“At no time has the poverty of humanity stood in such crying contradiction to its potential wealth as in the present—at no time have all powers been so horribly fettered as in this generation, where children go hungry as the hands of the fathers are busy churning out bombs.”1
The Obama administration has reportedly finalized a proposal for the largest single arms-deal in U.S. history—one valued at $60 billion, to be sent to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) over the next 5 to 10 years. This mass arms-sale would see the U.S. upgrading 70 of the KSA’s aging Boeing-manufactured F-15 fighter-jets and selling it 84 new ones, in addition to 70 Longbow Apache attack helicopters, 72 Black Hawk transport helicopters, and 36 multi-purpose Little Bird gunships.2 (The proposed deal stipulates no further sales of transport or attack helicopters outrageously bearing the names of Native-American groups nearly exterminated historically by settler colonialism, such as the Comanche or Chinook.) Israel is said to have been involved in the drawing-up of the arms-sale; indeed, the deal seems to have proceeded only with Israel’s support, for neither the KSA-owned F-15s that are to be upgraded nor their new counterparts are to carry what are termed as standoff systems, which are said to permit these death-machines to target long-range land- and sea-based targets.3 Of course, not on offer to the KSA are the next-generation F-35 aircraft, 20 of which Israel reportedly spent $3 billion on last month.4 The F-35s, said to be expected to be available in 2015 at the earliest, are being termed the “costliest and most technically challenging weapons program the Pentagon has ever attempted.”5
In addition, U.S. officials are said to be contemplating putting together a further $30 billion deal aimed at upgrading the KSA’s naval forces.6 Furthermore, negotiations are reportedly underway between the U.S. and the KSA toward enhancing Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities against short- and intermediate-ballistic missiles: this would entail upgrading its existing Patriot-missile batteries and potentially even the purchasing of the Terminal High Altitude Defense system (THAAD), a joint Lockheed Martin-Raytheon production said to be the first weapons-system designed to provide defense against missile attacks from both within and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.7 It should be noted that a similar arms-deal was negotiated with the KSA in the closing days of the Bush administration, though the difference in cost and scope—the package provided by Bush was valued at $20 billion8—is striking.
If the purported contents of this proposed weapons-deal have been reported correctly, it would seem that the U.S. is not attempting to arm the KSA in preparation for an attack the Islamic Republic of Iran—the same, of course, cannot be said of the F-35 sales to Israel. The deal instead appears to largely promote of the KSA’s defense capabilities, although it must be said that various components of the proposed package could well serve the U.S./Israel against the Islamic Republic if war were in fact to break out: it is to be imagined that the KSA’s upgraded air force could serve as a double to that of the United Arab Emirates, described by General David Petraeus in 2009 as a force that could “take out the entire Iranian air force” by itself—this before the UAE had 80 F-16s delivered from the U.S.9 Writers for both The Guardian and The New York Times expect the proposed arms deal, brainchild of Obama, to pass through Congress easily, considering that it is estimated to provide for some 77,000 jobs across 44 states10—this in the midst of a formidable recession.
Although its scale is perhaps considerably greater than pre-existing arrangements, this proposed deal conforms with long-standing U.S.-government designs to project its hegemony over Southwestern Asia, ones that have been helped along by efforts made by Bush and Obama to tie the “moderate Arab” regimes into a de facto military alliance against the Islamic Republic; the most recent manifestations of such policy would be the deployment of Patriot missile batteries in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait.11 What is more, Pentagon officials cited by Thom Shanker and David Sanger of the New York Times report that the RKSA deal would further promote the ability of the U.S. military to engage in “power-projection”12—that is to say, to further assert its barbarous domination.
To summarize, then: the largest single arms deal negotiated by the U.S. during its short but thoroughly nasty history—one that will likely meet approval, even a warm embrace—would award one of the world’s most reactionary regimes with arms that could well significantly increase tensions among the various states of Southwestern Asia toward the possibility of open war. Such a war, like all wars, would be terrible, a “monstrous act of imperialist criminality,” as Alex Lantier of the World Socialist Web Site has it.13 “Countless thousands of Iranians would be killed in the first hours of [such] a war,” with thousands if not millions more victims to come after the opening salvo, and it would surely “bring the entire world closer to the day of a global nuclear conflagration.” In addition to the horrifically catastrophic direct human toll such a conflict would bring with it, it would likely also result in the cessation of hydrocarbon-export from Iran, with severe consequences for those who depend upon such for such things for fertilizers, transport, and so on.
Assuming that plausible alternatives to the alarming present tendency advanced by hegemonic powers exist, as they clearly do,14 it would seem to follow that they be adopted. One alternative could simply be not to have the deal to begin with—given the present array of forces, this would of course in practical terms necessitate the intervention of a “global self-conscious subject.”15 Another alternative would be to dedicate the between $60 and 90 billion currently being considered to things other than militarism and the promotion of catastrophe. One reasonable such project would be to dedicate significant resources to the development of solar power and other non-hydrocarbon-based energy sources, given the severity of the climate crisis. Another worthy project would be to provide more resources than have been afforded the peoples of Pakistan and Haiti, devastated as they have been by severe disasters in recent memory—that of the former undoubtedly largely the result of the anthropogenic climate change caused to date by industrial capitalism. Perhaps the $60-90 billion could be employed toward providing food-supplies to the approximately 1 billion humans who currently starve16—or in particular, to the millions of Sahel residents who presently run the serious risk of dying from starvation17—or medicines and health-care access to innumerable number of people who suffer and die from diseases and lack of medical treatment. Moreover, there clearly exists a dire need to provide Southern societies resources with which to attempt to mitigate the catastrophic effects that climate change is wreaking on their lives: principal among these would be the radical disruption of the potential for agricultural production, the drastic reduction of fresh-water supplies, and the provocation of severe floods and landslides.
Such projects, reasonable and humane as they may be, are naturally not on the minds of State functionaries; they are particularly absent in the U.S. government, imperial defender of reified, pre-historical existence. This barbarous entity is complicit with an innumerable number of first-order failures: inter alia, it has dramatically failed to come anywhere near the pathetically minimalist international norm calling on industrialized societies to provide 0.7 percent of their annual GDP to official-development assistance to what is termed the Third World, still refuses to become a member of the International Criminal Court, and stunningly continues to bankroll fascist Israel in its colonial project against the Palestinians—it should be remembered, of course, that the U.S. House of Representatives voted 390 to 5 to back Israel’s winter 2008-2009 assault on Gaza18; a similar resolution in the Senate met with unanimous support.19 It is at present unclear whether the Obama administration and the present Congress have yet repudiated the Clinton administration’s 1996 rejection of the international right to food, but one imagines this not to be the case. The U.S. government is furthermore remarkable for the lack of social protection it renders to its own citizenry, as Chris Hedges20 and John Sargis21 have compellingly argued on the recent health-care ‘reform’ advanced by Obama and mandated by Congress.
Among the various negations and crimes for which the U.S. government is responsible, both past and present, few can be said to approach the U.S. Senate’s tabling in July of consideration of legislation putatively aimed at mitigating U.S. contributions to anthropogenic climate change. This act—far graver than the Waxman-Markey bill passed through the House of Representatives in June 2009, which, in mandating a 4-7 percent reduction in U.S. carbon emissions on 1990 levels by 2020, fails even to meet the entirely inadequate reduction-trajectory called for by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol—is simply an abomination. It radically undermines the possibility of moving toward an international accord that could in theory begin to address the unfolding climate catastrophe, to step back from the brink of oblivion—though one must not put one’s faith in proposals endorsed by capital and the state. This prima facie failure on the Senate’s part is radically removed from the mass-suffering that anthropogenic interference with the Earth’s climate systems is already imposing on the peoples of the world, to say nothing of its non-human inhabitants; it amounts to a radical rejection of the recommendations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report—itself highly conservative and based in part on largely dated data—which call for a global peak in anthropogenic carbon emissions by 2015 and an expeditious decline thereafter. The IPCC’s proposed plan of action, it must be said, would itself only provide a 50 percent chance of limiting average-global temperature increases to 2ºC beyond pre-industrial levels—”a death sentence,” write David Spratt and Philip Sutton,22 “for billions of people and millions of species.” The Senate’s astounding decision not to consider climate legislation essentially renders the upcoming Cancún climate negotiations, as well as the subsequent South Africa round, totally hopeless, at least as regards progress toward a global climate-change accord. The potential dialectical importance of the Cancún and South Africa talks for the development of anti-systemic movements within international civil society—Adorno’s “global self-conscious subject”—is a different question.
It must be remembered, of course, that the Senate’s denial of a bill aimed at regulating carbon emissions as well as the proposed mass-arms sale to the KSA—two aspects of the appallingly monstrous present state of affairs—have been prosecuted by a Democrat-majority Congress and a Democrat-occupied White House. The prospect of further regression in light of the possibility that the Republican party make significant electoral gains in November is absolute. The necessity for revolutionary praxis directed at dismantling the present system—one that Fidel Castro rightly indicted in his desperate comments during a 3 September speech as “jeopardi[zing] the very survival of humanity”23—is similarly absolute.
1Max Horkheimer. “Materialism and Morality,” Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1993), p. 35
2Ian Black, “Barack Obama to authorise record $60bn Saudi arms sale,” The Guardian, 13 September 2010; Adam Entous, “Saudi Arms Deal Advances,” Wall Street Journal, 12 September 2010
5Entous, op. cit. (14 August)
6Entous, op. cit. (12 September)
7Entous, op. cit. (12 September)
9Chris McGreal, “US raises stakes on Iran by sending in ships and missiles,” The Guardian, 31 January 2010
10Entous, op. cit. (12 September); Black, op. cit.
11McGreal, op. cit.
12Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, “Obama Is Said to Be Preparing to Seek Approval on Saudi Arms Sale,” New York Times, 17 September 2010
14Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, “Obama on Iran: The Substance behind the ‘Signal,'” MRZine, 5 August 2010
15“Progress,” In Benjamin: Philosophy, Aesthetics, History , ed. Gary Smith, trans. Eric Krakauer (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 85
17Henry Foy, “Millions face starvation in West Africa, aid agencies warn,” The Guardian, 21 June 2010
20“Obama’s Health Care Bill is Enough to Make You Sick,” Truthdig, 12 July 2010
21“The crisis of the US health care system and Obama’s bill,” International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, vol. 5, no. 4/vol. 6, no. 1 (Autumn 2009/Winter 2010)
22Climate Code Red: The Case for Emergency Action (Melbourne: Scribe, 2008), p. 99