Magazine article The American Conservative

Averting the Clash

Magazine article The American Conservative

Averting the Clash

Article excerpt

[American Raj: liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World, Eric Margolis, Key Porter]

Averting the Clash

By Leon Hadar

IT WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN. In the same way that the movement against U.S. military intervention in Vietnam split, amoeba-like, during the drawdown of the war in Southeast Asia, the opposition to the war in Iraq seems to be disintegrating now that the presidential candidate who promised to withdraw from Mesopotamia - a position that is currently supported by 70 percent of the American people - has occupied the White House.

In fact, opponents of President George W. Bush's decision to oust Saddam Hussein and the ensuing American occupation of Iraq have never constituted a unified political force. The antiwar coalition instead consisted of several factions on the political Left and Right They came together at the height of America's unipolar moment in reaction to an effort by neoconservative ideologues to impose U.S. military hegemony in the broader Middle East and most of the Muslim world.

In American Raj, Eric Margolis charts the evolution of an American imperial system whose foundations were laid in the Cold War and whose main rationale was the control of energy resources in the Middle East - a process that accelerated after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the only global player that could challenge American supremacy. His book is part political analysis and scholarship - unfortunately the author does not provide endnotes - part lively travelogue and personal memoir.

Margolis, like other critics of U.S. policy in the Middle East, was not surprised by 9/11. "The attacks of September 11, 2001, did not come out of the blue," he writes. "They were a huge, overdue installment payment ih the costs of empire." Washington's policy of propping up unpopular miUtary regimes and monarchies in the Muslim world and its unyielding support for Israel's repression of the Palestinian people, along with the humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the embargo against Iraq, produced a massive backlash against America ih the Muslim world.

President Bush and his neoconservative aides, says Margolis, seized the opportunity provided by 9/11 to pursue an overreaching strategy to secure America's domination of the Middle East's energy resources, a plan that required U.S. military control of Iraq and Afghanistan. This campaign was launched in the name of fighting terrorism, protecting the West from the Muslim menace, and democratizing the Middle East. But that crusade led to a head-on confrontation between the U.S. and the Muslim world, ignited even more anti-American terrorism, and ended up with a strategic debacle in Iraq and costly diplomatic and military setbacks in Afghanistan as well as in Lebanon and Israel/Palestine.

Most of the activists and pundits who helped energize antiwar sentiments in this country would probably support Margolis's assessment. But not all the critics of the Iraq War agree in their opposition to the neoconservative agenda Many realists faulted the mission in Iraq for not serving core U.S. interests but supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Foreign-policy internationalists insisted that the unilateral decision to attack Iraq violated the dictum that the U.S. should only go to war on behalf and with the full backing of the international community, as happened in Afghanistan. Noninterventionist followers of Ron Paul or Ralph Nader, meanwhile, warned against going abroad in search of monsters to destroy, while traditional conservatives and Jacksonian nationalists cautioned against both invading the world and inviting the world in the name of a self-defeating universalist doctrine.

These differing ideological orientations overlapped on the issue of the Iraq War. Yet while common outrage against the neocons made for congenial political bedfellows, one recalls that there were quite a few realists, internationalists, libertarians, lefties, nationalists, and even paleoconservatives who supported the invasion of Iraq and the campaign against Islamofascism. …

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