Political Power Always Matters More Than Making Money

By Bremner, John | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), June 27, 1994 | Go to article overview

Political Power Always Matters More Than Making Money


Bremner, John, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


America's face-off with North Korea reminds us that even in the post Cold War world, the struggle for political power still matters more than the struggle for economic power.

Otherwise, the conflict would be easily resolved. Korea has far more to gain by scrapping its nuclear program and taking aid from the West than it does from building a bomb.

But Kim Il Sung doesn't even begin to see the world this way.

Not only does he feel his regime is threatened, which is bound to take priority over the mere promise of cash from abroad. He also knows that unless he keeps his country isolated, his power to direct the lives of his people may be threatened.

To be sure, if he is a dedicated Marxist, he is also fighting to preserve a regime that orders economic life according to principles he believes to be of transcendent value. Still, that's a political matter, not an economic one.

Nor is North Korea the only case. Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who risked his country and his life to keep Kuwait, was reaching for political power more than the key to prosperity.

Possession of Kuwait may have given him access to its oil fields, but Iraq had plenty of oil already. Besides, once the price of holding Kuwait became the destruction of his country, it ceased to make sense as an economic objective.

No matter, he held out to the end anyway, and accepted destruction.

Perhaps the advance of the Moslem religion was Saddam's goal - a greater Arab power dominating the Gulf, particularly if he could capture control of Saudi Arabia. Saddam then might have made the West bend politically, on Israel in particular.

But this wouldn't have made Iraq richer, just more politically powerful.

The clearest case of politics counting more than money is, of course, Palestine. An economic coalition with Israel would greatly benefit its neighbors, including the Palestinians, but they have never considered it.

Political dominion over specific pieces of land matter more - witness Ulster, Bosnia, India, Pakistan and several conflicts in Africa.

The resistance of Russia and its sister republics to opening their doors wide to Western business to develop their economies is based on the need to keep political control over their own affairs.

Never mind that Western money might solve their economic problems. What comes first is the question of who rules.

Indeed, communists continue to hold power in many of the former Soviet Republics not because they have a program, but because they are reluctant to accept democracy, which would require them to share power. …

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