“In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
– Attributed to George Orwell
Hi, my name is Mark Sleboda, and I will be your English language commentator for this section of GRANews, a segment called ‘Dissent’.
In this, the time we are living in, it is often difficult, even with the seemingly unending diversity and plentitude of the internet, to find reliable sources of information amid the sea of deceit and disinformation, that the Western Mainstream Media spills into our heads. A veritable ‘Tyranny of Choice’ indeed. But it is difficult to find perspectives and voices that stray from the narrative of Western governments and the Western MSM. This segment is about deconstructing and dissenting from that tyrannical narrative. I hope to provide an alternative analysis and perspective of International Relations, crises and events informed from a distinctly non-Western perspective. This is our revolutionary act of ‘Dissent’ from the Western narrative.
Does this mean that ‘Dissent’ claims to be an ‘objective’ source of truth that you can trust implicitly? Certainly not. Such a thing does not exist. All media and theory are biased by national, ideological, religious, and economic interests and paradigms. If I may paraphrase Robert Cox, all theory (and media) ‘is for someone and for some purpose’. ‘Dissent’ will strive to examine and deconstruct Western discourse of international relations, crises, and events, and present an alternative non-Western point of view. As with any other source of news and analysis, it is left to you to consider the arguments I raise, verify and compare them with alternate sources and perspectives, and in the end make up your own mind. I simply aim to present an oft unheard and alternative perspective from that presented by the Western government, MSM, and analyst narrative, as if from ‘the Other’. Today I will be painting a broad brush stroke of the themes that the segment ‘Dissent’ will be exploring in the future.
By ‘the West’, I am referring to both a civilization and a geopolitical bloc, a hegemonic entity, centered around the United States of America, but including the United Kingdom, the European Union and Europe in general, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, as well as certain other allies and vassals, such as Japan and South Korea that have more or less and to varying degrees been subsumed into a wider ‘Western’ civilization.
The West is also defined by capitalism, and increasingly a virulent neoliberal strain of capitalism that drives globalization; as well as a narrow and legalistic ‘liberal’ interpretation of ‘democracy’, that denies, often aggressively, the legitimacy and right to exist of all other forms of government and political systems in a sort of modern ideological jihad or crusade.
In the narrative presented by Western governments and the Western MSM, the phrase ‘the international community’ is heard with nauseating frequency. It is used to create a false perception of international ‘legitimacy’ to an action or stance on the global stage. But more often than not, the ‘international community’ is not truly representative of global opinion at all, but, instead, that of ‘the West’, led by the United States. The truest form of ‘international community’ that exists today is the fractious forum of states in the United Nations, but this rarely if ever speaks with one voice.
‘The West’ is actually a minority of this ‘global community’ in terms of the number of states, the total population represented by those states, and increasingly in economic terms. However the West continues to maintain its ‘supposedly beneficent’ global hegemony through all possible spectrums of power. Militarily this is done by its overwhelmingly and frequently used military might, often under the guise of NATO. Cultural hegemony is maintained via the English language, Hollywood, mass consumer culture, and the internet.
Economic hegemony is maintained by the use of international institutions such as the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank, which it structurally dominates AND by its control of global finance, ratings agencies, and banking. The West’s political hegemony is enforced, with its three permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council: as the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
This global hegemony of Western civilization, while a brief moment in the total span of human history, has been dominant over much of the last three hundred years, as Western empires and states through colonialism and imperialism sought to control and reshape the world in their own image. At the same time as they extended outwards to conquer the globe militarily and with trade, the West also was characterized by centuries of internal fratricidal and genocidal warfare. From 1945 with the end of World War 2, to the mid 1980’s, this intercivilizational warfare ended and the West united through NATO, and later the institutions of capitalist globalization, under the leadership of the superpower United States, in response to the global challenge presented by the USSR and the communist bloc, which offered an alternative vision of modernization.
This ‘bipolar era’ characterized by the maneuvering, covert, proxy, and information wars between the two rival ideological superpowers for the shape of modernity, has been termed the ‘Cold War’.
Since the implosion and disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1992 which ended the ‘Cold War’, in what has been rightly called the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century by then Russian President Vladimir Putin, we have been living in a ‘unipolar moment’ under the largely unchallenged and unaccountable global dominance and might of the West, led by an aggressive ‘hyperpower’ United States, willing to unilaterally use force to shape the world according to its will and interests, often in flagrant disregard for international law and the principles of the UN Charter.
This ascendancy of the United States and the West was triumphantly proclaimed ‘the End of History’ by a historically deterministic Francis Fukuyama, in which there remained no other credible challengers to the Western vision of modernization and globalization. We were told that there is no alternative to liberal democracy and capitalism, that ideology was dead, state ‘sovereignty’ an antiquated notion, and that politics should be reduced to the technocratic management of global capitalist markets.
They were of course, arrogantly, wrong. There is no ‘end to history’, and humanity’s political and social evolution will continue.
Then came 9/11. We were told that these events on this day changed the whole world. Of course it did no such thing. But, what it did do is make painfully obvious that the international order was and had been undergoing another shift, it was illustrative of a broader watershed moment.
As his global teleconference broke up amidst the events of September 11, 2001, a top economist at a U.S. investment bank, Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs, began to wonder what the attacks on the United States might tell him about the future shape of the world. His conclusions had little to do with Al Qaeda. About to become head of the bank’s global economics team, he was looking for a “big idea” for the firm to move forwards into the new century.
In the midst of the chaos of watching the airplanes collide into the World Trade Center on television, a vision of the new century came to him. The decade after September 11 would be defined not by the hyperpower United States, or its proclaimed ‘war on terror’, a ‘Long War’ to beat down and subjugate ‘black holes’ in the Islamic World whose fundamentalist identity was resisting Americanization, as well as holdout ‘rogue states’ who continued to resist the West’s hegemony but by the rise of the four biggest emerging market economies who also happened to be civilizations centers and ‘great powers’ in their own right – China, Russia, India and Brazil.
Later South Africa would be included, as this group of states. O’Neill nicknamed them the “BRICS” after the first letter of their names.
O’Neill in an interview said, ‘I’ll never forget that day, It was right at the core of how I dreamt up the whole thing… Something clicked in my head that the lasting consequence of 9/11 had to be the end of American dominance of globalization… that seems to be exactly what happened.”
O’Neill, who now heads Goldman’s global asset management business, used this vision to coin the BRIC phrase in a pamphlet published in November 2001, intended to sell an investment package. The numbers from the past decade suggest the trend he identified will resonate more in world history than the attacks of 9/11 and their aftermath.
When O’Neill dreamed up the BRIC acronym, the four big emerging powers made up eight percent of the world economy. The top five world economies were, in order, the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain and France. Ten years later, the BRICS have grown faster than even O’Neill expected to constitute nearly 20 percent of the global economy. China is the world’s number two economic power, soon to surpass the United States, while Britain – the closest ally of the U.S. in the decade-long war on terror – has dropped out of the top five, overtaken by Brazil. India and Russia are not far behind. The West is also deep in debt, with China, Russia, and India being some of its biggest foreign creditors.
Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German deputy foreign minister appointed ambassador to the U.S. in 2001, says September 11 “burst the bubble” of any illusion that one superpower could rule the world. “But in terms of importance for the global power situation, for global governance, I think the rise of the BRICS will have the more enduring effect. 9/11 created such a lot of confusion that it took us the better part of a decade to figure out what conclusions we should draw from it and the wrong turns some countries took.”
Joseph Nye, a former U.S. under-secretary of state and defense as well as ex-chair of the National Intelligence Council and now a Harvard professor of international relations, said, “For most of the first decade of the century, as the world economy gradually shifted its centre of gravity towards Asia, the United States was preoccupied with a mistaken war of choice in the Middle East. U.S. actions critically undermined its “soft power” in diplomacy, values and culture, while diverting and ultimately weakening its military and economic “hard power”.
The global recession of 2008, caused by the excesses and greed of Western financial markets, an inevitable economic blowback of neoliberalism, has not ended for the West, indeed it threatens to turn into a full blown depression, a crisis of capitalism.
The Euro zone and with it the EU are facing collapse and the United States is undergoing a political crisis, its polarized Republicrat duopoly not even able to come to an agreement on how to balance their budget and raise their debt ceiling to borrow more money to try to spend themselves out of their $14.7 trillion national debt.
Just this last week, there was much speculation including by Forbes magazine, that the BRICS would ride to the rescue and bailout both the Eurozone and the struggling US dollar. China, however has poured cold water on this hope. The director of China’s sovereign wealth fund, Gao Xiqing, said, “As a corporation, our mandate from the government is to maintain a certain amount of profitability. We can’t just go save someone. We are not saviors. We have to save ourselves.”
Effectively – “We are not a charity. Your Euros, bonds, and dollars are not worth the paper they are printed on”.
Following a long-standing historical pattern, the growing economic power of the BRICS is starting to translate into greater military strength – and the West’s financial decline is mirrored in ever more drastic cuts to its defense spending. London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies highlighted in its annual survey of global military power this year a key theme: while Western military budgets are being pruned, those in Asia and the Middle East are growing sometimes by double digits every year. “There is persuasive evidence that a global redistribution of military power is under way,” it said.
This year, Britain replaced China as the only member of the UN Security Council without an aircraft carrier, scrapping the Royal Navy’s flagship “Ark Royal” just as China launched its first such vessel.
August 2008 also saw Russia swiftly win a war with U.S.-backed neighbor Georgia, the first time Moscow had sent troops outside its borders since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. That more muscular approach from emerging powers – particularly in their own backyard – could in future be adopted by the likes of China or India as well.
The BRICS have been the most cohesive and active at the United Nations as a political bloc, where they act to defend international law and the principle of the United Nations Charter, particularly state sovereignty and non-interference in the domestic affairs of states, from a revisionist West which seeks to abandon the UN Charter in the name of supposedly ‘universal’ values and conceptions of human rights with the policy of R2P, or a ‘Right to Protect’.
In reality this revisionist assault on existing international law, used hypocritically and selectively, is a thinly-veiled pretext for aggressively using military force against other states to fulfill their economic and geopolitical goals.
The BRICS unity on this issue has been clearly seen in their unanimous abstention from the vote on UNSCR 1973 which authorized a no-fly zone, supposedly to protect civilians, and then unanimous condemnation of the way NATO and its Arab-dictatorship allies distorted the mandate of the resolution to instigate a full-scale assault on Libya for the purposes of regime change and a resource grab.
After seeing the West’s duplicity in Libya, the BRICS have also been unanimous in their opposition of any attempt in the UN Security Council to allow a repeat of the ‘Libyan scenario’ for interference, in the ongoing insurrection and civil unrest in Syria. So far the BRICS have blocked Western calls for sanctions and the use of military force with the obvious intention of regime change in Syria as well, now the last state on the Mediterranean which is outside of Western hegemony.
The BRICS have formed a wall against further Western aggression and ‘humanitarian imperialism’ in the United Nations.
So what we can see illustrated with the rise of the BRICS, what 9/11 and the West’s subsequent ‘War on Terror’ really tells us is that that the unipolar moment of American and Western hegemony, after just 20 short years of global dominance is coming to an end. The world is entering a multipolar phase, with no single nation able to dominate global affairs. This multipolar world will be focused around several regional ‘Great Power’ states, or civilizational centers with spheres of influence: namely the United States, the EU, Russia, China, India, Latin American led by Brazil, and possibly an emergence of Africa with South Africa as their foremost representative.
Of course the West will not willingly surrender their power and hegemony and ‘Go willingly into that good night’. The US’s continued vast military superiority and global cultural dominance will ensure that even a diminished US, suffering from a declining economy, imperial overstretch, and a loss of its moral and political authority, will continue to be ‘first among equals’ of the Great Powers for several decades at least.
This sets up a ‘West versus the Rest’ confrontation as the multipolar world dawns, and it is this theme of global resistance and emergence that sets the theme for future segments of “Dissent’ on GRANews.