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The worst catastrophes imaginableBy Samir Amin
In my previous article (Al-Ahram Weekly, 29 April-5 May), I defined the goals and means of Washington's hegemonic ambitions. While the simplistic economicist discourse of neo-liberalism holds that the globalisation of a deregulated market (that is to say, regulated unilaterally by capital) should spontaneously produce peace and democracy, the facts prove that US military hegemony is the necessary condition for the functioning of this system, ensuring as it does both its domination by the Triad (US-Canada, Western Europe and Japan), and the submission of Europe and Japan to America's strategic objectives.
To this vision of a unipolar world, I had opposed that of multipolar globalisation, the only strategy that would allow acceptable social development for the different regions of the world, and thereby the democratisation of societies and the reduction of motives for conflict. The US's strategic hegemony, I had concluded, is today the principal enemy of social progress, democracy and peace.
The reply the dominant forces brought to the crises that have occurred in rapid succession since 1990 and the chaos engendered by the establishment of the neo-liberal utopia reveal both the US's hegemonic goals and the dissolution of the European project.
The Gulf crisis had already revealed Washington's objectives. Secretly encouraging Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, the US turned the situation to its own benefit in order to establish a military protectorate over the petrol states of the region, with the blessing of Europe and the UN, domesticated for the occasion. The Iraqi regime's use of nerve gas against the Kurdish guerrilla movement, which had never bothered Western diplomatic circles before, was suddenly orchestrated by the media to justify the systematic destruction of Iraq.
Encouraged by this first success, the United States then became involved in European affairs, exploiting the Yugoslavian crises in a bid to achieve a variety of objectives, not least the surrender of the European Union. It is not my intention to disregard the principal responsibilities of the fragmented local ruling classes, all of which chose ethnic chauvinism as a means of reconstituting, to their profit, a "legitimacy" to replace that of Tito-ism, which had been based on social progress and the equality of nations. Ethnic cleansing was therefore practiced by all these ruling classes, in Croatia (through the expulsion of the Serbs, a majority in Krajina) as in Bosnia (by each of the three components of this absurd state -- for, if coexistence is possible in the "little Yugoslavia", why would it not be so in the large one?) and in Serbia (Kosovo). But we must admit that Europe threw oil on the fire by its almost immediate acceptance of Slovenia and Croatia's unilaterally proclaimed independence, without the imposition of any conditions in terms of respect for the rights of the minorities created by the explosion of Yugoslavia. This decision could only serve to encourage the criminal regimes in question. The point was made at the time, but the media abstained from any critical analysis of the policy inaugurated, it must be said, by Germany, but which an initially reticent France resisted no longer than two weeks. Subsequently, the media systematically applied double standards, mobilising all the means at its disposal to denounce massacres in one place while ignoring them in another.
The massacres in Kosovo and the provocation practiced by its "Liberation Army" (was it any better, at the outset, than the Basque ETA?) provided the pretext for the US's systematic intervention, already put to the test in Bosnia. This intervention is based on three principles: 1) the brutal replacement of the UN with NATO as the means of managing the international order; 2) the alignment of Europe with Washington's strategic objectives; 3) the adoption of military methods reinforcing American hegemony (no-risk bombing campaigns and the use of European troops for an eventual ground intervention).
The consequences of these choices are catastrophic at all levels. They have deprived the dominant discourse on democracy and people's rights of any scrap of credibility. They reveal that the real strategic goal, beyond Serbia, is Russia and China -- a fact that American strategists do not refrain from stating. NATO, now openly the tool of American expansionism, and no longer that of European defence, has thereby been able to put an end to illusions of "European autonomy", forcing the EU into a new alignment, even more severe than that imposed in the past under the pretext of the "Cold War".
The only option which would have had some meaning for Europe would have been to inscribe its construction within the perspective of a multipolar world. The margin of autonomy that this option defines would have allowed the invention of a socially valid project, in keeping with the best humanitarian and socialist European traditions. This option, of course, implied the recognition of the same margin of autonomy for Russia, China, and each of the large regions of the Third World. It also implied that the NATO page would be turned, once and for all, and replaced by the concept of a European defensive force, which could be integrated gradually at the rhythm of European political construction itself. It implied, furthermore, the conception of adequate modes of regulation at the European level, and at that of the world system, to replace the dominant forms: Bretton-Woods, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). By choosing liberal globalisation, Europe has in fact renounced the use of its potential economic competitiveness, and been satisfied to navigate in the wake of Washington's ambitions, of which it has become the zealous servant.
The fact that the European states have chosen this path reveals the frailty of the European project itself, and even the fact that this project is only a subaltern priority on the scale of dominant political visions. Great Britain's fundamental option since 1945 has been to console itself for the loss of its imperial role by reliving it vicariously through the US. Germany, having given up the insane Nazi dream of world conquest, has chosen to limit its ambitions to the means at its disposal by reconstituting its traditional zone of influence in eastern and southeastern Europe, tailgating Washington's global hegemonic strategy. For somewhat similar reasons, Japan -- confronted with China, and even Korea -- has also inscribed its strictly regional expansionist ambitions within the same global American perspective.
Today, Blair and Schröder are, clearly, not only the most dangerous gravediggers of the traditions that were once the pride of the European left, but also the servile executors of America's anti-European project. Their association with Clinton in the so-called "Third Way" discourse must be the object of no illusions, for the new "Clinton doctrine" that has been announced aims -- after Yugoslavia -- "to turn on the East and the Middle East". Robert I Hunter, senior adviser at the Rand Corporation and US ambassador to NATO from 1993 to '98, recently wrote the following in the Washington Post (21 April), with respect to the Clinton doctrine and its application in Kosovo: "It is the gateway to areas of intense Western concern -- the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq and Iran, Afghanistan, the Caspian Sea and Transcaucasia. Stability in southeastern Europe must be a precursor to protecting Western interests and reducing threats from farther East." Again, the only question is that of protecting Western interests (such as oil and pipelines, or the flourishing of McDonald's -- see my previous article), not democracy or the rights of Kurds and Palestinians.
We must therefore expect a policy of systematic provocation in Russia and China. As for the Middle East, as it is clearly impossible to imagine the US bombing Israel to make it accept the Palestinian state and the return of refugees (the official motive for the intervention in Kosovo!), the use of force in Lebanon (where Hizbullah's "fanaticism" can serve as a pretext) and Syria (an "undemocratic" regime) will be the means of imposing the Pax Israeliana.
Can the European project be saved from this debacle? Things being what they are, the only means of climbing back up the slope that leads to the eradication of the European project implies that the political forces attached to it -- in France, Germany or Italy -- should rethink this project in terms of what is immediately possible -- in other words, in terms of a return to a more modest concept of a "Europe of nations", while waiting for the progressive ripening of cooperation. This in turn would imply a friendly -- and non-aggressive -- approach to Russia, China and the Third World and, in this framework, a revival of the UN's functions. Once again, this is not the option taken by the European governments, including the socialist majority. The priority given to the ultra-conservative management of a fictive single currency, the support for globalised liberalism and the US's hegemonic strategy are arrayed against the project of a multipolar world, and will lead to the worst catastrophes imaginable, for Europe and the rest of the world.
Translated from the French
by Pascale Ghazaleh