In Washington, voices are rising fast and furiously. “Freedom fries” are a thing of the past and everyone agrees on the need to support France (and on more or less nothing else). Now, disagreements are sharpening over whether to only incrementally “intensify” the use of U.S. military power in Syria and Iraq or go to “war” big time and send in the troops. The editor of the right-wing Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, is already calling for 50,000 American troops to take the Islamic State’s “capital,” Raqqa. Republican presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been urging that another 20,000 troops be dispatched to the region for months, offers this illuminating analogy to sports: “I’m looking for an away game when it comes to ISIL, not a home game. I want to fight them in their backyard.”
And don’t forget that increasingly angry sideline discussion about the Obama administration’s plan to let 10,000 Syrian refugees, carefully vetted for up to two years, trickle into the country. Alternatives proposed include setting up even harsher, more time-consuming vetting processes to insure that few of them can make it, allowing only certified, God-fearing Christian Syrians in while — give a rousing cheer for the “clash of civilizations” — leaving Muslims to rot in hell, or just blocking the whole damn lot of them.
In such an atmosphere of rancor and pure war-hawkishness, it’s increasingly hard to remember what a more peaceable world looked and sounded like. That’s why TomDispatch’s peripatetic reporter Pepe Escobar, who roams Eurasia, especially the region he long ago dubbed Pipelineistan, is like a breath of fresh air. He reminds us that there are still places where people are talking about — gasp! — building up infrastructure in a big way, not defunding it and letting it crumble into dust; places where leaders are intent on thinking about how to unify worlds through commerce and trade, not smash them to smithereens via air power and drones. Maybe that’s just what it means to live in the heartland of a rising power, rather than a declining one.
His focus is China and don’t get me wrong, that country’s no bowl of cherries. Even if not at American levels, it’s pouring money into its military and elbowing its neighbors in nearby waters, as you might expect of a bulking-up regional power. Still, it’s got a dream that its leaders are actually happy to promote and it’s not a warlike one that highlights an ever-more heavily militarized world either. That in itself should count for something. But let Pepe Escobar fill in the details on a Chinese dream of full-time construction across Eurasia that, transposed to this continent, would once have sounded American indeed.