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Speculations on Future US Policy

by Andreas Buro Thursday, Jun. 30, 2005 at 3:38 PM

Without any concessions, Condoleezza Rice suggested that gulfs could be bridged and cooperation with Europe promoted. Her sneer made it seem: cooperation on our conditions. Many factors will stop the "arrogance of power" (Sen Fulbright).


By Andreas Buro

[This article published in: Friedenskooperative 3/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, Andreas Buro is a spokesperson for peace policy of the Committee for Basic Rights and Democracy.]

The political class greeted the American president with a “Welcome, Mr. President.” A “Not Welcome, Mr. Bush” resounded from the demonstrators on German streets. The day after the question was raised about the significance of this visit. Was it only the hot air of a nice-sounding speech or was it a fundamental turn of the US administration to a multilateral policy and respect for international law? This question must interest the peace movement all over the world.

The appearance of the new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Europe impressed me more than the speech of the president abounding in phrases. Without making any perceptible concessions, she signaled that the gulfs could be bridged and cooperation with Europe promoted. Her cold sneer seemed to say: cooperation on our conditions.

Obviously I am far from interpreting future US policy on the basis of personal analyses. Rather I consider long-term interests and structures. In the following, I will only present a sketch, not analytical evidence.

I see US policy in a great historical continuity from the economic crisis of the 1930s to today. At that time the middle-class-capitalist model of society in the most important industrial centers like the US fell into a grave crisis. On the background of the revolution in Russia and the genesis of the Soviet Union, the fear arose that the system altogether could collapse. Only new growth could lead out of this danger. Roosevelt’s New Deal policy with many domestic and social initiatives attempted to avert the crisis. However this turn first occurred with the beginning of the Second World War through the enormous state-financed armaments production. The downward spiral promoted by national protectionism was stopped. Since this time, the general line of US policy has been creating and securing growth possibilities. No areas should exist any more that are closed to the world market and thus prevent growth.

Under this guideline, the US during the Second World War planned opening markets in Western Europe. The later consequences were the Marshall Plan and the formation of the OEEC as a coordinating institution. Another consequence of this guideline was that the US sought to dissolve the colonial empires of the European powers. The US only intervened against the decolonialization where a socialist development and closing of future market was expected as for example in Vietnam. Nationalist-capitalist societies that relied on protectionism for their development as for example Argentina in Latin America came into the sights of the US.

The East-West conflict also stands under the same calculation of interests. The command-socialist or communist-oriented states would not allow free expansion of market forces in their spheres. The actual leit-motif was obviously not publically emphasized in all the following wars and confrontations. Rather “freedom” was the most important legitimation formula.

In the course of this process, the US became the greatest military power when the Soviet Union collapsed. From the bipolar world came a unipolar world with one enormous military power that cannot be overtaken. The super-armament continued under Clinton as well as the turn to the “new NATO” with a worldwide sphere of action. Troublesome bonds of international law, especially of the UN Charter, could be shaken off.

The US divided the world into specific military commando units and systematically built its strategic bases wherever possible. This guideline of US policy is discussed quite openly under the heading globalization. The old-fashioned left spoke about this phenomenon a century ago. At that time they called this phenomenon the internationalization of capital and knew that capital was a journeyman without a native country. The present hopeless policy promises the solution of all problems through the idol growth. The lessons from the worldwide economic crisis of the last century are still bitterly serious today. These lessons are valid for the US and all the great industrial centers of the triad North America, East Asia and Western Europe. This is the basis for the Atlantic community invoked again in the Bush visit.


To recognize the elements of future US policy, we may not let ourselves be totally confused by official speeches and media fashions that describe the applied ideologies as real policy. Their slogans are freedom, human rights, humanitarian intervention, clash of cultures, worldwide battle against international terrorism (no demonstrable international terrorism existed in Iraq!) and most recently enforcement of democracy. Legitimation ideologies for worldwide interventions are always involved. Though very risky, these ideologies are also accepted in Europe. Important elements for the new term in office are:

· Greater efforts in the ecological area are not likely even if Bush and Schroeder signed an agreement on technological cooperation in ecology. In the future, the US will emphasize resource security, fighting for influence and market opening in the Middle East, Asia and Africa where raw material deposits exist or are expected.

· Building the system of military bases in many parts of the world continued uninterruptedly. Four new bases are added in Iraq. Armament costs will increase again. Enormous sums are invested. More funds will be needed to build protective shields against missiles. From a long-term perspective, the triad countries will be included in this protective shield system. Its actual goal is not only defensive. If a missile defense shield really succeeds, all offensive potentials could be deployed since “the West” has become unassailable. If the defense system is only completely effective for the US, the EU area could easily become a hostage to American policy.

· Like the material elements, all the ideological components indicate intervention readiness (combating terrorism, democracy missions) and Washington’s willingness to act outside the US Charter if necessary. Earnest efforts at a multilateral policy of balance beyond the traditional alliance partners are not apparent. An integration of the US in international law and a tendency to strengthen international law are not evident.

· Astonishingly readiness for outward intervention is not balanced by an internal policy of solidarity. Bush breaks with the tradition of his predecessors who joined foreign policy imperialism with domestic social programs.


Hindering factors oppose the “would-be-world domination fantasies” of the US administration:

· The dollar is endangered as a key currency through the massive budget- and foreign trade deficits. The US is the state with the greatest debts in the world. If trust in the dollar is seriously damaged and states do not invest their financial reserves in dollars any more, the most important source of constant money inflow for financing US deficits will dry up. Japan and China presently hold the largest amounts of US government bonds. This is a considerable potential threat. The Euro is a powerful rival of the dollar on the global financial markets. If raw materials are increasingly calculated in Euros instead of dollars, the dollar will be endangered as a key currency.

· In the US and the EU, globalization strikes back in that competition reduces products from the triad. The triad powers currently secure their leading positions with their superior technology and productivity. The two nuclear powers China and India see themselves as rising economic superpowers. The US balance of trade deficit toward China is already a considerable problem.

· Iraq has shown the costliness of military intervention and the problems of rule in the time after the “victory.” How many of these interventions can the US afford? Will there only be missile- and bomb-interventions in the future? Can market opening and stabilization for economic activities be attained this way?

· Iraq has demonstrated that the US needs the “willing” – with as few decision-making rights as possible -, even the support of the UN. This forces the US to more readiness for cooperation. Whether this lesson was learned well by the new Bush administration is still unclear.

· One central point in Middle East policy will be whether the US is ready to actually support a peace solution between Israel and Palestine. Up to now the US only understood itself as Israel’s alliance partner. The problem will not be solved with the envisioned withdrawal from the Gaza strip but requires Israel’s extensive withdrawal from West Jordan. To date, no initiatives have appeared in this regard. The Palestinians are one-sidedly burdened.


The relation of the US to the EU will have great significance for future US policy. For that reason the Bush visit was important. With all their differences, the industrial centers have a fundamental common interest to make possible asymmetrical globalization to their advantage, first of all growth meant as the progressive valorization of capital. A setback through rising industrial powers like China and India must be averted. As another problem, capital turns out to be a “journeyman without a native land.” Thus the globalization process can increasingly become the problem of the national states of the triad. The contradictoriness of the triad-demand on one side for opening markets and on the other side for maintaining their own protectionism is inescapable.

Beside this common interest, competition still exists within the triad states. The “Atlantic relation” can be first understood under the aspect of this basic cooperative-competitive structure.

The economic plane is only one area of the competition. The US tries to handle international policy mainly on the military plane where they are vastly superior. No wonder the US energetically rejected Schroeder’s proposal at the latest military intelligence meeting. International questions between the US and the EU will not be discussed in NATO but on a political platform. The EU states can negotiate much better at eye level with the US on the diplomatic plane.

At the same time the EU pushes its military development – parallel to Japan – to carry out independent military actions and improve its competitive status vis-à-vis the US. Obviously no one has the illusion of overtaking the US in the military area.

The transatlantic rivalry also occurs on the plane of “spheres of influence” – a very complex field for diplomacy, economic aid to developing countries and gaining sympathy. The EU uses very successfully the instrument of EU expansion and association agreements which obviously have only a limited range.


A readiness to work towards fundamental solutions of problems is not evident in US policy in any of the burning problems. The tendency to forceful solutions and contempt of international law are manifest. Condoleezza Rice nominated the super-hardliner John Bolton as the new UN ambassador to the UN. Many factors will stop the “arrogance of power” (Senator Fulbright).

On account of the current unequal distribution of military power, the EU currently relies on diplomatic methods far more than the US. This does not mean that EU-Europeans are more human-oriented or wiser. Armaments and expansion of the military-industrial complex are anchored in the draft of the EU constitution. Nevertheless the relative military weakness of the EU opens a window of possibility in this situation for the peace movement to support preventive civilian conflict resolution.

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