A "bold" decision?
The decision by the US to reverse part of its missile shield deployment has been hailed as a "welcome U-turn" (The Guardian 18/9/9), a "bold" move, evidence of a ‘listening Obama' compared with the intransigence of President Bush, even as a move towards peace. It is none of these things.
The reversal of the nearly decade-old proposal of the Bush administration, to site a sophisticated radar station in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, wasn't taken by a ‘peace-seeking' Obama, but by the US Chiefs of Staff in order to defend the interests of US imperialism in its problematic role as the sole, increasingly stretched, world cop.
There is no denying tensions between the Pentagon and the White House over the problems that US imperialism is facing in Afghanistan, for example, and no denying the anger of the Republicans at Obama ‘the appeaser of Russia', but this decision was taken by the military in the interests not of peace but how better to wage war, how better to reinforce and rationalise the role of US imperialism as world cop. All of the main elements of the US bourgeoisie, including present Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who was Bush's Defence Secretary, seem to agree with the comments of ex-administration right-winger Zbigniew Brzezinski, that the Bush proposal was for a missile "... system that did not work, for a threat that did not exist, to defend countries that had not asked for it".
Not only was the system inefficient - studies by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology show the Pentagon estimates of the radar's ability to detect incoming missiles from Iran were out by a factor of 100 - and largely untried, but its implementation would have required thousands more US ‘boots on the ground' in Eastern Europe. This is something that the US can ill-afford at the moment in more ways than one. Although the increase in US troops in this area was largely what the Bush administration was looking for as part of its assertive ‘we do what we like whatever the cost' policy, the present US administration, under the guise of Obama's "change for the better", is forced to try a slightly different military strategy in the light of the problems it is facing and will face. As President Obama says of this instance, the US is pursuing "a proven cost-effective system".
It's not like there will be no missile shield; a battery of US Patriot missiles will still be deployed in Poland and the Pentagon has said that parts will be "relocatable" and deployed in both northern and southern Europe (The Guardian 18/9/9). In order to counter the nuclear threat from Iran, sea-borne missiles are planned to be operational close to Iran by 2011. Whatever the exact reality of Iran's nuclear capability, it is clear that the US will use the threat as a justification for maintaining a nuclear presence in this strategically important region, with any country in the Middle East a potential target.
Upgraded SM3 interceptors are still to be deployed in Mediterranean Europe and the US is co-operating with Israel on an anti-ballistic missile system called "David's Sling". And as well as the Aegis anti-missile system already deployed in the Sea of Japan, the US still has five nuclear-armed bases across Europe from Belgium to Incirlik in Turkey in which to deploy some of its nine-and-a-half thousand nuclear warheads. There is also a ‘Star Wars' ground-based spin off, a multi-billion dollar nuclear facility that today exists in Alaska and California targeting North Korea.
No more than a move towards ‘peace', this decision is no more a move towards the dismantling of ‘Star Wars', i.e. the militarisation of space. In fact NASA recently launched a Black Brant XII rocket into space designed to create artificial clouds - obviously an experiment with military consequences. The decision to ‘scrap' this particular element of missile technology in Poland and the Czech Republic, which were not due to be installed until 2018 at the earliest, will also have value for the US in the coming nuclear non-proliferation treaty talks for next year, while the defence department is committed to "extended deterrence" and the building of a new generation of US nuclear warheads.
The real framework
The US is having immense difficulties maintaining its global position. "In reality, the new orientation of American diplomacy [of which this Eastern European decision is a part] is still the re-conquest 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 military interventions by its military which is currently spread too thinly and is too exhausted to sustain yet another theatre of war simultaneously with Iraq and Afghanistan"(International Review 138).
If the policies of President Bush were unable to reverse the weakening of US leadership then the diplomatic turn of Obama, partly involving an ‘overture' to Russian and other imperialisms, will fare no better. As the ‘Afpak' adventure sinks into the mire, as Iraq is by no means settled, as tensions in the Balkans and the Caucasus rack up and as Somalia and Yemen turn into unstable warlord fiefdoms, this change to the co-operation policy of the Democrats can only give the USA's rivals of Germany, Russia and France more leeway to pursue their own imperialist interests in return for their own double-dealing ‘co-operation'. Even Britain, along with Germany, is currently pushing the US within the United Nations to gain for themselves a better defined sphere of influence in Afghanistan and around the region. On the ground, the lesser powers will use this ‘co-operative' turn of the administration to try to reinforce their own imperialist influences in Africa, Iran, Iraq and west Asia, and the rivalries with China and Russia also extend well above the stratosphere. "Thus the perspective facing the planet after the election of Obama is not fundamentally different to the situation which has prevailed up to now: continuing confrontation between powers of the first and second order, continuation of barbaric wars with ever more tragic consequences for the populations living in the disputed areas (...) Faced with this situation, Obama and his administration will not be able to avoid continuing the war-like policy of their predecessors, as we can see in Afghanistan for example..." (IR 138).
There will be no disarmament
During September Obama became the first US President to chair the UN Security Council as he steered through unanimous agreement with, in his own words, a "historic resolution [that] enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons."
Obama made it clear that "nations with nuclear weapons have a responsibility to move toward disarmament; and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them". He thought it important to recognise that "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed."
As we have shown, this is the grossest of hypocrisy. US imperialism is determined to maintain its position, and is well aware of the arsenal of weapons that it requires to do it. The language, the image, the conciliatory approach of Obama are just further means used to defend the ‘military-industrial complex' of US state capitalism.
As for the disarmament resolution it is very reminiscent of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 in which 63 countries signed up for "uniting the civilised nations of the world in a common renunciation of war as an instrument of their national policy." It is still, apparently, a binding treaty under international law, but, quite clearly hasn't prevented every capitalist state from resorting to war as a means of advancing their interests.
In the case of the resolution vowing to rid the world of nuclear weapons, far from being a step towards peace and co-operation, it is just another moment in the development of growing military barbarism throughout the world with US imperialism at its head.