"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


August 7, 2014

As the U.S. considers airstrikes to counter the advance of the Islamic State in northern Iraq, the time is ripe to review the panorama of disaster that post-9/11 U.S. policies have produced.  Each of these situations merits a lengthy discussion, but we shall be brief.

  • In Gaza, the good news is that a ceasefire seems to be holding.  The bad news is that the recent terrorizing of an entire population confirms that in 2014 the State of Israel has made, in the words of historian Ilan Pappé, "a decision that it prefers to be a racist apartheid state and not a democracy."

  • In Syria, where for three years the U.S. has been part of an effort to overthrow the régime of Bashar al-Assad, a bloody stalemate has developed.  Achieving this aim would be a great help to a new menace, one that did not exist in 2011:  the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL).  Its emergence is a major development that few have even begun to come to terms with.

  • The establishment of the Islamic State means that Shia domination of Iraq, which became de facto American policy as the U.S. withdrew its forces, is over.  The failure of the $3 trillion Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld adventure is complete.  Large parts of Iraq have fallen to the Islamic State, and there is no prospect of Baghdad getting them back.

  • In Afghanistan, thirteen years of involvement have been for naught.

  • In the rest of the region, stretching across more than 4,000 miles from east to west, a state of war prevails or threatens in other societies as diverse as Mali, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen.  Egypt, with a population of 85 million the largest Arab nation, is a police state in a state of latent civil war after the violent suppression of its largest political force.

  • And now, to the north, an even more preoccupying situation is unfolding.  The overthrow of a democratically elected régime because it was pro-Russian and hostile to Western economic aims has backfired and produced a civil war in eastern Ukraine and an economic war with Russia.  Today, as violent conflict continues in and around the city of Donetsk, Russia announced a total embargo on beef, pork, fruit and vegetable produce, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, and dairy products from the European Union, United States, Australia, Canada, and Norway (trade amounting to more than $17 billion in 2013) in response to a series of high-handed sanctions E.U. and American leaders have imposed on Russia.
  • Ironically, leaders this month are commemorating the centenary of the beginning of World War I.  On August 4, 1914, when Great Britain declared war on Germany, the world stumbled into an abyss, one that is ultimately responsible for many of the international situations mentioned above.  On that fateful day, George V wrote in his diary:  "I held a Council at 10.45 to declare war with Germany.  It is a terrible catastrophe but it is not our fault."

    In 2014, war on a global scale is creeping up on us once again.  Once again, Western leaders are saying that it is not their fault.  But it is.  Governing societies dominated by ever-wealthier élites and the corporations that generate their wealth, as Thomas Piketty's >Capital (Seuil, 2013; Eng. trans. Harvard UP, 2014) shows in massive detail, these leaders pursue policies devoted above all to intensifying that inequality.  They pursue aggressive foreign policies whose principal goal is to facilitate the further enrichment of those élites.

    That was the goal when a certain hegemonic power in the aftermath of 9/11 attempted to take advantage of its unipolar moment.  That effort failed (as the millions who marched on Feb. 15, 2003, knew it would), and now the world is morphing into a multipolar system in which more and more zones of chaos and instability are appearing.

    Their grip on power in the U.S. and Europe seems to be in no danger.  In both the U.S. and the E.U., debt, cyberspectacle, and surveillance function like the bread, circuses, and legions of old.

    Meanwhile the number of local catastrophes — ecological, medical, meteorological — are multiplying.  Only time will tell whether our top-heavy ship of state has the ballast it needs to weather the storms ahead, or whether, like the MV Sewol on April 16, it will topple over and sink suddenly because too much cargo has been loaded for profit onto the upper decks, too much water has been drained from the ballast tanks to increase the profit margin, and too many marble counters have been built on the bridge to showcase meretricious kitsch that it promotes, also for profit, thereby expressing, better than it could if it tried, its own spiritual emptiness.


    "We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."