On the Brink of War

Monday, 10th October 2016

As we stand on the brink of World War Three over Russian involvement in the Syrian quagmire, our mainstream media feeds us with a steady diet of disinformation about the true causes of death and destruction in the Middle East while entertaining us with juicy stories of sexual misconduct of US presidential candidates. In one of the most controversial elections in recent American history, US voters face a choice between a flamboyant billionaire entrepreneur and a puppet of billionaire bankers and autocratic oil sheiks.

Sometimes in life you have to choose the lesser of two evils, make a pragmatic choice to prevent an outcome that could literally kill tens of millions and enslave billions. As the saying goes: better the devil you know than the devil you don't. The trouble is which candidate is more likely to lead us to unchartered territory? I’ve probably spent much of my adult life opposing the military adventurism of the world’s strongest superpower, the United States of America, as well as the wasteful mass consumerism that its leading big businesses promote worldwide. In other ways, I was glad to see the demise of despotic Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the temporary triumph of the liberal values of intellectual freedom and personal liberty. It’s hard to reconcile the apparent fairness of collectivism with the freedom of individualism, i.e. the right to keep the government out of your private life, a kind of personal or familial right of self-determination. A minimalist state simply ensures free people can conduct business in a peaceful and respectful way, namely it enforces property rights and outlaws obvious evils such as murder and theft. In practice Adam Smith’s concept of a laissez-faire free market has never existed. Capitalism, as Marx correctly observed, tends towards oligopolies. Nonetheless, in theory at least during the Cold War years of my youth, Western countries allowed individuals, families and small communities greater freedom to do their own thing, provided they did not infringe the rights and privacy of others. If you want to live in a vegan naturist hippy commune, that’s fine as long as you respect your neighbours’ wishes not to hear your loud music or see you frolicking around your front garden stark naked. If you want to roam the countryside on your motorbike, that’s also fine as long as you respect other people’s privacy and lifestyle choices. A prosperous country with plenty of open space and resources can more easily afford to grant its people greater personal freedom and that includes freedom of religious and philosophical expression. My ideal world would maximise social justice, individual freedom and environmental responsibility. But only a fool would pretend that pursuing one goal, such as social justice, does not have trade-offs.

Some may wonder what the world would be like today if the Soviet Union had won the great battle of ideologies over Western Capitalism, as we called it. In truth it could not have won, because its inflexible command economy and coercive state administration stifled the kind of competitive technological innovation that spearheaded the micro-computer revolution and led to previously unimaginable levels of industrial automation and efficiency. Whatever its comparative advantages, the Soviet Union simply failed to deliver the goods. Mysteriously the Communist Party of China remained firmly in control as it embraced one of the most virulent forms of free market capitalism that has enriched a growing class of billionaire entrepreneurs reliant on a massive oversupply of obedient loyal workers accustomed to very low wages. Since the late 1980s, China has retained its status as one of the USA’s most favoured trading partners. Big business positively loves the Chinese model with fewer inconvenient environmental regulations, but a much more compliant workforce. All the big North American and European players from Microsoft, Apple, Monsanto, VW, General Motors to Siemens have a big presence in China.

I’ve long remained largely agnostic about most US presidential elections. Both Democrat and Republican administrations have pursued the same meddlesome foreign policies. The Clinton Administration continued to enforce a no-fly zone over Iraq and impose sanctions that cost as many as a million lives during the 1990s and pursued disastrous interventions in the Balkans under the pretext of humanitarianism. I seriously doubt if Al Gore had won the 2000 Presidential Election, that hawks in the State Department would not have driven the US to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Any disagreements between mainstream Democrats and Republicans were strategic, not substantive. In the event both Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton supported the invasion of Iraq. Then 6 years later when Hillary became Secretary of State, she oversaw the destabilisation of Libya and Syria by arming and funding rebel militias to unseat stable, but admittedly, autocratic regimes, with whom the West used to do business. The 1993–2000 Clinton administration successfully sold the concept of humanitarian bombing as part of a new era of global harmony, in which transnational corporations and supranational organisations would come together to build a better future. We need only look at their marketing campaigns. Barrack Obama simply campaigned on the need for change, without specifying just what such change might involve. Eight years later Hillary Clinton has seemingly recycled a slogan for the EU Referendum “Stronger Together”. In hindsight I suspect historians will rate Barrack Obama as ineffectual half-hearted president who let lobbyists make all his key policy decisions. He had to placate the strong strand of conservative opinion in his country while promoting a radical agenda of socio-cultural change that clearly suited other lobbies.

The first thing that caught my attention on my first visit to the States in 1994 was the country’s unabashed nationalism. Patriot is not a boo word in America. Everyone claims to be a patriot and flies the Stars and Stripes with pride unconcerned about its possible association with a global empire. To an outsider the USA may be a hegemonic commercial and military superpower intent on projecting its influence on all other countries and cultures. To others it may be the ultimate bastion of freedom. Yet ordinary Americans, who often take great pride in their hyphenated heritage from other continents, seem pretty unconcerned about the rest of the world. The further you venture away from cosmopolitan metropolises, the more you become aware of the quaint traditionalism of many rural Americans. Do they want to bomb Syria to the stone age to impose a new regime that will allow multinational businesses unfettered access to new markets and spread the kind of consumer fetishism and narcissism that many religious Americans have learned to despise? The short answer is no, but they can be persuaded to support military action against the enemies of freedom, not least because many Americans are the descendants of those who fled autocratic regimes. These are the Americans who hesitated to support their government’s entanglement in the European wars of the first half of the 20th century, but seemed to happy to support a vast expansion of the military industrial complex to defeat the Soviet Union. Most conservative Americans support policies they believe will keep the government out of their lives, except to maintain essential infrastructure such as roads and schools. Yet it saddens me to report that the great American Dream of personal freedom and civic responsibility is dying and fast yielding to a new culture of rampant corporatism that works in tandem with big government to bring the entire global populace under its yoke.

As I watch hardly any mainstream TV, Donald Trump meant very little to me until late 2015. He comes across as an arrogant showman entrepreneur, often appealing to the lowest common denominator. Clearly his rhetoric talks to vast swathes of American public opinion that have lost faith in the mainstream liberal media, but lacks depth and panders to numerous lobbies and entrenched American prejudices. I instinctively distrust anyone who promises miracles without explaining how they intend to bring them about. In American English the adjective liberal denotes what we might call leftwing or even socialist on this side of the big pond. American liberals may theoretically support sexual freedom, especially if it promotes non-traditional family structures, but they also advocate greater government intervention and social regulation to pursue their goal of social justice and build a new society liberated from anachronistic prejudices and social attitudes. Invariably American liberals support higher levels of immigration. The USA is genuinely a country built on migration, but also on ethnic cleansing, partial genocide, slavery and unsustainable levels of consumption. If Making America Great Again means returning to the 1950s heyday of Middle Class prosperity, stable families and gas-guzzling automotive freedom, resembling the innocent hedonism portrayed in Happy Days, then millions of Americans will be very disappointed whoever wins the presidential election. Those times ain’t coming back folks, but one of Trump’s slogans does strike a chord, “Americanism not Globalism”.

In the early noughties alternative media widely reported Donald Rumsfeld’s Project for a New American Century. As we progress into the latter half of this century’s second decade, the balance of global power has shifted away from the United States to China, India, Russia and a new emerging global world order. The 20th century saw the demise the British and French empires and the rise of North American commercial and cultural power. Despite fluctuating commodity prices, every year the USA’s share of the global GDP has declined. While it accounted 27% of the world economy in 1950, by 2020 the USA will have just 14% of the global GDP despite a fast-growing population. While the top 5 to 10% have grown richer, the great middle class has been squeezed. Tens of millions of US citizens depends either on social welfare or on low pay, as traditional manufacturing jobs have fled abroad. While once America seemed to have an unlimited capacity to share its natural treasures with new waves of immigrants, it now relies on imported resources to sustain growing demand that has to sustain more people. Yet the country’s liberal elites do not care about defending the interests of working class Americans. They did not benefit from the three trillion dollars squandered on nation building in Iraq, except by delaying an inevitable transition away from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy and greater efficiency. They certainly will not benefit from the destabilisation of the Middle East and the never-ending flow of economic migrants and refugees desperate to experience the American Dream, only to be engulfed in a 21st century welfare ghetto.

Were I a US citizen, my conscience would probably tell me to vote for the green candidate Jill Stein. While she opposes US military adventurism and overconsumption, like her European partners, she favours relaxed immigration and panders to the vacuous agenda-setting politics of social justice (which basically means more social workers and greater social surveillance). I sincerely hope she takes more votes from idealistic Sanders supporters who might otherwise support Hillary Clinton.

George W Bush did not represent the true American conservative tradition. He may have pandered to this constituency by delaying social engineering milestones such as not allowing embryonic stem cells or gay marriage (both were just a matter of time), but he oversaw record immigration levels while recklessly attempting to impose neoliberalism on the Middle East. Ever since the 2008 banking meltdown the US economy has been powered largely by a mix Keynsian quantitive easing and the creative accounting of its high-tech multinationals, whose operations are now global and thus not affected with the parochial concerns of unemployed blue collar workers.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton’s handlers, such as banking billionaire George Soros, are much more concerned with neutralising strong nation states. The new bogeyman is Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The same media that sold us wars in various Central Asian and Middle East countries have found their new Hitler, who some conservative leaders are accused of appeasing. If you believe the CNN, the Guardian or countless books bemoaning a resurgent nationalist Russia, then Putin is set not only march into the Baltic States and Eastern Ukraine, but to conquer the Middle East via an alliance with Iran. Except Russia has no need of privileged access to their resources. It already has vast territory and natural resources as well as a highly educated citizenry and very low population density. Corruption may well be rife in Russia, but it is hardly absent from North America or Western Europe. If you’re concerned about grotesque human rights abuses, such as murdering gays or stoning adulterous women, look no further than Middle East or the Islamic parts of Africa and Asia. Why should American workers support their government’s obsession with deposing the secular regime in Syria by funding terrorists and potentially triggering a nuclear conflagration with a regional superpower, Russia, that does not threaten the security of American citizens ?

Which presidential candidate is most likely to lead the US to an all-out war with Putin? None other than George Soros’ s puppet. Whatever his faults, Donald Trump would be more likely to strike a deal with Russia to protect the US from the very real threats of Islamic fundamentalism and China’s growing economic dominance. Whoever wins, the era of American exceptionalism is over. The global elites support Clinton, but I doubt they have the best interests of ordinary American people at heart.

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