Saturday, September 13, 2008

Balance-Sheet of U.S. Imperialism

A Good Interview

Gilbert Achcar interviewed by Charles-André Udry
(Gilbert Achcar is a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London, as well as a socialist and antiwar activist. Among his recent books are The Clash of Barbarisms (2nd ed. 2006, Paradigm Publishers) and, with Noam Chomsky, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (2nd ed. 2008, Paradigm Publishers))

"Charles-André Udry: THE DISASTER that marks the end of the Republican administration of George W. Bush reinvigorates the discussion of the status of the United States, whether it is a "hyper?power" or in decline. Can you provide perspective on this debate?

Gilbert Achcar: THE CONCEPT of "hyperpower," attributed to Hubert Védrine, former foreign minister of the French government under Lionel Jospin (1997-2002), describes the image of the United States such as it appeared following the first war with Iraq in 1991. This concept looks back to the emergence of a "unipolar world" with the increasing paralysis of the Soviet Union, then its disappearance -- or rather of a "unipolar moment" according to the more precise expression of the American neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer.

The year 1991 was a turning point.....

The interests of American imperialism obviously find their ultimate guarantee in military supremacy, but a politico-ideological facelift is a necessary and useful complement. Under Bush, the arrogance and right-wing shift went so far that it seems imperative for the "enlightened" fraction of the American establishment to steer "to the left," at least in words. This is where someone like Barack Obama can be useful. The ruling class isn't worried by him because he is not carried along by a wave of social radicalization. The question isn't one of individuals per se. Take Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for example. He was the most progressive president in modern American history. This was not due to his personality, even if you do need an adequate personality for such a role, but to the profound social radicalization at the time of the Great Depression that he gave voice to while also holding it in check. It's really not individual personalities that make situations, but situations that make individual personalities.

However, there is no possible analogy between the United States of the 1930s -- from the point of view of the balance of social forces, the class struggle, the strength of the working class -- and the current situation. At the heart of the ruling capitalist fractions, there is no expression of serious concern. Someone like Obama could be advantageous for promoting U.S. interests -- unless the ultra-reactionary course of the Bush administration finds itself confirmed in the election of John McCain, with the United States plunging deeper toward a decline that would be symbolized by a gerontocratic figure à la Brezhnev."

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