At the end of May the Bush administration announced that the United States is planning on maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq on a model like that of South Korea, where U.S. troops have been deployed in massive numbers for more than fifty years. Despite the failures associated with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Washington is openly proclaiming to the world that it intends to do everything it can to maintain a lasting military presence in that country. By doing so it hopes to retain the main spoils won in the war and to declare it a partial victory. The strategic objectives are obvious: to control Iraq and Iraqi oil, threaten Iran, and dominate the geopolitically vital Middle East. Thus Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared on May 31 that he did not expect the United States to withdraw from Iraq as from Vietnam “lock, stock and barrel” and invoked the example of South Korea. Earlier that week White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, conveying the views of President Bush, said U.S. troops would remain but would be in an “over-the-horizon support” role to maintain security in Iraq—with permanent bases on the South Korean model. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, in charge of daily military operations in Iraq, stated on May 31 that he supported the creation of a South Korean type U.S. military presence in Iraq. The message could not be clearer and can be summed up as: Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance (see John Bellamy Foster’s book with this title for an analysis of the larger forces at work).
Notes from the Editors
In January 2007 the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre of the UK Ministry of Defence published a ninety-page report, entitled Global Strategic Trends, 2007–2036, highlighting a wide array of potential dangers to the prevailing order over the next thirty years. The report is organized around three “Ring Road Issues”: (1) climate change, (2) globalization, and (3) global inequality (p. xiii). Global warming and the possibility of abrupt climate change, together with the end of “the golden age of cheap energy,” are seen as placing increasing strains on populations throughout the planet (p. 31). The globalization of the world economy, embodying “particularly ruthless laws of supply and demand,” is viewed as creating new interdependencies, contradictions, and conflicts. Expanding global inequality, the UK Ministry of Defence insists, could lead to “a resurgence of not only anti-capitalist ideologies . . . but also to populism and the revival of Marxism” (p. 3)
Recent attempts, however tentative, by Congressional Democrats to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq should be looked upon as a victory for the antiwar movement. Not only is the Democratic Party clearly aware that its current congressional majority was the result of popular dissatisfaction with the war, but nationwide antiwar rallies have recently driven the point home. Under these circumstances, the Democrats had no choice but to challenge administration policy on the war. However, it would be a grave mistake to conclude from this that the political establishment in the United States is severely split on the question of imperialism, or that the Democratic Party is shifting towards a general anti-imperialist stance. Recent attempts, however tentative, by Congressional Democrats to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq should be looked upon as a victory for the antiwar movement. Not only is the Democratic Party clearly aware that its current congressional majority was the result of popular dissatisfaction with the war, but nationwide antiwar rallies have recently driven the point home. Under these circumstances, the Democrats had no choice but to challenge administration policy on the war. However, it would be a grave mistake to conclude from this that the political establishment in the United States is severely split on the question of imperialism, or that the Democratic Party is shifting towards a general anti-imperialist stance
The U.S. economy in early March 2007 appears to be rapidly decelerating. Orders for durable goods in manufacturing dropped 8 percent in January and the manufacturing sector as a whole shrank during two of the last three months for which data is currently available (November–January), representing what is being called a “recession” in manufacturing, and raising the possibility of a more general economic downturn (New York Times, February 28, 2007)
Our friends Leo Panitch and Colin Leys, editors of the Socialist Register, have recently published Coming to Terms with Nature: Socialist Register, 2007 (Monthly Review Press, 2006), which includes contributions by a distinguished group of analysts addressing crucial environmental issues—dealing with everything from “fossil capitalism” to eco-localism
Monthly Review Press is publishing an exceptionally strong collection of new books in 2007. However, like most small presses the modest budgets we can devote to the promotion of these books scarcely allow us to be heard above the din created by the massive promotional campaigns of the large corporate publishing firms, which are, of course, mere arms of much greater media conglomerates. We are therefore hoping successfully to promote these new books mainly by word of mouth with the help of MR readers and friends. In this space last month we referred to Michael D. Yates’s new book, Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, which is now available. Two other new releases are Jean Bricmont’s Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War (translated from the French by Diana Johnstone), and The Socialist Register, 2007: Coming to Terms with Nature, edited by Leo Panitch and Colin Leys. Bricmont’s book seeks to reintroduce the critique of imperialism to the global discussion on human rights, while the new Socialist Register addresses the emerging eco-socialist critique of capitalism
In late November 2006 John Bellamy Foster traveled to Brazil where he delivered addresses on the global ecological devastation of capitalism, and the need for worldwide ecosocialist resistance, at two universities in the state of Santa Catarina: the Regional University of Blumenau and the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis. These talks were part of the third annual Bolivarian Days Conference organized by the Institute of Latin American Studies in Brazil. The theme this year was “Social Theory and Eurocentrism in Latin America: The Insurgency of Critical Thought.” The conference provided ample evidence of the vitality of socialist and anti-imperialist critiques both in Brazil and in Latin America as a whole in what is clearly a new era of revolt
In a survey of the Iraqi population, the results of which were released last June, 76 percent of those surveyed gave as their first choice “to control Iraqi oil” when asked to choose three reasons that the United States invaded Iraq. The next most common answers were “to build military bases” and “to help Israel.” Less than 2 percent picked “to bring democracy to Iraq” as their first choice (University of Michigan News Service, June 14, 2006 [http://www.nsumich.edu], U.S. News & World Report, August 17, 2006). In the United States the “blood for oil” explanation for the war is regularly scorned by the powers that be, including the corporate media. However, there is no way of getting around the fact that nearly all questions regarding Iraq return in one way or another to oil
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s extraordinary speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September drew worldwide media attention not simply because he referred to the current occupant of the White House as “the devil” for his nefarious actions as the leader of world imperialism, but also because of his scarcely less heretical praise of MR and MR Press author Noam Chomsky for his book Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. As the foremost dissident intellectual in the United States, Chomsky is generally ostracized by the dominant U.S. media system, treated as a ghost-like or even non-existent figure. The establishment was thus caught off guard when Chávez’s comments suddenly catapulted Hegemony or Survival into the bestseller list, along with another recent Chomsky book, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. The speed with which orders for Chomsky’s books piled up in bookstores and Internet distributors across the nation demonstrated beyond any doubt that people are hungry for serious radical critiques of U.S. imperialism but seldom know where to look—since all such dissident views are deemed off limits by the ruling media-propaganda system
Fidel Castro’s illness in August has nurtured the hopes of Miami-based Cuban émigrés and the U.S. ruling class that a “transition in Cuba” will soon be possible. It is often implied that this is a question of a transition to “democracy” and “free elections.” However, what is actually being planned in Washington, as part of a decades-long strategy, is an immediate transition back to capitalism in Cuba—at whatever the cost to the Cuban people
After eighteen years on West 27th St., the MR offices will move this month to a new address: 146 West 29th St., Suite 6W, New York, NY 10001. Fortunately, our phone and fax numbers, not to mention our e-mail addresses, will remain the same. We will continue to offer current and back issues of the magazine and MR Press books for sale at the office. Call 212-691-2555 for hours
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s famous remark, cited by Karl Marx, among others, was surely a part of the sensibility that motivated Harry Magdoff’s life and work. Harry’s writing and scholarship were important achievements and distinguished contributions to the socialist project, but they were grounded in a profound understanding of life, history, and the human condition. The centrality of both theory and life were much in evidence on a clear brisk weekend in early May, when many of the MR extended family—readers, writers, staff, and, of course, the Magdoff family—gathered in New York, on Saturday for a roundtable on Harry’s contributions and the future of MR, and on Sunday for a meeting celebrating, as it turned out, the lives of both Harry and his beloved wife Beadie
In April 2000 Robert W. (Bob) McChesney and John Bellamy Foster joined Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy as coeditors of MR. In December 2002, while still coeditor of MR, Bob, working in close collaboration with journalist John Nichols and campaign finance reform advocate Josh Silver, launched Free Press, a nonpartisan media reform organization. From the start Free Press was unique in three ways: (1) it took on the entire gamut of media policy issues with the idea of building a unified grassroots coalition against the corporate-dominated media; (2) it sought to draw popular organizations into the movement for media reform, including organized labor, educators, feminists, civil rights organizations, and environmentalists (and was willing to ally with conservative groups committed to the principles of a free and open media system); and (3) it was dedicated to taking the offensive on media issues by sponsoring legislation in cooperation with members of Congress in an effort to change the status quo. By 2004 Bob’s growing responsibilities as founder, president, and board chairman of Free Press, in addition to his already arduous teaching, writing, and speaking commitments, compelled him to resign as MR coeditor, though he remains a director of the MR Foundation
When MRzine was launched on Bastille Day, July 14, 2005, Eduardo Galeano greeted it with the words: “Monthly Review in conquest of the air? Wasn’t it a private kingdom of weapons, toxics, and lies? Great news for all of us, humble terrestrians.”
As we write this in late February, threats of a U.S. military intervention in Iran are intensifying in response to Washington’s claims that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has voted to take the issue of what it views as Iran’s noncompliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement to the United Nations Security Council in early March. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has repeatedly stated that a military strike against Iran by the United States is now on the table. Washington’s waving of its big stick coupled with its feeding of misinformation to a U.S. media system that has not hesitated to pass these distortions on to the general public have already had their effect. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll taken in January indicated that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran’s Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms (Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2006). A few days later President Bush declared in his State of the Union address that the Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.