Capitalism has no road map for peace

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The US is trying to impose its 'road map' for peace on the Middle East. The population of Israel/Palestine have every reason to be cautious and suspicious. Every intervention by the great powers in the region has exacerbated the situation - Britain in the 1920s and 30s, the US since the Second World War. It will also not have escaped their notice that recent military interventions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq have not resulted in peace and stability but have seen a continuation of armed conflict, alongside a social chaos that precludes the possibility of any sort of reconstruction.

On May 1 George Bush declared that military conflict in Iraq was over. Since then 27 US soldiers have died from guerrilla attacks, with uncounted Iraqi deaths to add to the thousands who died in the 'official' war. The totals are rising as US troops are coming under an average of 13 guerrilla attacks a day. Following the recent deaths of six British military police after British troops fired on a demonstration of local residents, leading British generals are letting it be known that they are worried about being bogged down in Iraq, much as has happened the forces still in Afghanistan. There, eighteen months after the fall of the Taliban, the battles between the factions of different warlords, and against US and other forces continue. Bombs in Kabul, serious battles elsewhere in Afghanistan, and not a sign of Osama bin Laden, whose killing or capture was one of the pretexts for the war. Saddam in Iraq remains equally elusive and continues to call for sabotage and attacks on the occupying forces. US global offensive continues

Not surprising then that in a speech by President Bush on July 4, he made it clear that the US was still at war. Any re-organisation of its forces should not be mistaken for a retreat from the 'war on terrorism'. The US plans to move much greater numbers of troops closer to current conflicts, to superior strategic positions - or nearer to rivals and/or future targets. From its bases in Germany 80,000 troops will be moved east to Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania - closer to the Black Sea, Russia, Turkey and the Middle East. From Saudi Arabia forces are being moved to Qatar and Iraq. From Japan the US has the opportunity to move thousands of troops to Thailand in the heart of South East Asia - in a place well suited for attacks on North Korea.. Leading White House figures have already said that it's not enough for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme. If the US deems pre-emptive military force to be necessary then it's not going to wait for documentation from the UN, especially in the light of its experience in the run-up to the attack on Iraq.

The 'road map' for the Middle East should be seen in the light of this global offensive of the US, whose aim has now been stated openly by the clique around Bush: to impress itself on all-comers and deter the ambition of any other major imperialism to achieve the status of superpower. The Middle East, a historic crossroads between Europe and Asia, and replete with vital oil reserves, is key to the world wide strategy of the US. Hence its determination to maintain a massive military force in Iraq, despite the enormous cost. Iraq, like Afghanistan, is a central element in a line of US occupation from the southern Arabian peninsula and the Mediterranean through to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in central Asia.

To control the Middle East, it is absolutely essential for US imperialism to find some 'solution' to the Israel/Palestine conflict. The longer it goes on, the harder it is for the US to maintain its influence with the Arab states, and the more opportunities there are for the USA's larger imperialist rivals, particularly Germany, Russia and France, to carry out their own intrigues and manoeuvres behind the scenes. Hence the mounting pressure to get Sharon and Abbas to the negotiating table and distance themselves from the 'extremists' in their own ranks. Hence also the USA's current two-pronged approach towards Iran, which the US seeks to use as a player in its road map: on the one hand flattering the 'reformist' elements in the Iranian leadership and trying to get them to put pressure on the armed groups Iran supports in Lebanon and Palestine; on the other hand, naked threats about Iran's nuclear weapons programme and accusations of harbouring members of al-Qaida.

There is of course no guarantee whatever that the fanatical Islamist elements, any more than the equally fanatical 'Orthodox' groups in Israel, will fall in with the road map, despite the recent proclamation of a ceasefire by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades. In all likelihood, there will only be the briefest of pauses before a new round of terrorist attacks and Israeli counter-terror gets underway. But even if the US succeeded in establishing a Palestinian state and mitigating the slaughter in Israel/Palestine, this would be a moment in an imperialist strategy that can only bring war and confrontation on an ever greater scale. Not because America has a unique desire for world domination - it is only acting to preserve a status quo that corresponds to its national interests, much as British imperialism did when it was the world's leading power. Like all the other capitalist powers, large and small, imperialism is not a choice made by this or that country, still less by this or that bourgeois clique. It is an organic product of capitalism at a certain stage of its development - a stage when its development has become decay and its very existence constitutes a growing threat to the survival of humanity. Capitalism's road map can only lead to war and destruction.

WR, 5/7/03.