The War against Crisis
The Contradictions of Globalization, not the Regime of Saddam Hussein, are central in an Attack on Iraq
By Robert Kurz
[This article originally published in: Folha, November 2, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.giga.or.at/others/krisis/r-kurz_krieg-gegen-die-Krise_folha97.html
The military attack of the US on Iraq seems a settled matter. The administration of President Bush junior has leaned so far out the window in this question that it cannot climb down any more without losing face. The military build-up actually began long ago. The US has constantly shifted new troop contingents to its Middle East bases. Another naval formation with the aircraft carrier “Constellation” is already headed for the Gulf region where the “Abraham Lincoln” is stationed. All this only makes sense if the attack is concretely prepared without regard for all political efforts.
The US government has openly declared that it will not let its hands be tied by the “international community”. The attempt to extort a UN resolution matching its intentions is only a diplomatic flanking. Obviously the will to strike is stronger than all reflection and second thoughts, One almost feels transported to the past of modern history. From the 16th century to the Second World War, the question of war and peace was not decided by a process of formal international law legality but by “solitary resolutions” of governments legitimated by actual power.
After the experiences of catastrophe in the epoch of the world wars, binding norms of international law should replace the “wild free race” in relations of the world of states. The UN and its Security Council were generally recognized as a framework for this obligation. However the UN was never an effective power but always only the formal representative of a sum of sovereign nation states. On the plane of actual power, the world was divided into a “Pax Americana” and a “Pax Sovietica”. After the downfall of the Soviet Union, only the “Pax Americana” was left. How remarkable that this last superpower, sup[ported by an absolutely superior and unrivaled military machine, increasingly opposes international law and the authority of the UN!
In the past, the United States made quite plain that it only felt obliged to the UN as far as this general representative of the world of states was subordinate and compliant to the “Pax Americana”. No open breach occurred for a half century in this vague relationship of the UN, the Security Council and international law on one side and “Pax Americana” on the other side.
The first world order war was waged in 1991 against Iraq under the formal auspices of the UN and in the name of international law to stop Kuwait’s annexation. However the second world order war against Yugoslavia (Serbia) strikingly violated the principles in effect a few years before against Iraq. NATO deployed its military machine consisting of 90% armed forces of the US without the mandate of the UN. De facto and de jure, this was an offensive war of NATO against a sovereign state and UN member. In the Afghanistan campaign after September 11, the question of formal legality was not raised in the recent war preparations against Iraq. International law is obviously worth nothing any more. The UN and the Security Council have become insignificant or irrelevant and only serve as extras of the “Pax Americana”. The last superpower breaks with the legitimacy represented by the UN and no longer takes seriously its formal legality.
Nevertheless it would be very wrong to see merely the usurpatorial act or dictation of one state and nation toward the rest of the world in this process. When the US government emphasizes the term “national interest” to give an appearance of legitimation at least internally (to its own citizens) to its actions as a world power, that is a self-delusion. In the age of globalization, there are no unequivocally definable national interests any more, either in an economic or political regard. The US has actually assumed the role of the global “protector” of a planetary capitalism. However the contradictions of globalization are manifest. Economic capital has a transnational form while political-military power by its nature only exists in a national form.
The cosmopolitan propagated again and again since the Enlightenment is nothing but a chimera since the citizen of the modern goods-producing system is only possible in a double form as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, namely as a bourgeois and as a citizen. However the universalism of capital is merely economic, not political. Therefore a world market exists, not a world state. The cosmopolitan can only appear as a world-bourgeois, not as a world-citizen. As a result, the now planetary “Pax Americana” is only possible as a paradoxical relation.
On the plane of political and military power, the universalism of capital must take the form of its opposite, namely the form of the nation state and the national military machine of the last superpower. What is termed the “national interest” of the US is in truth the indissoluble contradiction of globalism and nationalism. The US must assume functions of a world state without being able to be a world state.
This contradiction intensifies just as the character of globalization is revealed as a fundamental crisis of the modern goods-producing system. The more people are stigmatized as “redundant” or “superfluous” by the third industrial revolution, the more economies and nation states collapse. The more the exploitation of capital strikes absolute historical limits, the more strongly is the US as a national world power forced to react to the global emergency and impose a kind of state of emergency over the whole planet. Since the political regulation of the transnational economy is impossible, the conduct of the last world power becomes increasingly more irrational and violent.
The official justification for the new punitive campaign against Iraq is obviously untrue. A complicity of the secular Saddam regime with the Islamic terror network Al Qaeda is both unproven and unlikely. That Iraq supposedly possesses massive amounts of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction was vigorously denied by the earlier UN inspectors. The assertion of President Bush that this absolutely drained and eroded country represents a “danger for the world” is completely absurd. Even when the Iraqi army was still armed and supported by the West, it was unable to defeat the poorly armed troops of the Iranian Mullah. Iraq is even less capable today of a strategic attack on other Arab countries or on Israel after years of embargo, bombardment and destruction of large parts of its arsenal. Saddam is a very unsavory dictator of the Third World… Many similar regimes are sponsored by the US (as was originally true for Iraq itself).
The announced attack on Iraq described as “inevitable” has very different reasons than the ones propagandistically advanced by the US. What is involved in reality is a nearly desperate “keeping the course” or “holding out to the end” with which the last superpower wants to delay the threatened loss of global control. The “war against terror” proclaimed by President Bush was a flop. The post-state creation Al Qaeda has obviously not been struck. The US government could not even make a triumphal procession to present Osama bin Laden in chains as the head of the barbarians. The US had to pay a high price for the expulsion of the Taliban by making a disgraceful alliance with the bandits and warlords of the so-called “Northern alliance”. A real control over Afghanistan hardly exists.
The US will not win a war that it cannot wage as little as an African rhinoceros can attack its own intestinal viruses. Terrorism does not always grow in the world crisis of capitalism like the heads of the hydra. Terrorism also moves in another dimension than the last world power. Al Qaeda does not operate on the plane of territorial sovereignty but like a transnational corporation in the cracks and niches of globalization. The high-tech military machine of the US is completely unsuited and useless for a struggle in this dimension. The perpetual air attacks with stealth bombers, cruise missiles and so forth strike the population, cities and infrastructure but are much too crude to reach the transcontinental Al Qaeda networks.
The US needs a great spectacular success in the war around the world order to demonstrate they are still “masters in the house”. However the power of the US by its nature refers to the world of nation states. As a result, a demonstration of strength and global will to power is only possible in the anachronistic form of territorial war in the sense of Clausewitz. To compensate for the frustration in the “war against terrorism” and “set a warning example”, the US needs an enemy on its own plane as a cheap victim or sacrifice. Iraq offers itself because it was long built ideologically as a “rogue state”. The Saddam regime in decline anyway obviously does not have the least chance as a traditional territorial and sovereign power supported by a classical army.
There is a second and more important reason why Iraq was targeted. The world economy has entered in a new phase of crisis. The disaster of the New Economy and the crash of the western financial markets since the spring of 2000 strikes back at the global real economy. The center of this crisis is in the US whose financial bubble economy in the 90s led the whole world economy with fantastic import surpluses. The inevitable end of this “fictional capital” threatens to drag the completely debt-heavy US economy to the abyss, expand the swelling world economic crisis into a global conflagration, put in question the financing capacity of the US military machine and bring about the end of global hegemony.
An economic “wonder” must occur at any price. Financial bubble capitalism should be forced back into the constant upward movement of the 90s. However a supportive prognosis is needed justifying the stock market boom as a mere anticipation of a subsequent real economic era of growth. In this regard, the options of new technological supporters have become discontinued or phase-out models. The hopes for a secular thrust of investments and consumption through the commercialization of the Internet or through the Telecom-industry by means of UMTS have proven to be flops. Since the internal potentials of a real growth have failed, an outward “era of cheap oil” induced militarily by the attack on Iraq is now held out as a new projection to bring back the stock market boom and even make the first decade of the 21st century into an era of “jobless growth”.
Violently “shattering” the cartel of OPEC is discussed openly in the US. The US economy should be “saved” through an oil price at the level before the OPEC times. However the control and opening of the Caspian area is hardly adequate since only deposits in the magnitude of the North Sea oil exist there. Only 15 percent of the world reserves lie in Iraq but they can be brought out of the ground very inexpensively. A new growth thrust under the leadership of the US economy could be put on the straight and narrow, according to the calculation, through a military occupation of the Iraqi oil fields and their modernization with the help of a marionette-government installed by the US.
This calculation is irrational and can only accelerate the crash. Less peace will be brought to Iraq than to Afghanistan after a relatively easy military victory. Conflicts with Turkey threaten in the North and conflicts with Iran in the South. The shattering of OPEC would be the complete ruin of the whole Middle East and probably also the ruin of Russia. Balanced democracies would not replace the present regimes but progressive anomic states and a total Arab hatred guerilla against the plants and transportation routes of the supposedly “cheap oil” whose price would really explode. The US creates a qualitatively new state of emergency through its violent “attack as a means of defense”. A direct military dictatorship and a bloody occupation regime in the whole oil region are envisioned. Even the greatest military power of history cannot long hold out.