It was not always so—presently, America thrives on war, the preparation for war, the militarization of the national consciousness (and the political economy of advanced capitalism, of which it is a part), as though intuitively recognizing that in no other way can the US maintain its position of global leadership in an increasingly multipolar world-power system. Leadership here refers to, not the paragon of moral virtue, beacon to the world championing human rights, but quite the opposite, unilateralism, vehicle for the expansion and security of a capitalistic system which has seen better days and is now witnessing the atrophy of manufacturing, the utter scurrilousness of market behavior, the growing disparities in wealth, income, power, reflected in bubbles, unemployment, foreclosures, hardship, in sum, a system in decline in spite of, or even because of, its military power.
The historical-structural context for America has all of the makings of a society, fearing the loss of its supremacy, which is willing to bring the world down with it, contrariwise, the grand assertion of hegemony, via the narrowing focus on militarism, to sustain the no-longer sustainable: global political-economic-financial-cultural-ideological dominance in the face of all comers, notably, China, but also an EU restive under US influence, a reawakening Russia, Brazil, exemplifying the industrial potential of formerly Third World economies and regional power-centers, and, of course, Japan, India, and the Far East in general as Obama’s capitalist area of expansion of choice (the Pacific-first strategy, as in days of yore, as the presumed future for successful market penetration).
Poor Iran, easily lost sight of in America’s cosmic framework of Superpowerdom, except for one thing: the Empire’s consolidation is only as good as the nitty-gritty details shaping its content, all of which must necessarily pull in the same direction. Not surprisingly, the term “credibility” is on everyone’s lips of the national-security establishment, POTUS on down. Give an inch, and the Giant evaporates into thin air, or, as is the case with the victims of Obama’s drone attacks, becomes a blood splat. This must not be allowed to happen on his watch, the guiding assumption from the Cold War years on and given special recognition with Vietnam in the more articulated versions of the falling-domino theory. That is precisely where Iran is now, in the cross-hairs of a geopolitical strategy in which any loss is held non-negotiable. If Iran falls, the sphere of influence America has carved out in the Middle East is endangered, and with it, beyond Israel’s protection, support for Egypt’s military rule and arrest of the autonomous strivings of the Arab Spring—the region a test case, as also in Latin America, of the US posture of counterrevolution wherever potential democratization rears its supposed ugly head.
The dynamics of the domino-effect become unstoppable: as the Middle East goes (assuming America fails in its effort to isolate and contain Iran), every other region is in danger of shucking off US power and influence, a particularly alarming state of action as American capitalism, exhibiting problems of its own, finds that its defense sector, ever enlarging, is becoming an insufferable burden (yet one gladly accepted because existing in tandem with the shrinkage and weakening of the social safety net—a sought-for goal in reinforcement of capitalist tendencies in America). From maintenance of the domino theory abroad to its implementation at home comprises a unitary psychological cluster: the existing class system must not be upset nor that of its ideological underpinnings, else the deferential treatment of wealth and the wealthy goes out the window, and with it, the widespread deregulation of a monopolistic business-and-banking structure and the social policies keeping in place a to all intents and purposes underclass as well as obfuscatory political consciousness.
Of course, not having our way in Iran will not inaugurate an end-of-times scenario. But the darkness of the foreboding, really the psychopathology of hegemony, in which each step becomes an all-or-nothing proposition, guides the American policy-making mindset (and has for some time, making for a bipartisan similitude and continuity in all matters of fundamental importance). Here Sec. Kerry can be depended on to add last-minute demands which torpedo the negotiations, which the Lavrov news conference in Cairo this week appears to bear out, and which Israel is determined to ensure through applying pressure on POTUS and Congress. As I wrote earlier, the interim nature of the agreement sought is a sure way of providing breathing space for the buildup of opposition, and that the quid pro quo of reducing selected elements of the sanctions regime is also a sure way, here of rubbing salt in the wounds of an illegal act in the first place. Sanctions equal bullying. An honorable settlement is not wanted, and rather, a one-sided victory, making the Iranians eat crow.
My New York Times Comment on the editorial deploring the piling on of further sanctions (Nov. 16) follows:
Israel is leading America by the nose. The editorial’s basic point is the matter of blowback: failure of negotiations will lead to unraveling the sanctions regime, in turn creating divisions among the G5+1. Obama and Netanyahu prefer stalemate, as vindication of the hawkish posture. In the long-term, US-Israeli intransigence is perhaps a good thing, from the standpoint of world peace, because it will result in checking US unilateral global power, its implied militarism, and penchant for intervention.
Once again, FM Lavrov of Russia, as in preventing American bombing in Syria, has exposed US actions extremely damaging to itself (as well as the intended victim) before the world community. Obama-Netanyahu wouldn’t know DIPLOMACY if it hit them face-on. Only war, power, hurting others–for the sanctions indeed hurt and impoverish people, not governments, and therefore should be thought war crimes.
G5+1, as a mini-Security Council, reveals here the extent of America’s flirting with fragmentation of international politics, all to what end? “Hegemony,” granted, is an overworked word, but a correct one, with Obama personally authorizing assassination via drone warfare, and mounting a military show of force in confrontation with China.
Iran in all of this is a sideshow given prominence, because failure to win on this, the US fears, will in domino-theory fashion, diminish US power globally. Hence, tough-it out, at the risk of becoming a pariah nation.
Norman Pollack is the author of The Populist Response to Industrial America (Harvard) and The Just Polity (Illinois), The Humane Economy, The Just Polity, ed. The Populist Mind, and co-ed. with Frank Freidel, Builders of American Institutions. Guggenheim Fellow. Prof. Emeritus, History, Michigan State. He is currently writing The Fascistization of America: Liberalism, Militarism, Capitalism. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.