In the early
1990s, the fall of the Soviets produced a surge of triumphalism
in the US. After defeating the fascist challenge in the 1940s,
liberal capitalism had trumped its last adversary, global communism.
This triumphalist mood was caught pithily in Francis Fukuyama's
claim that mankind - of course, led by the West - had reached
'the end of history.'
produced a global regime change. Within a few years, the capitalist
centers stripped most countries in the periphery of the autonomy
they had gained in stages, starting in the 1930s. In this latest
wave of integration, the periphery would not be 'colonized,' but
Washington would define their economic rules.
Most countries in the periphery would now be forced to open their
doors to foreign capital, privatize their economy, scrap their
plans, and dismantle their welfare systems. In all but name, they
began to look like the Open Door economies of the 19th century.
dominance, however, was not enough for two segments of the American
neoconservative movement, consisting of ultra-nationalists (Cheney,
Rumsfeld and Bolton) and the Ziocons (Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle),
a term coined by James Petras. They wanted the US to take advantage
of the unipolar moment - opened up by the demise of Soviet Union
- to make its political dominance irreversible.
two components to the neocon plan. First, they began to work on
plans to extend US military superiority to a point where no potential
rival would dare to challenge its hegemony in any region of the
world. In violation of international laws, the US would enforce
its total hegemony by waging preventive wars against any country
that acted contrary to its economic or political interests.
plan would first be tested in the Middle East. This is what brought
the ultra-nationalists and the Ziocons together. The first wanted
to take complete control of the world's oil spigot in order to
destroy the OPEC and hold Europe, Japan and China at ransom. The
Ziocons wanted to destroy the few remaining centers of resistance
to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East - Iraq, Iran and Syria.
the weeks after launching
their war against Iraq, the neocons
began to imagine that the world
was theirs for the taking;
the new American century had begun.
Yet how their plans have gone awry.
plans had to be put on hold. President Bill Clinton was not ready
to fully embrace their plans, even though his war and sanctions
against Iraq prepared the base on which the neocons would build
later on. The neocons were back in the saddle with the election
of George W. Bush in 2000. They waited for the right time to unleash
their wars in the Middle East. The events of 9-11 arrived as their
Pearl Harbor. The Americans could now be bamboozled to support
their dreams of creating a global and everlasting American Empire.
For the Periphery,
the world looked quite bleak in the 1990s. Having lost the leverage
of Soviet Union, most regions of the periphery capitulated to
the blackmail of IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. Those who resisted
- or refused to make 'peace' with Israel - were blacklisted as
rogue states. The communist economies in the former Soviet Union
and Eastern Europe suffered melt down; their living standards
and life expectancy plummeted. The development regimes in the
Third World were dismantled, exposing them to the ravages of global
financial manipulation. In 1997, even the 'miracle economies'
of South-east Asia were laid low by Wall Street and the IMF.
In the aftermath
of 9-11, matters appeared to get worse in the periphery. Under
the pretense of waging 'war against global terrorism,' the neocons
launched their plan for establishing global dominance. Overnight,
following the lead established by Israel, the US defined all resistance
to American hegemony as terrorism. It was now licensed to carry
its preventive wars to all corners of the globe. It also licensed
regional powers and local despots to expand their violation of
human rights under the cover of the 'war against global terrorism.'
In the weeks
after April 9, 2003, when US troops captured Baghdad, it appeared
that the United States was on a roll. Iran, Syria, North Korea
could count the days to their own quick demise. Israel was getting
ready to complete its ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians. Pakistan
would be asked to liquidate its nuclear arsenal or prepare to
be bombed back to the stone age. In time, Egypt and Saudi Arabia
would be dismembered into smaller client states.
At some point in this sequence, the oil resources of the region
would be privatized, sold for a song to US oil corporations. Finally,
with a firm American grip on the Middle Eastern oil spigot, Europe,
Japan and China would take their humble stations under the shadow
of American hegemony.
In the weeks
after launching their war against Iraq, the neocons began to imagine
that the world was theirs for the taking; the new American century
had begun. Yet how their plans have gone awry. All because a few
thousand damned Iraqis decided to rob the Americans of the richly-deserved
fruits of their victory.
A sea change
has been unfolding since April 2003, though it is not going in
the directions projected by the neocons. More than three years
after the invasion of Iraq, the Americans are deeply troubled
by the war they are losing in Iraq. While the 9-11 attacks failed
to energize the Arab street, the Americans who entered Iraq were
immobilized in the streets of Baghdad, Falluja, Najaf, Ramadi,
Basra and Kut. This is an earth-shaking event, all of whose consequences
have yet to unfold.
falling victims to US-sponsored regime change, the Iranians are
now stronger than they have ever been in their recent history.
For the first time in centuries, their influence extends deep
into Iraq and Afghanistan, where they now possess the ability
to ramp up the costs of the US occupation. In addition, Iran has
positioned a battery of missiles that can close down shipping
in the Gulf, threaten oil installations in the Sheikhdoms, and
strike inside Israel. Due in part to its own hubris, the US has
dramatically reduced its options in the Middle East.
of falling victims to
US-sponsored regime change,
the Iranians are now stronger
than they have ever been in their
recent history. For the first time
in centuries, their influence
extends deep into Iraq and
Afghanistan, where they now
possess the ability to ramp up
the costs of the US occupation.
In July 2006,
Israel made a bid to weaken Iran and Syria by destroying Hizbullah
and starting a civil war in Lebanon. The gambit failed on both
counts. Hizbullah was hardly scratched. Unlike three Arab armies
in June 1967, Hizbullah responded by disrupting life in northern
Israel, destroyed more than 40 Israeli tanks, and poking holes
in Israeli intelligence gathering. Most importantly, by choosing
to fight, the few thousand Hizbullah fighters destroyed Israel's
myth of invincibility.
these developments have seriously exposed the vulnerability of
America's Arab client states. Scared of the consequences of US
defeat and the imminent withdrawal from Iraq, they have been forced
to ally themselves more closely and openly with Israel ambitions
in the region. These client states do not now possess even a patina
of legitimacy. In desperation, Saudi Arabia is pinning its hopes
on using its oil wealth to incite an Islamic civil war.
forces caught in the Iraqi quagmire, Latin America is breaking
free from US hegemony. Governments 'unfriendly' to the US have
now been established in Peru, Bolivia and Nicaragua, in addition
to the growing strength of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela.
A leftist victory was missed by a narrow margin in Mexico - or
more likely, stolen. Cuba is demonstrating that it can survive
these changes in the political map of Latin America consummate
trends that began with the onslaught of neoliberal policies in
the 1980s. Moreover, this time the Latin American resistance is
being led or fueled by a resurgent native population eager to
overthrow the colonial-settler elites imposed on them since the
17th century. Yet, it is doubtful if the United States would have
allowed these changes to occur - or to stand - if it were not
bogged down in Iraq.
even Pakistan's servile ruling class is stealthily taking advantage
of US troubles. More likely, Islamist elements within the army
are ramping up their support for the Taliban resurgence. Once
again, the Pashtuns, who had led the jihad against the Soviet
occupation, are gearing up for a big fight against the US-led
occupation of their country. As Afghanistan slips out of control,
Americans will find it harder to sustain their challenge to Russian
and Chinese ambitions in Central Asia.
sober reckoning of all the costs
of the Iraq war - and these costs
are still unfolding - suggests that
the US bid for regime change in the
Middle East has boomeranged.
Instead, the war has been forcing
a regime change on the protagonist.
loss of prestige in Iraq is taking its toll in Africa too. African
rulers are feeling freer to enter into long-range economic relations
with China. Rapidly, China is increasing its ownership of a whole
range of resources in the African continent, mostly at the cost
of positions the US and Europe had built up over centuries. The
Chinese have the advantage - at least now - of offering economic
investments without any political strings. With the attention
of the US establishment riveted on Iraqi, Africa is slowly slipping
out of America's grasp and moving into the Chinese sphere of influence.
It is doubtful
if the US would have rushed into its risky military adventure
in the Middle East without the support of Ziocons. Empires in
decline are tempted to shore up their standing with military adventurism.
With their superb salesmanship, the Ziocons sold the Iraq war
to the US administration and the American public as a cake walk,
a historic tipping point, and America's calling in the Middle
East. At least for now, Israel is happy to see Iraq disintegrate
into chaos, a goal that it has long cherished for the entire Middle
East. However, as US losses accumulate this could easily backfire.
Even if the
war's human toll does not force an early withdrawal of American
troops, it is unlikely that the Iraqi war can be sustained for
long. The rising economic costs of the war - together with ascendancy
of the Asian agents, escalating oil price, rising trade deficits,
and sliding dollar - will force the US to reconsider its posture
in the Middle East. Whenever the US reaches this point, Israel
is likely to face its neighbors without the American shield. Worse,
a growing number of Americans will begin to see the Israeli fingerprint
over their Iraqi defeat.
of the tragedy of 9-11, the neocons instantly activated their
plans to re-colonize the Middle East, starting with regime change
in Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Syria. The US and Israel were hoping
to improve upon the success achieved by the British and Zionists
during World War I. At this stage, it appears unlikely that these
hopes will be realized. For sure, the neocons quickly effected
regime change in Iraq, but soon after, the resistance of a few
thousand Iraqi insurgents also set in motion forces that are threatening
to change the global regime.
A sober reckoning
of all the costs of the Iraq war - and these costs are still unfolding
- suggests that the US bid for regime change in the Middle East
has boomeranged. Instead, the war has been forcing a regime change
on the protagonist.
Click here for other
articles by M. Shahid Alam:
An 'Islamic Civil War'
Pitting The West Against Islam
Not All Terrorists Are Muslim
Israel, The U.S. And The New Orientalism
The Muslims America Loves
Real Men Go To Tehran
Did Thomas Friedman Flunk History
Shahid Alam, professor of economics at a university in Boston,
is also a regular contributor to CounterPunch.org. Some of
his CounterPunch essays are now available
in the book, Is There An Islamic Problem? (Kuala Lumpur: The
Other Press, 2004). He is also the author of Challenging the
New Orientalism: Dissenting Essays on America's 'War
Against Islam' (IPI Publications: 2006 forthcoming).He may
be reached at [email protected]
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