Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lost Opportunities of 9/11
Many countries, peoples and movements lost opportunities due to the events of 9/11. Either that or they left opportunities untouched. The losers come from all points of the geographic and political spectrum. As I said I'd like to explore what was lost. This will be in no particular order, and what is said below doesn't mean that I approve of the ultimate goals of any of the collection of losers that I will present. When I do I'll try and make it as plain as possible.
So, beginning in the refrain of "I could do it better", let's look at the self interests of the American Empire. This whole matter is actually quite well hashed out in the popular and intellectual press of many different countries, and I don't expect that I'll say anything new here.
The American government was presented with an unprecedented "gift" by the events of 9/11. This was perhaps the ONLY time since the second world war that the USA received pretty well universal sympathy, at least from other governments-both "friends" and "competitors". Even Cuba. More determined and ideological opponents such as Iran maintained a polite silence. The sympathy was actually pretty reflective of public as opposed to government opinion in most countries as well. Even in the Middle East those who "celebrated" the attacks were a distinct minority, and the general population rejected them for at least "tactical" reasons.
It's perhaps symptomatic of the decline of politics in a worldwide sense that the American government had a George Bush at the helm in this moment rather than a person who could act as a "statesman". The era of the "statesman" has really been over for some decades. To my knowledge there is only one such item in power today. I imply no sympathy for the decaying dictatorship which he tends when I nominate Castro for this accolade. His junior partner, Chavez of Venezuela, is more of a clown and megalomaniac than old Fidel, and he hardly inspires the "vision" that old Fidel's revolutionary model did when it was still vital. the only other living statesman that I can think of is the retired Nelson Mandela.
Talent simply doesn't come to the halls of power anymore. A truly statesman-like American president could have parlayed the sympathy the USA received because of the events into a much more refined project for the "second American century" that American ideologues dream of. The configuration of events might have been rather different than what we see today. There was no reason why Saddam Hussein could not have once more become the American puppet he once was, and why he could not have become the regional counterweight to the ideologues of Iran that is so lacking today. The history of the American imperium has been marked for decades by alliances of convenience. Deadly communist foes such as China or the Kymer Rouge have ended up receiving American support just as surely as Saddam once did.
No doubt the imperium would still be an empire, with all that implies, but you can be assured that its machinations would be better covered with the cloak of "ethics" and "multilateralism" than the shredded image that America projects today. Those in control of the US government at the time were blinded by their ideology. From a simple real-politic point of view they can be seen as the intellectual pygmies they are when placed beside a truly intelligent advocate of the American Empire such as Henry Kissinger. Even more they were blinded by hubris, by an almost total overestimation of their power and even popularity. It would be hard to imagine Kissinger making such a mistake. Detente with China occurred because the US government of the time realized in a totally realistic way that it could not afford to wage a cold war against BOTH the Soviet Union and the PRC. There was a realistic understanding of the limits of American power that is lacking in the present American rulers.
Middle Eastern oil could have been much more securely in the American pocket with BOTH Iraq and Saudi Arabia as client states. The crusade against Islamic fundamentalism would be far more effective with Saddam's coterie of murderers on the American side. With the diversion of American forces and interests from the latter to the former objective BOTH objectives have now become exceedingly precarious. The reaction of the "Arab street" that the USA's actions constitute a crusade against "all" of Islam has been echoed by a loss of sympathy amongst non-Islamic countries. They can plainly see that the ultimate targets of America's wars in the Middle East is actually their own economies. Very few world government leaders express this bluntly, but it is an unstated reality behind growing scepticism elsewhere, whether in Europe, China or Russia.
Once more, the USA could have gained from the opportunity presented by the events of 9/11, but they foolishly frittered away their advantage by overstepping sensible limits on the reality of their power. They were one loser. The conservative movement in the USA mirrored this debacle on a domestic scale. The invasion of Iraq destroyed an opportunity that they had to become hegemonic in domestic politics- perhaps for decades to come. The liberal opposition has made a comeback because the conservatives were too foolish and arrogant.
These opportunities that were lost will never come again short of the success of Al Queda in actually deploying a real weapon of mass destruction- less likely than some Americans imagine- or a total loss of realism on the part of a future Iran armed with nuclear weapons. this is also unlikely for a number of reasons. Given the probable course of events in the near future the lost will never be recovered.
More on other losers later.

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