Monday, February 20, 2006

Finishing the job?

How likely is a US invasion of Iran? Here are some thoughts Dave Brownz put on indymedia in reponse to an article by Stan Goff, followed by a couple of my comments:

No-one expects the US to 'invade' Iran. But what about bombing nuclear plants? I don't think Goff's case is convincing. Goff makes the case that the invasion of Iraq has been counter-productive for the US, and that it will end in military defeat. And that an invasion of Iran would be an even bigger mistake. Goff seems to be adopting a fairly standard Marxist view of the US economy as weak, subject of crises of falling profits, and driven to expansion (primitive accumulation of booty) to boost its profits.

Against this, he estimates that the cost of Iraq has been counterprodutive since the amount of booty to boost profits (oil, and prospective oil from the region and central Asia) has been more than offset by the costly drain on profits. But this cost benefit analysis does not go into sufficient detail and is a bit shortsighted in my opinion. Let's look at Vietnam. The conventional wisdom coming out of Vietnam was that the US had lost the war, militarily certainly, politically maybe, but economically in the long run Vietnam was pretty much smashed and the US has now gone back into Vietnam to recolonise it. That's why the radical Chomsky says that the US won the war.The long-run benefits for US imperialism of invading Iraq can't be checked off against short term costs.

The US set a precedent for 'preventive war' and got UN backing (i.e. its imperialist rivals buckled and came on board). It outbid the EU in the middle east oil stakes and re-asserted the world money role of the dollar against the Euro. The 'demonstration effect' that Goff likes to point to was obvious in the threats to any former client state trying to do a Saddam and buck US hegemony. The US can do an Israel any day, and target an air strike on any country in the region as it did weeks ago in Pakistan, its ally. The Middle East masses understand this when they see Israel as the model for the US invasion. What's more the US and its subdued imperialist rivals (see how Chirac sucks up to the US) have all launched domestic attacks on their working class in the name of anti-terror laws. This means that any resistance to the cost of the war on terror being imposed on workers in these countries can be supressed in the name of counter-terrorism.

Not that much suppression has been needed as the anti-war movement is still in marching mode and hasnt got to the point of seriously trying to stop the war. Chirac's use of a state of emergency in France to suppress rebellions youth who threatened to make Paris a Baghdad, demonstrates this. The pathetic opposition of the left to Chirac, calling on local body politicians to restore social order, shows that even the far left is now acting in fear of the anti-terror laws. The reality is that whatever the messy situation today in Iraq, and however long it takes to find a new stooge (its a matter of trading off conflicting interests) to run the show, the US will retain bases in Iraq as part of its global network to oversee the pumping of the oil.So what makes Goff think that the cost of a few missiles and bombs on nuclear targets puts Iran off the radar? The reaction of China and Muslims internationally? Well hasnt China proven pretty amenable and backed down to the US when directly insulted like when its Embassy was bombed in Belgrade in the Balkan wars? China would still get its oil from Iran, or in an emergency, Venezuela. And hasnt the 'free world' been wound up since 9/11 by Islamophobia to see any US attack on 'terror' cells as legitimate.

Iranians calling for the death of Israel and the infidel cartoonists confirms in the minds of many the stereotypes of Islamic hate propaganda. What could be more legitimate than attacking the ultimate means of 'terror' - nuclear bombs in the hands of 'fundamentalists' in Iran. The US should know, it used them deliberately to terrorise Japan into a quick surrender in the Second World War. Finally, whatever the logic of the 'war on terror' it is not something that emerges from the stupidity of a rightwing neo-con US ruling class faction or a President who 'can't find his ass'.A stupid person is a real thing, but capital is not a thing, it's a social relation which dominates us all stupid or not. The logic of capital, not the illogic of Bush is what forces the US into increasingly risky actions to foreclose on its imperialist rivals, and to prevent any future anti-US bloc from forming, especially one with nuclear weapons. The US may not bomb Iran in March 2006, and it surely will not invade it in the near future, but keeping the options open is sufficient reason for the workers of the world to prepare for an attack and to mount a response that goes beyond marching and praying.

Dave's comments seem to me to focus too much on economic necessity and not enough on political irrationality. In particular, Dave leaves out mentioning that it is the invasion of Iraq which has so strengthened Iran's hand in the Middle East that it can take a much more confrontational attitude to the US and hope to get away with it. Iran has huge leverage in Iraq because of its very close ties to the forces that dominate the government there. How do the wargamers designing scenarios for an attack on Iran think that the Shia population of Iraqis likely to respond to such an action? The US is going to have to put up with the fact that Iran has become a regional power, rivalled only by Israel, largely as a result of US actions in Iraq.

I see the idea as the work of people frustrated by the failure of the US to take control ofthe situation in the Middle East in the past fewyears. The situation in Iraq has spun well out of control, imperilling rather cementing US hegemony in the region. War on new enemies becomes a sort of silver bullet for the more or less intractable problems inIraq. There are intriguing similarities with the US focus on Cambodia as the 'solution' to the crisis in Vietnam in the early 70s. An attack on Iran now would be as irrational and counterproductive as the invasion of Cambodia was back then. It's probably just as likely.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Communism is mental illness - male mental illness.

8:05 pm  
Anonymous Dave Brownz said...

I would say that the link between economics, politics and war is pretty direct right now, so that the political is driven by the immediate economic needs of the US economy.

Goff mentions the ungovernability of Iraq if the US attacks Iraq. That's a possibility, but I don't think it would deter the Bushites. Not when the whole strategic dominance of the US is at stake.

The long term economic determinant is made up of a whole lot of short term necessities like the vulnerability of the US dollar. Goff misses the point made by Peter Gowan (though he seems to like him probably because in the end Gowan too thinks that the goodie bosses can rescue America) that the US needs a new 'red scare' to allow it to act as world policeman and keep its failing economy afloat. The casting of Islam in that role is the result.

Pilger talks of the fear that the dollar will collapse if Iran starts selling its oil for Euros. He even talks of the US invading that province next to Iraq which has 80% of Iran's oil. These were pretty much the considerations in Iraq. No WMD, no critical need for oil, but a strategic need to dump Saddam and assert global dominance.

Maybe the invasion of Iran would be the Cambodia effect given that the US may think that we think its losing in Iraq. The US economic situation is so fundamentally desperate that I don't see a few trillion spent on another war here or there in maintaining its 'primacy' making much difference. Especially if it gives the WOT a new lease of life at home and abroad.

8:47 pm  

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