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[afro-nets] The Imperial Moment

The Imperial Moment
-------------------

By Galal Nassar
Al Ahram Weekly http://www.ahram.org.eg/

In the wake of the 11 September attacks, US strategy has been to
extend its hegemony in formerly Soviet Central Asia, with a view
to controlling the region's vast petroleum reserves. *

CAIRO, Sep 18, 2002 -- The US did not create a New World Order
in the wake of the Gulf War, but it took a large step in that
direction. However, securing control over the Gulf required a
supplementary measure in Central Asia, which US foreign policy
architects regard as of crucial importance. It is no conspiracy
theory to suggest that the events of 11 September served as a
pretext to enter this region, though this would, in any case,
have happened sooner or later. This becomes apparent from an ex-
amination of US actions since the end of the Cold War.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the
bipolar world order, the US began to rally international organi-
sations in the service of a new interventionism. Democratisa-
tion, the free market, human rights and prohibiting the spread
of weapons of mass destruction were among the catchwords used
for eliminating regional threats to Washington's growing global
hegemony. The US set its sights, in particular, on the Gulf and
Central Asia. In addition to their geopolitical and strategic
importance, these two regions are also of vital economic impor-
tance to the West in view of their enormous reserves of oil and
natural gas.

The US has been seeking to station forces in these areas in or-
der to assert its leadership over its economic, political and
military rivals. Towards this end, it must seize the "imperial
moment", which does not offer itself that frequently in history.
The US is convinced that the end of the Cold War period has of-
fered it the unprecedented opportunity to prevail in a unipolar
world order. It also realises that such conditions are ephem-
eral, and that it must so order the global arena in order to
safeguard its power and prestige against the eventual advent of
other powers. One is reminded of an earlier phase in history
that also played a major role in the development of the world
order. In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbour during the
Second World War, the Japanese commander who led the assault
said, "This powerful surprise strike has woken the giant from
his slumbers. American territory and installations are no longer
completely safe from attack by adversaries and enemies in this
war."

By any standards, the attacks on New York and Washington last
year represented an enormous failure in the US government's ful-
fillment of its primary foreign-policy objective: "To protect US
territory from the danger of foreign assault and destruction."
Nevertheless, the attacks had the positive result of permitting
the next step forward in creating the new international order in
Central Asia. Washington's declaration of war on terrorism, and
specifically on the "axis of evil", serves a multiplicity of ob-
jectives. It fulfils the US dream of securing its presence in
the Caspian Sea region with its enormous petroleum wealth. It
allows for the gradual eclipse of Russian influence over these
republics, which were formerly a part of the Soviet Union and
are now part of the Russian Commonwealth. It tightens the circle
around Iran as a result of the presence of US forces on Iran's
northern and eastern borders, and it will serve to redraw the
map of south and central Asia. In short, it is Washington's key
to asserting America as the world's sole superpower, an attempt
to affirm Clinton's famous claim that the 21st century will also
be "an American century".

Throughout the Cold War, the US could not so much as contemplate
setting foot in this region, let alone flying over it. Before 11
September, too, US national security and intelligence agencies
desperately wanted an entrance into the region under any pre-
text. But they also knew that four adjacent nuclear powers --
China, Russia, India and Pakistan -- and, perhaps soon a fifth -
- Iran -- had strategic and material interests there that con-
flicted with US strategic objectives.

It is significant that during its war in Afghanistan, the US
never alluded to the enormous reserves of oil and natural re-
sources in Afghanistan and in its five neighbours bordering on
the Caspian Sea. According to the Petroleum Economist of May
2001, experts estimate a petroleum reserve of five billion bar-
rels of crude. Terry Adams of the Institute for Energy Research
at the University of Cambridge, UK, remarked that this enormous
quantity will transform this region into major- league area in
oil and politics. Just one day before 11 September, Oil and Gas
Journal reported that the northern Caspian Sea area was the site
of the most extensive geological survey and test drilling opera-
tions in history, preparatory to commencing drilling operations
and attracting billions of dollars to a region thirsting for
wealth and prosperity. How fortuitous that President Bush and
Vice President Cheney are the foremost champions of the powerful
oil lobby in the US.

In order to achieve its goal of imposing a New World Order, or
more accurately, its extraordinary hegemony, the US has engaged
in a thorough revision of its military strategy. The result has
been a radical transformation of the strategic and tactical as-
pects of its combat readiness and of the logistics of its mili-
tary machine. The events of 11 September were instrumental in
the shaping of this transformation in vision, which is as com-
prehensive as that which followed WWII and, subsequently, that
which emerged with the commencement of the Cold War and the
"balance of nuclear terror" with the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, this was not the first time since the end of the
Cold War that the US has modified its military strategy. In the
early and mid- 90s, as an immediate result of the lessons
learned from the Gulf War, the US adopted a new set of combat
concepts considered commensurate with the political and military
demands of the so- called New World Order.

"Two wars in two theatres", as the strategy was termed, was
based on several combat and operational principles intended to
reduce dependence on the heavy artillery formations once consid-
ered essential to stop a potential Soviet invasion of Europe.
Instead, the focus shifted to arms and units possessing a high
degree of rapid mobility. It also shifted to rapid long-distance
intervention, with a consequent concentration on transport and
logistical support, as well as control over supply lines, water-
ways and air space, and electronic operations. It was assumed
that these elements combined would form an integrated opera-
tional and tactical system capable of achieving the US's politi-
cal and strategic goals in remote parts of the world and in an-
ticipation of further regional conflicts similar to that pro-
voked by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or the ethnic wars in the
Balkans.

The primary objective of this strategy was to enable the US
military machine to engage in two major regional wars in two
separate parts of the world simultaneously. In practical terms,
however, it has become clear that this strategy, including the
partial modifications to it, has not been sufficient to place
the US military in a position to handle contemporary challenges
and threats. This has led to the conviction within the current
Bush administration and the US military establishment that the
strategy must therefore change in order to contend with recent
developments and in order to impose the American global order.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld expressed the shift in
strategic thinking in an recent article, "Transforming the Mili-
tary", which appeared in the US journal Foreign Affairs. The
events of 11 September and over the following months furnished
practical proof that the "two wars in two theatres" strategy was
no longer feasible, and that it had become necessary to formu-
late a new strategy that conformed to the circumstances and de-
mands of the present century. Rumsfeld felt that the two wars
strategy had been appropriate to the situation in the immediate
wake of the Cold War and that it had served its purpose ade-
quately at the time. However, the problem now was that US forces
were prepared -- excessively so -- to engage in two specific
conflicts, but were not sufficiently equipped and prepared to
meet the unexpected challenges of the 21st century.

Rumsfeld was alluding to a fundamental factor in American stra-
tegic thinking: international terrorism in its various forms and
diverse theatres of operation. He therefore said that US forces
must henceforth be prepared to operate in four separate theatres
simultaneously, and against an anonymous, invisible and unpre-
dictable enemy. Although such a goal seems unattainable, the US
secretary of defense continued, "We must adopt new modes of
thinking, new methods of planning and new and bold ways of work-
ing, so that it will be in our power to deter our enemies and
defeat them, even before they are capable of threatening us."

The new American strategic vision therefore places heavy empha-
sis on intelligence gathering on potential enemies and threats
to American interests. It stresses the development of new tech-
nologies for waging computer wars against communications net-
works and IT systems, as well as a greater reliance on Special
Forces. However, the core of the new modus operandi is its focus
on an unconventional enemy similar to that which confronted US
forces in Afghanistan. As the US readies itself to confront
similar enemies in Iraq, North Korea and China, this new vision
calls for expenditure in five defense areas: counter terrorism,
weapons of mass destruction, intelligence, computer warfare and
military aeronautics technology.

The fundamental shift in US strategic thinking can be understood
in terms of its primary strategic goals, which are: providing a
defense shield for US territory and its bases and interests
abroad; ensuring the reach and sustainability of US military
might in the international arena, even in areas remote from the
US; depriving the enemies of the US of refuge and shelter and
preventing them from acting against US targets; safeguarding US
communications and information networks from enemy infiltration
and sabotage using IT and communications technology to coordi-
nate the operations of US forces, and safeguarding US control
over space and safeguarding US satellite technology against at-
tack.

The US has enormous military capacity at its disposal, but, just
as importantly, it also possesses a formidable propaganda ma-
chine. During recent years, this machine has turned Islamic fun-
damentalist groups around the world into enemies of Western cul-
ture, using an array of international relations theories to do
so. Samuel Huntington's book The Clash of Civilizations, for ex-
ample, and Francis Fukuyama's End of History posited an inevita-
ble conflict between Islam and the West. It should be noted that
Fukuyama worked in the US State Department's Centre for Strate-
gic Planning and that Huntington is closely connected to the
agencies planning US propaganda campaigns. It is thus not
unlikely that they were called into the service of US policy ar-
chitects who felt it necessary to create a moral enemy -- Is-
lamic fundamentalist terrorism -- that could be used as a pre-
text to enter territories that would otherwise have remained out
of reach of US intervention.

In addition to Central Asia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt
and Syria are areas where the fundamentalist key would furnish
easier access for the US than any other pretext. This is not to
suggest that such grand theories have not been criticised in the
West. Many scholars in the UK, for example, have contended that
Huntington's "clash of civilisations" theory is fallacious, as
it is founded upon specious premises, "civilisations" not being
actors in international relations. However, this would not be
the first time that the US propaganda machine has been brought
to bear against the country's opponents.

This machine proved its usefulness in bringing down the Berlin
Wall and communism in the former Soviet Union, for example, and
in fragmenting the Communist Eastern Block. The US movie indus-
try through spy thrillers, as well as the US advertising indus-
try, promoting products such as Coca Cola and MacDonalds' fast
food, and US overseas television and radio stations, all blared
out a continuous subtext, which was that citizens in the "free
world" enjoyed far greater happiness and prosperity than those
living under totalitarian regimes in the East. "Democracy" was
also the catchword that allowed the US to intervene in Haiti to
restore Washington's "democratically elected" ally, just as "hu-
manitarian intervention" was the slogan used for moving US
forces into Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Indeed, the creation of an "enemy" is a deeply rooted tactic of
US foreign policy. What other use does the "axis of evil" serve
but as justification for the US to intervene in any conflict, or
even in the absence of any conflict, in order to change the re-
gime in another country?

However, how can the US wage war on such a nebulous, tentacle-
like enemy as terrorism? The answer is not as elusive as one
might expect. Exploiting the aftermath of 11 September, the US
administration has brought into being a coalition against ter-
rorism, centring on three axes. The first of these is the US-
European axis, led by the US in coordination with the UK and in
which NATO, as its Secretary-General George Robinson has an-
nounced, will furnish facilities and other means of support. The
second is the Arab- Islamic axis, consisting of Pakistan, Turkey
and some Gulf countries, which supplies a vital cover of legiti-
macy in view of the potential targets in the war against terror-
ism. The third is the Asian axis, which includes such Central
Asian republics as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan ( both bordering on
Afghanistan) and Kazakhstan, and which is supported by Russia.
Donald Rumsfeld elucidated the mechanisms of the coalition fur-
ther when he said that some countries would act openly in its
support, while others would act in the same way, but in secret.

Now that the US has laid the cornerstones of its new interna-
tional order by establishing a military foothold in Central
Asia, its primary task will be to consolidate its economic and
military hegemony. The contest of the future will be economic
backed by a powerful military cover, which is why the US is de-
termined to augment its power in both domains. If the US per-
ceives that regional powers and economic rivals present the two
most probable destabilising factors, it will take advantage of
threats emanating from the former to gain advantage over the
latter. From Washington's perspective, it is not through a bal-
ance of power that it will sustain the safety and stability of
its international order, but rather through creating a form of
disequilibrium. Such disequilibrium, however, must be managed in
such a way as not to upset the global economic stability the US
hopes to generate as the key to securing its control over the
energy sources of the Gulf and Central Asia.

The question that remains is whether the US will actually be
able to bring its plans to fruition. Will Europe, Japan, Russia
and China stand idly by as the US continues to put the pieces
into place? Or, will they prove problematic and undertake ac-
tions in the manner of the German-French army that was formed
outside of the NATO framework and that is certain to provoke US
resentment?

The realities of the new American order indicate that Washington
will do its utmost to eliminate any rising powers that pose as
much as a temporary threat to its hegemony. At present there are
two possible threats to US interests: the emergence of other su-
perpowers and instability in areas surrounding regions that the
US deems vital to its strategic interests. The emergence of
other superpowers would be catastrophic for US strategists, as
they would present two new factors. The first is that, from the
historical perspective, newly emerging superpowers are inher-
ently destabilising geopolitical phenomena, as proved to be the
case at the global level with the emergence of the US, Germany
and Japan as world powers in the late 19th century. The second
factor is that as newly emerging powers seek to augment their
power they could pose a direct threat to the US.

It is therefore possible to conclude that the US's war will con-
tinue, but not against terrorism as the US media would have us
believe. Rather, this war is really being waged against poten-
tial rivals, such as Europe, Japan and China. Hence, the power-
ful US military and economic presence along their borders, and
hence the recourse to the most powerful weapons in the US arse-
nal: the catchwords of terrorism, fundamentalism, human rights,
democracy, and aid.

The US has enormous military capacity at its disposal, but, just
as importantly, it also possesses a formidable propaganda ma-
chine. During recent years, this machine has turned Islamic fun-
damentalist groups around the world into enemies of Western cul-
ture, using an array of international relations theories to do
so. Samuel Huntington's book The Clash of Civilizations, for ex-
ample, and Francis Fukuyama's End of History posited an inevita-
ble conflict between Islam and the West. It should be noted that
Fukuyama worked in the US State Department's Centre for Strate-
gic Planning and that Huntington is closely connected to the
agencies planning US propaganda campaigns. It is thus not
unlikely that they were called into the service of US policy ar-
chitects who felt it necessary to create a moral enemy -- Is-
lamic fundamentalist terrorism -- that could be used as a pre-
text to enter territories that would otherwise have remained out
of reach of US intervention.

In addition to Central Asia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt
and Syria are areas where the fundamentalist key would furnish
easier access for the US than any other pretext. This is not to
suggest that such grand theories have not been criticised in the
West. Many scholars in the UK, for example, have contended that
Huntington's "clash of civilisations" theory is fallacious, as
it is founded upon specious premises, "civilisations" not being
actors in international relations. However, this would not be
the first time that the US propaganda machine has been brought
to bear against the country's opponents.

This machine proved its usefulness in bringing down the Berlin
Wall and communism in the former Soviet Union, for example, and
in fragmenting the Communist Eastern Block. The US movie indus-
try through spy thrillers, as well as the US advertising indus-
try, promoting products such as Coca Cola and MacDonalds' fast
food, and US overseas television and radio stations, all blared
out a continuous subtext, which was that citizens in the "free
world" enjoyed far greater happiness and prosperity than those
living under totalitarian regimes in the East. "Democracy" was
also the catchword that allowed the US to intervene in Haiti to
restore Washington's "democratically elected" ally, just as "hu-
manitarian intervention" was the slogan used for moving US
forces into Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Indeed, the creation of an "enemy" is a deeply rooted tactic of
US foreign policy. What other use does the "axis of evil" serve
but as justification for the US to intervene in any conflict, or
even in the absence of any conflict, in order to change the re-
gime in another country?

However, how can the US wage war on such a nebulous, tentacle-
like enemy as terrorism? The answer is not as elusive as one
might expect. Exploiting the aftermath of 11 September, the US
administration has brought into being a coalition against ter-
rorism, centring on three axes. The first of these is the US-
European axis, led by the US in coordination with the UK and in
which NATO, as its Secretary-General George Robinson has an-
nounced, will furnish facilities and other means of support. The
second is the Arab- Islamic axis, consisting of Pakistan, Turkey
and some Gulf countries, which supplies a vital cover of legiti-
macy in view of the potential targets in the war against terror-
ism. The third is the Asian axis, which includes such Central
Asian republics as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan ( both bordering on
Afghanistan) and Kazakhstan, and which is supported by Russia.
Donald Rumsfeld elucidated the mechanisms of the coalition fur-
ther when he said that some countries would act openly in its
support, while others would act in the same way, but in secret.

Now that the US has laid the cornerstones of its new interna-
tional order by establishing a military foothold in Central
Asia, its primary task will be to consolidate its economic and
military hegemony. The contest of the future will be economic
backed by a powerful military cover, which is why the US is de-
termined to augment its power in both domains. If the US per-
ceives that regional powers and economic rivals present the two
most probable destabilising factors, it will take advantage of
threats emanating from the former to gain advantage over the
latter. From Washington's perspective, it is not through a bal-
ance of power that it will sustain the safety and stability of
its international order, but rather through creating a form of
disequilibrium. Such disequilibrium, however, must be managed in
such a way as not to upset the global economic stability the US
hopes to generate as the key to securing its control over the
energy sources of the Gulf and Central Asia.

The question that remains is whether the US will actually be
able to bring its plans to fruition. Will Europe, Japan, Russia
and China stand idly by as the US continues to put the pieces
into place? Or, will they prove problematic and undertake ac-
tions in the manner of the German-French army that was formed
outside of the NATO framework and that is certain to provoke US
resentment?

The realities of the new American order indicate that Washington
will do its utmost to eliminate any rising powers that pose as
much as a temporary threat to its hegemony. At present there are
two possible threats to US interests: the emergence of other su-
perpowers and instability in areas surrounding regions that the
US deems vital to its strategic interests. The emergence of
other superpowers would be catastrophic for US strategists, as
they would present two new factors. The first is that, from the
historical perspective, newly emerging superpowers are inher-
ently destabilising geopolitical phenomena, as proved to be the
case at the global level with the emergence of the US, Germany
and Japan as world powers in the late 19th century. The second
factor is that as newly emerging powers seek to augment their
power they could pose a direct threat to the US.

It is therefore possible to conclude that the US's war will con-
tinue, but not against terrorism as the US media would have us
believe. Rather, this war is really being waged against poten-
tial rivals, such as Europe, Japan and China. Hence, the power-
ful US military and economic presence along their borders, and
hence the recourse to the most powerful weapons in the US arse-
nal: the catchwords of terrorism, fundamentalism, human rights,
democracy, and aid.

Al Ahram Weekly, 2002. Distributed in partnership with Globalvi-
sion News Network (http://www.gvnews.net). All rights reserved.

http://www.gvnews.net/html/Opinion/alert583.html

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