you're depressed about the supposedly unstoppable war about
to break out in the Middle East: polls say that most Americans,
no matter what their views on this matter, are convinced
that war is "inevitable." But, you know what?
It just ain't so.
begin with, nothing but nothing is "inevitable."
Human beings have free will: the future is unpredictable.
Secondly, the triumph
of the Colin Powell faction in the administration means
that the U.S. is going the multilateralist-UN route, which,
interesting article by Hugo Young in The Guardian
points out, means that "what most American officials
are preparing for is a long game." Bush's sudden conversion
away from Rumsfeldian unilateralism, and his quest for a UN
mandate may postpone the endgame by as long as six months.
But why did Bush go the UN route? According to Young:
main reason he wants it is to be found not in the war so much
as the victory that follows. A senior UN official contrasted
for me a victory gained by America alone, leaving the US to
carry the entire burden of Arab hatred as it struggled alone
to hold Iraq together, with a victory under the collective
UN banner, in which many states share the material and moral
responsibility for what the world decided to do. 'Bush will
go a long way to build that alliance,' the official said."
the material and moral responsibility must be shared out,
among the "allies" in other words, if we're going
to be targets of retaliation from terrorist groups, then so
must the Europeans.
for the money: the financial burden of the last Gulf war was
collectively borne by the West and the Japanese. This time,
the U.S. is even more desperate to spread the costs around.
recent piece in the Sunday "Ideas" section of
the Boston Globe a section, by the way, that seems
only to have neoconservative ideas patiently explains why
the U.S. effort to topple Saddam is not a forced march toward
Imperium: "Indeed," writes Alan
Wolfe, "we fear empire rather than welcome it."
And the imperial model is especially fearsome to those tax-cutting
small government Republicans:
most important reason why Americans worry about empire is
that it costs money
. For conservative defense intellectuals
to achieve their imperial ambitions, their first order of
business would have to be preparing the American public, and
their own Republican base, for increased public expenditure.
Alas for them, the president for whom they work has done exactly
the opposite. No serious empire-builder would ever cut taxes
as recklessly as President Bush has. Because of the enormous
tax cut, the Bush administration has had little choice but
to disappoint its allies in the Pentagon by reneging on its
promise to throw open the government's checkbook."
the tax cuts, piddling compared
to the Reagan tax relief measures of 1981, are
not permanent, nor have congressional Republicans or
this administration decided to press for permanent reductions:
a war could easily "postpone" such a move indefinitely.
There are also a number of catches to this alleged cut: because
of a "glitch" in the law, many middle class
see their taxes rise.
President's "defense" budget hike for 2003, measured
against the military build-up of the Reagan years, is
nearly double the 1981 increases. This is hardly reneging
on the alleged "promise to throw open the government's
checkbook." (One might ask: to whom was this promise
made? But, never mind
prepared Americans, and especially the Republican base, for
increased public expenditure was 9/11 and the threat of
new attacks. With such a closely divided Congress, and the
conditions of an emergency dominating the political debate,
a tax hike is not out of the question. Americans are
being asked to give up a lot more than their tax dollars
in order to wage a perpetual "war on terrorism,"
and, at least so far, they have gone along with the program.
Bush administration, argues Wolfe, isn't really embarked on
an imperial venture, in spite of talk of installing a
MacArthur-style Regency in Baghdad, headed by an American
general. His evidence for this is the lack of frankness on
the part of the administration in discussing the post-victory
phase, the lack of a draft, and, oddly, the U.S. failure to
extend tariff relief in textiles to Pakistan. He concludes
with a complaint:
resist an imperial role for America not because we are humanitarians
and internationalists but because we are stingy with our government
and lack genuine interest in the rest of the world. Our best
defenses against empire, as it turns out, lie not in our virtues
but in our vices."
is a "vice" to feel entitled to money earned by
hard work, and to resent and resist government expropriation,
and a virtue to be one of those "humanitarian" internationalists
for whom "nation-building" doesn't seem like pure
hubris. Thankfully, this inverted moral calculus holds true
only in the narrow world of policy wonks and faithful readers
of the Boston Globe's Sunday "Ideas" section.
going to the UN, and getting its allies to bear some of the
costs, the Bush administration hopes to get around the necessity
of reversing its tax policy and instituting a draft. Let others
pay for and police our conquests, while American centurions
do most of the fighting and the "multilateralist"
Democrats are brought on board. What could be a sweeter deal
for the War Party?
all this, as
I have pointed out, will take some time and the end
result is by no means certain. This analysis is being confirmed,
I believe, by the most
recent developments. Efforts by the War Party to engineer
of Tonkin incident have, so far, proved fruitless, and
likely to succeed. With the inspectors in Iraq, the process
is being drawn out far beyond the late-December war scenarios
being painted by some. As Young puts it:
could go on for months, and the war party will get more contemptuously
rowdy. My impression, though, is that for both military and
diplomatic reasons Washington will be patient. The armaments
need to be in place. Most of all, the allies need to agree.
An official at the national security council startled me by
volunteering that six months could pass before anything happened.
I now see why he may be right."
the good news.
I have some bad really bad news to report: our
fundraising efforts are faltering. Perhaps because yesterday's
appeal was buried at the end of a 2,000-word column. Or whatever.
But, for some reason, you guys (and gals) just didn't
respond in record numbers. Unless and until you do, the cutbacks
I've been warning you about will commence fairly soon starting
with a cutback in my columns, from three times a week to one.
I'm not sulking,
keeping to his tent:
this means I'm taking the brunt of the cutbacks. And
so, it seems, are you unless, that is, the contributions
come pouring in by the end of this week, if not sooner.
we've done our part and then some. We've increased our readership,
our influence, and the frequency of our updates: anyone who
wants to know what is going on in this troubled world need
only look at our front page, and they have the latest, most
reliable information and analysis available on the web.
it's your turn.
number of our supporters give monthly contributions: if you've
already committed to this, won't you consider upping your
contribution? And if you haven't joined this Sustainers Program,
here to do it because we need you, now more than ever.
lot can happen in six months. There is still time to stop
this war before it starts. And there's still time to make
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to the Empire in cyberspace, and beyond.
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