Swans Commentary » swans.com July 30, 2007  



The Establishment's Tocsin
The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - July 30, 2007)  In increasing numbers, members of the Establishment are confounded by the global debacle wrought by the Bush administration on US interests. Scratching their heads, they wonder how to extricate themselves from the calamitous results of an administration gone awry from the day it set foot into office. In 2000, the Establishment was quite content with the two candidates, Al Gore and George W. Bush, both scions of bona fide political dynasties. Either would do. Either would lead the corporate oligarchy, aka Corpocracy, in the same direction that former administrations had developed with unadulterated continuity. When the little electoral glitch occurred in Florida and the Supreme Court chose Mr. Bush to be the next president against the will of the American people who had voted in favor of Mr. Gore, the Establishment let it pass with a yawn. It made no difference; and after the Clinton hanky-panky years, everybody felt that a little Puritanism would be healthy for the nation's morale. Mr. Gore packed his suitcase and went home without a fight. Then, however, few were aware of the sheer incompetence of Mr. Bush and his cronies and nepotists. None, in their wildest imagination, ever thought that Corpocracy could morph into Kakistocracy -- a government directed by the least qualified and most unprincipled people.

From the perspective of the Establishment, when George W. Bush took over the helm of the ship of state in January 2000, he inherited a sound and stable vessel thanks to the policies implemented by his father, George H. W. Bush, and his predecessor, William J. Clinton. Everybody expected that Bush Jr. would build upon that solid legacy. Instead, he squandered the inheritance through aggressive, ill-conceived, unilateral actions that have left the ship taking in water perilously. How to avoid a Titanic-like ordeal has become the issue of the first order.

A solid legacy

Bush Sr. presided over many achievements. First, he reversed the "voodoo economics" that the Reaganites had instituted. Second, he took care of a tin-pot dictator in Panama, a former ally and CIA operative, sending a clear message to Latin America that the Western hemisphere was under firm US control. Third, taking advantage of the Soviet Union's slow agony, he cut the wings of another former ally and operative, Saddam Hussein, and engendered the positioning of the US military in Saudi Arabia, all under the auspices of the UN imprimatur and the assistance of some 33 other nations. Fourth, and most importantly, he presided with great finesse over the fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, letting the events unfold by themselves, and financing through the US Agency for International Development the shock therapy promoted by Jeffrey Sachs and Andrei Shleifer, which led to the plundering of the Russian state's assets for the benefit of Wall Street and a few oligarchs.

Had it not been for Ross Perot's rebellion, Bush Sr. would have handedly won re-election in 1992. It did not happen, but the Establishment found comfort in Bill Clinton's Third Way ideology.

Mr. Clinton, unlike Bush Jr., followed upon the path drawn by his predecessor. He built upon the successes of Bush Sr., both domestically and internationally. On the domestic front, he put the house in order by being fiscally conservative, eliminating the budget deficit, and generously cutting social programs. He continued the upward redistribution of wealth from the bottom two quintiles of the American people to the top one percent, thus becoming a darling of the Wall Street crowd. (To be fair to Bush Jr., this is one policy that he too has followed in earnest.) Internationally, aside from the little debacle in Somalia, the Clinton administration worked assiduously on building the New World Order and the Bridge to the 21st Century. Taking advantage of Boris Yeltsin, a booze-loaded buffoon at the head of the Russian Federation, Mr. Clinton and his European allies further ransacked the Russian economy and laid the groundwork for the enlargement of the EU and the expansion of NATO in order to achieve four major objectives of the American Establishment: a) the encirclement of Russia, b) the further decline of Russian power, c) the dilution of Franco-German influence within the EU, and finally d) the control of Eurasia -- thus realizing Halford Mackinder's famous "Heartland Theory" ("Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island controls the world."). One obstacle to that geo-strategy was the former Federal Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, which lay on the road to the Heartland. Hence, the U.S. and its NATO allies wreaked havoc upon the Balkans and opened the way to full spectrum dominance.

Otherwise, the Clintonians reined -- through the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and free-trade agreements (e.g., NAFTA) -- over much of the Third World and in its Latin American backyard, redistributing wealth from the periphery to Wall Street as the neo-liberal globalization raged on. They kept Saddam Hussein boxed in through the extreme sanctions regime, the maintenance of the no-fly zones, and the periodic bombings of Iraqi military and economic infrastructures. A few other bombing forays, in the Sudan or in Afghanistan, gave notice of American power to friends and foes alike, though that power, diplomatic or otherwise, was not sufficient to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- to the pleasing of the Establishment that could care less for the well being of the Palestinians since there is no money to be made in that undertaking.

All in all, the Establishment could be satisfied and gratified by the results achieved by Mr. Clinton and his team. They expected no less from the new White House resident, George W. Bush. With an old hand like Dick Cheney they anticipated that Bush Jr. would put together a team of realists in the image of his father's. Instead they got a bunch of ideologues and faith-based crazies that botched much of the accomplishments the Bush Sr. and the Clinton administrations had accomplished. They were in for a rude and most unpleasant awakening.

The USS Titanic

First, the Bushites reinstated the dreaded voodoo economics of the 1980s by passing a series of huge tax cuts. Then they got caught with their pants down on 9/11, and it went down hill from that point on as they accumulated strategic blunder after strategic blunder.

With Yugoslavia out of the way, Afghanistan was the next logical step toward the full command of the World-Island (Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, and Asia). The 9/11 tragedy provided the opportunity for an invasion that had long been planned and was welcomed by the powers that be, as was the December 2001 decision to withdraw from the 1972 ABM treaty, a necessary condition for achieving nuclear primacy. Regrettably -- again, from the Establishment perspective -- instead of keeping their eyes on the prize, that is the Heartland, the Bushites got distracted and made a mistake of gigantic proportion: They mixed up the actual, ultimate prize with the one Mr. Cheney believed in when he said during a speech at the London Institute of Petroleum in the fall of 1999 that "the Middle East with two thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Instead of focusing American power on Afghanistan, Russia, and Eurasia, the Bushites invaded Iraq on false pretenses to the horror of the entire world and the destabilization of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance. Meanwhile, a much wilier fox than Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev combined had taken up residence in the Kremlin -- a former obscure KGB officer in the name of Vladimir Putin, who turned out to have a more devilish soul than Mr. Bush thought he had seen. The first move Mr. Putin made was to abandon Russian "voodoo economics" and the shock therapy and while he kept on great terms with his friend George, he initiated nationalist policies to put the Russian bear back in the ring of the Great Games. Faced with a stratagem arranged by the Bush-Cheney crew -- the gang who couldn't shoot straight -- to have ExxonMobil and Chevron purchase a large stake in one of then-biggest Russian oil companies, Yukos, largely owned and directed by the Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovski, Mr. Putin responded with alacrity by having Khodorkovski arrested in October 2003 and charged with fraud and tax evasion. The multi-billionaire is currently languishing in a Siberian camp, to the chagrin of his American friends. Yukos was subsequently forced into bankruptcy and its assets (20 percent of Russian oil reserves) were all but in name renationalized.

The following spring, in May 2004, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal sealed the eventual defeat of the US misadventure in Iraq. Bogged down, the gang who couldn't shoot straight ignored the Afghanistan quagmire and the Taliban went on the offensive. By now, even the NATO allies acknowledge in private that Afghanistan is lost and it's just a question of time before they withdraw their contingents from that hellish place. Pakistan with its nukes is nearing the implosion point. Lebanon lies in shambles. Israel is more paranoid than ever and the Palestinians pay a heavy price for that paranoia. Even the Saudi Arabia regime is quietly reconsidering its alliance with the U.S. Egypt and Jordan beg for mercy as their regimes are increasingly challenged. America's reputation in the world lies in tatter. Latin America, which Clinton had carefully supervised and looted, has increasingly showed straights of independence from its Washington puppet masters. Even in 2002, as the gang who couldn't shoot straight was preparing the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, the White House bet on the wrong horses in its efforts to depose Hugo Chávez, the fiery president of Venezuela.

If these appalling results were not good enough causes for the anxieties felt by the Establishment, then the following developments should do.

(Mis)Actions and Reactions

The Las Vegas casino policies played by the Bushites had to stem reactions from other players. It's all about money, after all.

Sitting at the gambling table, Mr. Putin decided to call upon a trump card -- a joker, if you will -- and brought together an assembly of disparate players in a setting known as the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO). The SCO was founded in June 2001 (note the date) by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- all constituents of the Heartland...or the World-Land in Mackinder's lingua franca. Those high-stake poker players are inviting Iran to join the game, no less. Furthermore, through Gazprom, the giant oil & gas company, Russia has entered into new economic alliances with countries that have long been part of the US sphere of influence (Germany, Italy, Turkey, Algeria, etc.) and deepened its cooperation with China. The Putin administration is cooperating with Iran on nuclear energy, is opposing the independence of Kosovo, selling armaments to Venezuela, modernizing its military and nuclear deterrence -- all moves that are antagonizing Washington.

The situation has become so alarming that a delegation of high-powered realists composed of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George Schultz, former Senator Sam Nunn, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Special Representative for Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., and Chevron CEO David O'Reilly recently went to Moscow to have a "frank" discussion with Mr. Putin.

Another source of anxiety is China, which through its quiet diplomacy and generous soft-loan policies in Africa and elsewhere is outplaying Washington and making strong inroads in oil-producing countries that used to be the domain of the Anglo-American oil majors. Sudanese oil, including that of Darfur, is a clear example. These fields were supposed to be developed by Western interests and the oil exported through the Chad-Cameroon pipeline to American refineries. Instead, it goes to China. (Led by George Clooney and the folks of savedarfur.org, an outfit probably financed by the CIA, many people buy into the genocide story and ignore the policy of regime change attempted by the U.S. and its NATO allies.) China is making important advances in the African continent and making oil deals with countries that had long been considered as private property of the U.S. and the EU (e.g., Chad, Nigeria, South Africa). In response, the only countermeasures the U.S. can offer to challenge China is through the creation of more military conflicts -- like Somalia -- and further destabilization of the African continent.

In short, the Bush administration has managed to squander in 6.5 years all the gains accumulated by Bush Sr. and Clinton and set us on a path toward the dark days of Rome. Add Katrina, the housing and credit bubbles, and the huge budget and trade deficits, among other failures, and one can understand the legitimate concerns expressed by the Establishment. How much more damage will the gang who couldn't shoot straight cause in the next 17 months?

Stay tuned.



The Emerging Russian Giant Plays its Cards Strategically, by F William Engdahl, engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net, October 20, 2006.

Putin and the Geopolitics of the New Cold War, by F William Engdahl, engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net, February 18, 2007.

Darfur? It's the Oil, Stupid... China and USA in New Cold War over Africa's oil riches, by F William Engdahl, engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net, May 20, 2007.


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Gilles d'Aymery on Swans (with bio). He is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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Published July 30, 2007