...The end of the Cold War, the disappearance of the eastern bloc, which Reagan had presented as the ‘Evil Empire', were supposed to put an end to the different military conflicts brought about by the confrontation between the two imperialist blocs since 1947. Faced with this mystification about the possibility of peace under capitalism, marxism has always underlined the impossibility for bourgeois states to go beyond their economic and military rivalries, especially in the period of decadence. This is why we were able to write, back in January 1990, that "The disappearance of the Russian imperialist gendarme, and the coming disappearance of the bloc between the American gendarme and its former ‘partners', is going to open the door to a whole series of more local rivalries. These rivalries and confrontations cannot, in the present circumstances, degenerate into a world conflict...On the other hand, because of the disappearance of the discipline imposed by the presence of the blocs, these conflicts threaten to become more violent and more numerous, in particular, of course, in zones where the proletariat is weakest" (IR 61, "After the collapse of the eastern bloc, destabilisation and chaos"). The world scene soon confirmed this analysis, notably with the first Gulf War in January 1991 and the war in ex-Yugoslavia in the autumn of the same year. Since then, there has been no let up in bloody and barbaric conflicts. We cannot enumerate all of them but we can note in particular:
- the continuation of the war in ex-Yugoslavia, which saw, under the aegis of NATO, the direct involvement of the USA and the main European powers in 1999;
- the two wars in Chechnya
- the numerous wars that have continually ravaged the African continent (Rwanda, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, etc);
- the military operations by Israel in Lebanon and, most recently, in Gaza;
- the war in Afghanistan, which is still going on;
- the war in Iraq in 2003 whose consequences continue to weigh dramatically on this country, but also on the initiator of the war, the USA.
The direction and implications of US policy have long been analysed by the ICC:
"the spectre of world war no longer haunts the planet, but at the same time, we have seen the unchaining of imperialist antagonisms and local wars directly implicating the great powers, in particular the most powerful of them all, the USA. The USA, which for decades has been the ‘world cop', has had to try to carry on and strengthen this role in the face of the ‘new world disorder' which came out of the end of the Cold War. But while it has certainly taken this role to heart, it hasn't at all been done with the aim of contributing to the stability of the planet but fundamentally to conserve its global leadership, which has been more and more put into question by the fact that there is no longer the cement which held each of the two imperialist blocs together - the threat from the rival bloc. In the definitive absence of the ‘Soviet threat', the only way the American power could impose its discipline was to rely on its main strength, its huge superiority at the military level. But in doing so, the imperialist policy of the USA has become one of the main factors in global instability." (Resolution on the international situation, 17th Congress of the ICC, point 7)
The arrival of the Democrat Barak Obama to the head of the world's leading power has given rise to all kinds of illusions about a possible change in the strategic orientations of the USA, a change opening up an ‘era of peace'. One of the bases for these illusions resides in the fact that Obama was one of the few US senators to vote against the military intervention in Iraq in 2003, and that unlike his Republican rival McCain he has committed himself to a withdrawal of US armed forces from Iraq. However, these illusions have quickly come up against reality. In particular, if Obama has envisaged a US withdrawal from Iraq, it is in order to reinforce its involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Furthermore, the continuity in US military policy is well illustrated by the fact that the new administration brought Gates, who had been nominated by Bush, back to the post of Secretary of Defence.
In reality, the new orientation of American diplomacy in no way calls into question the framework outlined above. Its objective is still the reconquest of US global leadership through its military superiority. Thus Obama's overtures towards increased diplomacy are to a significant degree designed to buy time and thereby space out the need for inevitable future imperialist interventions by its military, which is currently spaced too thinly and is too exhausted to sustain yet another theater of war simultaneously with Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, as the ICC has often underlined, there are two different options within the bourgeoisie for pursuing this goal:
- the option represented by the Democratic Party which is trying as much as possible to associate other powers to this project;
- the majority option among the Republicans, which consists of taking the initiative for military offensives and imposing itself on other powers at whatever cost.
The first option was taken up by Clinton at the end of the 90s in ex-Yugoslavia, where the US managed to get the the main powers of western Europe, in particular Germany and France, to cooperate in the NATO bombing of Serbia to force it to abandon Kosovo.
The second option was typically the one used in unleashing the Iraq war in 2003, which took place against the very determined opposition of Germany and France, this time in conjunction with Russia within the UN Security Council.
However, neither of these options has been capable of reversing the weakening of US leadership. The policy of forcing things through, illustrated during the two terms of Bush Junior, has resulted not only in the chaos in Iraq, which is nowhere near being overcome, but also to the growing isolation of American diplomacy, illustrated in particular by the fact that certain countries that supported the US in 2003, such as Spain and Italy, have jumped ship from the Iraq adventure (not to mention the more discreet way Gordon Brown and the British government have taken their distance from the unconditional support that Tony Blair gave to the Iraq adventure). For its part, the policy of ‘cooperation' favoured by the Democrats does not really ensure the loyalty of the powers that the US is trying to associate with its military enterprises, particularly because it gives these powers a wider margin of manoeuvre to push forward their own interests
Today, for example, the Obama administration has decided to adopt a more conciliatory policy towards Iran and a firmer one towards Israel, two orientations which go in the same direction as most of the countries of the European Union, especially Germany and France, two countries who are aiming to recover some of their former influence in Iraq and Iran. Having said this, this orientation will not make it possible to prevent the emergence of major conflicts of interest between these two countries and the US, notably in the sphere of eastern Europe (where Germany is trying to preserve its ‘privileged' relations with Russia) or Africa (where the two factions subjecting Congo to a reign of blood and fire have the support of the US and France respectively).
More generally, the disappearance of the division of the world into two great blocs has opened the door to the ambitions of second level imperialisms who are serving to further destabilise the international situation. This is the case, for example, with Iran whose aim is to gain a dominant position in the Middle East under the banner of resistance to the American ‘Great Satan' and of the fight against Israel. With much more considerable means, China aims to extend its influence to other continents, particularly in Africa where its growing economic presence is the basis for a diplomatic and military presence, as is already the case in the war in Sudan.
Thus the perspective facing the planet after the election of Obama to the head of the world's leading power is not fundamentally different to the situation which has prevailed up till now: continuing confrontations between powers of the first or second order, continuation of barbaric wars with ever more tragic consequences (famines, epidemics, massive displacements) for the populations living in the disputed areas. We also have to consider whether the instability provoked by the considerable aggravation of the crisis in a whole series of countries in the periphery will not result in an intensification of confrontations between military cliques within these countries, with, as ever, the participation of different imperialist powers. Faced with this situation, Obama and his administration will not be able to avoid continuing the warlike policies of their predecessors, as we can see in Afghanistan for example, a policy which is synonymous with growing military barbarism.