Pax Americana: The Global Domination of the USA

Coming so soon after US triumphs in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, the Dayton peace accord underlines the immense power of the USA. The “New World Order” conjured up by George Bush in 1990 seems now to have come into being. Now that the Bosnians, the Serbians, the Croats and above all their various European masters have been bombed to the peace table by the US (sorry, NATO) jets, it is unquestionably an American order. However it is not without its stresses and strains.

The USSR collapsed because it could no longer fund an arms race on a stagnant economy. By the same token the end of the Cold War left the USA with the biggest peacetime debts in history. The USA had already been screaming at its NATO partners for years to try to get them to pay more for the defence of Europe. Once the USSR collapsed the USA began to review its real interests. The first of these was to reassert control over the Middle East. The USSR had been almost totally absent from the region. Even Syria, its most reliable ally, had been in negotiations with the USA since 1982 (and helped re-establish peace in Lebanon for US imperialism). The new threat came from Iraq.

Iraq had been armed and supported by the CIA and encouraged to attack the USA’s number one enemy in the region. Iran in 1980. It was a decade which bled Iraq white and its leadership had nothing to show for it at the end. The possibility of retaking Kuwait (hived off from Iraq by the British between the wars) seemed a cheap solution and the Iraqi ruling class believed that the US had agreed to this. The invasion of Kuwait was a challenge which the US could not ignore. It was essential that the US maintain control of world oil prices (see Workers Voice 54). It was also essential that the whole world should recognise that the Cold War was over and the US would not hesitate to act decisively to meet any challenge to its global authority. Communists did not need to wait until the retreating Iraq army was barbecued in their tens of thousands to know that the new imperialist order would not be a great deal different from the previous one. With Iraq reduced to rubble and its people facing ruin there could be no mistaking the US message.

The US ruling class however also wanted to ensure that the budget deficit, a product of the Cold War, would be reduced. The debts of the US hang like an albatross around their necks. This debt is not sustainable in the long term and something has to be done about it sooner or later. The ‘sooner’ idea of the US is to try to dominate the world’s arms sales. Although arms production creates no new value for capitalism as a whole (since they cannot be eaten or consumed and they don’t get used to produce other goods) selling arms to others means that their surplus value can end up in the coffers of the arms sellers and they pay the costs of unproductive expenditure. It is not surprising therefore to hear that the US is freezing most of its old NATO allies out of lucrative arms and building contracts in the Gulf (and this after getting the Saudi, German and Japanese ruling classes to stump up cash to pay for the Gulf War). All over the globe US arms sales are leaping to fill the gap left by the collapse of the USSR. The demonstration of US air power in both Baghdad and Bosnia were excellent promotionals for this trade (why buy Mirage when you can get Phantom?). As the graph shows US arms sales are not only at the expense of the USSR but at the expense of its NATO allies.

Which brings us back to Bosnia. The initial US response was to leave the collapse of Yugoslavia to its European allies. The US assumed that they would not only share US perceptions about the need to keep Yugoslavia together but that they would all have a united policy on this. But this illusion was rudely shattered when Germany bulldozed the European Community ministers into recognising the breakaway states of Slovenia and Croatia (see article in this issue). The US itself, embarrassed by its less than successful roles in Haiti and Somalia hoped to allow others to do the fighting and dying to preserve a world fit for US exploitation. But the splits between the pro-Serbian British and French ruling class and the pro-Croatian German state soon became obvious. Whilst the British and French basically prevented any serious attacks on Serbs in Bosnia, the Germans were secretly rearming the Croats through Hungary. Croat ministers had gone to Budapest to buy arms (which came from the old German Democratic Republic) even before Croatian independence was declared. The consequence of these manoeuvres was that a quarter of a million civilians were killed. The US was at first stunned by the German effort to carve out its own niche in ex-Yugoslavia. German policy had, in fact, made a nonsense of the tactic support the US has given to the Franco-British line of appeasing the Serbs. However all this time a major rethink was going on inside the White House and the Pentagon.

We have already analysed (in Workers Voice 79) how the US completely undermined all the UN resolutions (secretly arming the Bosnian Government for a start) in order to impose a solution suitable to itself. After Germany had destroyed the basis for Yugoslavia, like Humpty Dumpty, could not be put together again. The policy that emerged was stunning in its cynicism. The US would now cooperate with Germany to rearm and train the Croatian Army provided the Croats formed a loose dual state with the Bosnians. The Croats accepted this and US aid flowed faster. US propaganda now highlighted Serbian atrocities at places like Srebrenica whilst US Generals even planned the Krajina campaign. In addition NATO air strikes would be used to destroy Serbian artillery (the main strength of the Bosnian Serbs). Holbrook, the US negotiator, was also sent to Belgrade to do a deal with Milosevic (who was desperate to have sanctions on Serbia lifted). Milosevic was, in any case disillusioned by the disloyalty of his former protégés, the Bosnian Serb leaders, Karadzic and Mladic. He agreed not to support the Krajina Serbs in the event of a Croatian attack. This would allow the Croats to retake territory which Milosevic realised was, in any event, too isolated to be defended. The Dayton agreement was already agreed by Milosevic before he left Belgrade. The problem was to get the Bosnians to accept it. The new statelet of Bosnia would only be semi-autonomous from Belgrade. This was not what Izetbegovic had thought of when he proclaimed Bosnia’s separation from Yugoslavia. But what else could the Bosnian ruling class do? With the promise of US economic and military aid and no othe rally in view it takes no special insight to see why the Bosnians were forced to sign.

The use of NATO and the bombings of the Serbians reasserted US global supremacy. British, French and German rulers have been forced to flounder along in the wake of the US trying desperately to salvage what they can for their own interests. For the time being there is no doubt that the arbiter of global interests, the USA, has no rivals. The establishment of “peace” in Ireland, in the Middle East and in Bosnia are all at the behest of the imperialist interests of the USA. Never in history has one state been so powerful. But history never stands still. The economic crisis which has led to global stagnation for twenty years has left its mark on the USA. The mountains of debt can only be bailed out by getting foreigners to buy more and more US bonds. The US economy is so dependent on arms sales (see table above) that further war is actually in its economic interests (irrespective of its need to continually reassert its supremacy). Thus the new world order, far from being a new era of peace is in fact the opposite. New conflicts and new wars are all that capitalism has to offer. In this respect Pax Americana is like Pax Romana. Unless the peace is on US terms there will be further conflict. Now that the European powers have been humiliated separately we cannot discount the prospect of a real European alliance emerging which would no longer play the US’ tune. But that is as yet some way off. At the moment there is no arguing about the current domination of US power in almost every important area of the planet.


Friday, December 1, 1995

Revolutionary Perspectives

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