Reading the middle east: part 2

29 Jun

See also, Reading the middle east: part 1


Topping the returns for a search on “full spectrum dominance” is a wiki page citing Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

… the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. Its official declared policy is now defined as “full spectrum dominance”. That is not my term, it is theirs. “Full spectrum dominance” means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

Much has happened since 2005 of course: most glaringly the millions slain1 in US wars on the middle east after Iraq; illegal, but supported by all Western governments and – since even the pretence of pluralistic dissent must step aside2 on matters of non negotiable importance to the investor classes who truly rule – our market dependent and by that fact supine media. Equally important are the rise of China as economic superpower,3 Russia’s game-changing high speed missiles,4 and a systemic ineptitude5 which left US capitalism incapable of doing as a smart ten year old would have advised – sow discord between China and Russia.6 Rather, its every move has served to strengthen ties between its two most powerful challengers.

The rise of Eurasia, though long foreseen, has taken the West aback by its speed. This poses huge problems for a US capitalism in decline for decades, but able to compensate through:

  • an artificially strong dollar riding on what France’s Valery Giscard d’Estaing called the ‘exorbitant privilege’ arising from Bretton Woods 1944 and the ‘Nixon shock’ of 1971-3 which unilaterally decoupled dollar from gold, soon to be followed by the petrodollar system; 7
  • overwhelming military might;
  • control of the global economy in ways physicalnotably, like colonial Britain before it, of sea lanes – and regulatory – dominating WTO and IMF, and seeking coercive deals like the TTIP a corruptly secretive EC was ready to sign before being outed and forced to U-turn; 8
  • the export, since full spectrum dominance applies also to narrative, of a wholesome image of the American Way through news media and entertainment industries, both having the advantage, courtesy an earlier empire, of English being the world’s lingua franca.

But the speed of Eurasia’s rise has conspired with other factors – notably a hand hubristically overplayed since the ‘fall of the wall’; and the impact of social media 9 – to erode each of those advantages. This, and the fact that the arena of least erosion is military, is why the world is now so very dangerous.

Time to hand over to Professor Tim Anderson, formerly of Sydney University and author of one of the most important – perhaps the most important – book on what is being done to Syria. No need to reference it. Tim does that himself, along with two other seminal texts: one by Seymour Hersh (who decades ago fought a long and lonely battle to get corporate media to cover the My Lai massacre) and the other by Stephen Gowans (see Reading the middle east: part 1).

One last word before I do hand over. Like other principled academics, in a sector growing daily more corrupt through the triumph of market forces over freedom of inquiry and expression, Tim has paid a high price. This is from a dedicated wiki page:

In 2018, Anderson was investigated by his university for defending a badge worn by a former colleague which said “death to Israel”. Australian Education Minister Simon Birmingham described Anderson as an “embarrassment to academia” with “extreme views”, and the investigation was welcomed by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. Anderson wrote to the Australian Jewish News, after it published an article on the issue, saying he did not support the expressions on the badge [but] refused to censor a photo in which it appeared. He also wrote that he “opposed apartheid states” and believed the “racial state of Israel must be dismantled”.

In December 2018, he was suspended for showing students a Nazi swastika on the Israeli flag. On Facebook, Anderson called this “political censorship”. He appealed a decision to terminate his employment for “serious misconduct”, and was supported by several dozen colleagues. In 2019 the appeal was rejected by a majority of a three-member committee. Sydney University said the slide image was “disrespectful and offensive” and “contrary to the university’s behavioural expectations and requirements for all staff.”

A majority on a three member panel! Well, you’ll make up your own mind. But if you’ve read me thus far – indicating an attention span greater than that of a gnat with ADHD – you will not for a moment be bored by what Tim has to say in this masterful sixty-four minute video, setting out the context of the USA’s eight (or is it nine?) wars on the middle east.

All about oil? Can’t say – I don’t do spoilers.


* * *

  1. How many millions have been slain? Empirical quantification is nigh on impossible but any back-of-envelope reckoning must factor in not just the bombs, air strikes, funding of Sunni terror – what economist Michael Hudson called “America’s Foreign Legion” – and cancerous depleted uranium littering the middle east, but also lethal sanctions. Since we know from the UN, and Madeleine Albright’s infamous “worth it” claim, that Bill Clinton’s pre-invasion sanctions killed half a million under-fives in Iraq alone, we may take it that millions of Afghans, Africans, Persians and above all Arabs must have died at the hands of the USA, its junior partners and its proxies over the sixteen years since Pinter’s Nobel speech.
  2. Chomsky: ‘The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.’
  3. See my China-reads posts earlier this year.
  4. Russia’s new intercontinental ballistic missiles have thrown a massive spanner in the works for Pentagon planners. As noted in my post on the Biden-Putin summit: since the 2002 US withdrawal from the ABM treaty under George Bush, US policy had aimed at a first strike knocking out Russian ICBMs then rendering useless Russia’s residual nuclear forces, which could be shot out of the air by US anti-ballistic missile systems. But Russia’s new, maneuverable and ultra-high speed missiles could evade all known ABMs. Or to put it another way, in this the most pivotal of its theatres, full spectrum dominance is a fast receding goal.
  5. By ‘systemic ineptitude’ (I sometimes call it institutional stupidity) I refer to a truth first seen at my past employer and present legal adversary, Sheffield Hallam University, whereby conflicting interests and agendas conspire, despite the efforts of intelligent people, to subvert rational goals. (Be those goals benign, neutral or evil.) The subject interests me and I will write about it.
  6. One reading of the Biden-Putin summit is as overture to a clumsy attempt – too little and way too late – to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing.
  7. Bretton Woods (1944) formalised US emergence from WW2 (its ultimate outcome by then a foregone conclusion) as an economic superpower able to anchor a fiscal order to a gold linked dollar. (USSR observers refused to ratify. Anticipating d’Estaing, they called its institutions “branches of Wall Street”.) In 1973, needing to pay for Vietnam and fearing a run on the dollar by creditor states, Nixon took it off the gold standard Bretton Woods had committed it to. Soon after, the petrodollar system saw all oil trade conducted in US dollars. This sealed the Faustian Pact between Washington and Gulf rulers, most importantly the House of Saud, and guaranteed a demand for dollars regardless of the state of the US economy.
  8. TTIP serves as an object lesson in the folly of conflating national with class interests. Not only has this error periodically sent millions to their deaths in capital’s wars of profit and plunder. In the age of globalisation on neoliberal terms, relations between capital and state are transformed. TTIP, a conspiracy against US no less than European workers, is a case in point. I – a Brit in dread at what Brexit’s reckless implementation will bring – am filled with equal dismay by the ignorance of so many well intended and otherwise savvy people on the true nature of the EU. A nature revealed for all the world to see (save for an amnesiac and frankly racist fairy tale of German thrift versus Grecian fecklessness, swallowed wholesale by the credulous-whose-name-is-legion) in the 2015 meltdown. Here’s what I wrote at the time. I know a good deal more now, and blush at my uncritical endorsement of Klein and Monbiot, but stand by the main points. The glaring omission is a post-war European order, via Bretton Woods and Marshall Plan, which guaranteed Germany’s enrichment and – flip side of the same coin – Greece’s impoverishment. An admirably lucid account of how, in the face of less forward thinking (and/or more sentimental) sections of the US and Allied ruling classes protesting such “rewarding of the aggressors”, the Marshall Planners chose a yet to be divided Germany to lead capital reconstruction in Europe (and Japan in Asia), is given by Yanis Varoufakis in The Global Minotaur.
  9. I use ‘social media’ as metonym for a phenomenon going beyond Twitter and FB to include, most importantly, our access to media not controlled by the business model described in this post. I could dedicate a post to this, but here will pick out the media of states outside the US Axis, and the power to circulate, to the discomfiture of their authors, past deeds and utterances of politicians and corporate media alike.

5 Replies to “Reading the middle east: part 2

    • I wish the marx-leninist left, most of it scarcely better on the wars against the middle east than Guardian or BBC, would set aside the generalised criticisms – “stalinist” … “bourgeois nationalist” – of middle east states in the firing line. These all flow from utopian dreams of international solidarity with Iraqi/Libyan/Syrian workers and are at best foolish; at worst a cynical cop-out when they know that just isn’t going to happen.

      Dropping their ‘analytic frameworks’ to look more closely at what is happening on the ground might free them up to finally see the glaring evidential and logical flaws in the narratives of imperialism. Flaws set out by such as Tim Anderson and Stephen Gowans, and by the swelling ranks of experts – Scott Ritter, Peter Ford, Philip Giraldi, Michael Hudson and so many others – no longer prepared to back the tissues of lies emanating from London, Paris and above all Washington.

      • If only.

        As intimated in the June 26 post on the Pentagon’s apparent* embrace of CRT a significant part of what claims to be the ‘left/progressive’ is too busy lecturing everyone, to paraphrase Orwell, about not letting Jones (Trumpism) back into the farmyard to notice they’ve been sold a gingered up old nag of a narrative which they are enthusiasticly selling for the right.

        *’Apparant’ because it seems reasonable to argue that despite these narratives being sold as originating from the ‘left/progressivism’ their class solidarity destroying emphasis on an atomised reductive subjective individualism as the only legitimate ‘reality’ is clearly right wing and regressive in origin.

        To the extent that you end up with examples in the videos in this piece of so called and self styled/identifying “anti -fascists” dictating and enforcing the “right” of self chosen individuals to expose themselves to women and children in the name of progressivism and anti fascism:

        George Mc’s observation about agent provocateur’s springs to mind. And if these so called ‘Antifa’ numpties are not being directed by the security state I’ll eat a shit sandwich (available at any outlet of Subway by the way).

        Or this from another self-identifying ‘lefty’ who only six years ago was highlighting the way in which the Trioka of a US controlled neo- liberal EU was scewing over the Greeks and it’s left wing project but who is now reduced to creating straw men arguments and selling a Brexit version of Russiagate to advance the same neo- liberal narrative. All in the name of ‘progressivism.’:

        Too much subjective head in the clouds theorising rather than engaging with practical objective reality?

        Perhaps, in some cases. Though doubtless there will be a fair proportion, in addition to the usual UI’s, who know exactly what they are doing. They’ll be the ones enthusiastically playing Facebook’s, Big Tech, Corporate Media and the neo liberal State’s game of ‘shop the extremist.’

        All according to the imposed narrative’s exclusive definition of ‘extremist’ which will conveniently target anyone not fitting the proscribed criteria dependent upon which ‘gang’ is involved. Again as previously detailed on other posts from this site, the attack – including villification, no platforming, censoring and cancelling – of those not towing the narrow narrative lines, such as Greenwald et al (along with women, non Zionists, non conforming members of the LGBT community, class based socialists/anti-capitalists, etc) will be shoved under a bus just as much by so called progressives, like Democracy Now amongst others, as by the populist right.

        Probably more so as there’s no more intolerant of deviation from the one true subjective reality way than Puriton’s stealing the cloak of progressivism for what they think are their own ends.

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