Monday, April 24, 2006

New found friends

It has been said, many times, that 9/11 changed everything. At the behest of the Bush administration, this has been true both for Americans and the world at large. But the excreable PNAC agenda, whether incompetently implemented or not, never imagined that the larger world might resist such an imposed reconfiguration. Resistance, however, has been duly met on multiple fronts.

On the trade and economic front, two threats to American hegemony have arisen; Iran has been engaging neighbours (Pakistan, India) with pipeline agreements, Pakistan is distressing about "US designs on Iran," and China is scouring the globe for new sources of energy, signing bilateral agreements for oil and trade with any number of countries. The Bush administration's militaristic posture toward international affairs and its and Congress's clear, unbridled incompetence regarding fiscally sound domestic policy has forced trading partners to reconsider their relations with the United States. This is demonstrated no more clearly than by the actions of President Hu, subsequent to his visit to the US.

It is indicative of current international concerns that President Hu's immediate first visit after leaving the US was to Riyadh, where he was entertained by Saudi oil sheiks and where Hu and the Sauds tied up a few trade agreements. I suspect the Saudis didn't fall asleep on the job and it appears that the meeting was a cordial affair on the part of all players.

These developments have not likely thrilled the Bush administration, especially in view of what Prince Walid bin Talal said about the visit and the new agreements: they are signs that the Saudis and China are "opening new channels" and that the Saudis "are heading east" in pursuit of new petroleum customers and trading partners. Unlike the United States, which doesn't make much of anything anymore, using most of its oil consumption in the service of what Kunstler has called the drive-in utopia, China actually does make things and Saudi Arabia has the oil to make that happen:
China is a big consumer of oil. Saudi Arabia needs to open new channels beyond the West. So this is good for both of us.
What may be good for the Chinese and Saudi geese may not be viewed as good for the US gander and I suspect that the White House views such new economic activities as a zero-sum game, especially when it comes to oil. But the White House and Congress have backed themselves into this situation by demonstrating that normative governance in the US is simply not operative in this post-9/11 world. Retired Army colonel and former chief of staff at the State Department, Lawrence Wilkerson, put this more obviously:
In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic....

Unprecedented interpretations of the Constitution that holds the president as commander in chief to be all-powerful and without checks and balances marks the hubris and unparalleled radicalism of this administration.

Moreover, fiscal profligacy of an order never seen before has brought America trade deficits that boggle the mind and a federal deficit that, when stripped of the gimmickry used to make it appear more tolerable, will leave every child and grandchild in this nation a debt that will weigh upon their generations like a ball and chain around every neck. Imagine owing $150,000 from the cradle. That is radical irresponsibility.
Not only has Congress demonstrated a shameful unwillingness to perform its sworn duties as regards the Bush administration, it has also cast a pall on putative "friends and allies" in the Middle East when it fussed over the DPW ports deal. If they had not done so already, oil producers on the Arabian peninsula looked at all of this and realised, probably sometime ago, that things were seriously amiss in Washington. The current threats of war against Iran is only the latest confirmation of the United States as radical republic. The speed with which DPW withdrew from the ports deal is, I think, indicative of this recognition. It was obvious then that reason was not an element in play for either Congress or the White House. And now, long time US allies, the Saudis, are seeking more stable trading partners in the east. Samuel Blatteis indicates,
Saudi leaders are moving from benign neglect of China to considering it as a long-term partner. China is no longer the only side doing the courting.
The reason for this, again, comes down to 9/11, for that was when the Bush administration professed a more open policy when it came to deciding what would be best for the world. Despite their demonstrated hypocrisy on human rights, freedoms and the rule of law, the White House chose to assert an aggressive stance on regime change in those countries it deemed such action was required. And while the White House rhetoric will speak of regime change as action in the interests of freedom loving people, such a policy has been adopted to serve the interests of the United States. When repressive regimes like China and Saudi Arabia see such behaviour, they recognise that it may be time to shift their economic alliances, though they will do this on the most pleasant of terms. The bonus for the two countries is that they will each do business without casting any moral judgments, unlike an hypocritical White House and Congress:
With the Chinese there are no strings attached. They don't talk to you about democracy or reform. They give money, the Saudis give oil and there are no hidden agendas. The Saudis find those kinds of relationships more appealing.
Unfortunately, the White House's chosen path has done nothing but act against the long term interests of the US, something the Bush administration either refuses to recognise or simply doesn't see. One Latin American country after another is swinging leftward and doing so partly by using the Bush administration as a catalyst. And if glad hand smiles between the Chinese and the Saudis don't show them that their reckless militarised foreign polices and fiscal idiocy are actually working against them, what would?

As blinded by militaristic hubris has this White House is, maybe nothing.


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