Bush’s Primary Sin? According to The American Prospect, It’s Dropping the Noble Ball of Empire

Remember how certain folks on the left (e.g. Alexander Cockburn and Gabriel Kolko) argued that “messianic militarist” (Nader’s desctiption) neocon Bush might actually be “the lesser evil” in the 2004 election?

This thesis was based on the notion that the relatively sophisticated neo-liberal John F. Kerry promised to be the more intelligent and competent manager of America’s inherently rapacious and militarist global, corporate-polyarchic empire.

Their argument was based on the notion that the decline of the American empire would be a good thing, all things considered, both at home and abroad, given the toxic, dialectically inseparable relationships between empire and inequality….and that Bush would push us further along the welcome road to imperial decline.

I didn’tand don’t embrace the full conclusion that Bush was the “lesser evil” for a number of reasons, including ther supreme danger I thought Dubya posed (people who care can go back an review all that if they wish), but I maintained respect for the notion that Bush might be a less effective grand imperialist than Kerry and that there would in fact be anti-imperial opportunity (as well as terrible danger) in Boy George’s re-coronation. Above all, I was fairly sickened by the significant extent to which Kerry ran precisely on the notion that he would be the better corporate imperialist —- see my Dissident Voices pieces linked below —- and by Democratic “left liberals” who couldn’t seem to grasp the contradictions between imperialism and democracy.

On that note check out the special monthly foreign policy issue of the “progressive” liberal Democratiic magazine American Prospect:


The first thing that will catch ZNet readers’ eyes is the ridiculous cover title “BETWEEN CHOMSKY AND CHENEY: American power in the service of liberal ideals,” accompanied by a cartoon that shows these two apparent (for American Prospect) lunatic moral equivalents Noam Chomsky (the world’s leading left critic of American imperialism and thought control) and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney (one of the world’s leading Orwellian imperialists) scowling at each other.

The cover, however, is the last you hear of Chomsky. The issue focuses on the sins of George W. Bush and his neoconservative cabal, who are accused of besmirching the noble legacy of progressive foreign policy practiced by such admirable liberal forebears as Harry (Hiroshima) Truman, George (Sustain Global Inequality) Kennan, Dean Acheson, and John F. (Missile Gap) Kennedy.

And what is Bush’s real foreign policy sin, according to the “progressives” over at Prospect? The murder of tens of thousands and perhaps more than 100,000 Iraqis in the commission of the Nuremberg Trials’ “supreme crime” – the launching of an unjustified war of aggression on a formerly sovereign state? The imperial occupation of that state (Iraq) in the false name of exporting “freedom” and “democracy,” a belatedly declared U.S. objective that is revealed as coldly disingenuous when we seriously examine US policy (including what what Edward S. Herman calls “neo-liberalizing Iraq without the consent of the [Iraqi] people”) within and beyond Iraq? The massive deception practiced against the American populace by the Bush administration to justify this monumentally illegal, immoral, and bloody imperial operation?

Not really. According to The American Prospect’s writers Paul Starr, Michael Tomasky, and (journal editor) Robert Kuttner, the real problem is that Bush’s “overoptimistic” and “inadequately planned” invasion of Iraq has “undermined American power and influence in the world.” “Three and a half years after September 11,” these authors note, “U.S. military forces are stretched to the limit, anti-Americanism has intensified in Europe and the Middle East, and our traditional allies are increasingly distrustful of U.S. leadership and are setting an independent path in foreign affairs.” To make matters worse, Bush’s “fiscal policies have created a dangerous dependence on foreign borrowing to finance our budget and trade deficits, and its energy policies have increased our dependence on foreign oil.”

All in all, “the war and other administration policies are weakening our power and security, undermining our alliances and freedom of action.”

The weakening of American global power is the central charge made by two other contributors to the same issue. According to senior Prospect correspondent Michael Steinberg, the Bush White House’s obsession with military might has led it to “calamitously” “sacrifice U.S. global economic leadership,” thereby threatening to bring “America’s unipolar [post-Cold War] moment …to a premature close.” Bush’s crime it that he has blown the chance to turn that “moment” into a welcome “unipolar era.”

“The administration’s indifference to global economics,” Steinberg argues, “has created a void that is being filled by both the European Union, and, more ominously, China.” After pausing to “savor the irony that an administration determined never to surrender an inch of American sovereignty has created a situation in which several Asian central banks control the fate of the dollar,” Steinberg notes that Bush’s acceleration of the decline of the American greenback threatens the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. This confronts the U.S. with the (classic late-imperial) task of trying to “sustain an empire that is broke.” It’s too bad, Steinberg feels, that the fiscally reckless, hyper-militarist Bush administration lacks “the Clintonites” recognition that “America’s economic strength could be a critical tool in keeping the peace while extending U.S. dominance.”

Steinberg’s concern over lost American economic dominance is shared by Prospect contributor Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute. According to Prestowitz, America’s massive indebtedness to “the world’s biggest dictatorship” (China) is both “symptom and cause of America’s dwindling economic leadership.” It “mocks Bush’s hegemonic grand design…At this rate,” Prestowitz concludes ominously, “we risk becoming the Venice of the 21st century.”

Sounds like an advertisement for Bush and for Cockburn’s take on the election.

There’s a lot to say about this special issue on various levels but I’m saving that for a full article (consistent with earlier work on the liberal-left…see http://www.zmag.org/content/TerrorWar/streetdecent.cfm)

[Note, see comments 17, 18, and 19 for some crucial qualifications/clarifications of this argument that were made in response to an excellent critique I received off-blog on March 6th, 2005]

Election season DV pieces on Kerry
http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Sept04/Street0908.htm and http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Aug04/Street0820.htm and

Leave a comment