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Synthesis/Regeneration 49   (Spring 2009)

Thinking Politically

Well Done GW: It's a Dirty Job but Someone Has To Do It

by Ted Trainer

I think you have all been most unappreciative of President Bush's achievements. Not just uncharitable but lacking in insight about the way the world works and what has to be done to maintain our way of life. President Bush has done a great job here in very difficult circumstances, and he does not get due credit.

Let's sketch the basics. We 1.5 billion in rich countries could not have anything like our affluent living standards, our good health standards, our security, indeed our cultural life if we were not getting far more than our fair share of the world's resources. We consume something like 17 times the per capita amount of things like oil that the poorest half of the world's people average. That doesn't happen automatically. It has to be organized, and that takes a lot of difficult work. Billions of poor people in the Third World would rather not see their resources and their own labour used to produce wealth to ship out to enrich the corporations and the supermarket shoppers in the rich countries.

It has to be organized...

So the first task is to make sure they don't see the situation as illegitimate. This is fairly easily done by the economists who explain that the only and the right way for things to be produced and allocated is by allowing the market to make the decisions. Or course markets always let the rich take everything, because they can outbid the poor. If there's ever any grumbling about this the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO are on hand to let them know that if any government was silly enough to depart from sound market principles then they would get no loans, or assistance with their impossible debt, and they would be banned from exporting anything. They usually get the message and shape up.

Ah, but unfortunately there are always a few knucklehead governments and rebel groups which persist in wanting to devote their nation's resources directly to the improvement of their people's welfare rather than see them flow out to enrich others. These people often call themselves "nationalists" but of course we identify them as subversives, insurgents, communists and/or terrorists. They do things like cut oil pipelines, wage civil war, sell drugs, and try to depose legitimate governments, and cause refugees and famines. Nice people in orderly rich countries despair at these silly people who don't understand proper economics and seem to delight in beating each other up and disrupting sensible development.

...as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said when our sanctions killed an estimated 500,000 people in Iraq, it's worth it.

So from time to time we have to take on the burden of straightening things out, supporting the correct faction with money and arms and getting rid of "uncooperative" governments, so that peace can be restored under governments that will rule properly. Sometimes we have to act pretty decisively to restore order, in fact sometimes we have to smash the country to shreds and kill several hundred thousand people in the process, but as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said when our sanctions killed an estimated 500,000 people in Iraq, it's worth it.

People at the supermarket checkout counter don't understand how serious the situation is. If we can't go on getting oil at the rate we have become accustomed to those shelves will be bare. The stuff's getting scarce now. The Chinese are after it; that's why they're supporting murderous regimes in Africa without asking any questions. You can't secure the stuff just by being nice and asking to buy some; you have to go after it strenuously and sometimes you have to throw a little weight around, or some other bastard will get it first. That's what geopolitics is about. It's dog eat dog and devil take the hindmost.

Most wars in history have been about grabs for resources. That's what The Great game in central Asia has been about and is about now. We have to secure our oil fields and we have to get safe routes for those long pipelines to sea ports, through foreign countries, some of which don't like us much. We can't build them and we can't protect them unless we have military bases and unless we bribe or bully some of those regimes into doing what we want.

Can't you see that we had to take Iraq and Afghanistan. What if Saddam had decided to stop trading oil in US dollars! GW and the team bit the bullet; they did what was necessary. And GW has been a great front man; he's taken the flak for a tough and dirty but crucial job. When everyone's criticizing and you can't tell them what you are really doing its best if the mess looks like a mistake made by a buffoon.

Yes of course they were clumsy. In the past they have pulled off most of the coups and assassinations and invasions neatly and quietly - got rid of Noriega, Lumumba, the Sandinistas, put in the Shah, supported our kleptocrat Suharto in Indonesia for 30 years, eliminated deviance in Haiti and Grenada (especially important that, can't let the little ones get away with deviating.sets a bad example the rest might see they can follow).with not a grumble at home. Mind you they did stuff up a bit on Cuba and Venezuela.

So yes they did miscalculate in Iraq and Afghanistan but securing the empire is a difficult job, and it's a vital job. You cannot live in the way you have become accustomed, let alone have the 3% growth you insist on, unless we go on getting control of most of the dwindling resources an that means running those countries to our benefit not theirs. George and the Neo-cons have done it for you, in difficult circumstances. I think their critics should just be a bit more understanding and appreciative. If you want to go on living with your too-big houses and your plasmas and your jet-away vacations just quit the backchat and support your empire and those who secure it for you.

Ted Trainer teaches at the University of New South Wales in Kensington, NSW, Australia.

[26 sep 09]

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