Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Awful Specter of Multi-polarism

As with Christianity, the only thing worse than hearing democracy questioned is having it practiced--source unknow

The ire in Tahrir Square is full of ironies, not the least of which is the American president who inspired such hope in the Middle East with his Cairo speech calling around this week to leaders in the region to stanch the uncontrolled surge of democracy in the Arab world. --Maureen Dowd, NY Times, Feb. 2, 2011

It’s enough to warm an old lefty’s winter-chilled heart. We are being treated to a rare outbreak of revolution. Or what the Chinese call ‘interesting times.’
The Arab world has finally had its fill of suffering and seething and is exploding into rebellion from the Mahgreb to Suez. Thus it joins Latin America, where, to varying degrees in recent years, countries from the Caribbean to Cape Horn have broken free of the imperio yanqui and begun the useful task of unifying their continent.
Revolution, of course, is like marriage: you never know how it’s going to pan out. But since most of us would still be serfs without them, I’m willing to welcome their occurrence. Unfortunately, living in a country where counter-insurgency (i.e., opposition to revolution) is considered as sacred a duty as hedge fund management, this is hardly the place to celebrate the uprisings that Washington spends billions on suppressing. You would have to go to France for that.
So far, one big lesson from Tunisia and Egypt is that that our idiot pols and media have gotten history dead wrong again. For the last decade they’ve been demonizing Arabs and other Muslims as medieval maniacs plotting fresh 9/11s in their caves and casbahs. And we bought it, hookah, laffi and scimitar. The reality is that the majority young of the Arab world actually want to move into the modern world. To the extent that that they hate America it’s not because we’re free, as the fool Bush constantly claimed, but because the U.S. is propping up the dictatorships that keep them from being free.
We can assume that at the moment the Obamists are laboring as hard as they can to shore up Mubarak and his gang or, failing that, to make sure that its replacements are the most reactionary and compliant of available compradors. The only juice Washington has is in its billion bucks a year aid program (mostly military and some food) and its buddy-buddy contacts with Egypt’s officer corps and the killers and fingernail pullers of the security apparat. That may not be enough, especially since the young draftees in the army are the same people as the youthful demonstrators. The two groups are already fraternizing and the troops are not likely to mow down their contemporaries to keep Mubarak in power.
I don’t have the foggiest about how the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions will play out. But I don’t think the Islamists will take charge: their limited influence in the region has been insanely magnified by our empire to serve its purpose. But whether democracy or Bonapartism will prevail is another story.
Whatever happens, the regional awakenings from Caracas to Cairo and Beirut to Burma, along with the rise of China, India and Brazil, are rearranging the world. Communism, then terrorism used to be the wash-your-mouth-out with-soap words in Washington. They are being replaced by an even more frightening pejorative: multi-polarism. It raises the specter of a world where the U.S. is no longer global top dog but just another big country with “interests” that are getting less interesting by the day.