Global War for the World Order, Part II
September 11 did not change the world and marked no change in era. It becomes more and more obvious that it was crystallization point and catalyst for developments which had started long before. While the media present a struggle between "good" and "evil," around capitalist civilization and Islam, or the much-denounced anti-Semitism, in reality it has to do with the perspective of a global system hitting its limits in crisis; limits arising in the fact that in the worldwide struggles against the prison of work glimmer the possibilities of another world. For the rulers and exploiters these limits mean that they search ever more desperately for a "new world order," and, for that purpose, they hold open all the powerful, military means of coercion at their disposal.
The Way to War and the Search for Empire
Since the first part, in Wildcat Circular 61, half a year has passed. New developments have put interest in the attacks and Afghanistan in the background: Israel's occupation politics and the United States's strained relations to the Arab states; the escalation of the Kashmir conflict between Pakistan and India, and the closely connected massacre of Muslims in the Indian province of Gujarat; almost simultaneously the fall of the energy giant Enron and the uprising in the model neoliberal country, Argentina--with all its ramifications on global capital valorization; the announcement of a new nuclear strategy and pre-emptive strike doctrine by the United States. Behind all these political issues lurks the uneasy question whether the boisterously proclaimed upswing in the US economy is real, or whether the dollar will further dramatically break down, and thereby drive the already-troubled world economy over the edge.
Through these developments, however, it has also become obvious how these pieces of a very confusing puzzle fit together. The interesting thing about the "Enron scandal" was not only the extent of the balance-sheet falsifications and the involvement of a great part of the Bush Administration in this firm, but its connections to the oil business in Central Asia and India--which meant that, suddenly, critical questions about 9/11 were posed. How much did the president know beforehand? Some of this must be addressed by an investigatory committee. And what was served by the bombing of Afghanistan? With that, there were critical questions about the brutality of the war in Afghanistan, which had been taboo in the American public.
It also becomes ever more obvious that Enron (see Wildcat Circular 62) is no isolated scandal, but more like a crystal ball that brought the collected facets of the fictive upswing of the "new economy" to light. The fairytale boom in the United States, which, after the Asian crisis of 1997-98 became the motor of the world economy, has turned out to be a fraud of simulated growth, after the long, drawn-out crash of the financial markets since March 2000. It hangs on the silk thread of enormous capital exports to the United States (see Wildcat Circular 55--article by Fred Moseley--and 56/57), which become more and more questionable with the start of the collapse of the dollar. The Bush-Cheney Administration, from the oil business and Enron, was clearly aware of the precariousness of this situation in summer 2001, and permitted it a great role in their "foreign policy" observations. Now Bush and his finance minister stress almost desperately that they are holding fast to a strong dollar--without thereby being able to impress capital investors.
This has nothing to do with purely "economic" questions. The traditional left divisions of "economic," "political," "military," etc., reintroduce the reifications that this social system brings forth ideologically and that it needs for its stability. The "economic" decline, a phenomenon legible in terms of money and value relations, is only the isolated and abstract side of a crisis of all life and the mode of reproduction on this planet--a totality of relations, which are fragmented by the dominant relations into "political," "cultural," "technical," etc., moments, in order to be able to govern them individually.
Because today this totality stands in question, this crisis cannot be grasped within the familiar schema of "imperialist competition," even if this, before and after, forms a moment in the developments. The question of a "new world order" stands in the foreground, in the space in which the old order of the "cold war" has dissolved, without presenting any successors. The left discussions of imperialism and "Empire" are expressions of a lack of clarity, just like the rightist calls for a self-consciously new imperialism or colonialism, increasingly floated since the attacks. This lack of clarity arises not only on the question of which constellation of powers could form the future world order, but on whether any global order of capital, in general, has any perspective to offer.
Excursus: Imperialistic Competition or Class Antagonism
In the first part of this article it was stressed that the war in Afghanistan is a moment of the imposition of class relations and that oil is not simply some noncontroversial use value but the principal lubricant of the contemporary valorization process. The question of the distinct interests of the United States, of the European economic bloc or other countries, and of competition among diverse oil firms was thus given short shrift. On the left, the conjuncture, the course of the world, must be explained with reference to competition, e.g., out of the economic rivalry between the dollar- and the euro-zone. Competition, with respect to "capital," will be opposed as a determinate historical class relation. But competition and class relations are two united moments of the capital relation that determines our way of life. Capital, as an antagonistic relation between producers and their own objectified relations of production, is not a tangible object, like a government or a firm. It is a historically transitory structure in which the competing subjects move, with their own respective interests. That means, inversely, that this structure only maintains and develops itself in that movement of competition.
The Afghan warlords, national governments or international oil companies may think they are following only their own special interests. They don't have to know that they, with their murders and their expulsions, create the preconditions of a capitalist economy. A government can imagine that it follows only national goals, but as capitalist state power it will always simultaneously be driven to the safeguard capitalist relations. The representation of competition doesn't reach far enough and explains nothing if it doesn't go all the way down to the general conditions for the reproduction of capital as a class relation. The development of capitalist relations is fulfilled constantly by competition, and it needs competition. The essential result is, however, not the attainment of this or that interest, but the simultaneously broader permeation of capitalist relations--or not.
Otherwise, this general content is not nearly so unknown to most of the members of the ruling class as one might believe from the often-cited image of their predecessors that Marx used in an ironic borrowing of Adam Smith's "invisible hand": the one about the process fulfilling itself "behind the backs of the participants." They know all too well that their own luxury of continued existence is wholly bound up with determinate social relations, and their "hand" in events is all too visible. But what they can't know is where the limits of their power lie. Because this turns not on their own activity or subjectivity, but on historical relations in which the mass of humanity confronts its own collective power as something external and alien.
The Taliban as an Instrument of Power Politics
In Afghanistan, the first contracts for the construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan were concluded at the end of May 2002--by an Afghan president who came to office with the support of the United States and who in the 90s was not only a CIA asset but also an adviser to Texan oil firm Unocal, which had been working on the pipeline--together with Enron! After the last demonstrations of grief for the victims of 9/11 had concluded, the press again spoke clearly. The last May issue of BusinessWeek, under the title "The Next Oil Frontier," brought a lead story on the front of "American soldiers, oilmen and diplomats to Central Asia and beyond." The magazine almost came over how short a time it took the United States after 9/11 to be able to expand its influence in this disputed region. In 1991 the same magazine warned against rash hopes. The Taliban itself was only a means in this geostrategic game and belonged in the meantime also to its past history.
The phenomenon of the Taliban itself, as well as of its climb to power, are no product of social developments in that country. The newfangled reactionary form of its Islamism arose under conditions of massive expulsions and of life in the refugee camps of Pakistan. The local Koran schools, the madrassahs, have a material function for the poor, where they often present their only possibility to give their male children regular meals, a roof over their heads, and some sort of education. For refugees from Afghanistan, the dependence on this possibility of reproduction, for lack of anything better, was stronger than for the Pakistani population. 
The madrassahs were financed by (oil)rich Islamic circles, above all out of Saudi Arabia. So, the schools were dependent on them, and instruments for their goals and interests. What the madrassahs meant to the political ascent of the Taliban is immediately legible in the events of the war. Before decisive slaughters or in precarious situations, the Taliban militias persisted through thousands of new struggles, simply due to the fact that a large madrassah was closed and the "students" were sent to the front. Among them were not only Afghans, but also youth from the Pakistani population. In addition, this process of sending students to the front was a welcome safety valve for the Pakistani government, with the social pressure in its own country. The expansion of the madrassahs and their use as a recruiting instrument was not only tolerated by the Pakistani regime, but furthered as a goal of its own interests.
The special religious ideology of the Taliban would not be important in itself but rather would represent only one of many Islamic sects--moreover, one of an orientation that has never played an important role in Afghanistan. But its reversion to a putatively historical strict Shariah, its propagation of holy war and its uncompromising attitude toward other ideologies or foreign organizations created an identity and legitimation with which the remaining, hated warlords in Afghanistan could distinguish themselves from foreign intervening powers. This would hardly have sufficed for them to establish themselves politically in Afghanistan. In the first two years after their appearance in 1994 it remained a constant question whether they would be able to entrench themselves.
From the beginning, the accession to power of the Taliban turned on the fact that they were assisted by other powers as a possible enforcer of order. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and the independence of the five Central Asian countries with their now-open markets and accessible resources created an interest in stability. Afghanistan was now, in the eyes of many, no longer the battlefield on which the USSR was driven out and worn down, and on which simultaneously the social relations were radically transformed (see Part I), but it became a key position for the transport routes to Central Asia. The first promoter and supporter of the Taliban was the transport mafia of LKW Enterprises in Quetta (Pakistan) and Kandahar (Afghanistan), which wanted to get a secure transit route to Turkmenistan. The Taliban's first military actions were on behalf of this local enterprise, to clear the streets and secure the LKW convoys.
Isolated, the "student army" of the Taliban would have been able to maintain itself neither financially, organizationally nor militarily in Afghanistan over the long term. They got through the first big slaughters only because in 1995, with the help of the Pakistani domestic intelligence agency, the ISI, they reorganized and had been outfitted with vehicles and weapons from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
By 1996-97, after they had brought a great deal of the country under their control, they grew interesting for internationally operating firms in the oil business, who sought transport routes for oil and gas from Central Asia, which was now independent of Russian control--and who, if at all possible, did not want to go through Iran. The Argentine oil concern Bridas and the Texan Unocal negotiated intensely with the Taliban on this pipeline project. Unocal hired the American energy company Enron, which had a special interest in cheap gas from Central Asia, to do a feasibility study. Bush's post-9/11 Afghanistan representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, who recently directed the farcical loya jirga a bit too obviously, worked up a risk analysis for a gas pipeline through Afghanistan in June 1997 and mediated the negotiations with the Taliban for Unocal.
Two Thwarted Attempts--"The Enron-Taliban-Cheney Connection"
Enron began the construction of a gas-powered electricity plant in Dabhol, India, in the vicinity of Bombay, in 1992. The $3 billion project was supposed to supply a fifth of India's power needs by 1997. The Indian authorities were not happy that the power created there would cost from three to seven times more than power from other sources. Even the World Bank had warned against the high cost before the project. Enron enlisted US statesmen and diplomats in 1994 and 1995 to pressure the Indian government to continue the project--which they then did--while the company itself paid bribes. Over the long term, the project can only be profitable if Dabhol has a cheap connection to Central Asian gas. In November 1997 the Taliban was in Houston at the invitation of oil firm Unocal, and the project of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India appeared to be a done deal.
But the negotiations dragged on and on. Their failure, in most accounts, goes back to the attacks on August 7, 1998, on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Clinton Administration's rocket attacks on the Bin Laden camps in Afghanistan afterward. But two other aspects are thereby hidden. In the construction of the pipeline through Afghanistan, there was heavy competition between the Argentine firm Bridas and the American Unocal. The Taliban demanded during negotiations not only license fees for the throughput but also development of infrastructure and the possibility of using the pipeline for Afghan energy requirements. Bridas wanted to give these concessions, but they were denied by Unocal. The Texan firm denied the Taliban's demands and insisted on a pure transport deal. The second aspect is the development of the oil price: In 1998 it had fallen, on account of the Asian crisis, to a historic low of $13 a barrel, with which the concern for cheap substitutes lessened somewhat. Moreover, Saudi Arabian influence, or, that of certain circles of the ruling family, played an important role: The easier path to the Central Asian oil and gas reserves would have further undermined the already-broken dominance of Saudi oil production on the world market.
Unocal dropped the pipeline project in 1998. Enron produced more energy in Dabhol, but in May 2001 the regional Indian electricity authorities ceased payment on account of the prices being too high. Enron countered with a demand for $64 million more in outstanding payments.
Second attempt: When Bush came to power with a complete staff from the oil business, talks with the Taliban on the pipeline would be taken up again--the last meeting occurred four weeks before 9/11. At that meeting, the US-American side is supposed to have made a statement that has become famous in the meantime, that the Taliban could choose between a red carpet or a carpet of bombs. The oil price had dramatically increased in the meantime, and had led to heavy social clashes in Europe and the United States in summer 2001 (see Wildcat Circular 58). Besides that, Enron had been one of the main financiers of the Bush campaign, and as late as mid-2001 it was clear to the heads of Enron that the collapse of the pyramid scheme was near. The oil price, Enron, social conflict, the perspective of a heightened dependence on Middle East oil over the next decades, the Bush Administration's own interests, and the situation of the stock exchanges and the Internet economy--all this put Central Asia and its oil and gas reserves back in the center of things.
Vice President Cheney, onetime CEO of the international pipeline-construction firm Halliburton, which would have participated in the construction of the Afghan pipeline, met many times during the year with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay--after the firm's bankruptcy, the subject of these talks was thrown into the shredder, which momentarily occupied the attention of most of the American public. Parallel to the negotiations with the Taliban, the Bush Administration sent a working group to Dabhol, which was supposed to help Enron in the collection of its debts, e.g., prepping Cheney before his trip to India in June 2001. Enron offered to sell the power plant for $2.3 billion, which could have been the firm's last chance, a postponement, and it again put pressure on the Indians, with the backing of the Bush Administration, to accept the price. Nothing came of the sale. On November 8 Enron's collapse began, as the firm had to admit millions and millions of dollars of false turnover--on December 2 it declared bankruptcy.
The Crime of the Taliban--Its Failure as a State
The real problem the United States and other Western countries had with the Taliban wasn't the presence of Bin Laden, nor the Shariah, nor the oppression of women, nor the cutting off of hands and feet--international oil firms and Western governments from all over the world managed to cope with all that, as long as the oil supply was insured and the profits alright. The Taliban's mistake was that they could not achieve the necessary stabilization of the whole country and also could not enter into direct collaboration with other countries in order to do so.
In 1991 the United States knew to abstain from destroying the regime in Baghdad. While umpteen thousand simple Iraqi soldiers were massacred while in retreat, they let Saddam Hussein keep his elite troops so he could smash the revolting Shiites and Kurds. The maintenance of central state power was more important to the United States than who ran it. With all the competition among states, assuring that a state exists, as the elementary framework of capitalist development and control, is a concern common to the ruling classes of all countries. The United States wanted to prevent Iraq from becoming a "failing state" (this concept would first be discovered two years later). Afghanistan was a "failed state," and the Taliban had not fulfilled its assigned task of "nation building (a euphemism for the imposition of a capitalist state). Even administratively they had not risen to the task, which showed itself perhaps most flagrantly in their inability to establish their own currency. The Taliban continued to draw banknotes from their military opponent Massoud.
The Taliban could also call on no mass basis in the population. Their military strength did not turn on any ideological consensus, but rather hung on the mobilization of the madrassahs, and the financial means to pay the soldiers was supported by "volunteers" (sometimes paid volunteers) from other countries. Moreover, they were supported by a not inconsiderable number of Pakistani soldiers and military advisers. In November 2001 this was obvious, as Pakistan airlifted thousands of "its people" from the city of Kunduz, under fire by the troops of the Northern Alliance and the United States. The United States objected in public, but had to allow it, so as not to further weaken the regime in Pakistan.
The attitude of the population is difficult to assess, where there is only sparse information available. In the western part of the country, near the Iranian border, where the Taliban came across as foreign rulers on the grounds of their different language, they confronted a hostile population, which opposed their incursions. For example, in Heart, women demonstrated against the closure of public baths. Here, the Taliban troops, quite openly, committed ethnic massacres, plundered the cities and raped women--by which they lost their self-cultivated image as a "clean" army in distinction to the remaining warlords. But even in their "Pashtun" heartland, in the region around Kandahar, they encountered opposition. During press-gang recruitment from the countryside, Taliban functionaries were attacked, several times shot dead. The Taliban's attempt to impose, on a very culturally and religiously heterogenous country, a unitary religious domination made it impossible for them finally to fulfill their assigned task of stabilization.
Access to Central Asia
"I can remember no time in which any region has so quickly become so strategically important as the Caspian..." When the present-day Vice President Cheney said this in 1998 he was still the CEO of Halliburton. In this capacity, he was concerned above all with the strategic interests in the oil and gas reserves of the region. Central Asia became the center of attention after the collapse of the USSR. In his book The Grand Chessboard (1997) former National Security Adviser [for President Jimmy Carter] Zbigniew Brzezinski put in the center of the equation the question, Who would rule the enormous and populous continent of Eurasia? If a unified power bloc were to develop on this landmass (out of the European Union, Russia and China), it would be the end of US-American supremacy over the world. This is also the sense in which world-systems theorist Wallerstein interprets the efforts of the United States for a quick eastward expansion of NATO, as an intended weakening of the European Union in economic competition with the United States. If NATO-acceptance of these countries must inevitably soon lead to EU-acceptance, then the European Union can be weakened economically. The European Union, just like China, is strongly dependent on oil and gas imports, and thus has a strong interest in the development of the Caspian reserves, whose connection to the Russian-European pipeline network is already a given. The United States however, wants to create access independent of Russia and Iran, in order to be able to participate in their control. This is only possible through Turkey (the pipeline project through Kurdish areas to the Mediterranean port of Ceyan) or the technically easier Afghanistan.
Books like Brzezinski's or Huntington's (Clash of Civilizations) came about as briefs for the CIA. The interesting thing about them is not their "scientific content" but their meaning as directions and handbooks for politics. Just like Huntington threw up a new scare scenario for the one that had been lost to capitalism with the end of the "cold war," Brzezinski formulates geostrategic goals for the maintenance of US power.
Central Asia comes back into the middle of strategic considerations because the political connections remain open there after 1990, and the region, together with the Caucusus, poses perspectives for oil and gas requirements. The danger of an increasing US dependence on Middle Eastern oil have been discussed since the 90s; simultaneously, the Gulf War of 1990-91 showed how problematic too large an exertion of influence over the region is. The Bin Laden phenomenon is finally a product of the Gulf War, which called forth internal political opposition to the cooperation of Saudi Arabia with the United States. There is no more talk today of how the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea represent an alternative to the world's largest and cheapest exploitable oil reserves in the Middle East. So, all over the world, new supply sources are sought--in Alaska as well as in West Africa or Central America. But in Central Asia general geostrategic goals still overlap with the desperate search for a territory to replace the still-increasing dependence on Arab oil.
The (for now) dead Enron deal in India makes something else clear: It's not just about the dependence of the United States on oil imports, but also about the valorization chain of petroleum around the world. The highest growth rates in oil use are forecast for Asia, especially China and India. It is an open question which concerns can make business out of this increasing demand.
The Key Position of Afghanistan
The Afghanistan war of the 1980s had an important meaning in the attempt to gain control over Central Asia. In its sphere, the weapons trade in the region and the so-called ethnic or religiously motivated conflicts served to hold the situation open in order to set social transformation processes in motion. In the first years after 1990, the Central Asian states, in spite of formal independence, remained economically dependent on Russia, and partially on the presence of its troops for national security. The Central Asian countries sought to keep all their options open: old contacts in Russia, new cooperation with the United States, Turkey and Israel, Pakistan, India, China, Iran or the European Union. In the course of the Afghanistan war and with the strengthening of the Taliban, it was always a matter of shifting coalitions and influences.
The United States developed the concept of military advances into the region very early. In 1991 it was known that the United States was preparing, after the Gulf War, a similar operation (Operation Wustenchild) under the code-word "Operation Stepchild." In 1997 US Special Forces organized general maneuvers with the then-contending forces in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. On the other side, Russia and China sought to solidify their role in Central Asia via the disaster scenario of the "Islamic danger" coming from Afghanistan. Against the US attempt to stabilize the region with military presence or direct interventions, Russia and China in June 2001 initiated the "Shanghai Organization for Cooperation" together with the four Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, to proceed in common against rebels and separatists. The bombing of Afghanistan by the United States, and the closely connected construction of military forward-deployments in the bordering countries or most recently in Georgia, has pre-empted this coalition.
Against this background of the war and the imminent confrontation between Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and the United States, Russia has attempted, through its support for "the war against terror" (which it itself has long practiced in Chechnya!) and its undermining of OPEC's oil-price politics, to bring itself into play as an alternative oil producer for the West--while not ceasing to try to open cooperation with China in the region.
Behind all these facets of the competition among the different powers and economic blocs stands the question of a perspective for capitalist valorization as a global process; this includes the safeguarding of oil as the central lubricant of worldwide accumulation (therefore Iraq as the next object of attack: on the grounds of the threatened breakaway of Saudi Arabia, a new, stable beachhead is becoming urgent) as much as the permeation of capitalist structures throughout Central Asia. Also, even if Central Asia shows itself to have the ideal social conditions for oil supply (an area of the size of India with a population of merely 55 million people), oilfields and pipelines require stable relations. An example from the Caucusus clarifies the problem: The US-American electricity firm AES, which set up electricity plants and distribution networks in Georgia, stood on the edge of bankruptcy on account of strongly increased and widespread power theft, up to the point that for only 65 percent of the produced energy can payments be booked. That similar problems will be tied to work on a pipeline can be seen in countries like Nigeria.
The real problem is not ethnic conflict, which everywhere evokes comparison with the stone age and yet will be stirred up if necessary, but the as-yet-to-be-imposed validity of bourgeois property and money. Historically this has never been accomplished purely by means of force, but rather required the simultaneous development of wealth and the integration of the proletariat by means of the wage. Precisely for that reason there is no visible perspective for the world economy confronted by this crisis. With war and warlordization old structures that might have stood in the way of capital development can be destroyed--but can set no development process in motion. The comparison with Schumpeter's "creative destruction" won't do here, because he assumed that it would be in the course of a new accumulation dynamic.
Bombs as Claims to Power--by the United States and Capital
The bombing of Afghanistan begun on October 7, 2001, and not yet at an end was no reaction to 9/11, but rather the resumption and facilitation of strategic priorities in Central Asia. The whole form of the war's prosecution shows that it had no particular timetable in which to catch Bin Laden or to destroy the Al Qaeda network. Measured in terms of these goals, the United States lost the war in Afghanistan, just like the bourgeois opposition to the war often emphasizes.
Even in a strategic sense one can't speak of a victory. The dilemma of military attacks in times of global crisis lies in the fact that each attempt to stabilize any locale brings forth further destabilization somewhere else. In the 1991 Gulf war, the United States wanted to insure its control in the Middle East, and announced it already to be a "new world order." In the long run, however, it thereby undermined its exclusive strategic relations with the most important country in the region, Saudi Arabia, which is now obvious. With the bombing of Afghanistan, it attempted to set up a long-term presence in Central Asia--and thereby inevitably destabilized Pakistan, whose regime it could persuade into giving up the Taliban and participating in "the war on terror" only with much pressure and money.
There is an intense competition between the United States and the Western European countries over how these countries and regions should be stabilized. While the European Union proposes diplomatic influence and development aid ("nation building"), the Bush Administration from the beginning has declared itself for strong military action. Like already in the Kosovo war of 1999, the bombardment of Afghanistan served to impose a US power claim founded more and more on military might alone. In Afghanistan, it was presented to the outside as a division of labor: The United States bombs, the Europeans invite them to Bonn and St. Petersberg, send police for Kabul, and build tents for celebratory functions. Thereby they remain, in spite of some diplomatic grumbling, the willful subordinates of US supremacy.
In the prosecution of the war, from the beginning till today, the United States took all control--over the "allied" Northern Alliance militias just as much as the participating European powers or the peacekeepers in Kabul. Although the NATO alliance had been declared, the United States--unlike in Kosovo--consciously declined to make use of it, and rather held itself to be the supreme command and to determine the course of action.
Over and over again the US military hindered, in the face of violent protests by the militia leaders of the Northern Alliance, the usual practice in Afghanistan of capitulation and later release of the imprisoned (with the exception of the previously cited case of Kunduz, where the relationship to Pakistan and the internal stability of that country stood in question). Once, Rumsfeld let it slip that "we take no prisoners." The massacre of prisoners at Mazar-i-Sharif goes back to this position and the conscious provocation of the US military--and it was simultaneously a signal to the Northern Alliance themselves.
Before that, the Bush Administration had first warned the Northern Alliance militias not to march on Kabul and not to take the city. Militarily, however, they were dependent on these ground troops, in order to avoid a massive loss of their own--which, since Vietnam, doesn't go over well as domestic policy. For a long time in the United States and Great Britain there have been loud discussions about how to wage war with only paid soldiers. For the United States in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance fulfilled this function. The war against the Taliban or Al Qaeda combatants and their demonstrated cruelty served also to further their monopoly of power over the "allied" militias. In the meantime, the process has already been started, in that particular militias sought by President Karzai have been declared enemies of the new state, and are handled accordingly by the US military.
All questions of humanitarian aid and the establishment of their own state have hitherto been rigorously subordinated to the military supremacy of the United States. For example, the military openly refused, before the arrival of this past winter, to assure safe passage for the food and aid convoys. The proposal to expand the operations area of the peacekeepers over Kabul was turned down. At the beginning, even the US-appointed President Karzai protested against the continuing bombardment, which also occasionally resulted in bad feelings among the other Western allies (French bomber pilots once refused a US military-ordered attack, on account of the obvious endangerment to the civilian population). In spite of such differences between the Western attackers of Afghanistan on the question of actions and the roles that would fall to each particular country, unity arose on the fact that military attacks must be made.
Making War Manageable
After the Gulf war of 1991 and the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia in 1999, the Afghanistan campaign is the third large military operation to follow the new politics of "just" war and the representation of war as "police action." After 1945 there was a general avoidance of war, and three large wars after 1945 proved above all that, because of the attitude of one's own population, it was unmanageable: France's Algerian war, the United States' Vietnam war, and the USSR's Afghanistan war. Since then, how war can again be made manageable has been and will be discussed: They should not concern any normal citizen of a warring country, but should rather be prosecuted by a paid army (or, in the spirit of neoliberalism, the poor soldiers [this is a pun in German. The word for "army" is Armee, and "paid army" is Berufsarmee. The word for "poor" is arm, and plural noun is Armeen. Poor soldiers is "Söldnerarmeen." Berufsarmee versus Söldnerarmeen]) (the contemporary debate in Germany over conscription has mainly to do with the manageability of war--and whether it is expensive); they should be short, so that no great debates arise (remember: The NATO bombardment against Yugoslavia was originally supposed to last only two days!); and they should be able to be represented as targeted surgical hits, sparing the civilian population--this presentation of war has become the primary task of the media division.
The course of the Afghanistan bombing shows the whole dilemma of these requirements. After a few weeks of apparently useless bombing, the use of cluster bombs against the civilian population, etc., came more and more into criticism. The United States had to grant the warlords of the Northern Alliance a much larger room for maneuver, just like they had intended, and it could no longer stop their march on Kabul.
Paradoxically, the humanitarian thoughts against the war, from within circles of the European political elite, after a month of "unsuccessful" bombing--from the critique of cluster bombs to the call for a ceasefire--led to the brutalization of the attacks. In order to work against antiwar opinion, quick "results" were called for, for which purpose there was increased civilian targets and infrastructure bombed. "Public opinion" is always on the side of the "winner"--in the Vietnam war it was the military ineffectiveness and the number of dead GIs that broadened of the antiwar movement.
Symbolic "Nation Building"
Only with the presentation of laughing women in "liberated" Kabul did the PR division of the war ministry have sufficient material, and changed public opinion. The country was taken for "liberated" and further US warfighting, with the support of other NATO countries, fell into the shadow of the wholly unreal "reconstruction" of Afghanistan. This was limited to just-for-show projects in Kabul--where the international press is--and pure simulation. The appointed director of the UN special commission to Afghanistan went straight to the point: "We are trying to create the impression that things are under control. Symbolism is important." To this symbolism also belongs the numbers of returning refugees from Pakistan and Iran, which is primarily because each family gets "greetings money" of $20 per head. The organizer of that policy, the UNHCR, is clear that most will have to leave Afghanistan again before next winter, because there is no possibility of survival in the country. After farmer unrest in April, the Karzai administration refused to impose the previously declared ban on opium poppy cultivation. The government had offered them compensation of $350 per acre (0.4 hectares), whereas opium cultivation on such an area brings about ten times that amount. The only concrete plans for "reconstruction" relate to the construction of a pipeline, which would create perhaps 10,000 jobs--in a country of 27 million people.
A "Reluctant Imperialist" and the Crisis of Capital
The type of war fought in Afghanistan has parallels on a world-political level: the nixing of the ABM treaty, the publication of a new nuclear strategy with atomic tactical weapons, the "first strike" doctrine presented by Bush, and a nuclear armaments program that could send the US portion of the worldwide armaments budget from 36 to 40 percent (the $48 billion increase in the arms budget for the next year is equivalent to about double the Italian or about one and a half times the German military budget). The most recent and perhaps most grotesque expression of this bid for supremacy in the world system is the conflict around the International Criminal Court. In order to underline its disapproval of such an international institution, a law was passed making military intervention in the Netherlands (the seat of the court) possible in case an American citizen was brought before it.
Does the United States find itself on the way to being an imperialist world power, or do its world politics arise, on the contrary, from its crisis-prone decline as the hegemonic power of the capitalist world system? The "cold war" is indeed at an end, but the "new world order" that Bush rashly called for in 1991 is nowhere in sight.
The course of the United States stands in ever more obvious contradiction to the representation that national state power is being more and more relinquished to supranational organizations like the WTO, IMF, UN or NATO. In the "globalization" concept, states represent themselves to the working class as victims of an overpowering process, in order to be able to pose their own attacks as the result of practical constraints. There are two true aspects of this picture, though: States are not "sovereign" in themselves, but in the context of a worldwide state system, in which there is an obvious pecking order. And, second, states, as the political level of capitalist society, can never be "sovereign" in the sense supposed by the globalization critics' call for a "primacy of politics" over the economy. They can only insure and modify a valorization process whose development lies outside the reach of the wealth of potential taxes. But "sovereignty" in the limited statist sense is, in the final analysis, bound to the state's monopoly on the use of force, even if this has often been forgotten in the globalization discourse of the 90s, with its illusions in market economy and civil society. Organs like the IMF or the WTO are purely contractual agreements between states, which thereby relinquish nothing of their monopoly on the use of force. With that, they themselves are dependent on the power relations obtaining among the states that create them. The initial formation of organizations like the IMF or WTO shows in detail how they are the instruments of the more powerful states, in the imposition of their valorization interests.
On the Way to a New Colonialism?
The intellectual conflict around a new order for the world turns, not on theoretical problems, but on objective contradictions.
Independent of the fashionable left debate over Hardt and Negri's Empire, since 9/11|10/7, rightist circles in the United States have been having a debate on imperialism and empire. In this debate, a positive understanding of imperialism is put forth, whereby, among other things, historical reinterpretations of past imperialisms turn them into the necessary defensive measures of civilized countries against the encroaching piracy around them. Historians and political scientists propose that the United States positively recognize its role as the only "imperial" power or empire, and they refer to the fact that the United States today, in its military dominance, is much more of an empire than Rome or England ever was. All that remains is to make the proper adjustment in government and public attitudes in order to derive a consistent politics from it.
The rightist debate proceeds on the assumption that methods like development aid and international diplomacy ("nation building") no longer serve to keep certain regions of the world in order. In countries like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Angola or Somalia, therefore, a direct takeover of power in country--even colonialism (or a "protectorate" or a "mandate")--is required. And only the United States has the military capacity to do such a thing. In this it has been revealed that the UN or other international organizations, due to their "democratic" procedures, are not the appropriate instruments for what is required. Here they work up the legitimation for new forms of imperial or direct colonial control by the United States.
(Additionally: The arguments are in essence the same as those, which are used in the local provincial debates of the antiGermans to defend the worldwide "civilizing mission" of the United States. Similar is also the fearmongering propaganda of images of decline into the chaos of the uncivilized hordes, which are flooding over us--at bottom this regressive "left" is nostalgic for the cold war, which represented the only order in their minds. Elements of the specific American task can also be found in Negri's postmodern Empire, and in his hymns of praise for the specialness of the American constitution [not a reference to the document but to the "polity," the structure of this particular civil society--translator].)
What substance does this perspective of a US-run world empire have to offer? From the anti-imperialist side, the rightist debate is eagerly attacked and taken as further proof for their critique of US imperialism. Certainly, the United States today is militarily dominant on a scale like no nation ever was on a world scale--measured in terms of weapons and their technological possibilities. But if today, the largest opposition against an attack on Iraq comes out of and is based on the fact that it would take half a year to replace the weapons used up in Afghanistan, the limits of this power also become visible. In the 90s US military strategy conceived its greatest goal to be able to fight two wars like the Gulf war simultaneously. That has little to do with the image of an empire.
Modern capitalist war is a war of industrial production, of replacement of industrial, and specifically capitalist productivity by means of the destructiveness of war technologies. The military dominance of a country is connected in the end to its industrial capacity. At the end of the 80s the historian Paul Kennedy prophesied the same destiny for the United States as for Spain in 1600 or England in 1900: Its economy would not be able to keep pace with its imperial ambitions-"imperial overstretch."
In the 90s, he revised his thesis with respect to the unprecedented boom in the US economy. He overlooked the problems with this boom, which, above all, was one of US capital and goods imports, which fed the stock market boom and the "New Economy," both built on sand. In the past couple of months, the capital inflows to the United States have clearly slowed, and the government economists announce themselves furious that, in spite of their good data, the dollar keeps slipping further. Even if it were to come to a new conjunctural upswing and not to the much-feared "double dip," i.e., a short rise followed by a deepened collapse, the balance of trade and the state debt would still worsen. Nothing points to a renewed attractiveness of US-American stock and bond markets, like at the end of the 90s, which is necessary to finance planned armaments and war.
"Enronitis" and the continuing stream of new swindle-companies are in the foreground, which holds back the stock markets--but Enron as much as Argentina is only an expression of the absolute absence of profitable investment possibilities. The comparison with the world-power Spain or England is therefore inappropriate, because in the course of the crisis since the mid-70s, it hasn't had anything to do with the replacement of one hegemonic power by another--the economic downturn in the united States is a moment of the crisis of the world economy. Now the Bush Administration appears to move in a protectionist direction (steel tariffs, agricultural supports), in order to strengthen their own economy and also, in arms-production (steel!), not to be so dependent on foreigners--there are similar fears about too great a US industrial dependence on computer-component production from Taiwan and China. Dilemma of globalization!
Without a new model of accumulation and a new push for industrialization, there can be neither a US-American nor any other sort of empire. The contemporary tendency toward war and the increased armament since 1998 are expressions of the global crisis situation, but they contain no solution for this crisis. War only functions as a political solution when the proletariat lets itself be drawn into the social logic of destruction and subordination to force. For the rulers, it is an unsolved and possibly insoluble problem to make war manageable again, and with that, to impose the social restrictions and subordination to capital that they require and for which they strive. But precisely on account of this, we should fear that they will attempt, with their whole high-tech arsenal of bombs and destructive forces, to reorganize a relation of power and exploitation for which the material and social basis is increasingly absent.
 We have gathered sources and material in another file, will be soon available.