presidency would of course be better and somewhat salvage our friendships, but the precedent would still be set for Bushisms of the future. Also, as the establishment candidate of the Democratic Party, Kerry can't be trusted to not occasionally venture into unilaterism himself. Certainly, Clinton did.

But let me be a bit selfish for a minute. What Kolko does not describe is the effect Kerry would have on the internal affairs of the United States. Kerry would better handle the economy; Kerry would kill the Bill of Rights-annihilating Ashcroftism stone dead; Kerry might whore himself out to various special interests, but those interests would not be the Oil-Defense Industry Complex that greases Bush's already thieving and hawkish policies.

Mr Kolko has an interesting idea, and I'd like to see US a) get back on track to a proper response against terrorism and b) destroy the "credibility" of neoconservatism forever. But I don't know if it's worth another four years of erosion of my rights, or worth the potential depression Bush may put US in. Kolko's thesis truly asks an American to "think globally." I don't know if I'm up to the task, in this context.