For more than a year now not a day has passed without a new act of barbarism in the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. The age-old ideologies of Palestinian nationalism and Israel Zionism, more than half a century after the inception of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war, continue to fuel havoc in this region. The spectacle is absolutely appalling. On one side, radical Palestinian militants blow themselves up together along innocent victims in suicidal terrorist attacks; suicidal armed confrontations against an adversary thousands of times better armed and organized; children, women and desperate young Palestinians aiming to kill at random, so long as the victim is a Jew. On the other hand, rubble, destruction and death caused by all-powerful Israeli state terror displayed with cynical impunity and total disregard for human life. On both sides populations living in fear, hating each other and ready to kill, poisoned to the core by the nationalist ideologies of their respective dominant classes.
This is today the situation in this region where a decade ago "a new era of peace" was announced with so much fanfare by the world bourgeoisie. Nothing more than a spiral of interminable violence, which threatens to escalate at any moment into a full-blown war.
The so-called "civilized" democracies of the US and Europe would like us to believe that they have nothing to do with the current events in the Middle East, that they have encouraged peace and that if it has not worked out is due to the radical terrorist Palestinian groups, or the policies of Arafat's PLO, or the Israel radical right wing politicians. Nothing is further from the truth. Although in the context of capitalism there is no solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, the imperialist maneuvering of the great imperialist powers for influence in the Middle East has always been a major factor in the exacerbation of political violence that characterized its history.
"Pax Americana" in the Middle East in the 1990's
The collapse of the Stalinist regimes at the end of the 80's and the beginning of the 90's brought with it the disappearance of the imperialist blocs that had divided the world since the end of WWII. This upheaval has had profound consequences in the Middle East. For decades the US and the USSR, as a means to secure influence in the region, had supported this or that bourgeois clique or state on their respective petty imperialist rivalries against their neighbors. The collapse of the imperialist bloc lead by the USSR and the diminished imperialist stature of Russia profoundly upset the interimperialist relationships between the countries of the region. Countries like Syria and bourgeois factions like the PLO suddenly found themselves without a godfather to resort to for money, weapons and political influence. Meanwhile, as Russian influence vanished, the American bourgeoisie established itself as the dominant imperialist power in the region.
The 1991 Gulf War, launched by the US as a means to demonstrate to its potential imperialist rival its willingness to defend its imperialist world hegemony, strengthened even more the grip of American imperialism in the Middle East. Through the ruthless killing of hundred of thousands of people, a new imperialist relation of forces among the local bourgeois cliques in the region emerged from Operation Desert Storm. Iraq, before the war a local imperialist power to be reckoned with, was reduced to the stature of a "nobody" in the region; the PLO, punished for backing the wrong horse during the war, descended one step further into political bankruptcy, particularly as some of its traditional sources of financial support from other Arab states dried up; Syria, on the side of the winners, was granted Lebanon as a reward for its services, plus a promise of negotiations on the status of the Golan Heights, currently under Israeli occupation; Saudi Arabia was rewarded with upgraded military "aid" -and a US military base in its soil-for its role as crucial center for the American military operations.
In the face of these changes in the Middle East political situation, and as a centerpiece of its strategy for reinforcing its position as imperialist master of the region, the US bourgeoisie pushed for a political compromise between Israel, its most trustworthy ally in the region, and Israel's traditional Arab foes. Through this compromise Israel's right of existence would be recognized by its historical enemies, while the Israel bourgeoisie would made its own concessions, among which the most important would be its acquiescence on the creation of Palestinian state in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West bank
Since this "Pax America" was announced through the showcase of the so-called "peace conferences" in 1991, and the Oslo agreements between Israel and the PLO in 1992, the American ruling class consistently stuck to this policy, despite the switch from Republican to Democratic control of the White House. Even the present Bush administration, which seems to have now abandoned the idea of creating a Palestinian state, had up until very recently stuck to this same strategy. However, the present sudden US government support for Israel's current policy of reneging on its compromise on the Palestinian question seems to be more than a spur-of-the-moment event. In fact this policy change is a well thought out response to both the difficulties that the US has faced during the last decade in its struggle to maintain its dominance all over the world, and to the need for adjustment in US policy in the Middle East in the wake of the September 11 events.
The revamping of American's imperialist strategy
Since the disappearance of the interimperialist relations that determined world politics in the Cold War era, the US has been faced with the reality that it not longer controls Western Europe. In fact its ex-allies in the old Western bloc have been the main challengers of its world dominance. Thus the US has been struggling for the last decade to defend and strengthen its hegemony in the areas outside Europe that are strategically vital, such as the Middle East, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa, and now Central Asia.
This struggle to defend its world supremacy, although not a total failure, has not prevented the US challengers from advancing their own imperialist cards, as shown for instance in the growing influence of Germany in the last decade in its historical hunting grounds of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Increasingly the US has found it necessary to rely on brutal force to defend its threatened hegemony, and to stand alone against the rest of the world. The perspective of 'every nation for itself' that has characterized the impact of capitalist decomposition on international relations, in which each nation plays its own card, now includes even the US, the world's only remaining superpower. This bellicose position, openly defended by Secretary of State Colin Powell at the World Economic Forum in New York this winter, only fueled criticism and opposition from the US's erstwhile allies in Europe. The unflinching support of US imperialism to the war campaign of its most reliable Middle Eastern ally, Israel, reflects the American commitment to war and bloodshed as the lynchpin of its foreign policy.
The 'Axis of Evil'
As Uncle Sam looks furtively for a new victim in its never-ending war against international terrorism, Pres. George Bush coined a new term in his State of the Union address in January when he spoke of the "Axis of Evil," comprised of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. This sobriquet, yet another attempt to cloak the current war effort in the same patriotic clothe as World War II, is of course absolutely ridiculous. The Axis powers were an imperialist bloc, an alliance for war against a rival bloc, the Allies. There is no alliance between these three demonized states; in fact, Iraq and Iran are adversaries.
This verbal trial balloon for future military attacks triggered an even greater flood of criticism against US policy from European powers have been making overtures to Iran and Iraq, for example, and are opposed to the new US offensive. Even from the American perspective, the new line is contradictory, at least in regard to Iran, for example, which actually cooperated with the US in the Afghanistan war, and had been earning praise in the US media for its actions. Once the war ended, it's true that Iran started to try Uncle Sam's patience with its efforts to maintain its traditional sphere of influence in western Afghanistan. But it was the Israeli capture of a vessel carrying 50 tons of illegal Iranian munitions, supposedly being shipped to the Palestinian Authority, which served both as the pretext for US support to Israel's campaign of annihilation against the Palestinians, and put Iran in the "evil" dog house.
The American commitment to military action was made clear in Bush's State of the Union speech, when he said, "My hope is that all nations will heed our call, and eliminate the terrorist parasites who threaten their countries and our own…But some countries will be weak in the face of terror. And make no mistake: if they do not act, America will." The future that capitalism offers humanity is one of militarism and terror, in which human life is expendable, and destruction a cold political calculation. The notion of an "axis of evil" may be questionable, the "excess of evil" oozing from decomposing world capitalism is all too apparent. It is only the struggle of the working class that can block this bleak future that capitalism promises.