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Jul 31, 2014|
America faces the emergence of a multipolar world — and a check on its self-delusion.
Few nations better embody the sense of humorless infallibility than the United States and Israel. Righteous. Infallible. Heedless. It's no surprise these two practitioners of state terror (a concept they both deny) are held to be the world's greatest threats to peace. Indeed, thanks in part to those two military juggernauts, our new century has been little more than a chronicle of extremism... And all the strains seem to have converged after the atrocity of the twin towers.
Social geographer David Harvey has noted how, after September 11th, George Bush made numberless speeches about America's unexampled role in the world. He could have launched an Interpol-style police investigation into the atrocity. That would have meant bringing criminals to justice without resort to the heavy weaponry and their inevitable corollary, the slaughter of innocents. How banal. He could have recognized Al Qaeda wasn't a country, but a militant gang of ultras. How unimaginative. Instead Bush and his grotesque cabal of ideologues converted their victim status into a mandate to broaden the scope of American imperialism. Notice here how Bush interpreted 9/11 as an assault on our freedoms rather than what it was — a brutal riposte to our foreign policy.
Bush rhetoricalized it then as an “opportunity to further freedom's triumph over its age-old foes.” He intoned, with his absurd gravitas, that “the United States welcomes its responsibility to lead in this great mission.” Note the hubris. A mission to expand freedoms — self-declared. The “responsibility” to lead the mission — self-appointed. Napoleon crowning himself emperor. The world is left to observe and applaud and approve. After all, these were the “universal values of the human spirit,” or so said the emperor as he was issuing his holy writ.
Bush's pomposity naturally included the supernatural. Where else did he unearth the notion of infallibility but from the pulpit of fundamentalism? Like plenty of presidents before him, he invoked Yahweh. This clues us to the origin of American exceptionalism. Is it anything other than a secularized version of the chosen people narrative of Judaism? Draw a direct line from the Torah to the New Testament, transmuted through the seductive prose of the King James Bible, ingested like “daily bread” by millions of Americans for two centuries. There's the bloodline. The lineal path.
As a mouthpiece of exceptionalism, Obama is no less committed than Bush. He may even invoke our special status more frequently. He mentions the deity less. But he shares with his predecessor the belief that, “millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their liberty.” If that is your belief, and you are emboldened by a sense of your own eminence, then why not occupy Iraq, invade Afghanistan, obliterate Libya? Why not destabilize Syria and Ukraine? Why not drone bomb Yemen and Pakistan and Somalia? Why not permit a little housekeeping in Gaza?
Uprising in the districts
But the world is tired of this world-historical insolence. This needless contempt for cooperation. The portents of change are all there. Witness the 30-year fossil fuel deal cut between Russia and China, to be denominated perhaps in petro-rubles. Watch BNP Paribas call for de-dollarization. Note Europe's distaste for sanctions against its Slavic fuel provider. See the surprise electoral wins of anti-austerity parties such as Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece. Then look at the latest news: Unable or unwilling to pose a military challenge to the almighty American behemoth, the formidable economic block known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) have chosen a different tack: the launch of the BRICS bank, an end-run around the U.S.-dominated Bretton Woods institutions. The BRICS represent some 41 percent of the people on earth, but comprise 11 percent of IMF votes. No wonder Brazil's Dilma Rousseff chides them.
The BRICS will loan for third-world development and economic stabilization. They will lend in their own currencies—rubles, rupees, renminbi. They may invite the other luckless victims of Western imperialism to join the party. Mexico, Argentina, Indonesia. Hopefully the BRICS will attach fewer and less extractive conditionalities to their loans. Otherwise, the world will simply be exchange one jailer for another.
If left economists can be believed, this is a serious challenge to the cornerstone of American empire—its fiat currency. As owner of the global reserve currency, the U.S. can print money, flog bonds, and finance its holy wars. Yet in the wake of this obvious threat to the dollar hegemony, the West is comically blind to its own frailty. Indeed the IMF, according to a recent study, has been adding conditions to its loan facilities, despite the PR whitewashing about a lending rethink.
But this is no surprise. Like an aging thief in a B-movie telling his girl, “Just one more job. Then I'm out!” the IMF bankers are conducting a last-ditch smash-and-grab amid the collapsing scenery of global economics. Under cover of recession. Reminiscent of the ethnic cleansing carried out under cover of the NATO bombing of Kosovo in the late nineties.
Seventy-eight straight days of purification. Now the bankers' cutpurse spree draws to a close. At least the solidarity of the BRICS suggests as much. Such a simple thing—solidarity. If only American workers would acquaint themselves with the concept.
This is good news. A multipolar world is better than the unipolar one we've been living in. Counterweights are a hedge against extremism. Without them — watch out. Look at America run amok even as the Soviet rubble still smoked. Look at Israel, militarily unopposed in the Middle East. No one dare attack it for fear of nuclear extermination. How does it behave in light of this unspoken sanction? With total impunity, from total extremism. Naturally.
Perhaps a BRICS wall will provide the same kind of cautionary check that the Berlin Wall used to and reign in the frothing imperialism of the world's self-proclaimed policeman. Perhaps it will slow the rabid extremism of the U.S. deputies in Tel Aviv. Force the West back to the table of rational discourse. We need that check. Not a new empire, but a counterpoint to ours. Like Wall Street finance, we've proven ourselves incapable of self-policing. Capitalism seems to encourage indiscipline. We must be somehow made to respect our boundaries. Our recent history is nearly a personification of Christopher Hitchens statement that, “There's always some mediocre jerk who knows what's best for you.” Just think. Free market neoliberalism in Mesopotamia. A reconstituted Baathist-free army in Baghdad. Puppet kleptocracy in Kabul. A police state in the Sinai. An unelected human-rights trampling cabal in Honduras. A rabidly anti-poor capital class in Caracas. Nazi sympathizers in Kiev. Where haven't we subtly offered our unsolicited advice and then provided the funds and guns to bring it to be? But times have changed. A specter is rising on the peripheries of empire. The call rings out: BRICS of the world, unite!