Revolution #85, April 22, 2007
• More on the Aims of the Bush Regime—and on the Consequences
Editors' Note: The following are excerpts from an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in the fall of last year (2006). This is the second in a series of excerpts we will be running in Revolution. Subheads and footnotes have been added for publication here. The entire talk is available online at revcom.us/avakian/anotherway.
More on the Aims of the Bush Regime—and on the Consequences
Returning to the objectives of the Bush regime, and to the actions they have undertaken in pursuit of those objectives (objectives which, once again, are shared by the ruling class as a whole, in fundamental terms), the fact is that, through their invasions of first Afghanistan and then Iraq, they have heightened the mess that they perceived in the first place. As they saw it, they were going to go in with military force, they were going to set up a regime on the basis of their military victory, and they were going to call it democracy—and their plans and objectives did envision combining certain outward forms of bourgeois democracy with a "free market economy." And then they were going to basically "run the table" with that—move on from Iraq to other parts of the Middle East, to impose the same "model" of society. Well, it hasn't turned out that way, and now they are confronting the ramifications and implications of that reality.
During the course of the Iraq war, and increasingly as the U.S. has run into trouble and become "stuck" there, the example, or analogy, of Vietnam has been invoked. So let's look at a crucial aspect of how the U.S. eventually got out of Vietnam. To be honest and blunt, they got out of it partly by arrangements they made with China, after Nixon began moving to "normalize relations" with China. And Nixon got some heat for that, too, within U.S. ruling class circles, because a lot of them didn't understand what he was doing. But what Nixon did was basically to enter into a different set of relationships with China than what had existed previously. Not different in the most fundamental sense, because China and the U.S. at that time still represented two fundamentally different and ultimately antagonistic social systems, one socialist and one imperialist; but each government, proceeding from its sense of how to further the interests it represented, moved to conclude certain agreements involving areas of mutual interest, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union, which had itself become capitalist-imperialist (although then in a state-capitalist form and with the continuing camouflage of "socialism") and was, at one and the same time, the most militarily powerful imperialist rival to the U.S. and the main danger to China, threatening it with military attack, possibly even with nuclear weapons.
As part of this agreement with China, Nixon was able to, metaphorically speaking, "stanch some of the geostrategic bleeding" that U.S. imperialism suffered as a result of having to admit defeat and pull out of Vietnam. And, as I have referred to, the Chinese had their own objectives, which had to do especially with working to stave off an attack by the Soviet Union. Again, the threat of such an attack was a very real thing. The Soviet Union, a nuclear superpower, had troops massed on the Chinese border and, it seems, was seriously considering an attack on China, including possibly with nuclear weapons. Now, from the standpoint of our Party, and our communist outlook and objectives, even understanding the very great necessity, the very real threat, the Chinese faced, we can still criticize and must criticize how they dealt with all that, in particular the way in which they allied with and covered up the reactionary and bloodthirsty nature of a number of regimes that were installed and/or kept in power by the U.S., and were key cogs in the imperialist alliance headed by the U.S.—regimes headed by such brutal tyrants as the Shah of Iran and Marcos in the Philippines.
But, once more, in scientifically analyzing, and yes criticizing, these moves by the Chinese government at that time, we cannot do what so many are inclined to do so frequently—to ignore the necessity that different forces have and act like they can do whatever they want. We can't do that. And we should struggle with everybody else that they shouldn't approach things that way either. We should struggle with other people about how to understand the world, but first of all we have to understand it correctly ourselves.
Israel and Its "Special Role" in Relation to U.S. Imperialism
I have heard that some people don't like my statement: "After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel." But this does capture something very important, and there is something very important to understand about the "special role" of Israel—not only in relation to U.S. imperialism in general, but also particularly in relation to the neo-con/Bush regime strategy.
Why is this Bush regime the most unrelenting and unqualified in its backing of Israel? Now, a lot of people—even some well-intentioned but confused people, as well as some people whose intentions and objectives are not good—argue that the reason the U.S. government is generally so one-sided, and the Bush regime in particular is so absolutist, in its support of Israel, is because of the Israeli lobby, or because of Zionist influence, in the U.S. Now there might, superficially, seem to be some support for that theory by looking at the neo-cons. It is true that in a significant sense this is a phenomenon of Jewish intellectuals who were once sort of Cold War liberals and have become hard-core right-wing ideologues. That, however, is not the essence of the matter. I do not know how different individuals among the neo-cons actually view the interests of Israel vis-à-vis the larger interests of U.S. imperialism. Whatever the case is with individuals in that regard, the fact is that, as a general phenomenon, these neo-cons are ardent advocates of both Israel and of the particular strategy for U.S. imperial domination in the Middle East (and on a world scale) with which the neo-cons are identified. And more fundamentally, this position, which the neo-cons urge, of unqualified hard-core support for Israel fits into and serves the larger imperialist strategy for the Middle East and ultimately for the world—and that is why this neo-con position has such influence. If their position did not serve the larger interests of U.S. imperialism, or if it ran counter to how those now at the core of the ruling class perceive those interests, then whatever the motivations and inclinations of particular individual neo-cons, they wouldn't have the influence they do.
To put it in basic terms, Israel is a colonial-settler state which was imposed on the region of the Middle East, at the cost of great suffering for the Palestinian people (and the people of the region more broadly). Israel could not have come into being without the backing of imperialism, and it acts not only in its own interests but as an armed garrison and instrument of enforcement for U.S. imperialism, which supplies the Israeli state with aid, and in particular military aid, to the tune of billions of dollars every year. But, along with this general nature and role of Israel and its relation to U.S. imperialism, if we take into account the strategic orientation that has guided the Bush regime—based on an assessment that for U.S. imperialism there is now not only a certain freedom but very urgent necessity to recast the whole nature of the regimes and of the societies across a wide arc centered in the Middle East—then you can see even more clearly how absolute support for Israel is crucial in all this. There can't be any wavering or even the appearance, or suggestion, of more "even-handedness" in dealing with Israel, on the one hand, and the Palestinians (and others in the region) on the other hand. You have to have your ducks in a row. You have to have your priorities very clear. You have to have a regime there, at the center of your policy for that region, which is completely reliable for U.S. imperialism.
If you look at any other regimes in the region, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are big allies of the U.S. But in Saudi Arabia and in Egypt, the situation is very unstable and potentially very volatile: there are serious tremors beneath the throne, so to speak—there is the growing danger of "social earthquakes" that could threaten to topple, or actually topple, those regimes. You don't have that in Israel. Hopefully, as things develop overall, there will not be just a "loyal opposition peace movement" among Israelis but the development of a much more powerful progressive movement with a much more radical view in Israel—and this is something that progressive people in Israel, or with ties to people in Israel, should work to foster and develop. But right now a positive and truly radical movement of that kind does not exist in Israel, and the dynamics with regard to Israel are not now such that the more that the regime in Israel is hard-core, the more it is going to run into antagonism with the bulk of its population. In the short term, the dynamic is essentially the opposite, unfortunately.
You can look at the recent Lebanon war—and in particular the massive Israeli assault on Lebanon—as an illustration of what the dynamic actually is now: the more massive and murderous the Israeli attacks were on Lebanon, the more that the people of Israel, in their great majority, rallied to the government of Israel. In part this was influenced by the fact that Hezbollah was launching missile attacks which caused some destruction and death in parts of Israel; but this was really on a very minor scale relative to the widespread death and devastation that Israel, with its arsenal of powerful and precision weapons, very deliberately and as a matter of policy, brought down on the civilian population of Lebanon, devastating whole sections of the country, killing many, many times the number who died in Israel, and forcing huge parts of the Lebanese population to flee out of the country. Where was any real outpouring of opposition to this among the Israeli population?
The Danger of War Against Iran
And, on a larger scale, as Seymour Hersh has pointed out, this Israeli assault on Lebanon was viewed by at least some powerful people in the core of the U.S. ruling class, including Dick Cheney, as a dress rehearsal for an attack on Iran. It didn't go as well as they wanted, but that won't stop them from attacking Iran. They'll just try to sum up the lessons and—from their murderous point of view—aim to "do better."
Once again, in all this, the regime in power now in the U.S. is acting not only out of perceived freedom, but also out of real and perceived necessity. And the more their actions, proceeding on this basis, have failed to achieve their objectives, the greater the necessity has become—for themselves as well as for others: different strata and sections of society all over the world have now had this necessity imposed on them and find it impinging on them. And where is it all heading?
To return again to the situation in Iraq and the implications of this, whatever the U.S. does in regard to Iraq—whether, to use that now diminished phrase, it "stays the course" or tries to find some way out of the current occupation and tries to pursue its objectives in somewhat altered form—there is no easy way out of this for them. All this has already intensified the contradictions in the whole region—intensified them greatly in the whole region and even beyond that. And this will continue to be true and to assert itself and to further intensify, even though it won't necessarily, or likely, be a linear development, increasing in a straight upward line, but will more likely go through twists and turns and a kind of wave-like motion (with relative peaks and troughs), even as it continues to intensify overall.
And what is the response of significant sections of the ruling class, including some prominent leaders of the Democratic Party as well as a number of neo-cons, grouped mainly in the Republican Party—what is their response to this situation, to this mess that's been created in Iraq for them and for others? Well, as many of them see it, all this is further evidence of the need not only to persevere in this course but to spread the whole approach, and to go after Iran in particular. That's why you see people like this right-wing talk show guy Glenn Beck doing what he's doing—saying that the whole thing in the Middle East, including the Iraq War, is really about Iran, that war with Iran can't and shouldn't be avoided, and on and on. The ground is being prepared for war with Iran. Public opinion is being created. And so now we have the reinterpretation of things. Now, the whole problem is Iran.
Now, there is a section of the ruling class saying, no we've got to negotiate with Iran. They are arguing, in essence, that with regard to Iraq and the Middle East overall, it is necessary to do with Iran and Syria and others in that region what Nixon did with China in regard to Vietnam: find a way out of a war that has become a "quagmire" by negotiating with other forces in the region to bring about some kind of settlement that won't be a complete debacle and disaster, from the point of view of the imperialists. They're not posing it exactly that way, but that is, in effect, what one section of the ruling class is arguing for. But that's not going to be very easy to do, because there are a lot of other "wild cards" in the mix—including that there are other Islamic fundamentalists, Sunni fundamentalists, and so on, who are not beholden to Iran by any means and who in fact have acute contradictions with what's represented by Iran.
At the same time, there's a whole push now, from other sections of the ruling class, and in particular many of the neo-cons—people like right-wing commentator and strategist William Kristol—who are basically calling "W" a wimp. "W" now stands for wimp, because he hasn't taken things to Iran already—what's he waiting for? And, along with people like Kristol, there are other neo-cons who have insisted: "Look, the problem here is that we don't play well on the defense—we're good at the offense. We can't fight this battle in the Middle East by keeping it limited to Iraq, because that pushes us on the defense. We have to go on the offense and take it to Iran and other places."
And then there are Democratic Party politicians, like Barack Obama, who are joining in the chorus insisting that Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons and, as bad as war with Iran might be, it would be worse to let Iran develop nuclear weapons. This, among other things, is why we have started calling him "Barack Obamination" or "Barack Go-Bomb-a-Nation." And then there's Hillary Clinton, who is also insisting that "we cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weapons." And there was recently a cover story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine1 which purported to discuss the question of Islamic views on violence but, after it wound around through all sorts of seeming theoretical expositions on this question—seeming theological discourse on Islamic views of justified and unjustified violence—ended by expressing the conclusion that one could guess was coming all along: "we" cannot allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon—this must be prevented, whether that can be done through negotiations or whether it will take war.
Now, this is not to say that war with Iran is, at this point, inevitable. We should avoid tendencies to be simplistic in our understanding of all this—we should not repeat the erroneous tendencies that have existed in the communist movement, including in our Party at times, to fall into mechanistic and determinist thinking, as if the fact that there are dynamics and tendencies in a certain direction and toward certain developments means that those developments are bound to take place. We have made mistakes of that kind before, and it is very important not to repeat them.2 There are a lot of contradictions at play, and nothing is set in stone. But there is a certain logic and a certain driving dynamic that is pushing things toward this position of spreading the war and going after Iran.
Now, once again we can't be simplistic in our own understanding and we shouldn't oversimplify things for people. There is a difference between boiling things down to their essence and oversimplifying them. It would cause problems for the U.S. imperialists if Iran were to get one or two nuclear weapons. It would not be the case that Iran would thereby be able to somehow bomb New York City or Chicago or whatever. But it would change some of the equation in the Middle East—or it could—in a way that would work against the interests of U.S. imperialism. As one key aspect of this, even though Israel itself has hundreds of nuclear weapons, if Iran produced just a couple of nuclear weapons itself, even though Iran would still be far from on a par with Israel in this regard, Iran might then be able to offset some of the ways in which Israel threatens the other states and peoples in the region, and this itself could mean a significant change in the "power equation" in the region, in a way that would be unacceptable not only to Israel but also to the imperialist power behind Israel, the U.S. Again, it is not that, with one or a few nuclear weapons, Iran would pose a threat to Israel (or the U.S.) which the latter could not counter—the balance of power, and the "balance of annihilation threat," so to speak, would still be greatly in favor of Israel (and the U.S.)—but this might give Iran more "leverage" and perhaps enable it to be more of a force in that crucial region. And that is unacceptable not only to Israel but, more decisively, to the U.S. imperialist ruling class as a whole.3
This is another illustration of the reality that, from the point of view of these imperialists, there is real necessity impinging on them; and we should not present to people, or think in our own minds, that all this has some sort of easy resolution. Again, we should learn from our former methodological errors and not fall into simplistic and linear analyses; but we can say that all this is not going to get resolved in some kind of simple and easy way.
1. "Islam, Terror and the Second Nuclear Age" by Noah Feldman, in the Oct. 29, 2006 issue of the New York Times Magazine. [back]
2. Here, along with—and as an illustration of—the basic methodological point he is emphasizing, Bob Avakian is referring to the analysis put forward by the RCP during the 1980s, and particularly in the early part of that decade, that the intensifying contradictions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union would erupt into all-out warfare between them (and their respective blocs and allies) unless this war were prevented by revolution in large and/or strategic enough parts of the world. For a discussion of this by the RCP, including a criticism of the methodological errors involved, see Notes on Political Economy (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2000), available online at revcom.us/a/special_postings/poleco_e.htm. [back]
3. For further discussion of these questions—Iran, Israel, and the U.S. and the role of nuclear weapons—see recent articles in Revolution newspaper (revcom.us). For example, "Bald-Faced Lies and Bogus Pretexts: Bush Threatens War Against Iran" in issue #79; "Hidden U.S. Plans for War on Iran: Imminent Danger… And Strategic Stakes," #59; "Bush Regime in the Middle East: Global Ambitions, Murderous Logic & the Danger of Regional War," #56. [back]