[News] War and cheeseburgers

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 21 18:02:19 EDT 2012

War and cheeseburgers

By Pepe Escobar

A specter haunts Europe. No, it's not communism; 
it's US rating agencies. Greece is bankrupt; the 
eurozone is about to crack; JP Morgan makes 
billion-dollar "mistakes"; there's no (jobs) 
future for the new generations. And yet the 
weaponized arm of the Western 0.1% elites 
occupies Chicago - turned into an Orwellian 
police city-state - to discuss "smart defense".

In Afghanistan, the "smart" North Atlantic Treaty 
Organization (NATO) is in fact bound for a 
humiliating escape. "Smart defense" is code for 
"there's no money". Only five among 28 NATO 
member states spend 2% of their gross domestic 
product on the military - as NATO would have it. 
One of them was - surprise! - Greece. Here's yet 
another crash course on weaponized 
neo-liberalism. First Greece was more or less 
forced to buy expensive submarines from the 
French and the Germans; then it was forced to 
make budget cuts. Call it the "food for subs" NATO relief plan.

The US pays for no less than 75% of NATO's bills 
- yet another graphic demonstration of NATO as 
the European arm of the Pentagon. Still, in 2011 
European Union (EU) members spent no less that 
$180 billion on defense. Not anymore. There's no 
money. So it will be up to the Pentagon to keep it going.

And keep it going it will - with relish. As 
expected, this Sunday in occupied Chicago NATO 
approved - better yet, US President Barack Obama 
and his allies "just decided" - to go with the 
first phase out of four of the US missile shield for Europe.

This means in practice an American warship armed 
with interceptors stationed in the Mediterranean, 
and a NATO, Turkey-based radar system controlled 
out of the headquarters in Ramstein, in Germany. 
The sprawling Ramstein base is led by an American 
general. Now, according to the Turkish newspaper 
Zaman, a Turkish general will be his 
second-in-command. This is the kind of carrot 
Turkey gets for campaigning for regime change in Syria.

Those who believe NATO's spin - this shield is 
not aimed at Russia, but as a defense against 
"evil" Iranian missiles - may join Alice in 
Wonderland. For all practical purposes, Russian 
military chief General Nikolai Makarov has 
already said Russia is bound to respond by 
stationing short-range Iskander missiles in 
Kaliningrad, near the Polish border. You can take 
NATO out of the Cold War but you can't take the Cold War out of NATO.

Medium rare, no ketchup
On Afghanistan, the White House spin is that 
Obama has urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to 
"implement electoral reform, cut out corruption 
and press the Taliban for a settlement". That's 
beyond wishful thinking; to believe that the 
corrupt-tainted Karzai system will "reform" is 
like believing the House of Saud cherishes 
Jeffersonian democracy. If there were to be a 
semblance of "electoral reform", Washington's 
allies in Afghanistan would lose every single 
election. And it's the Taliban that would force 
Karzai into some settlement, not the other way round.

So what's left to save Western civilization? 
Cheeseburgers. With French - not "freedom" - fries.

This new cheeseburger diplomacy, sealed at the 
Oval Office by Obama and new French President 
Francois Hollande, is supposed to save Greece, 
revamp the eurozone and reignite the US economy, 
just in time for the November US presidential 
election. How come the redoubtable US burger 
chain Five Guys never thought about that before?

Here's the Obama calculation. If his Republican 
challenger Mitt Romney gets elected in November, 
we are even more screwed than we are now. I need 
jobs. I need a recovering economy. I need those 
damned Europeans to put their house in order. I 
can't sit down here waiting for them to solve the 
Greek problem; I've got an election to win.

Here's the Hollande calculation. I won my 
election. I promised to deliver jobs and growth. 
Now I need my coalition of the willing - for 
growth; otherwise we will be run over by the 
extreme right, everywhere. Mon Dieu, how come 
"Onshela" - aka German Chancellor Angela Merkel - can't understand that?

For the Franco-American duo, it's a win-win 
situation. Hollande's economic policy is in fact 
Team Obama's economic policy. They may have laid 
down the (new) law to "Onshela" at the placid 
Camp David Group of Eight retreat - protected 
from the real world by an army that could effect 
regime change anywhere in five minutes.

Problem is, neither Barack nor Francois has 
briefed the God of the Market - and European and 
American banks - about it. The Masters of the 
Universe couldn't give a damn about Greece the 
birthplace of democracy; they want their money back.

Obama is in a hurry. Current Italian Supreme 
Interventor Mario Monti - former Goldman Sachs - 
may have the market credibility to convince 
Berlin and the troika (European Central Bank, 
European Commission, International Monetary Fund) 
that either Europe grows or there's no money to 
anybody. But Obama also needs a strategic 
political ally. That's certainly not austerity dominatrix "Onshela".

I'd rather have a steak
The problem is these cheeseburgers are drenched 
in oil. Iranian oil. Obama is playing the 
hardliner on Iran essentially for electoral 
reasons. Over the next five months he might be 
able to steer the debate were it not for the 
Europeans - following his directive, in fact - 
proceeding with their Iranian oil boycott 
starting on July 1. He dreads the inevitable 
consequence: an oil price spike. Then it's bye 
bye European recovery - duly followed by bye bye Obama's re-election.

This is what makes the next round of talks in 
Baghdad this week between Iran and the P5+1 
nations even juicier. From the point of view of 
Team Obama, the best possible scenario would be
let's agree to talk some more.

That would leave Obama with a window to press - 
through Hollande - the necessity for Europe to 
forget about the oil boycott, at least while both 
parts are talking, and at least for the next six 
months. After all, the ultra-harsh sanctions 
package remains in place - and that is certainly 
biting the Iranian population, much more than the Tehran leadership.

The only thing that matters to Team Obama, above 
all else, is to guarantee victory on November 4. 
Will the cheeseburger diplomacy work? Or will 
Mitt Romney counter-attack promising a "No steak 
left behind" policy, with lots of Iranian ketchup?

Pepe Escobar is the author of 
How the Globalized World is Dissolving into 
Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and 
Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the 
surge. His most recent book, just out, is 
does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia at yahoo.com

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