WASHINGTON and SAO PAULO – The George W Bush administration’s US$700 billion no-accountability scheme, globally, informally dubbed “cash for trash”, is making all the headlines. Simultaneously, there’s the small matter of the United Nations General Assembly sanctioning the troubled birth of a new, multipolar world. As a 21st-century counterpart to the Dadaist Manifesto, this chain of events is priceless.
One just had to listen to the speeches. Brazilian President Lula da Silva passionately expounded the new political, economic and commercial geography of the multipolar world. He praised the Union of Latin American Nations (UNASUR) – the first treaty uniting all South American nations in 200 years. He blasted supranational economic institutions that now have no authority – and no policies – to prevent “speculative anarchy”.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy correctly described the Wall Street meltdown as the biggest crisis since the 1930s. He is proposing to “rebuild” capitalism – in fact, in his original French, to “moralize” capitalism, not subjected to wily market operators, with banks financing development and not engaging in speculation, and with firm control of credit agencies. Sarkozy described speculators as “the new terrorists”. US Republicans of course call Sarkozy’s plan socialism – as if the Ben Bernanke-Hank Paulson bailout scheme was not no-holds-barred socialism for the wealthy.
UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon urged the democratization of the UN. This would mean in practice a new International Monetary Fund and a new World Bank – both still controlled by the US and Western Europe.
And then Bolivian President Evo Morales nailed it. The new multipolar world should get rid of imperialism and colonialism. Evo stressed there’s no possible social peace under hardcore capitalism – the global masses would heartily agree. Of course Evo didn’t fail to recall the longtime, concerted Bush administration campaign against him – once dubbed “the bin Laden from the Andes” by a former US ambassador. He stressed there was not a single word of condemnation by the US of relentless right-wing terrorism in Bolivia, unlike all the nations of South America talking with one voice via UNASUR.
Evo also revealed that Bush sent him a message – “If I’m not your friend, I’m your enemy”. Evo’s response: “I’m a friend of the American people, I’m anti-imperialist. If they like me, OK; if not, it’s also OK.”
What the UN is NOT talking about is how the US will be able to sustain wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and go against Iran, the Pashtuns in Pakistan or Russia if the Chinese, the Japanese and sovereign wealth funds of the Gulf petromonarchies decide to stop financing these demented adventures. That’s the larger-than-life elephant in the UN house: everybody knows that the end of the unipolar world is tied to the fact that Washington simply cannot continue to be a superpower financed by foreigners.
The Bush administration would do anything to push Georgia into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and totally choke off Russia. Bush himself still referred to Iran at the UN as “terrorists”. But Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, after proclaiming that the American empire is waning, preferred to stress conciliation – he would rather have a “friendly” relation with Washington. He would meet Barack Obama or John McCain – whoever is elected to the White House. His beef is with Zionists – not the Jewish people. He said the Israeli regime would disappear in the same way as apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union – maybe after what he called a “humanitarian” solution, a referendum in Palestine where Palestinians would decide their own future.
Burn, baby, burn
And while Rome – that is, Wall Street plus Washington – burns, Russia sends the mighty Peter the Great – with 20 nuclear missiles – plus an anti-sub destroyer for military exercises with Venezuela in the Caribbean. The flamboyant Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez didn’t even show up at the UN – he’s busy doing mega-deals with another emerging superpower, China. The US Navy’s 4th fleet – disbanded in the 1950 – is back to police South America; the Brazilian military wasted no time launching their own military exercises to protect what they call the Blue Amazon, their new, huge offshore oil fields.
And then, live from New York, there was Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speed-dial diplomacy – from Henry the K Kissinger – did they talk about Metternich and Clausewitz? – to Hamid “mayor of Kabul” Karzai and Colombian friend of Bush Alvaro Uribe. The media had literally a few seconds (29 with Karzai, 20 with Uribe) for a photo op, and that was it.
Did the beehived, bespectacled creationist hockey mom learn anything about foreign policy? The mystery remains. She may be cursing the cancellation of her meeting with Irish pop icon/world leader Bono. They won’t be singing One together. Blogger Andrew Sullivan nailed it: “Since Sarah Palin was selected for the vice presidential nomination, Mahmud Ahmadinejad has given more press conferences than she has.”
With the meltdown on Wall Street, it will be very hard for Republican candidate McCain to pay for his “vision” of America as world’s top dog/policeman. In a dramatic gesture, he has “suspended” his campaign and bailed out of Friday’s presidential debate as well (late night talk show icon David Letterman nailed this one: “What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!”
It took “maverick” McCain roughly over a week to go from a “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” deregulation mantra to Great Depression gloom and finally to bail himself out from his own campaign and a debate to boot. Not bad for a self-confessed ignoramus in economic matters. McCain anyway still counts on the Bernanke-Paulson $700 billion scheme – and he’ll still be pushing for even lower taxes for the US ultra-wealthy.
And while the new multipolar world was being sketched out in midtown Manhattan, and McCain was busy trying to run away from his own presidential campaign, the US took a few more steps to quickly become the new Brazil – appalling social inequality, tremendous concentration of wealth, in sum, the law of the jungle. Call it the revenge of the developing world.