Liberal "anti-war" analysts of U.S. Mideast policies are busy persuading their audience that the Administration is "making mistakes." By mistakes they mean policies which will leave "our country" weaker, not stronger.
Of course they refer to "our country" instead of the ruling class or the working class. And the "mistakes" turn out to be things which indeed hurt the working class, but which ruling-class leaders believe will help the big U.S. capitalists.
It’s very popular among egotistical liberal columnists and academics to criticize policies as mistakes — but this criticism actually helps the rulers, because it suggests that no attack on the capitalist system is needed, that everything can be fixed by electing some "smarter guys" (like Kennedy or Roosevelt or even Clinton). Liberal writers have been pointing out serious "mistakes" for centuries. We might ask: "If you’re so smart, how come the rich keep getting richer?" Their "mistake" kind of criticism gets us nowhere.
The three main "mistakes" which the liberals, including the most active of the anti-war liberals, pin on the U.S. in the Iraq war are:
•The Bushies (actually, the imperialist ruling class — including the Powell types) don’t understand that invading Iraq will inflame Arab and Muslim masses against the U.S. and lead to more terror attacks, not less.
•The imperialists have a "mistaken" notion that U.S. armed forces can get in and out of the Mideast quickly, thus avoiding a big backlash.
•The U.S. could pursue its noble aims in the Mideast with much less opposition if it leaned on Israel to make a reasonable accommodation with the Palestinians.
But before smugly agreeing that these are really blunders, we should at least investigate the possibility that these policies are well understood by the ruling class and that the "mistake" theories merely serve to confuse the opposition — the working class and its sympathizers. So, here goes.
The most dangerous cloud on the ruling-class horizon today is its increasing inability to control various turbulent oil regions, most of which are in Arab and/or Muslim-dominated areas. The old system of buying off a family of sheiks is breaking down. And in newer areas of oil exploration and delivery (Central Asia, including Afghanistan) there never were any rulers the U.S. could rely on. Therefore, for many years, but especially beginning in 1997, U.S. think-tanks endowed by big money have been developing plans to use the U.S.’s powerful military to insure its influence in the most crucial areas. The Project for a New American Century, founded in 1997 and including Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz among its leaders (New York Times, 3/23) has been working vigorously on hard-line plans. This is not a sudden Bush brainstorm!
Although Clinton had already called for bombing Iraq in 1998 (NYT, 3/23), the 2000 election maneuvers brought to Washington a team better suited to carry out active military imperialism. However, as Vietnam demonstrated, it’s dangerous to make a big, long-term U.S. military commitment unless it can be sold to the people here. If the rulers really wanted to go "quickly in and quickly out," they could have carried it off almost any time. But this was—and is — a LONG-RANGE plan. They need broader support.
The September 11 attacks gave them the rallying-point they needed for such a long-term commitment. Considering how much information about flight-trained terrorists was gathered by U.S. agencies before September 11, one might even suspect that the failure to frustrate the event before it happened was partly due to Washington intentionally looking the other way. At any rate, 9/11 came, and the road to long-term commitment of U.S. armed might for imperialist adventure became much smoother.
If this analysis is correct, then "mistake" number one disappears. That is, although it is true that the invasion of Iraq will help Al-Qaeda types to recruit, still more terror attacks in the U.S. will be useful for the ruling class to keep rekindling the flame and maintain at least partial support of U.S. workers for Mideast wars. The ruling class is not stupid. To them a terror incident is a pinprick. But it disarms some working-class resistance to war and fascism. It helps their plan.
"Mistake" number two — that U.S. rulers think they can get the army in and out of the Mideast quickly — is untrue to begin with. The U.S. has no intention of getting out quickly. However, in the attempt to sell the Iraq war here and in the UN, quickness was made a virtue by the spin doctors. People who say the rulers are making a mistake on this are, unfortunately, merely swallowing their lie.
The Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz think-tank (Project for the New American Century) in a September 2000 confidential report said that removing Saddam was the beginning, not the end of the strategy. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." The wider strategic aim, it insisted, was "maintaining global U.S. pre-eminence." (Guardian Weekly, 3/26)
"Mistake" number three is supposed to be that the U.S. should have first gotten a deal for the Palestinians (or should hurry up and get one). But from the point of view of a long-term U.S. imperialist commitment in the Mideast, an alliance with Israel is a big asset. Israel already bombed Iraq’s nuclear plants over a decade ago. When the time comes to put extreme pressure on Iran to cancel its nuclear program, who could be better than Israel to have in your corner? And many other missions can be imagined where Israeli expertise in certain kinds of warfare would be necessary. Israel’s willingness to actually engage in important missions, and in spying and relaying local knowledge, etc. are a big plus for U.S. imperialists. The so-called big minus — that U.S. alliance with Israel angers Arabs — is really of little importance once you’ve committed yourself to a Mideast imperialist agenda, because the Arabs and/or Muslims are going to increasingly resent you under any circumstances.
Ruling classes do make mistakes. But in the case of the Iraqi war, events are well-explained by examining the real long-term aims of the imperialist ruling class. We gain nothing by lamenting the "stupidity" of the Administration. A clear look at their plans takes events out of the "mistake" category and puts them into an analysis which confirms that stopping such wars depends upon fighting to smash the imperialist ruling class — not mocking it. This fight, in turn depends on the growth of communist organization among the working class — and finally on revolution.
Meanwhile, we can’t rely on liberalism.