Thursday, May 29, 2003

I missed it the first time around, but Larry Elliott of The Guardian had a nice little piece on Iraq and globalization last Wednesday. The first half is rather uninteresting, but the second half is devoted to explicating the radical strategic shift from Clinton to Bush in pursuit of the very same goals. Thus the Clinton people, devotees of multilateralism to then end, were constanting arm-twisting the IMF and World Bank to tow the US line or else. The Bush people, unilateralist fanactics that they are who nevertheless somehow got both Bulgaria and the Marshall Islands (yes, all of them!) into the "coalition of the willing", figures the Bretton Woods institutions can go screw themselves and likes Millennium Challenge Grants, Article 99 opt-outs from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and bilateral trade deals best. The ends, of course, are the same: press the interests of American capital worldwide.

Kevin Watkins of Oxfam states at the end that "Iraq is accelerating the demise of multilateralism." Probably true, but this harms whom the most? The knee-jerk reaction is that this is bad for weaker powers and good for the US, but we all know The General is quite skeptical of the dictatorial power of the United States, at least in the medium-term. Rules are most important for weaker states under conditions of hegemony -- rules are not so necessary in a multipolar system where suitors may be played off one another. Moreover, with the impasse of globalization at hand, the US needs multilateralism as much as anybody, especially the Bushies who know that Americans value cheap stuff more than anything else and need cooperation at the global scale to get it.

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