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The U.S. as a "Failed State"

by JONATHAN M. FELDMAN

It’s obvious that the New Orleans tragedy has revealed that urban areas, particularly those housing the poor and African Americans, are regarded as disposable by corporate and government elites. Yet, this development is far from new, only now revealed yet again in dramatic media images for all to see. These urban areas that voted against Bush, these people who lack resources to flee natural disasters, these persons colonized in many ways by the system are now victimized by it.

The U.S. went into Iraq to “save it” and now can barely save itself. The gross incompetence of the Bush Administration should be readily apparent except for the most diehard apologists. We now must ask ourselves, isn’t the U.S. a failed state?

In his book, “The Decline of American Power,” Immanuel Wallerstein describes the attempts by right wingers and military hawks to use intervention in Iraq as part of an effort to regain the high ground, to reverse the decline in U.S. power, particularly military power, which could be seen in the U.S. loss in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam and Iraq wars reveal what historian Gabriel Kolko and economist Seymour Melman called, “the limits to military power.” One such limit is that the resources used for war can’t also be used for peace, civilian pursuits such as the needed rebuilding of U.S. infrastructure.

The infrastructure of the U.S. is collapsing and one reason why is that it has been seriously depleted by spending for the permanent war economy and warfare state. This process is revealed in the outrageous military budgets that neither incumbent political party has challenged.

The political bankruptcy of both major political parties, the distorted budgetary priorities, the rotting infrastructure, the resulting violence and social anarchy are each indicative of a failed state. This failure is also marked by the superficial quality of American democracy. Where are the accountability structures? What does democracy mean to someone left stranded in New Orleans or shipped to some refugee camp in Houston, Texas? The large groups of poor and African Americans who disproportionately did not vote for George Bush are left literally floating in the waters, nature mimicking the same disdain which Republican elites have had for the poor and disenfranchised. America is a failed state, with democracy and economic equality seriously eroded.

The solution to this crisis requires several forms of remedial action. One such action would be intervention by a consortia of European States who provided not only economic aid, but some kind of political intervention (in the form of think tanks, grants and other material support) to promote and extend democracy in America. The last presidential election revealed that large parts of the Southern U.S. resembled what we once thought of Eastern Europe, an underdeveloped region populated by reactionary elites, organized into party structures that sustained the political and economic impoverishment of the people. Europeans looking at America on their television sets intuitively sense what many Americans themselves are slowly realizing. The United States, as both Seymour Melman and his colleague John Ullmann of Hofstra University recognized long ago, is on the path towards becoming a Third World country.

European aid should be married to rebuilding the foundations of democratic control:

a) a national newspaper and media network supporting environmental sustainability, working peoples, economic and social interests, and equality in the workplace;

b) a network of socially responsible and worker-community controlled firms sustained by cooperative networks, banks, and research and development laboratories (like the Mondragon cooperative in Spain);

c) a new network of continual political mobilization linked to the Internet, face to face meetings, and local study circles (the kinds of networks represented in part by groups like Move On, the teach ins of the antiwar movement of the past, and town meetings that sometimes have linked experts and grassroots participation).

Anything less than such a comprehensive program is likely doomed to failure. Political alternatives in the form of new parties or social movements require the above as necessary first conditions for their success. The next dilemma is whether, in the current intellectual climate, there are those who can find the language or have the interest to pursue and promote the obvious need for the comprehensive reconstruction of America.

JONATHAN M. FELDMAN is former Program Director of the National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament and author of “Universities in the Business of Repression: The Academic Military Industrial Complex and Central America,” published by South End Press, 1989. He can be reached at: jonathanmfeldman@hotmail.com

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

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