Protests and attacks across the Muslim world are undermining the gains made by U.S. imperialism from its bloody role in the Arab Spring. U.S. rulers were behind some of those reform movements, especially in Egypt (see CHALLENGE 2/16/11 and 3/2/11). Their goal was to channel mass grievances into U.S.-style “democracies” and sustain the reign of capitalism. But the Arab Spring didn’t begin to alleviate the exploitation of the working class. It did nothing to lift the region’s poverty-level wages or to reduce its huge numbers of unemployed.
So now U.S. bosses are reaping the unintended consequences of the Arab Spring. For the region’s workers and youth, the most recent flash point is a racist film made in the U.S. that defames Islam. But the underlying cause of the ongoing unrest is the chronic poverty that is integral to the profit system — and which the working class thought its new rulers would ameliorate. These workers have lived all their lives under horrific conditions imposed by fascist, U.S.-backed regimes responsible for numerous racist abuse and genocide from Abu Ghraib to drones. It’s only logical that the U.S. rulers, represented by their local embassies and consulates, become a leading target for the anger now erupting in more than 20 countries.
Obama’s NATO invasion killed at least 30,000 workers in Libya, along with dictator Muammar Qaddafi. It rid the land of Chinese and Russian energy companies. But on September 11, al Qaeda and Salafist fundamentalists — among the forces armed by the Pentagon against Qaddafi — killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya. They linked their action to the anti-Islam film: more unintended consequences.
But an even larger problem faces U.S. bosses in the Middle Eastern heart of their oil-based global empire: the nuclear ambitions of regional power Iran, an ally of China and Russia. Iran’s potential control of vast energy supplies is fueling a debate at the highest levels of U.S. war planning (see map on page 7).
Team Romney: Iran War Now
The proposals under discussion by policy-makers for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney boil down to: (a) bombing Iran’s nuclear plants; (b) having Israel bomb them; (c) bombing them together; (d) building over time toward a full-scale invasion and; (e) allowing Iran to become the planet’s weakest nuclear power, well behind the U.S., Britain, France, China, India and Pakistan — not to mention Israel itself, which reportedly possesses about 250 nuclear bombs.
All of these options would ravage the world’s working class. They would kill tens of thousands of workers and possibly trigger a larger — even worldwide — war. In that event, millions of working-class soldiers would be forced into mortal combat on behalf of the imperialists’ quest for oil and mineral resources.
Romney seems to like the first three options. The $100 million showered on his campaign by pro-Israel fanatic Sheldon Adelson stands to promote Israeli rulers’ aims. Team Romney gurus include Dan Senor and Dov Zakheim, both of whom champion the air raids on Iran that are favored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They are neo-conservatives of the type that led George W. Bush to invade Iraq “on the cheap”: that is, by deploying existing forces in a “shock-and-awe” grab at relatively easy targets. This failed strategy, which was also pushed by Donald Rumsfeld, Bush’s Defense Secretary, backfired into a war now into its ninth year and counting.
‘Peaceful’ Sanctions = All-Out War
Obama, meanwhile, is backed by U.S. capitalists who see a need for long-term military mobilization against their formidable imperialist rivals. As a result, the incumbent president is weighing a more gradual run-up to an all-out land war in Iran. On September 14, in an editorial headlined “No Rush to War,” the New York Times urged Obama to ignore Netanyahu’s pressure to set a “red line” in the sand, a stage of nuclear development in Iran that would trigger a U.S. air strike.
The Times cited a report by the Iran Project, a group that includes mainstream ruling-class front men Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, two ex-national security advisers. The report estimated that a U.S. attack “could set back Iran’s nuclear program four years at most.” The Times’ conclusion: “The best strategy is for Israel to work with the United States and other major powers to tighten sanctions while pursuing negotiations.”
Mass Iran Invasion vs. World War III
But the Iran Project is hardly a pacifist organization. Bankrolled by the imperialist Rockefeller Brothers Fund, an organ of finance capital, its report assessed the troop strength needed to take out Iran once and for all. In light of U.S. rulers’ need to counter the growing might of China’s bosses, it cautioned against spreading U.S. forces too thin:
Even in order to fulfill the stated objective of ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear bomb, the U.S. would need to conduct a significantly expanded air and sea war over a prolonged period of time, likely several years. If the U.S. decided to seek a more ambitious objec-tive, such as regime change in Iran or undermining Iran’s influence in the region, then an even greater commitment of force would be required to occupy all or part of the country. Given Iran’s large size and population, and the strength of Iranian nationalism, we estimate that the occupation of Iran would require a commitment of resources and personnel greater than what the U.S. has expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
Alternatively, some top advisors to U.S. rulers are suggesting that they say sit back and let Iran make a bomb or two. Iran’s oil barons, the ruling ayatollahs, could then become sitting ducks for thousands of Pentagon warheads. The U.S. would be better able to orchestrate world opinion into backing a war against “aggressor” Iran organizing an anti-China alliance.
John Mearsheimer, representing the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, proposed that “a nuclear-armed Iran ….would have hardly any offensive capability at all.” At the same time, he added, the United States could “extend its nuclear umbrella” to protect Saudi Arabia, which contains t`he world’s largest oil reserves (PBS, 7/9/12).
Mearsheimer looks beyond today’s arms standoff to the prospect of marshaling millions for global conflict under the U.S. and allied flags:
The United States and China are likely to engage in an intense security competition with considerable potential for war. Most of China’s neighbors — including India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Russia, and Vietnam — will join with the United States to contain China’s power (Current History, April 2006).
Evil, Yes! Lesser, No!
The international working class has no stake in this dogfight among the world’s imperialists. Communists in the Progressive Labor Party can give leadership to workers by exposing the bosses’ murderous schemes and advancing class war against the capitalists. Given the election circus in the U.S., much the same as in any other country, workers must avoid the trap of supporting one boss’s servant or another, Democrat or Republican. Capitalist elections are used by the ruling class to suck workers into believing the “lesser-evil” lie that Obama can represent our interests better than Romney.
A vote for either one of these bosses’ agents is a vote for continued mass unemployment, poverty, racism, and sexism, along with the slaughter of workers in imperialist wars. These are the necessary byproducts of the profit system, to which all politicians are wedded. It is up to PLP’ers and those we influence to win thousands and then millions in the international working class to the goal of destroying this hellish system and replacing it with communism. Only then will the world’s workers reap all the value that our labor — and only our labor — produces.