When the imperialists carry out reckless actions like the recent assassination of a top Iranian military official, aren’t they at least partly conscious of the ways this endangers their power structure? Don’t they see that the more resources the American war machine consumes and the worse proletarian living conditions become as a result, the greater the likelihood becomes that a revolution will happen? Don’t they see the obvious and growing signs of the U.S. empire’s collapse? Don’t they see that the more the neoliberal order exacerbates climate change and destabilizes the economy, the more the bourgeois power structure comes under threat?
Aside from more fanatical ruling class members like the billionaire Trump donor Sheldon Adelson, who’s said that the U.S. should drop a nuclear bomb on Iran, there’s clearly at least some awareness of these risks among the ruling elite. Wealthy oligarchs are preparing to retreat to luxury survival bunkers in the event of a social collapse, with many of these fortified compounds having already been fully constructed throughout the last decade. Despite the lack of political will to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the government is preparing for climate change through expanding surveillance and border militarization, aiming to maintain control amid a future that has vast migration and civil unrest. With the U.S. military preparing for such a scenario by laying out plans for urban domestic combat operations, it’s obvious that the people in charge are becoming as worried as the most paranoid of doomsday preppers.
It’s in this context that the American bourgeoisie is uneasily facing a catastrophic new war with Iran. The political establishment overwhelmingly opposes the idea of an outright U.S.-Iran war, with the Iran regime change advocates so far usually pursuing sanctions and manufactured destabilization rather than moves towards invading the country. Even now, President Trump is hastily seeking detente with Iran by claiming that “we do not seek war.” I believe he’s telling the truth, because anyone can see that an all-out conflict with Iran would exhaust the resources of the U.S. military. It’s estimated that a ground invasion against Iran would require all of the U.S. troops currently in operation, necessitating a new military draft.
Since a war with Iran would likely entail a war with Russia and China, this outcome of total war will become all but inevitable if Trump responds too forcefully to Iran’s coming retaliation for the Soleimani assassination. To this reality, I can only respond with amusement, because the war machine has potentially gotten into what it’s long known would be a nightmare situation for itself.
As Howard Lisnoff has written, “A military draft will return when the ninth circle of hell freezes over,” because the balance of keeping the American people complacent in endless war will be shattered. A draft would create too much resistance. “Masses of young adults have been screwed by an economy that is global and cares little about their economic well being,” observes Lisnoff. “If they’re fortunate to have had the benefit of a higher education then the majority carry with them the burden of years of indebtedness. There will always be some who enlist out of their belief system and those who do so to survive economically, but many know that by putting themselves in harms way, the primary beneficiaries will be corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman…The military-industrial elites will never achieve their ends in Iran with a draft.”
This means that if the American empire wants to stay in existence, it will either have to avoid a full-scale war with Iran or commit to conscripting millions of young people–who are going to start militantly resisting going to war amid an explosion of antiwar organizing. What do you think would happen if civil disobedience similar to that of the Vietnam War era were to break out now?
During the 1970s, the empire could withstand this backlash because of the post-New Deal stability of the American middle class and the ability for the U.S. military to concentrate its resources in one country. Now the empire is stretching itself thin around the globe with hundreds of global military bases, ongoing failed occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and perpetual drone and bombing campaigns in over half a dozen countries. Military spending has already effectively bankrupted the country, and a total war with Iran–which would be more destructive than Vietnam and Iraq combined–will overwhelm the U.S. government and force a global withdrawal of American forces.
The other difference between the 70s and the 2020s is that modern Americans are experiencing the worst inequality of their lifetimes, and are about to experience a new Great Depression when they’ve still not recovered from the 2008 crash. The next economic downturn is going to destroy millennials, and a massive new war that creates even more austerity would make their living standards even lower.
The empire could leverage young people’s economic misery by offering them easy work through enlisting in the military, as has become an increasingly effective U.S. military recruitment approach. But the vast majority of Americans will still be discontent, and in the mood to join in on the inevitable street uprisings. The government will have on its hands a situation similar to the recent civil unrest in Chile and Iraq, which are two U.S.-installed regimes that have already begun to collapse amid the extreme inequality that neoliberalism has created worldwide.
In all places, even the epicenters of fascistic imperial control, the U.S. empire and the capitalist system that created it are under growing threat. The fascist regime that Washington recently installed in Bolivia could be overthrown by a powerful proletarian indigenous movement, the future of the Zionist project is in question, and America’s regime change projects for Syria and Venezuela have failed. China is on its way to economically outpacing the U.S. within ten years, making for an increasingly multi-polar world where the U.S. and other bourgeois powers are losing their economic leverage.
Capitalism and Western imperialism are rapidly collapsing, with the blowback from last week’s assassination further showing this; Iraq has moved to expel all U.S. troops from the country in retaliation for the Soleimani assassination, which ruins Washington’s relationship with Iraq at a time when Iraqi socialists are rising again. The empire’s collapse is both internal and external.
After studying the Russian revolution of 1917, I see parallels with Russia in the years before communism won. During the last two decades before the revolution, while the Bolsheviks were building their organization and rousing the disaffected victims of tsarist capitalism, the Russian Empire fought in a series of catastrophic wars that weakened the legitimacy of the regime. The Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and 1905, wherein Russia fought over imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea, was followed by Russia allying with the United States in World War I. Marxists Internet Archive describes how World War I made Russia descend into social crisis, economic collapse, and unsustainable oligarchy:
“The losses Russia suffered in the world war were catastrophic. Between 900,000 and 2,500,000 Russians were killed…Economically Russia was devastated. 8,000,000,000 rubles in war debts were outstanding, strangling the national economy of its breath. Inflation soared; the gold reserves (then backing the currency) were nearly empty, revenues were exceedingly low while reconstruction costs were huge. Russia was on the verge of complete collapse…The Russians that prospered the most during the war were peasant land-owners: Kulaks. Cunning muzhiks bribed local officials to prevent conscription and saw a field of opportunity open up during the war. While more and more peasants were sent to their deaths on the front lines, kulaks grabbed up their land in a free-for-all. By 1917, kulaks owned more than 90% of the arable land in European Russia, where once the majority of arable land had been in the hands of peasant communes.”
Is America going to experience a revolution during its own imperial collapse? That will depend on whether the poor and working classes accomplish what the Bolsheviks did: build a party that can function as the facilitator of a socialist new government in the event that the country’s bourgeois state is overthrown. We must work towards realizing such an event in the United States. The country’s conditions will soon make a socialist revolution realizable, even if the empire does manage to avoid full-on war with Iran.
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Iran hit ‘obvious’ targets to avoid spiral of war – Chris Hedges
with Chris Hedges
RT America on Jan 8, 2020
US President Donald Trump addressed Iran’s latest missile attacks on US airbases and Canada is moving military personnel out of Iraq amid escalating tensions. RT’s Paula Slier and RT America’s Alex Mihailovich report. Then Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize-winning host of “On Contact” and former Middle East Bureau Chief for the New York Times, comments on the escalation.
[Hedges begins at 6:45 minutes in.]
No Evidence Iran Killed Americans in Iraq
The Peace Report on Jan 8, 2020
Join The Peace Report to fight empire one video at a time: Weekly Newsletter
Iran’s attack on US airbases not ‘proportionate’ – Galloway
RT America on Jan 8, 2020
Europe has offered mixed reactions to the US escalation with Iran. Former UK MP George Galloway provides perspective.
From the archives: