Global Warming, Global Hostilities: Futility of a Super-Power
Middle East Balance Sheet: What's been accomplished?
The U.S. has cast eight of the last nine vetoes at the Security Council, and seven of them pertained to sanctioning Israel.What has the most powerful nation on earth accomplished in the Middle East recently? Well, the short answer might seem to be that it has caused much damage and destruction, but the reality may be closer to flailing about ineffectually (if dangerously), alternating with doing absolutely nothing.
It certainly made sense to go after Bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S. targets (though it would have been better to have used our prior intelligence to prevent those attacks), but the U.S. let Bin Laden escape and instead bombed the impoverished nation of Afghanistan, pushed out the Taliban, and put in its own ineffectual leader, Hamid Karzai. This has led to a resurgence of strength among the tribal warlords and a return to opium production so now Afghanistan is the major world source of heroin; and the Taliban is regaining power. The U.S. has caused damage in Afghanistan, stirred things up, but the end result has been anything but positive. An enduring legacy is the grim provocation of Guantánamo.
The central cause of hostility toward the U.S. in the Middle East, though at this stage it's clearly only one among many, is and remains our total financial, military, and diplomatic support of our client state, Israel. How are things going there? The situation has grown worse and worse. The Palestinians in the occupied territories are living in a vast prison of walled-in cantons. They are being starved, squeezed out, killed. The Palestinians had a democratic election following the death of Arafat and chose a militant Islamic party, Hamas. The U.S. and Israel did not like that kind of democracy and economic boycotting and violent attacks have followed. Now, Israel has renewed war with, or rather on, Lebanon, spurred by actions once again not by the ineffectual Lebanese government but by Palestinian militants. The U.S. is doing nothing to calm down this situation. Following capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbullah and firing of rockets on Haifa, Israel struck Lebanon and killed more than sixty civilians. The U.S. will do what it can to block international condemnation of this action. The U.S. has just vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, even though the resolution called for release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and an end to rocket attacks on Israel. The U.S., in other words, has chosen to do nothing--to let the fires rage out of control.
Maybe there's a connection between our current official indifference as a nation to both peacemaking and restoring eco-balance. In both cases, whether by action or inaction, the Bush administration is a force for destabilization rather than planetary harmony.
In Iran, again a collective effort has proven to be preferable to the U.S.'s threat of unilateral action earlier this year. It's obvious that Iran's nuclear program is no immediate threat to the U.S. and that North Korea is more of a threat. North Korea isn't really capable of damaging U.S. targets either; nor is even North Korea foolish enough to court destruction by trying to do so. Why, by the way, doesn't the U.S. talk to the North Koreans? That would be the best way to tone them down and normalize relations. Likewise with Iran. But again, behind the U.S.'s provocative approach to the Iran nuclear program loomed the neo-con plan, which we now know well: Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran. They want to attack Iran, because they like the idea. To show who's boss.
But who's boss? Is being the biggest bully in the schoolyard the best way to run a globalized world?
As for Israel and the U.S., if the tail is wagging the dog it's less noticeable, since U.S. and Israeli interests in subduing the countries surrounding America's little client state are in such harmony. In Ambassador John Bolton, whose stated aim is to further weaken the already downgraded United Nations, Israel has a good friend. The U.S. has cast eight of the last nine vetoes at the Security Council, and seven of them pertained to sanctioning Israel. Hostilities between Palestinian militants and Israel and Israel's attacks on Lebanon go on while -- with relatively imperceptible violence -- Israel goes on pursuing what Noam Chomsky has recently called its "steady takeover of the West Bank, which, in effect, if it continues, is just the murder of a nation." That's the main event. And the U.S. does nothing to stop it. If journalist Robert Fisk is right on this, as he often seems to be, the key is Syria. And Syria is out of reach. As usual the most important events aren't the ones most prominently reported. And what the U.S. is doing in the region is at best ineffectual and at worst highly dangerous.
It's hard to see anything positive resulting from U.S. Middle East policy. It becomes increasingly difficult to see logic in it, either. It would be nice if one could really argue that the U.S. is in the Middle East for oil, and that its presence there has furthered US control of the oil supply. That at least would make some simple kind of sense. Forceful in wielding his native guile and charm but lacking in logic or information, George W. Bush has actually declared that "we must end our dependence" on the dark fluid, but the administration's choices for alternative fuels, ethanol and hydrogen, seem as empty as that statement. Hydrogen is widely believed to be inefficient and too high in cost. Ethanol has many problems and Butanol is considered preferable. The push for ethanol may be that it is combined with gasoline, and hence its use is easier on the oil and automotive industries. Both of these, as opposed to electric power, continue the use of the internal combustion engine. The talk of alternatives seems mostly a distraction from the fact that when it comes to energy the administration's main push is for more of the same. However, the U.S. auto industry seems to be dying, even though oil and gas use continue at high levels.
"Terrorism" is the fake enemy of the new millennium, replacing the Cold War, and the "war on terror" is the new industry for opportunists who make money on war, militarization, and repression.What is the future? Global warming and the closely related issue of planetary overpopulation by the human species—greater issues than any human-to-human conflict—seem to have a natural accompaniment in another kind of heating up, on the human scale: global increase in terrorist acts, which are precisely acts unidentifiable with any government or national borders and not part of any identifiable "war" at all. These may increase not only because of hostility to the US such as the Iraq/Afghanistan attacks have aroused in the region, but also because the more the US and its allies pursue big-budget "wars on terror" the clearer it becomes that such high-profile campaigns are ill conceived and ineffective. Or to put it another way, the terrorists are "winning" the "war on terror." Except that there isn't any war on terror and there never was. "Terrorism" is the fake enemy of the new millennium, replacing the Cold War, and the "war on terror" is the new industry for opportunists who make money on war, militarization, and repression. Human activity seems more and more on the international political level to be an acting out of primitive tendencies. We have ever more sophisticated technology and we have not lost touch with the ability to produce the cultural glories of the arts. The summer forest fires in North America this year are greater than ever before, a phenomenon linked to planetary climate change, AKA global warming.
What a waste our life as a species remains so long as governments can't organize for peace and rational action, such as the primary one of doing what we can to preserve the planet.
©Chris Knipp 2006. Chris Knipp is a San Francisco-based artist and writer. View his work at chrisknipp.com.
Copyright © 2006 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
This story was published on July 17, 2006.