The US-led world order is showing signs of weakness after decades of hegemony. The consequences are throwing Scotland’s war party into confusion, and they are likely to lash-out argues David Jamieson.
It is clear from the events of recent days that we are entering a new world of diplomacy and rivalry between powers. The era of US-led western hegemony continues, but it appears to have passed its highest point.
The Russian state’s decision to move forces into eastern Ukraine has rightly been criticised by the anti-war movement in Britain as throwing up more barriers to a negotiated settlement. Importantly, however, the Stop the War Coalition go on to state:
“The conflict is the product of thirty years of failed policies, including the expansion of Nato and US hegemony at the expense of other countries as well as major wars of aggression by the USA, Britain and other Nato powers which have undermined international law and the United Nations.”
There are many in the political and media spheres who want you to believe that world history began a few weeks ago. That three decades of Nato expansion across Europe and right up to the borders of Russia is irrelevant to present events. That there is no relationship between US, British and Nato military aggression from Serbia to Afghanistan, Iraq to Libya, Pakistan to Yemen, and the world we now find ourselves in.
In fact, in a recent opinion piece for The Scotsman, ostensibly defending the military alliance, the SNP’s Westminster defence spokesman Stewart McDonald didn’t even mention Nato’s two most significant engagements of recent years: the bombing of Libya and the 20 year war and occupation of Afghanistan.
McDonald’s article complained limply of people who portray Nato as an “international fungus” rather than “a consensual, collective security organisation” that protects member states’ “sovereignty and citizens from outside threats”. But neither Afghanistan nor Libya are even in Europe. Neither threatened any Nato member state. Nato is a predatory military allaince, and the record proves this beyond doubt.
It’s equally pathetic to pretend that states which have joined since the end of the Cold War all did so spontaneously, as though the eastern spread of Nato was a mistake and not a conscious strategic project to secure US and western hegemony in the Eurasian landmass. Nato powers were joined in this effort by the EU, which made a calculated play to draw Ukraine into the western orbit with the 2017 Association Agreement, which mandated the harmonization of the Ukranian economy to EU standards, and also association with EU defence policy.
For permanent supporters of this imperial architecture – the most powerful the world has ever known – none of it really exists. Even mentioning the record of events from the last 30 years is a sign of disloyalty. So it is very rarely challenged in a closed political and media community where the vast majority of actors all share the same world view.
Consider just one part of the new rhetoric: the demand for sanctions on Russia. Both Nicola Sturgeon and McDonald (and heir presumptive of the SNP leadership) have positioned themselves as harder on sanctions than Boris Johnson. But last year, both argued, against the US, to continue the Nato occupation of Afghanistan indefinitely. From their own ethical standpoint, surely this should have meant sanctions on the Scottish Government? Afghanistan is starving today in part because the US stole billions of dollars of the country’s financial reserves. So it’ll be sanctions on the US and we can supplement a ban on Russia Today (demanded by Keir Starmer) with a ban on CNN?
The liberal war party – comprising various political tendencies including the leaderships of the SNP and Labour, and a wider flotsam of chronic EU and Nato fans – are unlikely to cope well with the slow but evident decline of western dominance. Yet it has been a long time in the making.
It is evidenced by a long series of foreign policy disasters, including the failure to win outright in Iraq, the collapse of the occupation of Afghanistan, being outmanoeuvred in Syria, and outperformed by China. These foreign policy failures are both promoted by, and reflected in, internal polarisation in western societies, particularly the US. There was a failure to rebalance the economy after 2008, and traditional authorities in politics and civic life are widely distrusted.
The US’ enormous reserves of economic, military and diplomatic power mean it can resist this slide. But the world is going to become a gradually more contested place. This means increasing stand-offs, like those in Ukraine and the South China Sea, as the US and allies find it increasingly difficult to police regional powers.
The Nato powers are likely to become increasingly intolerant of internal dissent, and will be found demanding absolute loyalty. Already the crackdown in the Labour party has boiled over into attacks on movements like Stop the War, who will never be forgiven by the establishment for the impact they have exercised in the last 20 years. The idea of a mass anti-war movement at a time when the west’s global stock is already falling, must fill elites with dread.
This new hostile environment will mean the anti-war movement needs hard-headedness. There should be no room for weak attempts at ‘compromise’ with ruling elites determined to curtail expressions of dissent. Our main opposition must continue to be our own governments, against whom we can land the hardest blows – that is the only really political anti-war position.