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(en) Wildcat-Zirkular No. 64 - July 2002 - Global War for the World Order, Part II

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 12 Dec 2002 11:40:40 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

> (Part I is at: http://www.ainfos.ca/02/dec/ainfos00205.html)
September 11 did not change the world and marked
no change in era. It becomes more and more obvious
that it was crystallization point and catalyst for
developments which had started long before. While
the media present a struggle between "good" and
"evil," around capitalist civilization and Islam, or the
much-denounced anti-Semitism, in reality it has to do
with the perspective of a global system hitting its limits
in crisis; limits arising in the fact that in the
worldwide struggles against the prison of work
glimmer the possibilities of another world. For the
rulers and exploiters these limits mean that they
search ever more desperately for a "new world order,"
and, for that purpose, they hold open all the powerful,
military means of coercion at their disposal.

     Part II

The Way to War and the Search for Empire

Since the first part, in Wildcat Circular 61, half a year has
passed. New developments have put interest in the attacks
and Afghanistan in the background: Israel's occupation
politics and the United States's strained relations to the
Arab states; the escalation of the Kashmir conflict between
Pakistan and India, and the closely connected massacre of
Muslims in the Indian province of Gujarat; almost
simultaneously the fall of the energy giant Enron and the
uprising in the model neoliberal country, Argentina--with
all its ramifications on global capital valorization; the
announcement of a new nuclear strategy and pre-emptive
strike doctrine by the United States. Behind all these
political issues lurks the uneasy question whether the
boisterously proclaimed upswing in the US economy is
real, or whether the dollar will further dramatically break
down, and thereby drive the already-troubled world
economy over the edge.

Through these developments, however, it has also become
obvious how these pieces of a very confusing puzzle fit
together. The interesting thing about the "Enron scandal"
was not only the extent of the balance-sheet falsifications
and the involvement of a great part of the Bush
Administration in this firm, but its connections to the oil
business in Central Asia and India--which meant that,
suddenly, critical questions about 9/11 were posed. How
much did the president know beforehand? Some of this
must be addressed by an investigatory committee. And
what was served by the bombing of Afghanistan? With
that, there were critical questions about the brutality of the
war in Afghanistan, which had been taboo in the
American public.

It also becomes ever more obvious that Enron (see
Wildcat Circular 62) is no isolated scandal, but more like a
crystal ball that brought the collected facets of the fictive
upswing of the "new economy" to light. The fairytale
boom in the United States, which, after the Asian crisis of
1997-98 became the motor of the world economy, has
turned out to be a fraud of simulated growth, after the
long, drawn-out crash of the financial markets since
March 2000. It hangs on the silk thread of enormous
capital exports to the United States (see Wildcat Circular
55--article by Fred Moseley--and 56/57), which become
more and more questionable with the start of the collapse
of the dollar. The Bush-Cheney Administration, from the
oil business and Enron, was clearly aware of the
precariousness of this situation in summer 2001, and
permitted it a great role in their "foreign policy"
observations. Now Bush and his finance minister stress
almost desperately that they are holding fast to a strong
dollar--without thereby being able to impress capital

This has nothing to do with purely "economic" questions.
The traditional left divisions of "economic," "political,"
"military," etc., reintroduce the reifications that this social
system brings forth ideologically and that it needs for its
stability. The "economic" decline, a phenomenon legible
in terms of money and value relations, is only the isolated
and abstract side of a crisis of all life and the mode of
reproduction on this planet--a totality of relations, which
are fragmented by the dominant relations into "political,"
"cultural," "technical," etc., moments, in order to be able
to govern them individually.

Because today this totality stands in question, this crisis
cannot be grasped within the familiar schema of
"imperialist competition," even if this, before and after,
forms a moment in the developments. The question of a
"new world order" stands in the foreground, in the space in
which the old order of the "cold war" has dissolved,
without presenting any successors. The left discussions of
imperialism and "Empire" are expressions of a lack of
clarity, just like the rightist calls for a self-consciously new
imperialism or colonialism, increasingly floated since the
attacks. This lack of clarity arises not only on the question
of which constellation of powers could form the future
world order, but on whether any global order of capital, in
general, has any perspective to offer.

Excursus: Imperialistic Competition or Class

In the first part of this article it was stressed that the war in
Afghanistan is a moment of the imposition of class
relations and that oil is not simply some noncontroversial
use value but the principal lubricant of the contemporary
valorization process. The question of the distinct interests
of the United States, of the European economic bloc or
other countries, and of competition among diverse oil
firms was thus given short shrift. On the left, the
conjuncture, the course of the world, must be explained
with reference to competition, e.g., out of the economic
rivalry between the dollar- and the euro-zone.
Competition, with respect to "capital," will be opposed as a
determinate historical class relation. But competition and
class relations are two united moments of the capital
relation that determines our way of life. Capital, as an
antagonistic relation between producers and their own
objectified relations of production, is not a tangible object,
like a government or a firm. It is a historically transitory
structure in which the competing subjects move, with their
own respective interests. That means, inversely, that this
structure only maintains and develops itself in that
movement of competition.

The Afghan warlords, national governments or
international oil companies may think they are following
only their own special interests. They don't have to know
that they, with their murders and their expulsions, create
the preconditions of a capitalist economy. A government
can imagine that it follows only national goals, but as
capitalist state power it will always simultaneously be
driven to the safeguard capitalist relations. The
representation of competition doesn't reach far enough and
explains nothing if it doesn't go all the way down to the
general conditions for the reproduction of capital as a class
relation. The development of capitalist relations is fulfilled
constantly by competition, and it needs competition. The
essential result is, however, not the attainment of this or
that interest, but the simultaneously broader permeation of
capitalist relations--or not.

Otherwise, this general content is not nearly so unknown
to most of the members of the ruling class as one might
believe from the often-cited image of their predecessors
that Marx used in an ironic borrowing of Adam Smith's
"invisible hand": the one about the process fulfilling itself
"behind the backs of the participants." They know all too
well that their own luxury of continued existence is wholly
bound up with determinate social relations, and their
"hand" in events is all too visible. But what they can't
know is where the limits of their power lie. Because this
turns not on their own activity or subjectivity, but on
historical relations in which the mass of humanity
confronts its own collective power as something external
and alien.

The Taliban as an Instrument of Power Politics

In Afghanistan, the first contracts for the construction of a
gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan were
concluded at the end of May 2002--by an Afghan president
who came to office with the support of the United States
and who in the 90s was not only a CIA asset but also an
adviser to Texan oil firm Unocal, which had been working
on the pipeline--together with Enron! After the last
demonstrations of grief for the victims of 9/11 had
concluded, the press again spoke clearly. The last May
issue of BusinessWeek, under the title "The Next Oil
Frontier," brought a lead story on the front of "American
soldiers, oilmen and diplomats to Central Asia and
beyond." The magazine almost came over how short a
time it took the United States after 9/11 to be able to
expand its influence in this disputed region. In 1991 the
same magazine warned against rash hopes. The Taliban
itself was only a means in this geostrategic game and
belonged in the meantime also to its past history.

The phenomenon of the Taliban itself, as well as of its
climb to power, are no product of social developments in
that country. The newfangled reactionary form of its
Islamism arose under conditions of massive expulsions
and of life in the refugee camps of Pakistan. The local
Koran schools, the madrassahs, have a material function
for the poor, where they often present their only possibility
to give their male children regular meals, a roof over their
heads, and some sort of education. For refugees from
Afghanistan, the dependence on this possibility of
reproduction, for lack of anything better, was stronger than
for the Pakistani population. [1]

The madrassahs were financed by (oil)rich Islamic circles,
above all out of Saudi Arabia. So, the schools were
dependent on them, and instruments for their goals and
interests. What the madrassahs meant to the political
ascent of the Taliban is immediately legible in the events
of the war. Before decisive slaughters or in precarious
situations, the Taliban militias persisted through
thousands of new struggles, simply due to the fact that a
large madrassah was closed and the "students" were sent
to the front. Among them were not only Afghans, but also
youth from the Pakistani population. In addition, this
process of sending students to the front was a welcome
safety valve for the Pakistani government, with the social
pressure in its own country. The expansion of the
madrassahs and their use as a recruiting instrument was
not only tolerated by the Pakistani regime, but furthered as
a goal of its own interests.

The special religious ideology of the Taliban would not be
important in itself but rather would represent only one of
many Islamic sects--moreover, one of an orientation that
has never played an important role in Afghanistan. But its
reversion to a putatively historical strict Shariah, its
propagation of holy war and its uncompromising attitude
toward other ideologies or foreign organizations created an
identity and legitimation with which the remaining, hated
warlords in Afghanistan could distinguish themselves from
foreign intervening powers. This would hardly have
sufficed for them to establish themselves politically in
Afghanistan. In the first two years after their appearance in
1994 it remained a constant question whether they would
be able to entrench themselves.

>From the beginning, the accession to power of the Taliban
turned on the fact that they were assisted by other powers
as a possible enforcer of order. The dissolution of the
Soviet Union and the independence of the five Central
Asian countries with their now-open markets and
accessible resources created an interest in stability.
Afghanistan was now, in the eyes of many, no longer the
battlefield on which the USSR was driven out and worn
down, and on which simultaneously the social relations
were radically transformed (see Part I), but it became a key
position for the transport routes to Central Asia. The first
promoter and supporter of the Taliban was the transport
mafia of LKW Enterprises in Quetta (Pakistan) and
Kandahar (Afghanistan), which wanted to get a secure
transit route to Turkmenistan. The Taliban's first military
actions were on behalf of this local enterprise, to clear the
streets and secure the LKW convoys.

Isolated, the "student army" of the Taliban would have
been able to maintain itself neither financially,
organizationally nor militarily in Afghanistan over the long
term. They got through the first big slaughters only
because in 1995, with the help of the Pakistani domestic
intelligence agency, the ISI, they reorganized and had been
outfitted with vehicles and weapons from Pakistan and
Saudi Arabia.

By 1996-97, after they had brought a great deal of the
country under their control, they grew interesting for
internationally operating firms in the oil business, who
sought transport routes for oil and gas from Central Asia,
which was now independent of Russian control--and who,
if at all possible, did not want to go through Iran. The
Argentine oil concern Bridas and the Texan Unocal
negotiated intensely with the Taliban on this pipeline
project. Unocal hired the American energy company
Enron, which had a special interest in cheap gas from
Central Asia, to do a feasibility study. Bush's post-9/11
Afghanistan representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, who
recently directed the farcical loya jirga a bit too obviously,
worked up a risk analysis for a gas pipeline through
Afghanistan in June 1997 and mediated the negotiations
with the Taliban for Unocal.

Two Thwarted Attempts--"The Enron-Taliban-Cheney

Enron began the construction of a gas-powered electricity
plant in Dabhol, India, in the vicinity of Bombay, in 1992.
The $3 billion project was supposed to supply a fifth of
India's power needs by 1997. The Indian authorities were
not happy that the power created there would cost from
three to seven times more than power from other sources.
Even the World Bank had warned against the high cost
before the project. Enron enlisted US statesmen and
diplomats in 1994 and 1995 to pressure the Indian
government to continue the project--which they then
did--while the company itself paid bribes. Over the long
term, the project can only be profitable if Dabhol has a
cheap connection to Central Asian gas. In November 1997
the Taliban was in Houston at the invitation of oil firm
Unocal, and the project of a gas pipeline from
Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India
appeared to be a done deal.

But the negotiations dragged on and on. Their failure, in
most accounts, goes back to the attacks on August 7,
1998, on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and
the Clinton Administration's rocket attacks on the Bin
Laden camps in Afghanistan afterward. But two other
aspects are thereby hidden. In the construction of the
pipeline through Afghanistan, there was heavy
competition between the Argentine firm Bridas and the
American Unocal. The Taliban demanded during
negotiations not only license fees for the throughput but
also development of infrastructure and the possibility of
using the pipeline for Afghan energy requirements. Bridas
wanted to give these concessions, but they were denied by
Unocal. The Texan firm denied the Taliban's demands
and insisted on a pure transport deal. The second aspect is
the development of the oil price: In 1998 it had fallen, on
account of the Asian crisis, to a historic low of $13 a
barrel, with which the concern for cheap substitutes
lessened somewhat. Moreover, Saudi Arabian influence,
or, that of certain circles of the ruling family, played an
important role: The easier path to the Central Asian oil and
gas reserves would have further undermined the
already-broken dominance of Saudi oil production on the
world market.

Unocal dropped the pipeline project in 1998. Enron
produced more energy in Dabhol, but in May 2001 the
regional Indian electricity authorities ceased payment on
account of the prices being too high. Enron countered with
a demand for $64 million more in outstanding payments.

Second attempt: When Bush came to power with a
complete staff from the oil business, talks with the Taliban
on the pipeline would be taken up again--the last meeting
occurred four weeks before 9/11. At that meeting, the
US-American side is supposed to have made a statement
that has become famous in the meantime, that the Taliban
could choose between a red carpet or a carpet of bombs.
The oil price had dramatically increased in the meantime,
and had led to heavy social clashes in Europe and the
United States in summer 2001 (see Wildcat Circular 58).
Besides that, Enron had been one of the main financiers of
the Bush campaign, and as late as mid-2001 it was clear to
the heads of Enron that the collapse of the pyramid
scheme was near. The oil price, Enron, social conflict, the
perspective of a heightened dependence on Middle East oil
over the next decades, the Bush Administration's own
interests, and the situation of the stock exchanges and the
Internet economy--all this put Central Asia and its oil and
gas reserves back in the center of things.

Vice President Cheney, onetime CEO of the international
pipeline-construction firm Halliburton, which would have
participated in the construction of the Afghan pipeline,
met many times during the year with Enron CEO Kenneth
Lay--after the firm's bankruptcy, the subject of these talks
was thrown into the shredder, which momentarily
occupied the attention of most of the American public.
Parallel to the negotiations with the Taliban, the Bush
Administration sent a working group to Dabhol, which
was supposed to help Enron in the collection of its debts,
e.g., prepping Cheney before his trip to India in June 2001.
Enron offered to sell the power plant for $2.3 billion, which
could have been the firm's last chance, a postponement,
and it again put pressure on the Indians, with the backing
of the Bush Administration, to accept the price. Nothing
came of the sale. On November 8 Enron's collapse began,
as the firm had to admit millions and millions of dollars of
false turnover--on December 2 it declared bankruptcy.

The Crime of the Taliban--Its Failure as a State

The real problem the United States and other Western
countries had with the Taliban wasn't the presence of Bin
Laden, nor the Shariah, nor the oppression of women, nor
the cutting off of hands and feet--international oil firms
and Western governments from all over the world
managed to cope with all that, as long as the oil supply
was insured and the profits alright. The Taliban's mistake
was that they could not achieve the necessary stabilization
of the whole country and also could not enter into direct
collaboration with other countries in order to do so.

In 1991 the United States knew to abstain from destroying
the regime in Baghdad. While umpteen thousand simple
Iraqi soldiers were massacred while in retreat, they let
Saddam Hussein keep his elite troops so he could smash
the revolting Shiites and Kurds. The maintenance of
central state power was more important to the United
States than who ran it. With all the competition among
states, assuring that a state exists, as the elementary
framework of capitalist development and control, is a
concern common to the ruling classes of all countries. The
United States wanted to prevent Iraq from becoming a
"failing state" (this concept would first be discovered two
years later). Afghanistan was a "failed state," and the
Taliban had not fulfilled its assigned task of "nation
building (a euphemism for the imposition of a capitalist
state). Even administratively they had not risen to the task,
which showed itself perhaps most flagrantly in their
inability to establish their own currency. The Taliban
continued to draw banknotes from their military opponent

The Taliban could also call on no mass basis in the
population. Their military strength did not turn on any
ideological consensus, but rather hung on the mobilization
of the madrassahs, and the financial means to pay the
soldiers was supported by "volunteers" (sometimes paid
volunteers) from other countries. Moreover, they were
supported by a not inconsiderable number of Pakistani
soldiers and military advisers. In November 2001 this was
obvious, as Pakistan airlifted thousands of "its people"
from the city of Kunduz, under fire by the troops of the
Northern Alliance and the United States. The United
States objected in public, but had to allow it, so as not to
further weaken the regime in Pakistan.

The attitude of the population is difficult to assess, where
there is only sparse information available. In the western
part of the country, near the Iranian border, where the
Taliban came across as foreign rulers on the grounds of
their different language, they confronted a hostile
population, which opposed their incursions. For example,
in Heart, women demonstrated against the closure of
public baths. Here, the Taliban troops, quite openly,
committed ethnic massacres, plundered the cities and
raped women--by which they lost their self-cultivated
image as a "clean" army in distinction to the remaining
warlords. But even in their "Pashtun" heartland, in the
region around Kandahar, they encountered opposition.
During press-gang recruitment from the countryside,
Taliban functionaries were attacked, several times shot
dead. The Taliban's attempt to impose, on a very culturally
and religiously heterogenous country, a unitary religious
domination made it impossible for them finally to fulfill
their assigned task of stabilization.

Access to Central Asia

"I can remember no time in which any region has so
quickly become so strategically important as the
Caspian..." When the present-day Vice President Cheney
said this in 1998 he was still the CEO of Halliburton. In
this capacity, he was concerned above all with the strategic
interests in the oil and gas reserves of the region. Central
Asia became the center of attention after the collapse of
the USSR. In his book The Grand Chessboard (1997)
former National Security Adviser [for President Jimmy
Carter] Zbigniew Brzezinski put in the center of the
equation the question, Who would rule the enormous and
populous continent of Eurasia? If a unified power bloc
were to develop on this landmass (out of the European
Union, Russia and China), it would be the end of
US-American supremacy over the world. This is also the
sense in which world-systems theorist Wallerstein
interprets the efforts of the United States for a quick
eastward expansion of NATO, as an intended weakening
of the European Union in economic competition with the
United States. If NATO-acceptance of these countries
must inevitably soon lead to EU-acceptance, then the
European Union can be weakened economically. The
European Union, just like China, is strongly dependent on
oil and gas imports, and thus has a strong interest in the
development of the Caspian reserves, whose connection to
the Russian-European pipeline network is already a given.
The United States however, wants to create access
independent of Russia and Iran, in order to be able to
participate in their control. This is only possible through
Turkey (the pipeline project through Kurdish areas to the
Mediterranean port of Ceyan) or the technically easier

Books like Brzezinski's or Huntington's (Clash of
Civilizations) came about as briefs for the CIA. The
interesting thing about them is not their "scientific
content" but their meaning as directions and handbooks
for politics. Just like Huntington threw up a new scare
scenario for the one that had been lost to capitalism with
the end of the "cold war," Brzezinski formulates
geostrategic goals for the maintenance of US power.

Central Asia comes back into the middle of strategic
considerations because the political connections remain
open there after 1990, and the region, together with the
Caucusus, poses perspectives for oil and gas requirements.
The danger of an increasing US dependence on Middle
Eastern oil have been discussed since the 90s;
simultaneously, the Gulf War of 1990-91 showed how
problematic too large an exertion of influence over the
region is. The Bin Laden phenomenon is finally a product
of the Gulf War, which called forth internal political
opposition to the cooperation of Saudi Arabia with the
United States. There is no more talk today of how the oil
and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea represent an
alternative to the world's largest and cheapest exploitable
oil reserves in the Middle East. So, all over the world, new
supply sources are sought--in Alaska as well as in West
Africa or Central America. But in Central Asia general
geostrategic goals still overlap with the desperate search
for a territory to replace the still-increasing dependence on
Arab oil.

The (for now) dead Enron deal in India makes something
else clear: It's not just about the dependence of the United
States on oil imports, but also about the valorization chain
of petroleum around the world. The highest growth rates
in oil use are forecast for Asia, especially China and India.
It is an open question which concerns can make business
out of this increasing demand.

The Key Position of Afghanistan

The Afghanistan war of the 1980s had an important
meaning in the attempt to gain control over Central Asia.
In its sphere, the weapons trade in the region and the
so-called ethnic or religiously motivated conflicts served to
hold the situation open in order to set social transformation
processes in motion. In the first years after 1990, the
Central Asian states, in spite of formal independence,
remained economically dependent on Russia, and partially
on the presence of its troops for national security. The
Central Asian countries sought to keep all their options
open: old contacts in Russia, new cooperation with the
United States, Turkey and Israel, Pakistan, India, China,
Iran or the European Union. In the course of the
Afghanistan war and with the strengthening of the
Taliban, it was always a matter of shifting coalitions and

The United States developed the concept of military
advances into the region very early. In 1991 it was known
that the United States was preparing, after the Gulf War, a
similar operation (Operation Wustenchild) under the
code-word "Operation Stepchild." In 1997 US Special
Forces organized general maneuvers with the
then-contending forces in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. On
the other side, Russia and China sought to solidify their
role in Central Asia via the disaster scenario of the
"Islamic danger" coming from Afghanistan. Against the
US attempt to stabilize the region with military presence or
direct interventions, Russia and China in June 2001
initiated the "Shanghai Organization for Cooperation"
together with the four Central Asian states of Kazakhstan,
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, to proceed in
common against rebels and separatists. The bombing of
Afghanistan by the United States, and the closely
connected construction of military forward-deployments in
the bordering countries or most recently in Georgia, has
pre-empted this coalition.

Against this background of the war and the imminent
confrontation between Arab countries like Saudi Arabia
and the United States, Russia has attempted, through its
support for "the war against terror" (which it itself has long
practiced in Chechnya!) and its undermining of OPEC's
oil-price politics, to bring itself into play as an alternative
oil producer for the West--while not ceasing to try to open
cooperation with China in the region.

Behind all these facets of the competition among the
different powers and economic blocs stands the question
of a perspective for capitalist valorization as a global
process; this includes the safeguarding of oil as the central
lubricant of worldwide accumulation (therefore Iraq as the
next object of attack: on the grounds of the threatened
breakaway of Saudi Arabia, a new, stable beachhead is
becoming urgent) as much as the permeation of capitalist
structures throughout Central Asia. Also, even if Central
Asia shows itself to have the ideal social conditions for oil
supply (an area of the size of India with a population of
merely 55 million people), oilfields and pipelines require
stable relations. An example from the Caucusus clarifies
the problem: The US-American electricity firm AES,
which set up electricity plants and distribution networks in
Georgia, stood on the edge of bankruptcy on account of
strongly increased and widespread power theft, up to the
point that for only 65 percent of the produced energy can
payments be booked. That similar problems will be tied to
work on a pipeline can be seen in countries like Nigeria.

The real problem is not ethnic conflict, which everywhere
evokes comparison with the stone age and yet will be
stirred up if necessary, but the as-yet-to-be-imposed
validity of bourgeois property and money. Historically this
has never been accomplished purely by means of force,
but rather required the simultaneous development of
wealth and the integration of the proletariat by means of
the wage. Precisely for that reason there is no visible
perspective for the world economy confronted by this
crisis. With war and warlordization old structures that
might have stood in the way of capital development can be
destroyed--but can set no development process in motion.
The comparison with Schumpeter's "creative destruction"
won't do here, because he assumed that it would be in the
course of a new accumulation dynamic.

Bombs as Claims to Power--by the United States and

The bombing of Afghanistan begun on October 7, 2001,
and not yet at an end was no reaction to 9/11, but rather
the resumption and facilitation of strategic priorities in
Central Asia. The whole form of the war's prosecution
shows that it had no particular timetable in which to catch
Bin Laden or to destroy the Al Qaeda network. Measured
in terms of these goals, the United States lost the war in
Afghanistan, just like the bourgeois opposition to the war
often emphasizes.

Even in a strategic sense one can't speak of a victory. The
dilemma of military attacks in times of global crisis lies in
the fact that each attempt to stabilize any locale brings
forth further destabilization somewhere else. In the 1991
Gulf war, the United States wanted to insure its control in
the Middle East, and announced it already to be a "new
world order." In the long run, however, it thereby
undermined its exclusive strategic relations with the most
important country in the region, Saudi Arabia, which is
now obvious. With the bombing of Afghanistan, it
attempted to set up a long-term presence in Central
Asia--and thereby inevitably destabilized Pakistan, whose
regime it could persuade into giving up the Taliban and
participating in "the war on terror" only with much
pressure and money.

There is an intense competition between the United States
and the Western European countries over how these
countries and regions should be stabilized. While the
European Union proposes diplomatic influence and
development aid ("nation building"), the Bush
Administration from the beginning has declared itself for
strong military action. Like already in the Kosovo war of
1999, the bombardment of Afghanistan served to impose a
US power claim founded more and more on military might
alone. In Afghanistan, it was presented to the outside as a
division of labor: The United States bombs, the Europeans
invite them to Bonn and St. Petersberg, send police for
Kabul, and build tents for celebratory functions. Thereby
they remain, in spite of some diplomatic grumbling, the
willful subordinates of US supremacy.

In the prosecution of the war, from the beginning till
today, the United States took all control--over the "allied"
Northern Alliance militias just as much as the participating
European powers or the peacekeepers in Kabul. Although
the NATO alliance had been declared, the United
States--unlike in Kosovo--consciously declined to make
use of it, and rather held itself to be the supreme command
and to determine the course of action.

Over and over again the US military hindered, in the face
of violent protests by the militia leaders of the Northern
Alliance, the usual practice in Afghanistan of capitulation
and later release of the imprisoned (with the exception of
the previously cited case of Kunduz, where the relationship
to Pakistan and the internal stability of that country stood
in question). Once, Rumsfeld let it slip that "we take no
prisoners." The massacre of prisoners at Mazar-i-Sharif
goes back to this position and the conscious provocation of
the US military--and it was simultaneously a signal to the
Northern Alliance themselves.

Before that, the Bush Administration had first warned the
Northern Alliance militias not to march on Kabul and not
to take the city. Militarily, however, they were dependent
on these ground troops, in order to avoid a massive loss of
their own--which, since Vietnam, doesn't go over well as
domestic policy. For a long time in the United States and
Great Britain there have been loud discussions about how
to wage war with only paid soldiers. For the United States
in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance fulfilled this
function. The war against the Taliban or Al Qaeda
combatants and their demonstrated cruelty served also to
further their monopoly of power over the "allied" militias.
In the meantime, the process has already been started, in
that particular militias sought by President Karzai have
been declared enemies of the new state, and are handled
accordingly by the US military.

All questions of humanitarian aid and the establishment of
their own state have hitherto been rigorously subordinated
to the military supremacy of the United States. For
example, the military openly refused, before the arrival of
this past winter, to assure safe passage for the food and aid
convoys. The proposal to expand the operations area of the
peacekeepers over Kabul was turned down. At the
beginning, even the US-appointed President Karzai
protested against the continuing bombardment, which also
occasionally resulted in bad feelings among the other
Western allies (French bomber pilots once refused a US
military-ordered attack, on account of the obvious
endangerment to the civilian population). In spite of such
differences between the Western attackers of Afghanistan
on the question of actions and the roles that would fall to
each particular country, unity arose on the fact that
military attacks must be made.

Making War Manageable

After the Gulf war of 1991 and the NATO bombardment
of Yugoslavia in 1999, the Afghanistan campaign is the
third large military operation to follow the new politics of
"just" war and the representation of war as "police action."
After 1945 there was a general avoidance of war, and three
large wars after 1945 proved above all that, because of the
attitude of one's own population, it was unmanageable:
France's Algerian war, the United States' Vietnam war,
and the USSR's Afghanistan war. Since then, how war can
again be made manageable has been and will be discussed:
They should not concern any normal citizen of a warring
country, but should rather be prosecuted by a paid army
(or, in the spirit of neoliberalism, the poor soldiers [this is a
pun in German. The word for "army" is Armee, and "paid
army" is Berufsarmee. The word for "poor" is arm, and
plural noun is Armeen. Poor soldiers is "Söldnerarmeen."
Berufsarmee versus Söldnerarmeen]) (the contemporary
debate in Germany over conscription has mainly to do with
the manageability of war--and whether it is expensive);
they should be short, so that no great debates arise
(remember: The NATO bombardment against Yugoslavia
was originally supposed to last only two days!); and they
should be able to be represented as targeted surgical hits,
sparing the civilian population--this presentation of war
has become the primary task of the media division.

The course of the Afghanistan bombing shows the whole
dilemma of these requirements. After a few weeks of
apparently useless bombing, the use of cluster bombs
against the civilian population, etc., came more and more
into criticism. The United States had to grant the warlords
of the Northern Alliance a much larger room for
maneuver, just like they had intended, and it could no
longer stop their march on Kabul.

Paradoxically, the humanitarian thoughts against the war,
from within circles of the European political elite, after a
month of "unsuccessful" bombing--from the critique of
cluster bombs to the call for a ceasefire--led to the
brutalization of the attacks. In order to work against
antiwar opinion, quick "results" were called for, for which
purpose there was increased civilian targets and
infrastructure bombed. "Public opinion" is always on the
side of the "winner"--in the Vietnam war it was the
military ineffectiveness and the number of dead GIs that
broadened of the antiwar movement.

Symbolic "Nation Building"

Only with the presentation of laughing women in
"liberated" Kabul did the PR division of the war ministry
have sufficient material, and changed public opinion. The
country was taken for "liberated" and further US
warfighting, with the support of other NATO countries,
fell into the shadow of the wholly unreal "reconstruction"
of Afghanistan. This was limited to just-for-show projects
in Kabul--where the international press is--and pure
simulation. The appointed director of the UN special
commission to Afghanistan went straight to the point: "We
are trying to create the impression that things are under
control. Symbolism is important." To this symbolism also
belongs the numbers of returning refugees from Pakistan
and Iran, which is primarily because each family gets
"greetings money" of $20 per head. The organizer of that
policy, the UNHCR, is clear that most will have to leave
Afghanistan again before next winter, because there is no
possibility of survival in the country. After farmer unrest in
April, the Karzai administration refused to impose the
previously declared ban on opium poppy cultivation. The
government had offered them compensation of $350 per
acre (0.4 hectares), whereas opium cultivation on such an
area brings about ten times that amount. The only
concrete plans for "reconstruction" relate to the
construction of a pipeline, which would create perhaps
10,000 jobs--in a country of 27 million people.

A "Reluctant Imperialist" and the Crisis of Capital

The type of war fought in Afghanistan has parallels on a
world-political level: the nixing of the ABM treaty, the
publication of a new nuclear strategy with atomic tactical
weapons, the "first strike" doctrine presented by Bush, and
a nuclear armaments program that could send the US
portion of the worldwide armaments budget from 36 to 40
percent (the $48 billion increase in the arms budget for the
next year is equivalent to about double the Italian or about
one and a half times the German military budget). The
most recent and perhaps most grotesque expression of this
bid for supremacy in the world system is the conflict
around the International Criminal Court. In order to
underline its disapproval of such an international
institution, a law was passed making military intervention
in the Netherlands (the seat of the court) possible in case
an American citizen was brought before it.

Does the United States find itself on the way to being an
imperialist world power, or do its world politics arise, on
the contrary, from its crisis-prone decline as the
hegemonic power of the capitalist world system? The
"cold war" is indeed at an end, but the "new world order"
that Bush rashly called for in 1991 is nowhere in sight.

The course of the United States stands in ever more
obvious contradiction to the representation that national
state power is being more and more relinquished to
supranational organizations like the WTO, IMF, UN or
NATO. In the "globalization" concept, states represent
themselves to the working class as victims of an
overpowering process, in order to be able to pose their own
attacks as the result of practical constraints. There are two
true aspects of this picture, though: States are not
"sovereign" in themselves, but in the context of a
worldwide state system, in which there is an obvious
pecking order. And, second, states, as the political level of
capitalist society, can never be "sovereign" in the sense
supposed by the globalization critics' call for a "primacy of
politics" over the economy. They can only insure and
modify a valorization process whose development lies
outside the reach of the wealth of potential taxes. But
"sovereignty" in the limited statist sense is, in the final
analysis, bound to the state's monopoly on the use of
force, even if this has often been forgotten in the
globalization discourse of the 90s, with its illusions in
market economy and civil society. Organs like the IMF or
the WTO are purely contractual agreements between
states, which thereby relinquish nothing of their monopoly
on the use of force. With that, they themselves are
dependent on the power relations obtaining among the
states that create them. The initial formation of
organizations like the IMF or WTO shows in detail how
they are the instruments of the more powerful states, in
the imposition of their valorization interests.

On the Way to a New Colonialism?

The intellectual conflict around a new order for the world
turns, not on theoretical problems, but on objective

Independent of the fashionable left debate over Hardt and
Negri's Empire, since 9/11|10/7, rightist circles in the
United States have been having a debate on imperialism
and empire. In this debate, a positive understanding of
imperialism is put forth, whereby, among other things,
historical reinterpretations of past imperialisms turn them
into the necessary defensive measures of civilized
countries against the encroaching piracy around them.
Historians and political scientists propose that the United
States positively recognize its role as the only "imperial"
power or empire, and they refer to the fact that the United
States today, in its military dominance, is much more of an
empire than Rome or England ever was. All that remains
is to make the proper adjustment in government and
public attitudes in order to derive a consistent politics from

The rightist debate proceeds on the assumption that
methods like development aid and international diplomacy
("nation building") no longer serve to keep certain regions
of the world in order. In countries like Afghanistan, Sierra
Leone, Angola or Somalia, therefore, a direct takeover of
power in country--even colonialism (or a "protectorate" or
a "mandate")--is required. And only the United States has
the military capacity to do such a thing. In this it has been
revealed that the UN or other international organizations,
due to their "democratic" procedures, are not the
appropriate instruments for what is required. Here they
work up the legitimation for new forms of imperial or
direct colonial control by the United States.

(Additionally: The arguments are in essence the same as
those, which are used in the local provincial debates of the
antiGermans to defend the worldwide "civilizing mission"
of the United States. Similar is also the fearmongering
propaganda of images of decline into the chaos of the
uncivilized hordes, which are flooding over us--at bottom
this regressive "left" is nostalgic for the cold war, which
represented the only order in their minds. Elements of the
specific American task can also be found in Negri's
postmodern Empire, and in his hymns of praise for the
specialness of the American constitution [not a reference
to the document but to the "polity," the structure of this
particular civil society--translator].)

"Imperial Overstretch"

What substance does this perspective of a US-run world
empire have to offer? From the anti-imperialist side, the
rightist debate is eagerly attacked and taken as further
proof for their critique of US imperialism. Certainly, the
United States today is militarily dominant on a scale like
no nation ever was on a world scale--measured in terms of
weapons and their technological possibilities. But if today,
the largest opposition against an attack on Iraq comes out
of and is based on the fact that it would take half a year to
replace the weapons used up in Afghanistan, the limits of
this power also become visible. In the 90s US military
strategy conceived its greatest goal to be able to fight two
wars like the Gulf war simultaneously. That has little to do
with the image of an empire.

Modern capitalist war is a war of industrial production, of
replacement of industrial, and specifically capitalist
productivity by means of the destructiveness of war
technologies. The military dominance of a country is
connected in the end to its industrial capacity. At the end
of the 80s the historian Paul Kennedy prophesied the same
destiny for the United States as for Spain in 1600 or
England in 1900: Its economy would not be able to keep
pace with its imperial ambitions-"imperial overstretch."

In the 90s, he revised his thesis with respect to the
unprecedented boom in the US economy. He overlooked
the problems with this boom, which, above all, was one of
US capital and goods imports, which fed the stock market
boom and the "New Economy," both built on sand. In the
past couple of months, the capital inflows to the United
States have clearly slowed, and the government
economists announce themselves furious that, in spite of
their good data, the dollar keeps slipping further. Even if it
were to come to a new conjunctural upswing and not to
the much-feared "double dip," i.e., a short rise followed by
a deepened collapse, the balance of trade and the state debt
would still worsen. Nothing points to a renewed
attractiveness of US-American stock and bond markets,
like at the end of the 90s, which is necessary to finance
planned armaments and war.

"Enronitis" and the continuing stream of new
swindle-companies are in the foreground, which holds
back the stock markets--but Enron as much as Argentina
is only an expression of the absolute absence of profitable
investment possibilities. The comparison with the
world-power Spain or England is therefore inappropriate,
because in the course of the crisis since the mid-70s, it
hasn't had anything to do with the replacement of one
hegemonic power by another--the economic downturn in
the united States is a moment of the crisis of the world
economy. Now the Bush Administration appears to move
in a protectionist direction (steel tariffs, agricultural
supports), in order to strengthen their own economy and
also, in arms-production (steel!), not to be so dependent
on foreigners--there are similar fears about too great a US
industrial dependence on computer-component production
from Taiwan and China. Dilemma of globalization!

Without a new model of accumulation and a new push for
industrialization, there can be neither a US-American nor
any other sort of empire. The contemporary tendency
toward war and the increased armament since 1998 are
expressions of the global crisis situation, but they contain
no solution for this crisis. War only functions as a political
solution when the proletariat lets itself be drawn into the
social logic of destruction and subordination to force. For
the rulers, it is an unsolved and possibly insoluble problem
to make war manageable again, and with that, to impose
the social restrictions and subordination to capital that they
require and for which they strive. But precisely on account
of this, we should fear that they will attempt, with their
whole high-tech arsenal of bombs and destructive forces,
to reorganize a relation of power and exploitation for which
the material and social basis is increasingly absent.

[1] We have gathered sources and material in another file, will be soon

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