Gulf War Pullout

Noam Chomsky

Z Magazine, February, 1991

The “Logic” of War

To effectively combat war in the Gulf we have to understand its motives. Bush is seeking to get Iraq out of Kuwait. Possibly he is seeking to reduce Iraq to rubble. But that is not the whole story.

Hundreds of U.S. bombers are not “storming” Iraq to maintain cheap oil. (1) The cost of more expensive oil would be much less than the cost of the military operation. (2) Oil prices have a marked-regulated cap anyhow. If oil producers raise prices too high for too long, users drift away which is self-defeating for oil rich countries. (3) Insofar as high oil prices cause problems to industrialized economies, Europe and Japan are more vulnerable than the U.S., so relative to these countries higher oil prices often help our economy at a time of its threatened dissolution.

Fleets of U.S. helicopters are not “storming” Iraq to honor Kuwait’s national sovereignty. U.S. history is a near continuous chronicle of violating other countries’ national sovereignty for even less compelling reasons than those Saddam Hussein offers to rationalize his militarism. For example, Kuwait’s oil policies were certainly more damaging to Iraq’s economy than Panama’s policies were to the U.S. economy. No U.S. elected official or mainstream media commentator has even hinted that our invasion of Panama was just as much a violation of national sovereignty as Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Respect for national sovereignty is an after-the-fact rationalization of Desert Storm, not a motive.

U.S. troops are not “storming” Iraq because we fear Hitlerite expansionism. Iraq is only a local power, not pre-World War II Germany. Iraq just spent the 1980s failing to conquer Iran despite U.S. support.

The real reason for U.S. opposition to Iraqi occupation of Kuwait is not to keep oil prices low, but to keep Washington, Wall Street, and their allies in charge of setting oil prices. We are fighting to maintain and even enlarge one of our few continuing claims to international economic clout: control of oil prices. The Bush administration and the New York Times alike view the Mideast as an extension of Texas. It is “our oil,” not theirs. The U.S. oil posture is not a sober defense of countries dependent on oil. It is a greedy offensive that pursues U.S. oil advantage. Most countries, particularly Third World countries, suffer horribly for these policies.

But fulfilling our imperial need to control the “oil card” requires only that Hussein be pushed out of Kuwait. A second question therefore arises. Why not let diplomacy and sanctions push Hussein out? Why escalate the war?

The answer is at the heart of understanding the U.S. role in the so-called “new world order.” George Bush wants Hussein out of Kuwait, yes. But he does not want UN activism, international sanctions, and multilateral diplomacy credited with causing withdrawal. From Bush’s perspective a diplomatic solution would be as bad as Hussein’s interference in the first place. Diplomatic success would undercut the efficacy of U.S. military interventionism, now, and well into the future. And it would add powerful fuel to calls for a “peace dividend” and conversion here in the U.S.

On the other hand, the early dispatch of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and immense firepower allowed Bush to enter what he undoubtedly saw as a “win/win” game. If Hussein had withdrawn Bush would have claimed he did so due to our military threat, thus establishing the logic of continued military spending to maintain peace. Now, the U.S. will forcibly annihilate Hussein, again evidencing the necessity for military might. The goal of our drive to war is to maintain the region’s effective colonization while re-legitimating militarism. Now Secretary of Defense Cheney will argue not only for increased conventional military expenditures, but also for nuclear and star wars expenditures to forestall future Third World conflicts and/or smash future dictators who stray from doing our bidding. Desert Storm is, therefore, also a war against the redistribution of domestic wealth and power than conversion away from militarism implies. It is a war against Iraq, but also a war against the poor in our own country.

For years the U.S. has been the biggest economic power and has shared contested military dominance with the Soviet Union. Now we are alone at the top of the military heap with the biggest, best, and most numerous weapons of every conceivable type. Moreover, our economy is losing its ability to coerce international obedience. The U.S. is climbing down the ladder of economic influence as U.S. military stature rises without limit. Big guns and fewer dollars suggest a warfare state hiring out as the world’s enforcer. Now we fight Exxon’s wars and anyone else’s, as long as they pay the proper fees, either because they want to or, if necessary, because we force them to. Have gun will travel. Destination: a warrior state domestically and internationally.

The first battle over this scenario is unfolding now in the Mideast, as well as here at home. Will militarism be re- legitimated or will conversion gain momentum as a policy alternative? To reverse Bush’s war scenario social movements must explain the underlying forces compelling Bush’s violence and galvanize the deep-rooted and sustained opposition needed to stop it. Questions and Answers

1. Does the U.S. oppose aggression? No.

2. Does the U.S. oppose proliferation of super-weapons? No.

3. So what is Bush concerned about? Domination.

4. Why does Bush oppose negotiations? They might work.

5. What is the New World Order all about? Same as the old, with an ominous new wrinkle.

6. Why is Bush so eager to wage war? Momentum and preference!

7. What will be the results of war? Rivers of blood.

8. Why does the U.S. oppose linkage? Fear of isolation.

9. Why oppose war in the Gulf? It’s wrong.

10. What is the logic of our antiwar activism? Raise the social cost.

11. What should be the focus of our activism? Peace and justice.

12. What tactics should we use? Demonstrate, demand, disobey.