George W. Bushs Foreign Policy
George W. Bush's Foreign Policy
As Marxists we see no fundamental difference between the two capitalist parties, which in the final analysis defend private property, the market, and the rule of capital. But George Bush Jr.'s "election" indicates a definite shift in policy on behalf of the American ruling class. So even though their basic interests were guaranteed regardless of who won the election, the capitalists had a decision to make - who would be better suited to face the inevitable crisis facing the US and global economies, and the increasingly unstable and convulsive political situation on a world scale? Although they were bitterly split between the more openly reactionary Republican George W. Bush, and the double-faced Democrat Al Gore, after a drawn-out post-election circus, the "choice" was made. On the domestic front, we already know the kinds of attacks Bush will make on the poor, on the labor movement, women's rights, education, welfare, healthcare, etc., but what can we expect under a Bush presidency in terms of foreign relations?
The Republicans have traditionally taken a more isolationist approach to foreign policy - at least in words. They like to focus on American "values", American jobs, American-style religion, and so on. In short, they have an "America first" policy. A hundred years ago they could get away with this national narrow-mindedness, but the world is no longer as it was during the pre-war years. The tremendous growth of world trade and the daily more inter-connected economies and politics of the entire planet have sucked even the mighty US economy and people into the inexorable process of "globalization". As early as the Communist Manifesto of 1848 Marx explained that:
"All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations."
It is not an accident that we live in an age of "multi-national" corporations - the narrow boundaries of the bourgeois nation-state cannot accommodate the colossal forces of production humans have built up. But although these corporations are multi-national in scope, the controlling shareholders are always national. The world is divided into three main imperialist blocs - the US, Europe, and Japan - US companies compete with German, French, British, and Japanese companies, and they all compete with each other for markets and spheres of influence. So although both Bush and Gore largely ignored foreign policy during the presidential campaign, preferring to focus on "down home" issues, no one can avoid the powerful forces of the world market and the close ties with all other countries this creates. Foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy - and as Clauswitz explained, war is the continuation of politics by other means. With the US economy floundering, and a record-high foreign trade deficit, Bush will be forced to act decisively on the international arena. To paraphrase Marx, the executive branch of the modern state is nothing but a committee for managing the affairs of the ruling class. The ruling class in the US is the capitalist class, and Bush is its political representative. With their interests precariously exposed on a world scale, the capitalists will look to their man in office to protect their interests - at all costs.
According to Bush, he wants to "make sure that the world is as peaceful as possible." This was his explanation for the recent bombing of Iraq - an attack he called "defensive" and "routine". Whether he likes it or not, Bush's administration will very quickly prove that these kinds of interventions are indeed "routine". Far from a peaceful world, from the perspective of the bourgeoisie, Bush has inherited a foreign policy nightmare. Clinton was fortunate to govern during the period of relative calm after the collapse of Stalinism. "History was over" in the words of Francis Fukuyama, and the "Pax Americana" was to prevail for all time - under US domination of course. But as events in the past few years have shown, this was only a calm before the storm. Foreign policy crises will appear seemingly out of nowhere, and Bush will be forced to act decisively in spite of the long-term consequences. US imperialism is returning to the old method of gunboat diplomacy - or as Teddy Roosevelt put it, "speak softly and carry a big stick". The only thing is, Bush doesn't speak softly or eloquently! In his words, "the best way to keep the peace is to redefine war on our terms." He will be forced to pursue "peace" through military intervention. But it will be impossible to maintain control over the situation.
As we have explained before, we have already entered a period of wars, revolutions, and counter-revolutions on a world scale. Not since the end of WWII has the rule of capital been so precarious. Bush will be forced to balance the need to prop up the faltering US economy by expanding world markets, especially in Latin America, with the need to protect American economic and strategic interests against rival imperialist powers as well as China and Russia in an increasingly unstable world environment. This is certainly not an enviable task, and Bush is very nearly the least-able person to do it! In fact, he is one of the stupidest, most short-sighted world leaders in history!
Bush attended the prestigious Yale University - and graduated with a 'C' average. During the election campaign, his lack of knowledge about the world he lives in (and is supposed to "police") was clear. He confused Slovakia and Slovenia and called Kosovars "Kosovarians," Greeks "Grecians" and East Timorese "East Timorians." When asked to name of the leaders of Chechnya, Pakistan, India, and Taiwan, he could name only "Lee" from Taiwan. In his defense, Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes said that neither the Bush campaign's senior foreign policy advisor, nor foreign policy advisor name all four of these world leaders! She seemed to be bragging that it was not just Bush, but his entire campaign foreign policy team that was ignorant! However, his lack of textbook knowledge is not his only problem. Although he is known to be "warm and charming", he has serious difficulty formulating even basic ideas. Here is an example of his nearly unintelligible utterings: "The nature of the new economy is going to create all sorts of interesting opportunities and problems. The interesting opportunities are, capital will move freely when we're a global nation in a global world. We're a nation in a global world. The ability to communicate - and capital to move quickly because of the new economy - is changing the nature of the world."
But Bush's personal ignorance does not give us the whole picture. He has several very qualified and dangerous people around him. In many ways, his presidency is a continuation of his father's - which is not a surprise considering he was helped into power by his father's name and money, and his brother's governorship of Florida! The reactionary gang he has assembled for his cabinet is a veritable who's who of past Republican administrations and prominent businessmen and women. For his foreign policy and national security team he has assembled a very experienced and well-connected gang - especially in the oil industry.
Bush's Foreign Policy Team
Vice President Dick Cheney, known as the architect of the Gulf War, has a long history with the Republican Party. He served in several lower to mid-level posts under Richard Nixon, and was chief of staff under Gerald Ford. In 1978 he was elected as Wyoming's representative at large in the House of Representatives. Reelected for five additional terms, he served several years on the House Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Budget Subcommittee. In 1989 he was appointed Secretary of Defense by George Bush Sr. He had avoided the Vietnam War through a student deferment, and once said, "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service." However in his confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense he said that he "would have been obviously happy to serve had I been called." But in spite of his lack of military experience, he rapidly climbed the foreign policy ladder and worked closely with Bush Sr.'s Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. Cheney summed up his foreign policy outlook as "arms for America's friends and arms control for its potential foes."
During the Gulf War he oversaw the deployment of troops, equipment and supplies to the region, working closely with the U.S. Central Command, headed by General Norman Schwartzkopf and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell. After Bush's defeat in 1992, he entered the lucrative private sector and became chief executive of Dallas-based Halliburton which quickly became the largest oil-drilling, engineering and construction services provider in the world, with a 1999 revenue near $20 million. On a side note, his wife Lynne, who considers herself more politically conservative than her husband, was also involved with former Republican governments. She served as chairwoman of the National Endowment of the Humanities from 1986 to 1993, an "independent" agency of the US Government that makes grants for projects in history, languages, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities. One can only imagine what point of view she defended!
George W. Bush's Secretary of State, General Colin Powell is also intimately associated with the Gulf War. A career Army officer, he was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George Bush Sr., and emerged as the most popular military and political figure during the war in Iraq. According to Bush Jr., "I know of no better person to be the face and voice of American diplomacy than Colin Powell." And we know what face that is - the face of gunboat diplomacy and strong-arm intimidation of anyone who doesn't kow tow to the dictates of Washington. Powell's view on US foreign policy is the following: "America stands ready to help any country that wishes to join the democratic world." And as the recent bombings in Iraq show, we know what happens to those who don't follow the American model of "democracy". It is interesting to note that on Powell's recent visit to the Middle East, the Arab leaders went out of their way to grovel before US imperialism - but the masses made it clear he was not welcome.
Bush's Secretary of Defense is Donald Rumsfeld is a long-time veteran of three Republican administrations. Before receiving his current appointment, he was considered the top pick for head of the CIA. A former Navy aviator, he was a Representative in Congress from Illinois, Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity under Nixon, served as US ambassador to NATO, as chief of staff and Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford, as Ronald Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East, and more. In between government posts, he has been the CEO and Chairman of the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle, and electronics firm General Instrument, now part of Motorola. He's also served as a senior adviser to investment bank William Blair & Co., non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gilead Sciences, Inc., chairman of the Salomon Smith Barney International Advisory Board, and as advisor and director of various other firms.
He is an expert on missile defense, supports the NMD (National Missile Defense) system, and has close connections with the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a small, extremely effective missile defense advocacy organization founded by a former Reagan Pentagon official with ties to right-wing philanthropists and companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing. According to Rumsfeld, Russia has only had itself to blame for NMD because as an "active proliferator" it has spread nuclear and missile know-how. Although Colin Powell has tried to smooth over these raised tensions with the Russians, the stage is set for increasingly strained relations between Russia and the US, with Vladimir Putin telling Washington to drop the "evil empire" rhetoric of the Cold War era. Bush, speaking about Rumsfeld says that they "will work to defend our people and our allies against growing threats: the threats of missiles, information warfare, the threats of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons." Of course it is OK if the United States has all of these weapons of mass destruction and is unchecked by anyone!
Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is an expert on the Soviet Union. She has served as director of Soviet and East European affairs with the National Security Council, was appointed special assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director for Soviet affairs at the National Security Council under George Bush Sr. She was a key player in the elder Bush's policies in Poland, and the former Soviet Union. She is a corporate board member for Chevron, the Hewlett Foundation, Charles Schwab, and a member of J.P. Morgan's international advisory council. According to her, Bush Jr. "feels very strongly that a country that wields as much power and influence as the United States could easily be perceived as arrogant in the world. That it could be perceived as we know best about everything. That we could be perceived as uninterested in what others think about their own future, rather with our American can do attitude, fixing it for everybody else." Well, if Bush is worried that the rest of the world thinks this way about America he has certainly not done much in the way of dispelling this view! In fact, as we have already explained, bombing Iraq within a month of taking office sets the tone for a very arrogant foreign policy.
There are many people who argue that had Gore won the election, things would be different. But in spite of the demagogy of the Democrats, they would have been forced to pursue a similar policy due to the unstable situation on the world scale. We are no longer in the post-Cold War period of virtually unchallenged US domination and seemingly endless economic prosperity. This is a whole new ball game. And let's not forget that the supposedly more "peaceful" Democrats were the ones who intervened in WWII, Vietnam, Haiti, Yugoslavia, etc., and who bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan! In the final analysis, big business runs the show, and in the new world situation, there is no room for capitalism to put on a "nice" face.
Before WWII, the US was isolationist, preferring to focus on internal policy, and not wanting to get directly involved in the affairs of Europe. After its economic and military intervention the war, the United States emerged in an extremely favorable position. It was now the preeminent economic, military, and political power in the world - rivaled only by the USSR and its satellites. It controlled the world's largest reserves of gold, occupied Western Europe, and was in a position to dominate the colonial world. Yet as Trotsky predicted before WWII, in spite of its power, the US had dynamite built into its foundations.
The defeat during the Vietnam War sharply changed America's ability to intervene as directly as before. The opposition of the working class against the war, and the rebelliousness and disintegration of the US military sent a shiver up the spine of the bourgeoisie. No longer could they rely on intervention with troops - with the exception of the Middle East where they would be forced to defend the oil vital to their continued economic prosperity. They now had to pursue a policy of proxy wars and aerial bombardments to "put people in their place".
During the Cold War there was a relative balance of power between the US and the Soviet Union, with each side generally respecting the spheres of influence of the other. But the collapse of the USSR placed the United States in an even mightier position. Never before in the history of the world had one country amassed so much wealth and power. There was now no one to get in the way of the American juggernaut, and they proceeded to intervene economically and militarily all over the world and attack the conditions and wages of the working class at home. The experience of Vietnam still haunts America, and will be decisive in the future, but in spite of that, Clinton managed to increase the involvement of US troops across the globe.
The disgusting hypocrisy of "humanitarian missions" and interest in human rights is just a cover for the aggressions of imperialism. They use these phrases to appeal to public opinion when in fact behind the scenes they are responsible for the most horrific and inhumane slaughter of people of the Third World. Since the imperialists cannot fight each other openly over the increasingly narrow world market (especially in the case of Africa between the US and France), they do it through proxy-wars - using the peoples of the ex-colonial world as pawns - in the name of profit. The US ruling class' compassionate attitude towards the peoples of these countries was summed up by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. When asked whether the sanctions on Iraq which cost over one million lives in the past decade were worth it, she answered that it most certainly was. The horrific butchery in Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Angola, East Timor, etc. which goes on under their noses is the real face of imperialist compassion!
In the past decades, and especially under Clinton, the US has also relied increasingly on organizations such as NATO and the United Nations. Using these as a fig-leaf, the United States was able to share the risks of involvement among its allies, but behind the scenes it remained the master of the situation. The UN is an impotent body which can only resolve secondary questions between minor powers. As Lenin described the League of Nations, it is a "thieves' kitchen". If the decisions of the UN went against its interests, it simply ignored them, refused to pay its UN dues, used its veto power, or turned to NATO as a cover for its imperialist policies as in the case of Yugoslavia. In complete violation of international law and even the statutes of NATO, the US intervenes directly in the internal affairs of other countries - such is its insolence and arrogance. The crushing superiority of the United States during the bombing of Yugoslavia frightened even its NATO allies, and there is now a move towards the creation of a European-only defense force to counter-act this imbalance. On the one hand, the US will increasingly act independently (and stupidly) of the rest of its allies (with the exception of its puppet Britain), as its recent bombing of Iraq shows. On the other, it will continue to play a background but vital role in some of its allies' operations where it prefers to keep a safe distance - by providing logistical support, communications, etc. but avoiding direct involvement as was the case in East Timor.
In response to the highly volatile world situation, the UN would like to expand its operations from 12,000 peacekeepers in 1998 to 40,000 in 2001. But this depends on American funding, and the Bush government will move further and further away from using the United Nations, as it is a less pliable tool than it once was, and the benefits of "peacekeeping" have diminished. The US owes $1.7 billion in back dues and peacekeeping expenses, and Bush even hinted during the election campaign that he would like to pull US troops out of the UN missions in the Balkans - but this will prove impossible and in any case would have serious repercussions. According to Bush. "we're going to be reluctant to put troops on the ground to keep people apart, warring parties apart." The new administration and the military feel that the US armed forces are spread too thinly across the globe, and they oppose committing US troops directly unless they have the advantage of overwhelming force and are acting in defense of vital national interests - as was the case during the Gulf War. But they will find that they will be unable to wait for these ideal conditions - events will move much faster than they can handle.
This raises the question of the state of military preparedness of the US armed forces. In the opinion of most serious analysts, including former top generals, the military is in a sorry state. As the world's "policeman", the US military is stationed too far and wide across the globe, and this is not good for efficiency or morale. No longer are there the easily recognized monolithic enemies like Nazism or Stalinism. There are an estimated 100,000 troops in Europe, primarily Germany, and a similar number in Asia, primarily Japan and South Korea and roughly 25,000 in the Middle East. In many of these areas, security concerns are high (as in the bombing of the US warship in Yemen), and in others they have largely outworn their welcome (as in Okinawa, the Balkans, even Saudi Arabia, etc.). In order to counter-act these trends, Bush and the military will begin a process of scaling back the number of troops stationed abroad, replacing them with hi-tech stealth and early-warning "stand-off" systems. They will also reduce the physical size of the military, but will increase spending in order to provide it with the "next generation" of technology.
Another drain on efficient use of military resources are the countless "pork-barrel" programs sponsored by Congressmen to provide jobs for their constituencies. In some cases, the military has even refused more of this or that item which is still being produced not out of military necessity, but for political and economic reasons. The recent scandals over the safety of the helicopters, planes, and even submarines of the military is also embarrassing and damaging. On a side note, it is highly amusing to see Bush portray himself as a military man since he, like Clinton, avoided the Vietnam War by serving in the National Guard.
In spite of the fact that it is an all-volunteer army, many people join simply to escape poverty, learn a technical skill, or earn money for college - since there are no opportunities for them in the "real" world. There is a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos in the US military. In a world without clear-cut enemies (since the collapse of the USSR), they join not out of patriotism but economic necessity. But even this is changing, as the lure of the .coms has for a time kept specialized soldiers away from the military which has lost its glamour and cannot compete with the get-rich-quick world of IT. When there is no real enemy to fight, and you can make more money as a computer specialist elsewhere, why risk your life to defend your country?
Bush has already addressed this issue, by providing a substantial pay raise for all servicemen and women, improving housing, healthcare benefits, and workplace safety, and issuing a policy directive to the Pentagon to investigate ways to improve the quality of life of US soldiers. He says that he shares the concern of the National Guard and Reserve troops that they are overextended and being deployed overseas too much. One private told Bush on a recent visit, "I'm hoping he might be able to get us out of the places we don't need to be. I think we're spread too wide of an area." And of course the average soldier appreciates a pay raise. In what has the ring of a scripted line, one of them said, "I like the fact that he wants to raise my pay and improve my living conditions."
In an ominous note for the future, Bush says that "the National Guard and Reservists will be more involved in homeland security, confronting acts of terror and the disorder our enemies may try to create." The National Guard and Reserve are not really there to defend the country from foreign invasion - after all, who's going to invade - Canada? Mexico? Iraq? Somalia? - but to quell civil unrest. This is clearly expressed in the mission statement of the National Guard, and Bush is preparing them for the inevitable domestic "unrest" which will come as a result of the economic downturn.
Technology and the military
He has also addressed the issue of upgrading the technological capabilities of the military, pledging an increase of $2.6 billion for research and development as part of an overall increase of $14 billion over current defense spending - the same increase the alleged "pacifist" Clinton proposed. His total military budget for 2002 is $310 billion - as large as during the Cold War and Reagan years, and even bigger than during the Gulf War! Technologically the US military is advanced far beyond its rivals, but this is still largely the technology of conventional warfare. They lack the mobility and speed of deployment needed to intervene in the numerous smaller conflicts popping up like wildfires around the world. It takes weeks and even months to move the battalions and divisions needed to achieve the overwhelming superiority they desire - and this is simply not fast enough. In the Yugoslavia campaign for example, it took them weeks just to move one unit of Apache attack helicopters into the area, and even then they were unable to deploy them for fear of having one shot down. They are working feverishly to train smaller rapid-deployment units which can enter areas within a couple of days. But these units are too small and lack the firepower to do anything more than a quick raid or hold a beach-head - waiting for weeks for the bulk of the forces to catch up with them. There is a lot of talk about remotely piloted planes, spy drones, battlefield robots, increased use of stealth technology, faster and more efficiently armored tanks, batteries of missiles guided by forward sensors, lasers from satellites, etc. Not to mention Bush's plans for a missile defense system which we will examine later on.
In short there is a desire to rely more on information and computers than personnel on the battlefield. They want to minimize the number of soldiers actually involved in combat. According to Bush, "the soldiers are my direct responsibility as commander in chief. I take the responsibility incredibly seriously. We need to be very judicious and careful about committing our troops." But the reality is that Bush really couldn't give a damn about the lives of individual soldiers. The specter of the Vietnam War and the resulting social unrest it caused is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the ruling class, and is the real reason for his concern. The mighty military machine of the US is really a colossus with feet of clay. In spite of its formidable strength on paper, it cannot be used indiscriminately without the support of the working class. And the American masses are extremely sensitive to these issues as the failed interventions in Lebanon, Somalia, and Haiti prove. One video of an American pilot being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu was enough to frighten the imperialists into an ignominious retreat.
A very dangerous precedent was set during the war with Yugoslavia (which was never officially declared by the way!) - the idea that one can achieve victory through aerial bombardment alone. Even top military officials warned that this was an illusion - in order to win a war you need ground troops to go in and consolidate. Yet even in the case of tiny Yugoslavia, bombed by a coalition of 19 different nations, they dared not intervene on the ground. As we have explained before, the capitulation of Milosevic was due to the maneuverings of Yeltsin in his bid for IMF money - not the military defeat of the Yugoslav army. When the Yugoslav troops left Kosovo, they looked fresh and almost exultant. NATO found little more than a dozen burnt out tanks - the total military achievement of 2.5 months of bombing! Had they intervened with ground troops in Yugoslavia, it is not even clear whether NATO could have won. First of all, the logistical task of organizing such an intervention would have been nearly impossible, and the fighting in the hills and forests and weather of Yugoslavia against dug in, well-trained and dedicated soldiers would have led to a bloody quagmire. The unity of NATO was already bursting at the seams as public opposition grew in Greece, Germany, Italy, etc., and at the first sign of NATO blood there would have been massive mobilizations and even the threat of revolution. The imperialists were extremely lucky in this case - they were saved by diplomatic maneuvers. But similar situations will arise all over the world, and the US will not be able to avoid intervening directly in Latin America, the Middle East, and even Asia. Once the masses begin to move on a world scale, a few missiles or bombs launched from afar will not be enough!
After the fall of the USSR, it was more difficult to justify spending so much on the "defense" budget. Clinton reduced spending somewhat at first, but it has been steadily creeping up over the past few years. All the talk of "rogue nuclear powers" and terrorists both domestic and foreign is an attempt to invent an enemy as an excuse to increase military spending and government surveillance of its own citizens. And of course they need to keep the working class focused on these mysterious enemies instead of asking questions about their deteriorating conditions of life!
National Missile Defense
Bush's proposed $60 billion National Missile Defense system (NMD) has not been well received even among most US allies. He wants to build a theater defense shield which would cover all the territory of the United States. He is reviving the Reagan-era "Star Wars" program which fell so ignominiously on its face. And who is the enemy to be defended against? The so-called "rogue states" and "international terrorists". And who exactly are these "rogues"? Basically, anyone who refuses to do the bidding of US imperialism - even if it was the US who put them in power in the first place! But in spite of all the rhetoric about "rogue states", the NMD program is not intended to defend against the likes of North Korea and Iraq - but against the real threats to US national security - Russia and China. Ironically, even if such a system were technologically possible, in time, this would be superceded by new technology in the future. A permanent anti-missile shield is ultimately impossible.
Yet in spite of the fact that such a project would violate several nuclear non-proliferation treaties, and almost certainly revive the nuclear arms race, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, says it is a "reasonable" step to protect against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He continues: "the goal isn't to win a war, the goal is to be so capable of winning a war that you don't have to fight it, that you dissuade and deter people from engaging in mischief that they otherwise might do. It threatens no one, and it should be of concern to no one, including the Russians or the Chinese, unless someone has an intention of doing damage to other people." This is a classic expression of the "carry a big stick" policy, and a clear warning to these and other countries not to step out of line! The missile defense "umbrella" would be a safe haven from which the US could do as it pleased without the threat of retaliation.
This is all part of the new space race underway for military and economic control over the vital "high ground". Reliance on space for communications, navigation, reconnaissance, meteorology, etc. has grown by leaps and bounds in the recent period, with $100 billion in US investment. Some 1,500 new satellites will be launched over the next decade to join the 600 already in space. Secretary of Defense and long-time NMD proponent Rumsfeld has promised to make the "defense of space assets" a priority. But the US is not the only country entering the race - China, Russia, Japan, and India have also made important advances. Whereas the US has developed only one new booster rocket in the past 20 years, Russia has developed and tested 140. China will be sending its first human into orbit this year, and Japan is working on upgrading its satellite reconnaissance program. Even South Korea is increasing its dependence on the US and has moved to develop its missile program.
This new space race involves a new generation of defensive and offensive weaponry. New developments in anti-satellite lasers and data-disrupting and scrambling technology will accelerate the "weaponization" of space. The US recently spent $100 million to begin work on a high-powered laser which would be able to attack missiles and other targets from space. According to the U.S. Space Command, "Protecting our ability to launch and operate satellites - and denying an enemy the same ability - could be pivotal to the success of future U.S. military operations. The increasing reliance of joint forces on space means we must achieve space superiority in times of conflict. Likewise, we must be able to preserve civil and commercial access to space." This all runs into conflict with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which prohibits laser weapons in space, but Bush has said he will either revise or scrap the treaty in order to pursue his NMD shield. In an effort to preserve the ABM treaty, Russia has proposed a joint venture based around one of its own interceptor missiles which experts say is better than the US's Patriot missile. This places the US in an awkward position since Russia is in fact one of the countries to be defended against! Although Bush wants to drastically reduce the total number of nuclear warheads in the US arsenal, in reality, he is accelerating a new arms race with his NMD program. This will strengthen the military wing in Russia which has been humiliated by its shocking plummet in power and influence on a world scale since the collapse of the USSR. China will also be drawn into the new race.
The Middle East
The arrogant attitude of US imperialism is especially clear in relation to the ex-colonial world. The bombings of Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia were clear examples of this. As we have explained before, the US ruling class is deathly afraid of committing ground troops anywhere - but will be forced to do so at some point. But they are trying to delay this day of reckoning by coming down with the most ferocious aerial bombardment on the outdated defenses of anyone who dares ignore their dictates. But these vicious attacks of state terrorism are signs of weakness, not of strength. They are motivated by fear of the masses who are already beginning to mobilize. US imperialism is the world's playground bully, and if anyone breaks the rules it has decided upon (and which it makes up as it goes along!), they can expect a whack on the head. But we all know what happens to bullies - sooner or later all the people they have been picking on band together and give them a taste of their own medicine - tenfold!
Bush's attitude towards the whole of the colonial world is summed up in the recent bombings of Iraq. The entire Middle East is on the verge of revolutionary movement, and US imperialism must make an example of any country which even hints at pursuing its own policies. The degrading and hopeless conditions of life across the Middle East have left the masses with only one option - struggle. Already the Palestinians have begun a magnificent second Intifada, and the ruling classes of Israel, all the Arab nations, and the US are extremely frightened. This explains the extreme brutality used by the Israeli ruling class, and the US's concern that the violence may spread. The oil in the Middle East is a vital resource for continuing the economic growth of the US, and Bush and his cronies are long-time oil magnates. This will force the US to defend these interests at all costs - up to and including the use of ground troops - regardless of the risk or cost. But as we have already explained, the overwhelming military superiority and public support during the Gulf War will not be easily repeated.
The coalition of nations enforcing the sanctions on Iraq has begun to break down. Many countries, and in particular Russia and France, whose interests in the region are directly opposed to those of the US have already begun commercial flights and increased oil and other exports to and from Iraq. This will greatly increase tension in the region, and will make a replay of the Gulf War extremely difficult. Even the Arab nations who backed the US during the 1991 conflict are feeling pressure from below not to bow before the interests of imperialism. The Arab masses see the hypocrisy in US foreign policy and their UN fig-leaf. Why is it that the barbarous response of the Israeli ruling class and its heavily armed modern army against the unarmed youth of Palestine is ignored? Why is it that Iraq is bombed for allegedly having "weapons of mass destruction", yet Israeli imperialism is allowed to possess over 200 nuclear warheads? There is not one stable regime in the Middle East, yet the US ruling class needs to maintain stability at all costs.
Over the next four years, the region will be a huge sore spot for Bush's foreign policy team, and it is no accident that he has selected veterans of the Gulf War for his cabinet. He faces the almost impossible challenge of balancing between the Israelis (now led by the ultra-reactionary Ariel Sharon), and the corrupt and decaying Arab states. At the beginning of his term, Bush tried to distance himself from the so-called Middle East Peace Process between Israel and the Palestinians and Clinton's hands-on approach. But now he has met with Egypt's Mubarak and pledges to work together to "try to convince all parties involved to lay down their arms, so there will be less violence." This utopian viewpoint will never succeed. Until the fundamental problems of poverty and misery facing the Palestinians and the Middle Eastern masses as a whole are relieved, there is no solution. Only a socialist revolution based on the unity of the working class in the region can lay the foundations for a lasting solution to the crisis. Bush most certainly cannot offer that and is in fact deathly afraid of such a scenario. There is no solution to this on a capitalist basis.
Another extremely important region of world from the perspective of US imperialism, especially due to its proximity, is Latin America. From Argentina, Chile, and Brazil to the Andean nations; from Central America to Mexico, there is instability. The US will not want to get involved directly with troops, so it will look to prop up local governments to do its dirty work. But this will not be so easy - anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism are on the rise across Latin America, and the bottom line is that the masses cannot tolerate their miserable conditions any longer. Big movements of the masses are on the order of the day. Washington will be hard-pressed to keep its yes-men in office, much less achieve any real stability. Especially in the case of Colombia, the US will look for regional allies to contain the increasingly unstable situation. It wants to call a regional conference to discuss the problem, and has already decided to expand Plan Colombia to include more aid for neighboring countries. But not one of these potential allies (Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru) is economically or politically stable. Bush's foreign policy in Latin America will be rife with zigzags and contradictions, and will not work out as he would like - in fact it will be a total failure.
Bush's first foreign visit was to Mexico, highlighting his "fundamental commitment" to renewing the importance of the region. The proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement which would in effect expand NAFTA to all of North, Central, and South America in 2005 is of vital importance to keeping the US economy going as markets get tighter and tighter. But the whole of Latin America is in economic and political turmoil, and the US ruling class is extremely nervous about the events in Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, etc. A major economic or political shock anywhere in the region will spread from one country to the next - right up to America's back door. With massive immigration and a Latino population of nearly 15%, the crisis in Latin America, and especially in Mexico will have a profound effect within the borders of the US.
The Mexican economy relies heavily on the US, with 90% of its exports going there, and about one third of its GDP tied to these exports. It is the US's second largest trading partner (after Canada) and an important source of oil. When the US market collapses, and with it consumer confidence and buying power, Mexico will be in a world of pain. As has been said before, if the US catches an economic sniffle, Mexico will catch pneumonia. Many in Mexico and the US have illusions in new president Vicente Fox and his right-wing PAN party, so he will get a bit of a honeymoon - but not for long. The Mexican economy has been expanding for the past five years, thanks in part to NAFTA - but at the expense of the majority of the population. Already Fox has attacked living conditions by raising the prices of essentials like tortillas, and many Mexicans don't even make the US$3.60 daily minimum wage.
Bush's one day visit with Fox didn't lead to any agreements, but it did lay the foundation for a very friendly relationship between the two. As governor of Texas, Bush has met with Mexican leaders many times in the past - Texas does more trade with Mexico than the other 49 U.S. states combined. They discussed trade, immigration, the drug trade, and energy - with Bush raising the possibility of allowing US investors to build electrical plants in Mexico. This would be a monstrous infringement on the state-owned electrical and petroleum industries which are considered national treasures by Mexicans (and rightly so!). At the moment Fox claims he is against privatization, and has brought in a number of successful private businessmen to make state-owned industries more efficient. But eventually he will be forced to follow the dictates of the US and IMF.
The issue of immigration is especially important. Not only the economies, but also the labor markets of the US and Mexico are more and more integrated. There are five to six million undocumented Mexican workers in the US. Revenues sent back home from Mexicans working in the US make up an important part of Mexico's GDP. Even conservatives in the US, who are generally anti-immigration and have a racist attitude towards Latinos understand the vital role in the current economic boom played by cheap immigrant labor. Senator Phil Gramm (R) from Texas has even proposed implementing a new, broader temporary worker plan for Mexican citizens who wish to work in the United States. He is doing this on behalf of the large agricultural interests and service-oriented businesses like fast food which would benefit from this cheap labor. But of course these workers would be at the mercy of the employers, with few if any rights, and faced with immediate expulsion back to Mexico once their employer no longer needs them - the number of workers who would be allowed to enroll annually in this program fluctuating in response to changes in U.S. economic conditions, specifically unemployment rates. And things would be even worse for those undocumented Mexicans already living in the US. The new proposal would require that undocumented immigrants already be employed by an employer who wishes to participate in the program, and that the workers return to Mexico at the end of a one year employment period with no guarantee that they would be allowed to return the following year to work. The recent unionization efforts of janitors and hotel employees has shown the militancy of immigrant workers - even undocumented ones - and the ruling class wants to get a grip on these workers before the economy takes a tumble.
Fox's government will be one of crisis and instability as he tries to privatize the state-sectors, and as he widens his attacks on the conditions of workers and students generally. Bush will work closely with the PAN government to try and avert the economic disaster awaiting the US and Latin America, and the inevitable reaction against Fox's policies and the impact this will have in the US.
Another major foreign-policy concern for the US is the deteriorating situation in Colombia. Colombian President Pastrana recently visited Bush in Washington in a failed mission to increase direct US involvement and economic aid, and of course to discuss the "war on drugs". This is the cover under which the US justifies their efforts to aid in the destruction of the guerrilla groups. Ironically, up until recently, the US Drug Enforcement Agency's official position was that the FARC are not directly involved in the drug trade, and Bush himself acknowledged in his visit to Mexico's Fox that US demand is the real source of the problem. But that has now changed as they try and demonize the enemy in the public mind. US "Drug Czar" Barry McCaffrey (head of White House Office on National Drug Control Policy) now says that the FARC are the "the principal organizing entity of cocaine production in the world." By most estimates, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and ELN (Army of National Liberation) guerrillas control over half the country, and although somewhat stale-mated at the moment, it is not ruled out that they could take it over completely. The FARC has some 17,000 fighters, and a solid network of civilian support (in part enforced through terror), while the Colombian military has 30,000 troops who at the moment are primarily concerned with protecting the economic and communications infrastructure.
Colombia's proximity to the strategically vital Panama Canal, and critical and unstable countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia make controlling it imperative to US imperialism. The US State Department now considers that it is "no longer a Colombia issue but an Andean regional issue." The similarities between US involvement in Vietnam and Colombia are striking. From a handful of "advisors", the Vietnam War spiraled out of control and within a few years over half a million US troops and support personnel were stationed there, with the well known social consequences in the US. The intervention in Columbia is also beginning with a few "advisors" and US$1.3 billion dollars in "aid" - 80% of which is destined to the Colombian military which has close ties to the paramilitary gangs responsible for terrorizing and massacring left-wing sympathizers. The largest of the paramilitary groups, the AUC, reportedly killed 1,560 civilians last year. Clinton promised that Columbia would not become another Vietnam, and Bush claims that he is worried the "United States might become militarily engaged" in Columbia. But regardless of what the US ruling class says it will or will not do, events in Colombia can quickly spiral out of their control.
According to Stratfor:
"The challenge for Bush will be to increase U.S. support for Colombia without directly involving the United States in the conflict. In practice, this means the next U.S. administration will continue to support a peace agreement with the rebels, while expanding the military aid commitment to Colombia. Bush will seek to channel military aid through Plan Colombia to maintain the political cover that the aid is only for fighting drug traffickers, but the reality is that Washington will finance the Colombian government's war against the FARC and ELN."
Already there have been reports of firefights between American civilian advisors and FARC guerrillas. The US military is training three 950-man counter-narcotics battalions and has spent $120 million on renovating military bases in El Salvador, Ecuador, and the Caribbean - which the FARC has called a "declaration of war.". But it should be noted that these "civilian" advisors are not exactly what they appear to be. They are in fact mercenaries from Reston, Virginia-based DynCorp - the largest of a growing number of private military corporations. It boasts $1.2 billion in contracts per year--95% with the U.S. government--and has 30 personnel in Colombia, mostly pilots and mechanics for helicopters and fumigation planes.
According to the World Policy Institute:
"In the past two years at least six U.S. private military corporations have set up offices in Bogota, positioning themselves to receive aid package dollars and raising serious questions about accountability and transparency. While American soldiers in Colombia are under strict orders to avoid entering combat areas or joining military operations, employees of DynCorp and other private corporations face no such restrictions and are not required to report to the Pentagon or Congress."
This "outsourcing" is of course a convenient way of temporarily avoiding the public outrage which is inevitable when US troops are killed abroad. According to former US ambassador to Colombia Myles Frenchette, "it is very handy to have an outfit not part of the U.S. Armed Forces, obviously. If someone gets killed, or whatever you can say he's not a soldier." But it is only a matter of time before troops of the regular US military are involved in a major incident.
And now Bush wants to expand Plan Colombia into neighboring Andean countries. According to the State Department, The original US commitment to Plan Colombia for other countries in the region was $180 million. But Bush's 2002 budget will see a "major increase" in programs for Colombia's neighbors, and "some countries could see an increase in US aid by two or even three times." This expansion of activities will directly affect neighboring countries - where the US is also very keen to maintain stability. The mayor of an Ecuadorian border town said "If Colombia is going to be another Vietnam╔ then Ecuador is going to become the Cambodia╔. We are being dragged into the conflict against our will."
This highlights the close ties between all of the Latin American countries. Economically and politically, what happens in one country can spread like wildfire to the rest. Bolivia has recently experienced massive movements, and in Peru we saw the fall of Fujimori under mass pressure. Ecuador has seen two massive movements over recent months, in January of 2000 the masses even seized power for four hours before being betrayed by a general loyal to the bourgeois regime. Also of particular concern to the bourgeois is the situation in Venezuela where the semi-Bonapartist Hugo Chavez is seeking to challenge US hegemony in the hemisphere.
Over the past year, relations between Caracas and Washington have deteriorated rapidly, and they will only get worse. Chavez's anti-US attitude is tempered somewhat by his need to maintain Venezuela's massive oil exports to America. Nonetheless, he has already come into conflict with the US on several issues. He has moved closer to Cuba, China, and Iraq; has repeatedly denounced US imperialism, and wants to form a multi-polar center of political power to oppose US influence. Chavez also wants to strengthen Latin American military ties in order to reduce the role of the US. He is also a very vocal opponent of Plan Colombia, and is on friendly terms with the FARC and ELN guerrillas in Colombia, and has been linked to the "rebellious" officers in Ecuador, including Col. Lucio Gutierrez, the leader of the Jan. 21, 2000 movement that toppled President Jamil Mahuad. He has also been increasingly antagonistic towards the Pastrana government, and blames the "rancid oligarchs" in Colombia for the present conflict.
His role models are Castro and Simon Bolivar, and while he claims to be leading a revolutionary movement, in Bonapartist fashion he is in reality slowly consolidating his grip on power. According to Stratfor:
"Growing U.S. concerns about Chavez are justified. Chavez claims he is leading a peaceful democratic and social revolution. Since 1998, however, Venezuela under Chavez has turned into a one-man, one-party state. Since Chavez became president, he has systematically neutralized the political opposition. Chavez also has restructured the armed forces under his sole command, while promoting his supporters in the military to senior command positions. In addition, Chavez has brought dozens of military officers into his government."
He is strengthening the Venezuelan military, and if he continues along his Bonapartist path, it is not yet decided whether he would be a bourgeois Bonapartist, or a Proletarian Bonapartist. With the world economy grinding to a halt, he may be forced to nationalize key sectors of industry and move towards a form of Stalinism. In Venezuela, and across the whole of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the bourgeoisie faces instability, economic collapse, and revolution.
George Bush is severely under-qualfied to deal with the events unfolding on a world scale. Conflict after conflict will develop so rapidly in the coming period that he will be like the little Dutch boy trying desperately to plug the holes in the dam with his fingers, in order to stop the torrential floodwaters on the other side from breaking through. Economic considerations within the US will also play a large role in Bush's foreign policy. Already the US economy is showing signs of weakening, and the Federal Reserve has drastically reduced interest rates in an effort to avoid a slowdown - but this will only cause further problems down the line. The danger of inflation is still very real in the short-term, and Alan Greenspan may have acted too rashly in lowering interest rates so drastically. But he had no other choice - once consumer and investor confidence drops, it will be over for the boom. Already consumer confidence is at its lowest level in years, and the stock market has lost a lot of ground in spite of the recent, temporary recovery. The massive foreign trade defecit will eventually affect policy decisions as well as the protectionists and free-trade advocates battle for supremacy within the US ruling class.
But aside from the Middle East and Latin America, other slivers in the side of US capitalism will develop into festering wounds. The United States' main strategic rivals in the world are Russia and China. The recent spy fiasco with Russia and the spy plane incident with China are examples of increasing tension between these powers. Economic rivalry with Europe and Japan will also continue to intensify as the world economy slides deeper into slump and the scramble for markets intensifies. So how can we in the United States fight against the agression of US imperialism abroad? Only the US working class allied with its brothers and sisters around the world can put an end to the arrogant policies of the imperialists. Foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy, and the attacks on the workers of the world are just an extension of the attacks on the American working class. The fight against imperialism abroad starts right here with the working class who have no interest in oppressing the workers of any other nation. As Marx explained, the "workers have no country". Building up the forces of genuine Marxism with roots in the labor movement is the only way forward for the workers of the US and the world.
By Peter Johnson,
Editor of the American Marxist magazine New Youth
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