Water Man Spouts

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Weber & the New World Order

"... Tonight I come to this House to speak about the world – the world after war.The recent challenge could not have been clearer. Saddam Hussein was the villain, Kuwait the victim. To the aid of this small country came nations from North America and Europe, from Asia and South America, from Africa and the Arab world, all united against aggression.

"Our uncommon coalition must now work in common purpose to forge a future that should never again be held hostage to the darker side of human nature. ….Our commitment to peace in the Middle East does not end with the liberation of Kuwait. So tonight let me outline four key challenges to be met.

"First, we must work together to create shared security arrangements in the region. ….Second, we must act to control the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the missiles used to deliver them. It would be tragic if the nations of the Middle East and Persian Gulf were now, in the wake of war, to embark on a new arms race. ….And third, we must work to create new opportunities for peace and stability in the Middle East. …

"Fourth, we must foster economic development for the sake of peace and progress. The Persian Gulf and Middle East form a region rich in natural resources with a wealth of untapped human potential. Resources once squandered on military might must be redirected to more peaceful ends. We are already addressing the immediate economic consequences of Iraq’s aggression. Now the challenge is to reach higher – to foster economic freedom and prosperity for all people of the region. …

"Until now, the world we’ve known has been a world divided – a world of barbed wire and concrete block, conflict and cold war. Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a "world order" in which "the principles of justice and fair play ... protect the weak against the strong ..." A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfill the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations. The Gulf war put this new world to its first test, and, my fellow Americans, we passed that test. …

"….Even the new world order cannot guarantee an era of perpetual peace. But enduring peace must be our mission . " --- President George H.W. Bush; address to Congress; March 6, 1991

I thought it might be interesting to take another look at George H. W. Bush’s attempts to promote the concept of a "New World Order" in the early 1990s. Between the summer of 1990 and the spring of 1991, President Bush1 made reference to the "New World Order" more than 40 times in his public presentations. What was he talking about? And what, if anything, does that have to do with the administration of his son?

Bush the Elder was describing a concept for a global political-economic system that he believed was most beneficial to a world moving beyond the Cold War. His "New World Order" was based on his ideas of power. For the sake of this essay, we will consider this "New World Order" in the context of political systems and power, as defined by the German economist and sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920).

It has been many years since, as a student, I was forced to read about Weber’s theories in his 1905 "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. I recall that he advocated a "Calvinist emphasis" – or a disciplined approach to business enterprises – which did not match well with my youthful approach to college life. I recall that he was called "the bourgeois Marx," because of the many similarities in the two’s interests, although Weber had a very different political orientation. He viewed causes such as law, religion, and politics as combining with economics in determining the course of history.

Others who paid more attention to the lessons of Weber would certainly be in a better position to discuss his influence on economics. My limited interest was on his ideas of "power." In other essays, I have noted that the word "power" comes from the Latin "posse," which means "to be able." In politics, that power translates into a specific class having the ability to reach its goals, even in the face of opposition from other classes.

Weber’s contribution included identifying three types of "authority" to exercise power in society. These include: {1} legal-rational authority; {2} traditional authority; and {3} charismatic authority. The first type is the power of a bureaucratic system of government, that has established rules and procedures that are generally agreed upon by both the ruler and the ruled. The United States of America is a fine example of this type of system. In its first 200 years, the federal government enjoyed the authority to coordinate the complex system of running a large country made up of numerous states. The greatest threat to its stability came in 1861, when several of the southern states refused to accept the authority of President Lincoln. One hundred years later, there was again a challenge to the federal government’s ability to enforce civil rights legislation in those same southern states. But by and large, the USA has been a successful example of legal-rational authority in action.

Thus, when Bush the Elder began to advocate for a "New World Order," he was perhaps, as Jerry Mander pointed out in his 1991 book "In the Absence of the Sacred," the perfect world leader to "stimulate this process." He was the product of a family that was rooted in the oil industry, which had been the base of economic power in the "developed world" since the Civil War. His family exercised significant political power. He had been the president of a multinational oil company; served in the House of Representatives; was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; was the chair of the Republican National Committee; served as the head of the U.S. Liaison Office in Beijing, China; was the director of the CIA; and had served two terms of Ronald Reagan’s vice president before being elected to the top office himself. And as president, Bush the Elder served at the time of the collapse of the USSR.

If any politician had the opportunity to help his "social class" realize their objectives on a global scale, it appeared to be George H. W. Bush.

The concept of a "New World Order" was based upon the goals of a group that Bush the Elder belonged to: the Trilateral Commission. A closer look at these goals can be found in Holly Sklar’s 1980 book, "Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management." Mander describes it as a global system based on "unlimited industrial production, the free flow of resources and labor, unlimited commodity consumption, and continuous ever-increasing exploitation of nature, (that) posited that all countries would arrive at a conceptual agreement on what the world economy should be and collaborate on attaining that common aim. …..

"Right now it is still true that one country can gain an individual trade advantage over others in food, or computers or other technologies, or in control of some resource. But such advantages are short-lived nowadays. Trade among industrial countries is so interwoven, and goals so unified, that all countries have begun to move in unison, as if they were one creature. As the Geneva-based negotiations toward a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) continued to progress, with the U.S. exerting tremendous pressure, the present minor discrepancies in policy and economic advantage will soon be sacrificed on behalf of the unified world development scheme. The European Economic Community merges the economies (and inevitably, the cultures) of its members, will soon be matched by a North American Economic Community (already proposed by Mr. Bush), and then a Western Hemisphere economic community, and an Asian community, and others around the world. As all these economies interlock, any economic threat to one is perceived as a direct threat to all, as was already the case when Iraq invaded Kuwait." (pages 378-379)

On September 11, 1990, Bush the Elder had told a Joint Session of Congress about his plans for a New World Order that would define the economic relationship between 1st and 2nd World Nations, as well as provide stability to the 3rd World in order to avoid wars. His "idealism" was compared to that of Woodrow Wilson. That idealism was soon tested.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, President Bush1’s Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, told the U.S. Senate that the proposed U.S.-led military response would have three goals: to prevent further aggression; to protect the world’s oil supply; and to further the New World Order.

Why was the first Gulf War fought? It would be a stretch to say that Kuwait’s government was a democracy in any sense. Hence, the threat Saddam’s action posed to the new World Order, which required an immediate military response, was surely not based upon democracy. It was, of course, the oil: this crisis revealed that the New World Order was vulnerable when the supply of this key resource was threatened. In the case of Kuwait, it was not because Saddam was planning to hold the world hostage by shutting off the oil supply. Rather, he would have the "power" that allowed him to influence not so much the production, but rather the pocket book.

This brings us back to Weber. He identified two other types of "authority" that could pose a challenge to the power of a legal-rational state. The first is known as "traditional authority." It is based upon the age-old customs of a culture, where people do things because "this is the way it has always been done." Traditional authority tends to be found in tribal leadership. It may be more of a loose system in hunters & gatherers and early agriculturalist societies, and more firmly established in pastoral and iron-age agriculturalist societies. It was also what we associate with the medieval "royal families" in Europe, and to a large extent even today in the modern Catholic Church. Thus, we can see that traditional authority has both a positive and a negative potential.

The next type is known as "charismatic authority." It is the type of extraordinary personal power that is associated with the prophets of various religious and spiritual movements. It is also found in numerous political and military leaders, who have the "gift" of charisma. ("Charisma" literally translates as "the gift of grace.") Charismatic leaders become the stuff of myths, as their followers embed the stories of their leadership into the group’s identity.

Charismatic leaders generally are the ultra-bright shooting stars of human history, and they rarely create long-term change in a system that is true to their original intent. Rather, they are followed by an associate with greater bureaucratic skills, and their message is absorbed into either a traditional or a legal-rational culture. An obvious example would be the prophet Jesus, who taught a gospel of love and forgiveness that became the foundation for a church with an "infallible" pope.

Thus, Bush the Elder was confronted with Saddam, a leader who came to power as a charismatic military leader, and who was transformed – with Donald Rumsfeld’s generous assistance – into a leader in the traditional Islamic society. This does not mean Saddam was a tradition Muslim; rather, it means that he had the authority to exercise the power needed to help his social class reach their objectives.

In the New World Order advocated by George H.W. Bush, along with two of his top bureaucratic systems men, James Baker III and Brent Scowcroft, Saddam was a problem that needed to be addressed. It was not that the most powerful of nations was seeking to exclude the smaller countries from positions of power – as Mander points out, they were attempting to use the International Monetary Fund to draw them in. But all of the 2nd and 3rd World Nations had to accept the prior understanding, which had some strict rules. These included opening all of their markets to "outside investment" and trade; to move towards reducing and eliminating tariffs; to reduce investments in "poverty programs" geared towards helping the poor; eliminating small-scale farms and transforming them into the giant agribusinesses that export products internationally; fully exploiting all natural resources, such as minerals, forests, and water; and removing traditional, tribal governments from power. Thus, Saddam was put into check in a manner that demonstrated the overwhelming military power of the Bush-Baker-Scowcroft forces, with as little disruption to the region as possible. The results were tragic for the people who bore the brunt of the sanctions imposed against Saddam in the years following the Gulf war. Clearly, human rights were not a New World Order priority.

Another group within the Bush1 administration noted with concern how vulnerable the New World Order was to a threat to the orderly flow of oil. This group was comprised of the neoconservatives within the republican party. Their challenge to the Bush1 doctrine first surfaced publicly in 1992, when a draft of the Wolfowitz-Libby Defense Guidance Report was leaked to the media. The report called for the United States to maintain absolute and unchallenged power on a global scale. More, as noted in Michael Scheuer’s "Imperial Hubris," their plan included coordinating efforts to re-draw the map of the Middle East. (page 13) This plan had concepts of power that in many ways resembled the "divine right" of the kingdoms of the medieval society.

This variation on the New World Order would grab power not by means of a democratic election, but rather by the theft of the 2000 election. That theft was absolutely a show of power: it was proof of "the capacity of a social class to realize its specific objectives" despite the opposition of other competing groups. (Political Power and Social Class; Nicos Poulantzas; NewYork: Schoken; 1973)

Few authors have described the threats to our Constitutional democracy that this "power elite" poses as well as Kevin Phillips. His three most recent books are required reading for those who hope to fully understand the nature of this threat: (1) "Wealth and Democracy"; (2) "American Dynasty"; and (3) "American Theocracy."

George W. Bush is, of course, an extreme example of hereditary power. He was perhaps best described by Senator Robert Byrd: "My eleventh president, George W. Bush, entered the White House with fewer tools than most. He had virtually no experience in foreign policy, and little more in domestic policy. In contrast to his father, George H. W. Bush, whose resume in government was often joked about as being the longest in Washington, George W., the son, had skimpy hands-on public service credentials. George W. Bush served one four-year term and only half of a second term as a governor of Texas before moving into the White House. Prior to that, he could claim as his own only a mediocre academic record, a raucous youth, a failed run for the U.S. House of Representatives, less than stellar stints in the oil business, and part ownership of a Texas baseball team. In short, George W. Bush, a child of wealth and privilege and heir to an American political dynasty, did not pay his dues. He did not have to." (Losing America; pages 18-19)

As Phillips pointed out in "American Dynasty," George W. Bush’s being put into the Office of the President was a tale of "aristocracy, fortune, and the politics of deceit." In the early days of his administration, it seemed evident that the president was an unqualified bumbler, and that the real power was found in VP Cheney’s setting national policy based upon his secret meetings with energy corporation leaders.

Then came 9/11. Suddenly, the unqualified bumbler was portrayed in the corporate media as a charismatic leader, a "war president" who would lead this nation to a promised land. The nature of this "leadership" was shown in his reference to "the Homeland" and his attempts to paint Saddam as a modern Hitler who "threatened" the United States with WMDs with images of mushroom clouds.

Just as true charismatic leaders are replaced with bureaucrats, the forces behind the fake "leader" prepared a system known as the "shadow government" (see Byrd, pages 78-79) which secretly took control of the federal government on 9-11-01. It was a group of business and political leaders that operated outside of Congressional oversight, and which included only one branch of the government – the executive branch.

The crowning achievement of the "shadow government" has been the war in Iraq. It is worth noting that in 2006, when it was becoming obvious the American people were no longer fooled by the lies about the reasons for the U. S. involvement in Iraq, that the "Baker Commission" completed its study of the U. S. policy in Iraq. And, despite the recommendations of those most closely connected to Bush the Elder, and the election of a democratic House and Senate, the "shadow government" continues its policy of madness in Iraq. Rather than moving towards a withdrawal of U.S. forces, the Bush2 administration is "surging" the violence.

As a democrat, I think it is important that people at the grass-roots level understand what exactly we are up against. This includes understanding that progressive people must increase their level of activism. We need to exercise the muscles that are described in that Bill of Rights that the shadow government seeks to deny us. It means pressuring our elected officials in Congress to oppose the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq, rather than to simply give lip service to the opposition, and then to put their tails between their legs and cuddle up at Bush’s feet.

It also means that we need to look closer at those democratic candidates who ask for our support for the 2008 elections. Which ones really represent change? Which ones are mere modifications of the Bush2 model of aristocracy, fortune, and the power of privilege?

In the most revolutionary speech by an American prophet who had moral authority, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged the insane police of the Johnson administration in Vietnam. This speech, "A Time to Break Silence" (aka "Beyond Vietnam"), was delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967. In it, Martin preached that, "I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin a shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered." Which democratic candidate has the authority to carry on that message of true power?


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