January 10, 2008

Heckuva Job, George

On September 11th, 2001, the price of a barrel of crude oil was still under $20. Last week it hit $100. Tom Engelhardt counts the cost:
Take a glance around the world – theoretically made "secure" and "safe" for Americans – and ask yourself this: If the Global War on Terror were over, what would be left? What would we be rid of? What would be changed? Would oil be, say, $60 a barrel, or even $20 a barrel? Would Russia return to being an impoverished nearly Third World country, as it was before 2001, rather than a rising energy superpower? Would the Iraq War be over? Would the Arctic Sea re-ice? Would Afghans welcome our occupation with open arms and accept our permanent bases and jails on their territory? Would all those dollars in Chinese and Middle Eastern hands return to the U.S. Treasury? Would Latin America once again be the "backyard" of the United States? Would we suddenly be hailed around the world for our "victory" and feared once again as the "sole superpower," the planetary "hyperpower"? Would we no longer be in, or near, recession? Would hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs begin flowing back into the country? Would the housing market bounce back? Would unemployment drop?

The answer to all of the above, of course, is resoundingly and repeatedly "no." Essential power relations in the world turn out to have next to nothing to do with the war on terror (which may someday be seen as the last great ideological gasp of American globalism). In this sense, terrorism, no matter how frightening, is an ephemeral phenomenon. The fact is, non-state groups wielding terror as their weapon of choice can cause terrible pain, harm, and localized mayhem, but they simply don't take down societies like ours...

Imagining how a new president and a new administration might begin to make their way out of this mindset, out of a preoccupation guaranteed to solve no problems and exacerbate many, is almost as hard as imagining a world without al-Qaeda. After all, this particular obsession has been built into our institutions, from Guantanamo to the Department of Homeland Security. It's had the time to sink its roots into fertile soil; it now has its own industries, lobbying groups, profit centers. Unbuilding it will be a formidable task indeed. Here, then – a year early – is a Bush legacy that no new president is likely to reverse soon.

Ask yourself honestly: Can you imagine a future America without a Department of Homeland Security? Can you imagine a new administration ending the global lockdown that has become synonymous with Americanism?

The Bush administration will go, but the job it's done on us won't. That is the sad truth of our presidential campaign moment.

2 comments:

Bukko_in_Australia said...

Gandhi, you have some perceptive takes on the gut nature of America. (I realise this is just channelling TomDispatch, to which the Mrs. subscribes, but what you choose to channel is indicative...) Your take on things would be pretty good for an American, much less an Australian. Do you get many readers from the U.S.?

gandhi said...

Bukko, I don't get many readers from anywhere at the moment! That's fine by me - what do you expect when you keep closing down blogs and reopening them? Who wants to follow the rantings of a raving lunatic, right?

You can click the Stats counters at the bottom of the page for some info on my readership. There's a map view (bottom left icon) which is pretty cool. I guess around half the readers are US generally, but it's nice to get hits from all round the globe, particularly people searching for info on Google: a lot of my stuff on this blog links to stories which may not be readily available anymore (eg archived NYT stories) so I hope that is useful to someone, somewhere...

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