George W. Bush’s foreign policy in regard to imperialist alliances has come to symbolize American imperialism’s historical break with its former allies in the so-called “old Europe”. The Democratic candidate, John Kerry, campaigned on a promise at this level to restore the past status quo, to mend fences with the “dear friends” of Europe that Bush’s reckless cowboy policies had supposedly so much alienated. However, even if Kerry had won, and his statements on this issue had been more than campaign gimmicks, any improved relations with Europe on the bases of a new face in the White house would have been destined for a very short honeymoon.
It became fashionable in the bizarre atmosphere of the presidential election campaign to blame Bush and his friends for whatever has gone wrong with America’s standing in the world. In particular the Democratic candidate, echoed by a great part of the media, has peddled the idea that the Bush administration is somehow responsible for the present rift between the US and the Western European powers headed by Germany and France. Nothing could be further from the truth. The confrontation between Europe and the US that has come so clearly to the open during the Bush administration in the last couple of years, in particular in relation to the question of Iraq, goes back to long before Bush came to power. In fact this rift, far from being a circumstantial event, produced by the style of a particularly foolish president, is rooted in the upheavals of the end of the 80’s and the beginning of the 90’s that completely changed the relation of forces between states that had existed up to then for over half a century. The historical collapse of the Stalinist imperialist bloc led by Russia at the end of 1989 was soon followed by the breaking apart of the Western imperialist bloc that the US headed since the end of WWII. The disappearance of the military alliances that have dominated every major event at the level of imperialist confrontations between nation states in the world arena for over 50 years did not mean the beginning of a “new world order” – in the words of Bush the father – of a revitalized capitalism and democracy. On the contrary, free of the discipline imposed by the existence of the military blocs and impelled by the deepening of the economic crisis, every state has since tried to play its own imperialist card causing a free-fall of world capitalism into a growing state of the barbarism of war and political chaos. The European nation states, some of the most powerful economies of the world, felt compelled to defend and extend their own imperialist interests just as much as anybody else. This has been so for France, but is particularly true for Germany, which as a loser in WW II had seen its world status diminished for over five decades.
The collapse of the Stalinist imperialist bloc also meant the demise of the USSR “superpower,” leaving Russia to play a totally lessened role in the world arena. However this was not the case for the leader of the other bloc. The disintegration of the Western bloc did not mean the direct weakening of the USA. On the contrary, the end of the bloc system left the US as the only remaining “superpower” and thus the world hegemonic imperialist nation. This fact has in great part determined the way in which the imperialist confrontations have taken place around the world in the last 14 years. On one side, any nation that wants to expand its influence has to do so at the cost of challenging directly or indirectly the American dominance over the world. On the other hand the US bourgeoisie can’t afford to fail to respond to its competitors with a permanent political, economic and military offensive to outplay its enemies. The first Gulf war under Bush the father, just as the present Iraq war under Bush the son and the wars in the Balkans under the Democratic Clinton administration are all part of this dynamic of imperialist confrontation between the US and the challengers of its hegemony, and first among them the imperialist powers of western Europe. In fact as we have said many times in relation to the Iraq war, the real objective of this US military adventure has never been the “destruction of weapons of mass destruction”, the “liberation of the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator”, “the war on terrorism”, or ….any other lie put forward by the dominant class. The enemy that George Bush and friends were addressing with the invasion of Iraq was located somewhere else: in Europe, where the real danger to American dominance is centered. In this sense there is nothing surprising in the fact that Germany and France have been the most vociferous opponents of the war, the French and the German bourgeoisie know very well what is at stake in this American military adventure.
The historical situation is leading not to less, but to an ever growing confrontation between the major imperialist powers and this will not change with or without a new face in the White House.