/ downfalls / predictable /
From the moment the drums of war started beating in preparation of the invasion of Iraq, I was bugged by what seemed to me to be an incomprehensible element about this whole affair: it didn't make sense from the standpoint of what is commonly called "US interests". These interests (which have generally, little to do with the US population - apart from certain elites) include the facilitation of american corporate expansion and domination abroad and domestically, or the imposition of American military authority over some maverick state threatening to become a bad example, or any of the many facets of the dirty work required in order to maintain global hegemony. This war could not achieve anything remotely similar.
The war was for oil (among other things) all right, but not for the large oil companies. The large oil corporations certainly could forsee (or at least fear) the destabilizing influence this sort of intervention would have in the broader region. It would be vastly preferable, one guesses, to arrange a transformation of the Baathist regime from a despicable tyrrany to an unfortunately violent ally, or indeed ensure that some gestures were made in "democratizing" Iraq. This sort of thing has happenned before and there was no reason (if the interests of Big Oil were guiding this invasion) to do it differently this time. This, even if the scale of the Iraqi resistence could not have been predicted, was evident even before the invasion, and was the point of an article by Yahya Sadowski in Le Monde Diplomatique back in April 2003, in which he claims that small American independent oil companies, and not the majors, stand to benefit from the Iraq adventure (which has since gone wrong in more ways than anyone could have dreamt possible in 2003).
Nor is there any obvious way that this war stands to benefit immediate "US interests" in the broader sense, since exporting destabilization, war and terror, over the worlds largest oil reserves, is hardly in the interests of the major financial elites in either side of the Atlantic - and the fact that the generally compliant and servile French and German governments would not let themselves be dragged into this mess, backed in this stance by near unanimous domestic support, suggests that, apart from the obvious political unacceptability of this last war (which was a very hard one to sell and even harder to justify as Tony Blair found out), there was a very large part of the European elites that saw no benefit to be gained at all by this war. Given that there exists a broad section of the Western elites that is internationalized, the European unwillingness to cooperate with the US in the Iraq war, can be seen as an indication that these transatlantic financial/political elites (which were dominant during the Clinton years) were not at all happy with the way things developed in Iraq, in Europe or the US - that the Bush cabal was in fact an abberation rather than a continuation of standard imperialist policy. Indirect evidence for this is the American media's less than wholehearted support for this war (certainly in comparison with previous and recent military adventures which were unwaveringly supported).
Well... I'm, happy to say that the great marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm seems to have a much more coherent version of the same general train of thought, in his latest article in the Guardian, of which I quote the conclusion:
...All the great powers and empires of history knew that they were not the only ones, and none was in a position to aim at genuinely global domination. None believed themselves to be invulnerable.
Nevertheless, this does not quite explain the evident megalomania of US policy since a group of Washington insiders decided that September 11 gave them the ideal opportunity for declaring its single-handed domination of the world. For one thing, it lacked the support of the traditional pillars of the post-1945 US empire, the state department, armed services and intelligence establishment, and of the statesmen and ideologists of cold war supremacy - men like Kissinger and Brzezinski. These were people who were as ruthless as the Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes... They had devised and managed a policy of imperial hegemony over the greater part of the globe for two generations, and were perfectly ready to extend it to the entire globe. They were and are critical of the Pentagon planners and neo-conservative world supremacists because these patently have had no concrete ideas at all, except imposing their supremacy single-handed by military force, incidentally jettisoning all the accumulated experience of US diplomacy and military planning. No doubt the debacle of Iraq will confirm them in their scepticism.
Even those who do not share the views of the old generals and proconsuls of the US world empire (which were those of Democratic as well as Republican administrations) will agree that there can be no rational justification of current Washington policy in terms of the interests of America's imperial ambitions or, for that matter, the global interests of US capitalism.
It may be that it makes sense only in terms of the calculations, electoral or otherwise, of American domestic policy. It may be a symptom of a more profound crisis within US society. It may be that it represents the - one hopes short-lived - colonisation of Washington power by a group of quasi-revolutionary doctrinaires. (At least one passionate ex-Marxist supporter of Bush has told me, only half in jest: "After all, this is the only chance of supporting world revolution that looks like coming my way.") Such questions cannot yet be answered.
It is reasonably certain that the project will fail. However, while it continues, it will go on making the world an intolerable place for those directly exposed to US armed occupation and an unsafer place for the rest of us...