New World Order: A Postwar Analysis

Noam Chomsky

A truism about the supposed New World Order is that it is economically tripolar (the U.S., Germany and Japan) and militarily unipolar (the U.S.). The recent events in the Gulf help understand the interplay of these factors.

As the glorious “turkey shoot” began in the desert, the New York Times published a fragment of a national security review from the early days of the Bush administration, dealing with “third world threats.” It reads: “In cases where the US confronts much weaker enemies, our challenge will not be simply to defeat them, but to defeat them decisively and rapidly.” Any other outcome would be “embarrassing” and might “undercut political support.”

“Much weaker enemies” pose only one threat to the US: the threat of independence, always intolerable. The US will support the most murderous tyrant as long as he plays along, and will labor to overthrow third world democrats if they depart from their service function. The documentary and historical records are clear on this score.

The leaked fragment makes no reference to peaceful means. As understood on all sides, in its confrontations with third world threats, the US is “politically weak”; its demands are not likely to gain public support, so diplomacy is a dangerous exercise. And a “much weaker” opponent must not merely be defeated, but pulverized, if the central lesson of World Order is to be learned: We are the masters, and you shine our shoes.

There are other useful lessons. The domestic population must appreciate “the stark and vivid definition of principle ... baked into (George Bush) during his years at Andover and Yale, that honor and duty compels you to punch the bully in the face.” These are the admiring words of the reporter who released the policy review, then quoting the hero himself: “By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” No longer, the President exults, will we be troubled by “the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force,” to borrow the terms of Reaganite intellectual Norman Podhoretz.

The ground had been well prepared for overcoming this grave malady, including dedicated efforts to ensure that the Vietnam war is properly understood - as a “noble cause”, not a violent assault against South Vietnam, then all of Indochina. Americans generally estimate Vietnamese deaths at about 100,000, a recent academic study reveals. Its authors ask what conclusions we would draw if the German public estimated Holocaust deaths at 300,000, while declaring their righteousness. A question we might ponder.

The principle that you punch the bully in the face - when you are sure that he is securely bound and beaten to a pulp - is a natural one for advocates of the rule of force. Cheap victories may also mobilize a frightened domestic population, and may deflect attention from the domestic disasters of the Reagan-Bush years, no small matter as the country continues its march toward a two-tiered society with striking third world features.

George Bush's career as a “public servant” also has its lessons concerning the New World Order. He is the one head of state who stands condemned by the World Court for “the unlawful use of force.” He dismisses with contempt the Court's call for reparations for these particular crimes (others are far beyond reach), while he and his sycophants solemnly demand reparations from Iraq. Bush opened the post-Cold War era with the murderous invasion of Panama, imposing the rule of the 10% white minority and guaranteeing US control over the canal and the bases that have been used to train the gangsters who terrorize Latin America. Since he became UN Ambassador in 1971, the US is far in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions and blocking the UN peacekeeping function, followed by Britain. Bush was called to head the CIA in 1975, just in time to support near-genocide in East Timor. He then lent his talents to the war against the Church and other deviants committed to “the preferential option for the poor” in Central America, now littered with tortured and mutilated bodies, perhaps devastated beyond recovery.

In the Middle East, Bush supported Israel's harsh occupations, its savage invasion of Lebanon, and its refusal to honor Security Council Resolution 425 calling for immediate withdrawal from Lebanon (March 1978, one of several). The plea was renewed by the government of Lebanon in February, ignored as usual while the US client terrorizes the occupied region and bombs at will, and the rest of Lebanon is taken over by Bush's new friend Hafez al-Assad, a clone of Saddam Hussein. The Turkish “peacemakers” were also authorized to intensify their repression of the Kurds, in partial payment for their services.

Plainly, we have here a man who should be lauded for rare principle as he leads us to a New World Order.

The principles of the policy review were followed throughout the Gulf Crisis. In July, Bush indicated that he had no objections to Iraq's rectifying its border disputes with Kuwait by force, or intimidating its neighbours to raise the price of oil. Misreading the signals, Saddam took all of Kuwait, thus demonstrating that he was not only a murderous gangster, which is fine by US-UK standards, but an independent nationalist, which is quite improper. Standard policies were then invoked.

The US and UK moved at once to undermine sanctions and diplomacy, which had unusually high prospects of success. From late August, Iraqi settlement offers were released that State Department officials regarded as “serious” and “negotiable,” including complete withdrawal from Kuwait on terms that would have been pursued by anyone interested in peace. Efforts to avoid the ground war with full Iraqi withdrawal, saving tens of thousands of lives, were contemptuously brushed aside. Diplomacy is ruled out, and since this third world country with its peasant army is plainly a “much weaker enemy”, it has to be crushed, so that the right lessons are taught.

The intellectual community swung into action, portraying Saddam Hussein as a new Hitler poised to take over the world. When Bush announced that there will be no negotiations, a hundred editorials lauded him for his extraordinary efforts at diplomacy. When he proclaimed that “aggressors cannot be rewarded,” instead of collapsing in ridicule, responsible commentators stood in awe of his high principles. Some agreed that the US and Britain had been “inconsistent” in the past (in fact, they had consistently pursued their own interests.) But now, we were assured, all had changed; they had learned that the right way to respond to aggression is by the quick resort to violence. We can therefore expect that the RAF will be sent to bomb Damascus, Tel Aviv, Jakarta (after British Aerospace stops arming the killers), Washington, and a host of others. Oddly, these new insights were not accompanied by praise for Saddam Hussein for attacking Israel, though his sordid arguments compare well enough with those of his fellow-criminal and long-time friend in Washington.

In such ways, the ground was prepared for the merciless slaughter that a leading third world journal describes as “the most cowardly war ever fought on this planet.” The corpses have quickly disappeared from view, joining mounds of others that do not disturb the tranquility of the civilized.

There also seems to be no concern over the glaringly obvious fact that no official reason was ever offered for going to war - no reason, that is, that could not be instantly refuted by a literate teenager. Again, this is the hallmark of a totalitarian culture, and a signpost to the New World Order. The few extra-official efforts to justify the rejection of peaceful means are no less revealing. Thus we read that this case was different: the US rejection was underway before the annexation, and continued unchanged after Iraqi proposals that would have reversed it, not to speak of the US-UK response to other cases of annexation, no less horrifying. Other arguments are equally weighty.

In one of the rare efforts to face the crucial question, Timothy Garton Ash explains in the New York Review that while sanctions were possible in dealing with South Africa or Communist East Europe, Saddam Hussein is different. That concludes the argument. We now understand why it was proper to pursue “quiet diplomacy” while our South African friends caused over $60 billion in damage and 1.5 million deaths from 1980 to 1988 in the neighboring states - putting aside South Africa and Namibia, and the preceding decade. They are basically decent folk, like us and the Communist tyrants. Why? One answer is suggested by Nelson Mandela, who condemns the hypocrisy and prejudice of the highly selective response to the crimes of the “brown-skinned” Iraqis. The same is true when the New York Times assures us that “the world” is united against Saddam Hussein, the most hated man in “the world” - the world, that is, minus its darker faces.

It is understandable that Western racism should surface with such stunning clarity after the Cold War. For 70 years, it has been possible to disguise traditional practices behind the veil of “defense against the Soviets,” generally a sham, now lost as a pretext. We return, then, to the days when the New York press explained that “we must go on slaughtering the natives in English fashion, and taking what muddy glory lies in the wholesale killing till they have learned to respect our arms. The more difficult task of getting them to respect our intentions will follow.” In fact, they understand our intentions well enough.

For the people of the Middle East, the New World Order looks grim. The victor is the violent state that has long rejected any serious diplomatic approach to regional disarmament and security problems, often virtually alone. The US strategic conception has been that the local managers of Gulf oil riches should be protected by regional enforcers, preferably non-Arab, though bloody tyrants of the Hafez al-Assad variety may be allowed to join the club, possibly even Egypt if it can be purchased. The US will seek some agreement among these clients, and might finally even consider an international conference, if it can be properly managed. As Kissinger intended, Europe and Japan must be kept out of the diplomacy, but the USSR might now be tolerated on the assumption that it will be obedient in its current straits, possibly Britain as well.

As for the Palestinians, the US can now move towards the solution outlined by James Baker well before the Gulf crisis: Jordan is the Palestinian state; occupied territories are to be ruled in accord with the basic guidelines of the Israeli government, with Palestinians permitted to collect taxes in Nablus; their political representatives will be chosen for them, with the PLO excluded; and “free elections' will be held under Israeli military control with the Palestinian leadership in prison camps. New excuses will be devised for the old policies, which will be hailed as generous and forthcoming.

Economic development for the Palestinians had always been barred, while their land and water were taken. They had been permitted to serve the Israeli economy as virtual slave labor, but this interlude is passing. The recent curfew administered a further blow to the Palestinian economy. The victors can now proceed with the policy articulated in February 1989 by Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party, then Defense Secretary, when he informed Peace Now leaders of his satisfaction with the US-PLO dialogue, meaningless discussions to divert attention while Israel suppresses the Intifadah by force. The Palestinians “will be broken”, Rabin promised, reiterating the prediction of Israeli Arabists 40 years earlier; the Palestinians will “be crushed,” will die or “turn into human dust and the waste of society, and join the most impoverished classes in the Arab countries.” Or they will leave, while Russian Jews now barred from the US by policies designed to deny them a free choice, flock to an expanded Israel, leaving the diplomatic issues moot, as the Baker-Shamir-Peres plan envisaged.

The political leadership in Washington and London have created economic and social catastrophes at home, and have no idea how to deal with them, except to exploit their military power. Following the advice of the business press, they may try to turn their countries into mercenary states, serving as the global mafia, selling “protection” to the rich, defending them against “third world threats” and demanding proper payment for their services. Riches funnelled from the Gulf oil producers are to prop up the two failing economies. German-led Europe, later Japan, will carry out the task of “Latin Americanizing” most of the domains of the collapsing Soviet tyranny, with the former Communist bureaucracy probably running the branch offices of foreign corporations. The rest of the third world will be controlled by economic pressures if possible, by force if necessary.

These are some of the contours of the planned New World Order that come into view as the beguiling rhetoric is lifted away.

From The ACTivist, April 1991
(This analysis was written by Noam Chomsky for the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East.)


See also:
War in the Gulf - A critique of the 1991 Gulf War. (CX4163)


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