Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Year of Revolutions That Shook the Empire
By Eric Walberg
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, December 31, 2011
2011 is already history and will remain a historical turning
point in international affairs, enthuses Eric Walberg
fruit vendor, Muhammed Al-Bou Azizi, set himself on fire in a public square
in a small town in December 2010, sparking protests that brought down
dictators in Tunisia and Egypt , and began a tidal wave of change both in
the Middle East and farther afield. Add in the 2011 American withdrawal from
Iraq and failed attempts to subdue Afghanistan and Iran , and the writing on
the wall for empire is written boldly — in blood.
After a century
of scheming in the Middle East and Central Asia by first Britain and then
the US, the tables turned much faster than anyone could have imagined. As
the pivotal 2011 draws to a close, it is the perfect moment to look at how
we got here. The rollercoaster ride has been long and terrifying, and it is
vital to understand where it is taking us.
From the 19th century on,
it was clear to imperial strategists such as Cecil Rhodes and Halford
MacKinder, motivated by the desire to conquer the world, that the
“heartland”, Eurasia, was the key to securing the proposed world empire. WWI
was supposed to clinch the deal, with the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate
leaving the Levant “free” to be carved up and secured. The Indian Raj was
the empire’s base for securing Central Asia and the Far East .
the horrors of the war led to an unforeseen result: revolution in Russia,
inspiring a growing anti-imperial movement across Eurasia. Inspired by
Russian revolutionaries, the Raj seethed in discontent, demanding freedom
from the British yoke, and Chinese patriots coalesced around their own
rapidly growing Communist movement. Historic Turkestan was now off limits,
part of the Soviet Union or in the case of Afghanistan, unconquerable.
WWII erupted as Germany attempted to snatch the world empire from the
British and destroy its Russian nemesis, but this merely accelerated the
decline of the Euro-imperialists, their schemes exposed as relying on mass
slaughter and cold, calculating privilege for the elite of the imperial
When the war ended, there were hopes that imperialism would
end too. The empire had been forced to ally with the Communists to defeat
the Germans, and to promise to dismantle the imperial system after WWII.
This new world order was to be one of independent nations competing on a
level playing field. But what should have been the last gasp of this inhuman
system of “free trade” in the service of empire gained a new lease on life,
as the US had escaped the 20th century’s cataclysms unscathed, and its
capitalists were eager to take on the mantle of empire ceded by the bankrupt
Moreover, a new, subtle but key force in the new empire was
the Jewish state established by the British and Americans in the heart of
the Middle East, a blatant colonial entity which draped its imperial role in
the language of anti-colonial liberation. This, despite the fact that it was
created by dispossessing the native Arabs, even as neighbouring Arabs in
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and North Africa were gaining nominal independence
from their colonial masters.
This new playing field witnessed a
long, bloody match, pitting the empire’s forces against both Communists and
anti-colonial forces. After millions of deaths, it culminated in the defeat
of the Communists in 1991, and a new game began, with world control once
again the prize.
The dreams of revolution and an end to empire were
dashed, and this new world order was once again baldly imperial, as planners
accelerated their plans, epitomised by the rise of the neoconservatives with
their Project for a New American Century, combining market fundamentalism
and imperial aggression in a deadly cocktail where there were no longer any
The former Communist union, especially
Turkestan, with its strategic location and oil wealth, was quickly brought
into the imperial orbit. Even China was accommodated, as it acceded to the
world economic order established by the empire after WWII.
baggage of empire continued to complicate the picture. The Islamists, so
useful in the destruction of the Communist bloc, resisted imperial designs.
Israel, also useful throughout the post-WWII struggle against both the
Communists and the 3rd world liberation forces, established itself as an
independent player and even posed as the new imperial coach, penetrating to
the heart of the empire and asserting its own goals of expansion and
hostility against its Muslim neighbours.
At its behest, the
resulting wars have been against the Arab and Muslim world, but two decades
of attempts to subdue them have merely hardened Muslims’ opposition to
empire, even as the devastation caused by imperial designs increases.
Hence, the Arab Spring of 2011 and the accession to power of Islamists via
the ballot box across the Middle East . Hence, the unwinnable war against
the Afghan people, that brought empire to its knees in fateful 2011, even as
the slaughter of insurgents and civilians increased. Yes, the imperialists
managed a clever ruse, invading Libya to depose the clownish Gaddafi, but
the Islamists and fiercely independent tribes there are unlikely allies of
The tsunami of resistance to imperialism surged throughout
2011 around the world, while the empire’s leaders put a worldwide “missile
defence” system in place. But even as radars and missiles were installed in
Europe , the rising tide reached the empire’s shores in 2011, as financial
crisis led to rising poverty and unrest in the imperial centre itself.
Taking inspiration from the Arab Spring, mass demonstrations in Greece and
Spain erupted and Wall Street, the empire’s “heartland”, was occupied. The
“99 per cent” entered the political lexicon as the people vs the ruling
elite (the 1 per cent who own half of the country’s assets). Even Israel and
newly capitalist Russia witnessed mass demonstrations, as ordinary citizens
began to realise how the system works, or rather doesn’t work for them. How
increasing disparity of wealth is the logical result of market
fundamentalism and control of the economy by financial capital.
will go down in history as a year as fateful as 1917, when the blinkers fell
away from the common people’s eyes in Russia and they rose up against their
oppressors. But while 1917 witnessed a Communist revolution against
capitalism and imperialism by a small corps of professional revolutionaries,
2011 has witnessed a mass, leaderless revolution facilitated by
telecommunications, and in the case of the key Middle East , inspired by
There is no Lenin, not even a Gamal Abdul Nasser, the one
Arab leader who managed to slow down the imperial steamroller in the Middle
East and is still revered for his defiance. Unlike Communist revolutionaries
of yore, the new leaders in the Middle East of what must be called the
Islamic revolution of 2011 are not the object of veneration, something that
Islam as a religion warns against.
Revolutions always start in the
weakest links. Thus, the Middle East has a head start on the revolutionary
process over the West, though through the growing Palestinian solidarity
movement, notably the global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign, the
struggles East and West are increasingly seen to be one and the same. What
will be the decisive test for the new revolutionaries in the Middle East and
the West itself is how well they can navigate the political shoals and
landmines laid by a century of empire.
How to dismantle apartheid
Israel without it unleashing nuclear war on the world? How to put an end to
US world financial blackmail centred on the dollar without the US
strategists taking everyone else down with them? While the empire is on the
defensive, it is still powerful and as its star wanes, it will only become
The foes of empire are popping up faster than the
empire’s drones can knock them off. They are found not only in Arab (and
Persian) lands, or even in a sceptical Russia and still-Communist China. As
the links in the system continue to fray, they are increasingly in the heart
of the empire itself. Americans and Europeans will continue to develop
alternatives to empire, financially, economically and politically, in their
own communities and continue to link up with their comrades-against-arms in
the heart of the supposed enemy in Eurasia .
More and more
Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other
alternatives to the capitalism. Some 130 million Americans are part owners
of co-op businesses and credit unions. As Obama cuts funding to states, the
latter consider establishing their own banks and use public pensions to fund
state economic development.
There is a wealth of expertise in the
“heartland” of the empire that can help show the whole world the way out of
the imperial deadend. The new generation in America lacks the Cold War
paranoia about socialism: Americans under 30 years old are “essentially
evenly divided” as to whether they preferred “capitalism” or “socialism”,
according to a 2009 Rasmussen poll.
Even as the world environment
degrades, even as imperial arms continue to kill, maim and choke
demonstrators and insurgents both at the heart of the empire and in the
heart of the “enemy”, we can take heart in the new sense of human dignity
which 2011 spawned, and fight the intrigues of empire with new vigour in
Eric Walberg can be reached at
http://ericwalberg.com/ His Postmodern
Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at