Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Never let it be said that the Prime Minister dislikes Arabs or Islam, or even "Islamic fundamentalism". He likes it well enough. He likes Arabs when, like Mubarak, they take the bribes and let American weaponry slide through the Suez free of charge. He likes the "fundamentalists" in the House of Saud alright, because with a subterranean dictatorship that relies on Western mercenaries for survival, you can almost always get what you want. In fact, when it comes to that, he is as politically-correct as you can get - as someone reminded us in the comments boxes the other day, Blair's response to Paxman's litany of Saudi crimes was to remind him that "they have their culture...". No, Prime Minister, they don't. They have our 'culture', for that is a dictatorship that was made in London and Washington. Blair's tolerance for other 'cultures' knows no bounds: he likes the oppressors of women in the London-forged slave state of Kuwait. He even likes the Iranian clerics when they help out with occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. He likes the Syrian Ba'ath when they do his torturing for him. He likes the mutilators in Afghanistan. He can see the good in anyone.
When Blair explicated his cosmopolitan vision for international law in 1999, he was quite serious. There is no hypocrisy as long as you understand the terms, and these aren't particularly complicated. The empire is indeed cosmopolitan, and it can accomodate a great variety of polities and cultures provided they all place themselves at its service and marginalise their populations. When they do not, however, integrate themselves into the ever-expanding empire, they are cast as human rights abusers whose subjects require liberation. By definition, those who ally with the empire support democracy and human rights, and those who do not oppose them.
NATO and the World Trade Organisation were, in Blair's vision, to become the chief instruments of an expanding cosmopolis under American hegemony, particularly in drawing the EU into closer affiliation with the US. The EU was at that time collaborating with the US on a new Generalplan Ost, which in this case involved forcing the FRY to become a US military base. The Balkans as a whole have became part of the EU's eastern empire, as tacitly recognised by the International Commission on the Balkans in 2005, when it stressed that the choice for the EU was enlargement (informal empire with the subsumption of Balkan states under the neoliberal umbrella, with stability pacts and so on) or empire (formal colonisation and continued direct rule). Since ongoing direct rule poses political and fiscal problems for the EU, the attempt is being made to convert this into a therapeutic, 'state-building' process.
Crucially, Blair imagined, an EU with a common currency under a neoliberal economic arrangement, and with those pesky left-right divisions well in the past, would be a better ally for the United States. The economy would flourish on the basis of knowledge-driven accumulation. The World Trade Organisation would hammer out shared arrangements for a new wave of capital accumulation that quiescent Third World leaders would accept. NATO would consolidate a potentially fracturing alliance, prove its military mettle and operate well beyond its traditional boundaries to discipline 'rogue states'. In such a world order, he supposed, Britain in particular would have more leverage. And moderate social-democratic goals, such as reducing carbon emissions and cutting Third World debt, would be available as an added bonus. At any rate, the growth made possibly by renewed neoliberalism would cure all ills - this despite the fact that the neoliberal age has seen far lower global growth rates than before, even with massive new territories, workforces and resources being prised open all over the world.
Well, this plan hit the rocks fairly quickly. Nato was able to 'win' in Yugoslavia, but only because the Russian government persuaded Milosevic not to fight. The worker-led revolt that overthrew Milosevic did issue a government more or less willing to accept neoliberalism, but that regime is having real difficulty in imposing many of its measures. Massive worldwide protests encouraged Third World leaders to block neoliberal reforms at WTO summits, beginning at Seattle. The EU Treaty is dead, partially a result of revived left-wing politics and trade union struggle. A continental radicalism has swept Latin America, and is attempting to turn back the neoliberal tide as well as evict US military bases and form an alternative pole in world politics. Blair's domestic policies, particularly on privatisation and pensions 'reforms', are already facing serious resistance. Nato is fighting in Afghanistan, but not with much luck, or much enthusiasm from member states.
When his liberal American ally was replaced by a clique of hard right crony capitalists, Christian Rightists and Likudniks, Blair took some time, swallowed any disagreements, and staked everything on an alliance with Bush. He had already collaborated with rightist governments across Europe, so it wasn't a stretch for him. And 9/11 provided the mother of all opportunities to get into lockstep with Bush. There followed a rapid, if temporary, victory in Afghanistan, and Blair marched into Iraq apparently fully confident that something similar would happen there. But it did not: the Iraqis inexplicably resisted. And the Palestinians had started to resist Israeli colonisation again. And Hezbollah had kicked the Israelis out of most of southern Lebanon. And then the Israeli military made another attempt on Lebanon, and was again defeated. And then the people of southern Afghanistan began to resist. The attempted coup in Palestine may well kill thousands, but it will not win.
Blair has inflicted a great deal of damage on the world, but his hopes have not materialised. He has done a great deal of service to capital, but they are not satisfied. He has tried to finish off the labour movement and the left, but to no avail. He began as the most popular Prime Minister for decades, and is finishing as the least popular Prime Minister in British history. And now he is touring the ruins, salvaging what he can, trying on various media-grafted halos, greasing palms and uttering meaningless oaths. His vanity, his sense of his place in history, will have to settle for the obsequious apologetics of the BBC, for whom Iraq was, at worst, a 'slip'.