More than a decade ago, neoconservative bloggers coined the term “Fisking” for the polemical device (originally demonstrated against left-leaning journalist Robert Fisk) of taking apart a commentary, sentence by sentence, analytically ripping each part to shreds. Although the neocon positions in this debate range from misguided to repugnant, the technique itself is a good one. And President Obama’s recent remarks on the Crimean crisis, in his March 26 address to European youth, are admirably suited to such deconstruction. Let’s take a look at the relevant remarks, point by point, and compare them to reality.
“Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. Now, it is true that the Iraq War was a subject of vigorous debate not just around the world, but in the United States as well. I participated in that debate and I opposed our military intervention there. But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system.”
The so-called “international system” Obama idealistically refers to was created by the United States after World War II, with Britain and France as junior partners, and was designed primarily to maintain the role of the United States as “the hegemonic power in a system of world order.” Note: That last quote comes not from Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn or some random academic Leftist, but from Samuel Huntington — an active participant in and enthusiastic supporter of that “system of world order.”
The international system set up at Bretton Woods (the World Bank and IMF), with the UN Security Council and US armed forces as its ultimate enforcers, was designed to guarantee that regional attempts at economic secession like Germany’s Fortress Europe or Japan’s Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere would never again threaten to withdraw a major portion of the world’s natural resources or markets from the control of the global corporate order. The main function of American strategic activity these past seventy years has been to ensure that development of the global South takes place within the framework of this system of world order — to the point of using military coups, death squads and terrorism when necessary in response to local challenges to the system.
“We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain.”
Quite true. The United States government did not formally annex any Iraqi territory or seize its resources in its own name. It just helped a lot of global corporations loot the economy of defeated Iraq, under the supervision of U.S. military authorities. The Coalition Provisional Authority, under Paul Bremer, auctioned off the entire Iraqi state sector with the help of the same neoliberal policy wonks from Heritage and AEI who had overseen the corporate looting of Chile and Russia under Pinochet and Yeltsin. It violently invaded, robbed and suppressed the headquarters of the Iraq trade union federation. And it rubber-stamped Iraq’s accession to global “intellectual property” treaties giving the record and movie industries, Microsoft, Merck, Pfizer and Monsanto perpetual rights to extract rent from the sweat and blood of the Iraqi people.
“Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.”
Indeed. The U.S. left Iraq with a rubber-stamp constitution written by Paul Bremer & Co., with the results of the previous corporate looting grandfathered in as permanent fundamental law, and with amendment provisions requiring majorities in so many provinces as to make it virtually impossible to change. So it’s true, the U.S. government gave up on direct annexation of territory (Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the like) a long time ago. It was smart enough to realize it’s cheaper to outsource the job of enforcing its corporate interests to nominally independent sham democracies, reserving direct use of force for occasions when those sham democracies get out of line.
“Idealistic” Kennedy liberalism, like the process for making sausage, doesn’t bear much looking into. In reality, behind all the talk of promoting the “ideals of the Enlightenment” and “global community” and “human rights,” the state does one main job: Serving the interests of the economic ruling class that controls it.
Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.