File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0104, message 1


Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 17:29:24 +0100
Subject: BHA: Wallerstein on Bush and Macho Militarism


Comment No. 61, Apr. 1, 2001

"The Militarist Camp in the U.S."
by Immanuel Wallerstein

George W. Bush has made it quite clear, quite rapidly, that his
Administration will govern the United States as far to the right as
it politically can. How far can it? To answer that, it is not enough
to look at the balance of political forces between the Democrats
and the Republicans. Most commentators seem to emphasize how
closely the two parties are balanced at the moment in the U.S.
Congress. This is the wrong way to look at it. The fact is that this
is the first time in forty years and only the second time since 1932
that the Republican Party has controlled the Presidency and both
Houses of Congress. Numbers of bills that the Republicans favored
in the last six years and for which they had the votes in Congress
were either vetoed by Clinton or were withdrawn in the face of a
threatened veto. The Republicans are today in a relatively strong
position, despite the closeness of the presidential election and despite
the narrow margins they have in the legislature.

The real political question to look at is potential struggles within the
Republican Party. Thus far, Bush has been able to hold the factions
together, but can this last? Throughout the post-1945 period, there
have always been three quite different constituencies that have made
up the Republican Party: the economic conservatives, the social
conservatives, and the macho militarists. Of course, many individuals
are all three, but most persons give priority to one of the three thrusts.
And therein lies the problem for the Republicans.

The economic conservatives are mostly businessmen and their cadres
plus high-earning professionals. Their priority at the moment is to reduce
their tax burden and to resist any effort to force enterprises to internalize
their costs (via ecological legislation). With amazing rapidity, Bush has
indicated that he will fight very hard for everything this constituency
wants. And they seem clearly to be his personal priority. He may not get
everything he wants in tax reduction. But he will probably get almost
everything he wants in restricting environmental protection, since a large
part of what is needed to be done requires the action of the Executive
branch of government. He has already repealed a good deal of what
Clinton tried to put into effect in the closing days of his administration.
And he has shut the door definitively on the Kyoto Protocol. To the
Europeans (and Canadians) who are unanimously very upset, he has
said unequivocally that the interests of U.S. businessmen are his first
concern.

The social conservatives have played an increasingly important role in
Republican politics over the last 25 years, due to the mobilization of the
Christian Coalition. Bush has gone out of his way to make serious gestures
to meet their demands. He has reinstated the ban on giving any money to
any international organization that indicates in any way that it favors
abortions. He has appointed one of them as the Attorney-General, a key
post. And he has in effect promised that his Supreme Court appointments
would be ones they would favor. But he may not be able to get those
appointments ratified. We shall see. However, in matters of new legislation,
he has in effect told the social conservatives that they must do the work
themselves to get the bills passed, and that, if they succeed, he promises
to sign them. But it seems he is not going to spend too much of his own
political ammunition in an effort to achieve these ends.

The joker in the pack is macho militarism. In a few short months, the
Bush administration has managed to take on the entireworld. Whereas
the Clinton administration seemed to think that U.S. interests were served
by calming down conflicts across the world (to be sure, in ways that the
U.S. found comfortable), the Bush people seem almost to be stoking up
the conflicts. They have said that a lot more has to be done about Saddam
Hussein. They have withdrawn from mediating Israel/Palestine, and
have shifted from a covertly pro-Israel position to an overtly pro-Israel,
anti-Arafat position, They have flexed their muscles with the Canadians
and the West Europeans by telling them in no uncertain terms that the U.S.
will proceed with the new missile defense proposals, and have shown little
interest in maintaining the old U.S.-Russian nuclear treaties, saying they
are outdated. They have downgraded the Russians from being a potential
ally to being again a potential enemy. They seem to be on the point of
giving Taiwan the kind of arms they want and which the Chinese have
made clear it is their priority for them not to get. As for easing anything
on the Cuba embargo, forget it.

And of course, as I wrote in Comment No. 60, they seem determined to
keep North Korea as an active enemy. This last posture has upset the
European Union so much that they have sent a special delegation to
North Korea, presumably to see if Europe could supply some of the
financial assistance that the U.S. is clearly no longer ready to negotiate.

Romano Prodi, the President of the European Union Commission, has
already accused the U.S. of failing to act like a "world leader" because
of its narrow nationalist attitudes on the question of global warming.
Mr. Bush seems oblivious. In his Press Conference on Mar. 29, there
occurred the following extraordinary exchange:

   Question: "Mr. President, allies of the United States have complained
   that you haven't consulted them sufficiently on your stance with
   negotiations with North Korea, Kyoto Treaty, your deteriorating
   relations elsewhere. If you strictly read the international press, it looks
   like everyone's mad at us. Mr. President, how do you think that came
   to be? And what, if anything, do you plan to do about it?"

   Answer: "Well, I get a completely different picture, of course, when I
   sit down with the world leaders."

   Bush then went on to say on the carbon dioxide issue that "we will not
   do anything that harms our economy, because first things first, are the
   people who live in America. That's my priority."

Is it really true that Bush is unaware of the fact that everyone is mad at
the U.S., or does he not care? This is where the macho militarists come in.
This group believes that power talks, and that if the U.S. doesn't act tough,
it will lose everything - its power, its wealth, its centrality in the world-
system. They don't want to settle conflicts; they want to win conflicts.
And if it requires a little military action here or there, they are ready and
eager.

The big question is, are the American people eager or even ready? And
even more important for Bush, are the businessmen, who are his basic
support group and the group to which he owes his loyalty, ready?
Because, although military armaments generate a lot of profits (Shaw
explained all this wonderfully in Major Barbara), it is also true that
unnecessary wars interfere with capitalist profits in many different ways
(Schumpeter always argued this). One of the major reasons why Clinton
(and before him Bush the father) improved relations with China was
the pressure of Republican businessmen, who wanted to invest and trade
there. And it was Republican farm interests which pressed Clinton to
ease the Cuban embargo. The militarist wing of the Republican Party
runs against the grain of the economic conservative wing (or at least a
part of it).

So the macho militarists may find arrayed against them not merely those
they regard as their enemies (say, China and Russia) and the major U.S.
allies but perhaps some major transnationals and other large U.S. businesses.
This may cause Bush to rein in the macho militarists, because if he doesn't
they might escalate the provocations. Is Bush strong enough to do this?

Teddy Roosevelt, unabashed spokesman of U.S. imperialism, advised
"Speak softly and carry a big stick." The Bush administration is not
following this advice. They are speaking quite loudly indeed. But what
is the size of their stick?




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