Friday, March 04, 2005

Walden Bello: Public Sociologist Analyzing the Situation in Iraq

Desperate Martians Now Wooing Venusians


The crisis of overextension

But the US is not only overextended in Iraq. Iraq has in fact worsened the crisis of overextension of the US globally. The key manifestations of the imperial dilemma stand out starkly:

* Despite the recent US-sponsored elections in Afghanistan, the Karzai government effectively controls only parts of Kabul and two or three other cities. As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said, despite the elections, "without functional state institutions able to serve the basic needs of the population throughout the country, the authority and legitimacy of the new government will be short-lived." And so long as this is the case, Afghanistan will tie down 13,500 US troops within the country and 35,000 support personnel outside.
* The US war on terror has backfired completely, with Al-Qaeda and its allies much stronger today than in 2001. The invasion of Iraq, according to Richard Clarke, Bush‚s former anti-terrorism czar, claims, derailed the war on terror and served as the best recruiting device for Al-Qaeda. But even without Iraq, Washington‚s heavy handed police and military methods of dealing with terrorism were already alienating millions of Muslims. Nothing illustrates this more than Southern Thailand, where US anti-terrorist advice has helped convert simmering discontent into a full-blown insurgency.
* With its full embrace of Ariel Sharon’s no-win strategy of sabotaging the emergence of a Palestinian state, Washington has forfeited all the political capital that it had gained among Arabs by brokering the now defunct Oslo Accord. Moreover, the go-with-Sharon strategy, along with the occupation of Iraq, has left Washington’s allies among the Arab elites exposed, discredited, and vulnerable. With the death of Yasser Arafat, Tel Aviv and Washington may entertain hopes of a settlement of the Palestinian issue on their terms. This is an illusion, and we probably will see this in growing support for Hamas among the Palestinians at the expense of Mr. Abbas‚ PLO.
* Latin America’s move to the Left will accelerate. The victory of the leftist coalition in Uruguay is simply the latest in a series of electoral victories for progressive forces, following those in Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, and Brazil. Along with electoral turns to the left, there may also be in the offing more mass insurrections such as that which occurred in Bolivia in October 2003. Speaking of the turn towards the left and away from the empire, one of the US’ friends, former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, assesses the situation accurately: "America’s friends are feeling the fire of this anti-American wrath. They are finding themselves forced to shift their own rhetoric and attitude in order to dampen their defense of policies viewed as pro-American or US-inspired, and to stiffen their resistance to Washington‚s demands and desires."

This is the global picture that belies the triumphalism that accompanied Bush’s European tour. This enterprise sought to enlist diplomacy in the service of countering the erosion of the American position. It was a trip undertaken out of desperation. One can, in fact, say that while the papers have been filled with bellicose words from Washington against Iran, Syria, and North Korea, the reality is that, owing to its being pinned down in an endless war in Iraq, the US is in less of a position to destabilize these governments than it was in 2003, before the invasion of Iraq.


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