Even at the highest level of the American state, it has become evident that the war in Iraq has been a complete disaster. The report of the Iraq Study Group made it perfectly clear that the longer the US and ‘Coalition’ troops stay in Iraq, the worse things are going to get.
And yet Bush’s response to the findings of this panel of wise and loyal servitors of US interests was not to move towards troop withdrawals as the ISG suggested, but to call up another 21,500 troops to ‘get the job done’. It was not to engage in a “constructive dialogue” with Iran and Syria, as the ISG proposed, but to adopt an even tougher stance towards Tehran, typified by the declaration that the US will openly justify killing Iranian agents stirring up trouble in Iraq.
Why this response?
Is it, as practically all the forces organising the official ‘anti-war’ campaign argue, because Bush is a particularly thick-headed, corrupt, self-serving war monger?
Bush is all of that. But his response to the ISG’s proposals is not simply the desperate last throw of a ‘lame-duck’ president. It expresses the impasse facing US imperialism as a whole, and, behind that, the impasse of the capitalist system as a whole.
Despite the fact that the Democrats control both Houses of Congress, they have not come up with a real alternative to Bush’s policy. Nor did Kerry during the last election. And Bush’s ‘Republican’ war-mongering is in perfect continuity with Clinton’s ‘Democratic’ war-mongering in the years prior to 2000. Bush’s military adventurism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia follows Clinton’s repeated bombing of Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia (and Serbia), which was in turn in perfect continuity with the first Gulf War launched by Bush Senior in 1991. The man, or the party, in the White House is not the issue. The issue is the existence of a relentless and impersonal drive to war which neither the US, nor any other capitalist state, can resist, no matter what the cost in economic or human terms.
Following the collapse of America’s great imperialist rival, the USSR, in 1989-91, we were promised a ‘new world order’ of peace and prosperity. In fact we got a new disorder of war and crisis. As its former great power allies, no longer scared of the Russian bear, began to pursue their own separate national inclinations, the USA was compelled to use its massive military strength to try to re-impose its fading authority. Its focus was Afghanistan and Iraq not just because attacking ‘international terrorism’ and the ‘Butcher of Baghdad’ gave it the perfect alibi to deliver a spectacular warning to its ex-allies, but also because controlling the Middle East is key to the USA’s global strategic domination.
Of course none of this succeeded in creating anything like a state of ‘order’ for US imperialism. The more the US throws its weight around, the more chaos it has left in its wake, the more hostility and hatred it has stirred up, from the petty warlords of ‘radical Islam’ to major regional powers like Iran to great powers like Russia, China, France and Germany. And yet American capitalism has no choice: to back down, to renounce its status as the world’s superpower, would be unthinkable, for Bush, Hilary Clinton, Obama or any other representative of the US bourgeoisie. And so it is driven to go on spreading chaos and destruction. And so all its rivals must go on trying to sabotage its plans, build up their own power bases, support local states and gangs opposed to the US – in short, defend their sordid imperialist interests everywhere in the world. For as Rosa Luxemburg pointed out during the First World War, “imperialism is not the creation of one or any group of states, but is the product of a particular stage of ripeness in the world development of capital, an innately international condition, an indivisible whole, that is recognisable only in all its relations, and from which no nation can hold aloof at will” (The Junius Pamphlet).
The capitalist system has reached a stage of permanent warfare. Therefore, as Luxemburg concluded in the same pamphlet, “it is not through utopian advice and schemes to tame, ameliorate, or reform imperialism within the framework of the bourgeois state that proletarian policy can re-conquer its leading place”. The answer to imperialism cannot be to ask it to become peaceful and to give up its weapons of mass destruction. It’s as logical as asking a shark to become a vegetarian.
Nor is it to support the lesser imperialist sharks against the more powerful ones. The USA may be the most destructive power because it is the most powerful, but all the others follow the same logic. France, for example, played the peace card over Iraq but it is busy playing its own imperialist games in Africa; Russia does the same in Chechnya or Georgia.
Nor is it to support the so-called ‘anti-imperialist resistance’ in Iraq, Lebanon or elsewhere. The resistance forces are would-be imperialists in search of a new capitalist state, and they cannot operate without acting as agents of existing imperialist powers. Hezbollah fights Israeli imperialism with the aid of Iranian imperialism; the Iraqi resistance fights the US and Britain with the aid of Syria, and again Iran.
The only real answer to imperialism is the struggle against the capitalist system of exploitation which has spawned it and which sustains it. It is the struggle of the exploited against their exploiters and against the state which enforces their exploitation. This is a struggle which crosses all borders and which stands as a force of opposition to nationalism, to ethnic and racial divisions and to the drive towards war.
Peace in capitalism is the true utopia. ‘World peace’ can only be established if the class war reaches its final destination: the overthrow of the capitalist system, its states and its borders, and the creation of communism, a society in which all production is geared towards the satisfaction of human need. WR 3/2/7