Imperialist powers fuel war in Syria

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Peter Pan
Imperialist powers fuel war in Syria
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Imperialist powers fuel war in Syria. The discussion was initiated by Peter Pan.
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Peter Pan
German imperialism

Excellent article.

Some thoughts passed me by, not necessarily directly related to Syria.

  1. What about Germany? Which imperialist course and/or appetites does it have? I should reread the declaration of the latest international congres on the imperialist scene, but still, alliances between states can change very quickly these days. I'm wondering about Germany, because it represents, as far as I know, a relatively stable and important concentration of capital in global capitalism, but without a standing army (am I right about this?). Germany and China engage in stronger economic cooperation (e.g. China has on its side, a big army (modern or not? I don't know). Given that China supports Iran, does this mean that Germany supports Iran as well? Or do the Germans have nothing to say on Syrian matters, because of their weak (?) army?
  2. Why exactly do the USA, France, UK... want from Iran? What is their final goal? I mean this question in a deeper sense: why imperialism? What is the final goal of all the states on the imperialist scene? Do the states in question want to conquer the Iranian markets to sell their own products? Or is this too "rational"? Is the aggresiveness of USA, UK... more a "preventive" move, to try stop the Iranian danger of conquering markets in the region, which are for the moment mainly under "control" of the USA & UK. Or is this still too "rational"? What about Turkey, does it just want to win territory? But with what purpose? Winning markets? Where can I find a text on the growing irrationality of warfare today? I know the theses on decomposition speak of it, but not as deep as I would wish. I still don't understand why nations do not tend towards "stable" alliances like during the cold war period. Yes, before WW1 and WW2 the alliances were not always that stable and changed quite quickly. But still, I don't see why some regions are fought over just for military/strategic reasons. I do not claim that they fight for petrol profit: a war is far too costly, so the economic balance would be under zero. But what thrives states then to go to war? Are these everlasting war zones than just endlessly unfinished wars towards a goal, which will never be reached: the conquering/control of the world, by just 1 state?
Peter I will try to answer


I will try to answer one of the questions you ask: what is the aim of each imperialist power? The briefest answer is: to defend the national interest. The national interest being the interest of the national capitalist class. This does indeed involve the expansion of its economic presence and interests, but at the same time each national imperialism is faced with the other imperialist seeking to underminne it and to drive it out of areas where it has an influence and if possible to conquer its home markets. Thus each  national capital is engaged in a constant life and death struggle to not only increase its influence but also to stop that influence being undermined.

This has an important bearing on the question of alliances. The strenght of an alliance to a large degree depends upon the extent of the threat posed by the power to which it is opposed and the strength of those involved in the alliance. Thus, in the Cold War the  situation was pretty  clear; the two main powers were the  US and the USSR and you sided with which one you  felt gave you  the most protection, unless you were one of the countries that either of these superpower imposed their direct control over. Thus whilst being economic rivals of the US, the countries of Western Europe also understood that they depended upon the US for protection aganst the USSR. This fear enabled a certain stability to be imposed; though one should not over state this, given the bloody imperialist wars that raged throughout this period in Africa, Asia as the two super powers fought each other through their proxies.

With the collapse of the bloc system the fundamental dynamic of imperialist: each  national capital doing all it can to defend its own interests was given free reign. In this imperialist free for all regional powers such as Iran can have a much greater weight on events because they are able to play on the divisions between the major powers. At the same time, with each power desperately trying to defend its own interests any  stability is undermined. Thus, the collapse of Syria will serve no ones interests in the long term but once a rival becomes involved in the situation there its is imperative that one does not allow this rival to get the  upper hand and thus undermine your influence, no matter how small. The situation is like a pack of wild dogs tearing a corpse apart.

Peter Pan

Thank you, ernie, for this short and clear answer. I think I was allready heading towards clarity, but I needed a small push.

I think the narture of the

I think the nature of the Soviet bloc in the Cold War period is more complicated. Its unclear to me if it was ever in the "national interest" of Eastern European nations to be members of that bloc. Their membership in the Warsaw Pact, etc. was imposed largely by military means in the aftermath of WWII. Sure, there were factions of the bourgeoisie in those countries that welcomed Russian domination, but how "rational" was this? It seems the second these states has the opportunity to escape Russian domination they took it, even if this meant orienting themselves towards the U.S. (Yugoslavia) or China (Albania). Consequently, these were the only two Eastern European nations that did not share a direct land border with the USSR (other than East Germany--but that is a special case).

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am not sure the Western bloc was of the same nature as the Eastern bloc exactly. It seems there were economic and security benefits to be being in the Western bloc, whereas membership in the Eastern bloc may have brought more negatives than positives for the national interest--but I guess this depends on how these things are defined.

"I think the nature of the

"I think the nature of the Soviet bloc in the Cold War period is more complicated. Its unclear to me if it was ever in the "national interest" of Eastern European nations to be members of that bloc."

As ernie pointed, there were some countries that the superpowers imposed direct control over and the eastern bloc after WW2 is the most direct example. To that we should certainly add post-war Germany and Japan for the US.

After that, the European partners in the Western bloc were held together by fear of the same thing happening to them (i.e. Russian domination) - and we shouldn't forget that the fear of the barbarians to the East pre-dated WW2. After all, the fascist states of Mitteleuropa were initially tolerated because they were seen as attack dogs against the Bolshevik menace.


On the general situaion I

On the general situaion I think that, certainly on first glance, the upsurge of fighting in Iraq is related to the fighting in Syria and the use of Sunni/Shia divisions by the armed gangs and their controllers. So it looks like there's an element of "spillover" here. Another  potentially very dangerous flashpoint is  the deterioration in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. These two countries went to war over the High Karabach, which was itself an expression of the breakdown of imperialist relations, in 1996 with some thirty thousand killed. Now Azerbaijan is part of the vice squeezing Iran bristling with US weapons and bases and Iran itself is host to some twenty million Azeris which, at least, could be the basis for serious mischief by the CIA. Armenia is being armed and supported by Russia.

On the points in posts above I would just add to the framework laid out by Ernie and Demo the weakening of US imperialism in  keeping an overall control over all these disparate and centrifugal tendencies afflicting imperialism generally. Specifically one could look at Israel, Pakistan, even Turkey and Egypt to some extent. But these difficulties have been most noticeable in Obama's "priority" foreign policy turn, the  Asia/Pacific "strategic vision". Despite a massive diplomatic offensive and weeks of trips and visits by Secretary  of Defence Panetta and Secretary of State Clinton to the various countries of the region they have failled to come up with a united front against China, the latter picking off its smaller rivals one by one. The US will be very aware that China's military budget is set to double over the next three years.

On the two-bloc Cold War systems: during the periiod of the Cold War it was essential for revolutionaries to put forward and maintain the postion that both blocs were expressions of imperialism and that, for the working class, nothing was to be gained by supporting the specifics of one or the other. We saw how, at the height of Cold War tensions, Nato and the Warsaw Pact coming together in fact faced with the proletariat in Poland, 1980. It's even more important today to maintain the overall denunciation of all imperialisms whatever their particularities. Of course there were differences between east and west, the most important being the "direct control" of the former, as Ernie points out. There were a whole legion of differences and specificities - which the ICC analyses is some detail - but these were and are secondary faced with the decadent capitalist expression of imperialism.

On the imperialist nature of Germany: very soon after the collapse of the two-bloc system it was German imperialism that precipitated the European war in ex-Yugoslavia through its embrace of Slovenia and Croatia. It has made military forays into Albania, is present in Afghanistan, pressed its influence on areas and countries once dominated by Russia and its economic weight today gives it an obvious if not mechanical imperialist influence over much of Europe. Germany has come out one of the biggest "winners" in the Libyan war and this despite even refusing to use its Awacs radar system to give Nato the least help.

US difficulties

I think that the upsurge in violence against US/western targets over the weekend is also indicative of the problems that American imperialism is facing overall. While there is some reaction against the film of the prophet whipped up by religious or fundamentalist leaders, there is also the general contempt that exists for the western war machine as well as the social elements against their own bourgeoisie's - as with the attacks on the police by youths in Egypt. The fall of the "strong men" and the fomenting of "oppositions" has been the problem for the US, Britain, etc., and this is exactly what they are doing in Syria  now.

But it's the attack on the US compound in Benghazi that I want to draw attention to. Libya is supposed to be the big success story from its liberation by the west. Cameron and company basked in its success. It's turned out to be another fine mess with local and wider ramifications well beyond any economic advantage. The US administration shouldn't have been surprised by the attack. It's State Department issued the following warning against all by necessary travel in Libya on August 27: "Political violence, including car bombings in Tripoli and assassinations of military officers and alleged former regime officials in Benghazi, has increased. Inter-militia conflict can erupt at any time or any place in the country".

Within this free-for-all power sruggle, Simon Tisdall in The Guardian on the 13th reports on the city of Misrata: "... in addition to about 30,000 small arms, revolutionary brigades control more than 820 tanks, dozens of heavy artillery pieces, and more than 2,300 vehicles equipped with machine guns and anti-aircraft guns". Also the fundamentalists and jihadists are back in Libya with a vengance.

Similar to Iraq, just like Afghanistan - where the CIA and MI6 set up the taleban across the AfPak border, just like the Chechen fundamentalists that the US used in Bosnia, the actions of the US in order to keep some form of control only backfires eventually and comes back to bite them while spreading more misery, chaos  and uncertainty throughout the region.