Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Whither the World?
When my memo was posted Friday on how Ethiopia’s tax system was impoverishing it, I soon got an e-mail from a longtime client of Polyconomics who said I should continue to write about economics and stop writing about Iraq. He said I’d made my point and should move on instead of criticizing the Bush administration, noting that “many well-meaning people agreed with Neville Chamberlain in 1939” when the British Prime Minister thought he could make peace with Hitler through “appeasement.” I thought about this for 24 hours before deciding to respond in this fashion:
“The most important thing in the world going on right now is the national and international discussions of what kind of world system is most appropriate to lead to sustained peace and prosperity for the rest of the century. At the theoretical level, I've been an active player in that debate for almost ten years, since I wrote my "American Empire" essay in 1995. It is still available on my home page. In other words, you have to think of me as an actor in this discussion, not a bystander. I'm trying to be as fair and objective as I can in my assessment of how this is all evolving. For those of my clients who have a different take on the politics involved, I can only say I do understand how that can happen. You do me a disservice, though, by suggesting I am playing the Chamberlain role in this process.
”You must face the fact that in 1939 Nazi Germany had an enormous military machine, a thriving economy, and a madman as leader who had clearly spelled out his objectives in terms of "lebensraum." In March of 2003, Iraq had a third-class military machine and an economy that had been crushed by 12 years of UN sanctions. Most importantly, it was permitting UN inspectors to roam the country looking for any sign of unconventional weapons. Saddam was forced to do this in order to assure the world and the region that he was indeed as toothless as it now turns out he was when President Bush decided to invade -- persuaded by his neo-con advisors that it would be a cakewalk. This sounds like the kind of world Adolf Hitler would appreciate, not Neville Chamberlain. It is not the kind of world I would like to leave behind when I pass on.”
I’m sharing this exchange with you today because I do think very few people really understand that my writings on foreign policy are not meant to help or harm President Bush’s re-election prospects. Outside of the theoretical realm, I really am a little fish, with this website my primary platform for broadcasting my views on the shaping of a world system. At the theoretical level, it was my early insights on economics that led me to see as early as 1977 that Soviet communism was about to collapse. By 1980, I believe I was the first American to see that with the coming end of the Cold War the United States would have to manage the world as if it were an American Empire. A bipolar world was horizontal, "them against us." A unipolar world was vertical, requiring top-down management of the family of nations. Within that framework, I seriously thought of starting a quarterly journal that would be called "The American Empire," but instead wound up becoming immersed in the Reagan campaign of 1979-80 and tending to Polyconomics, which I founded in 1978.
This simple idea of top-down management of the world by the one superpower led to my break with my old Cold War allies, who continued to see the menace of possible threats to US from adversaries who would attempt to defy Washington and challenge us as if the world was still bipolar and horizontal. My old allies were the neo-conservative intellectuals who took us to war with Iraq on precisely those terms. Saddam Hussein was a real threat because he might become a real threat. Even earlier, my old allies were prepared to provoke Beijing into conflict, reasoning that China was growing so fast that it would soon become a threat to US leadership. They still hold that view.
As it happens, this weekend a friend sent along a long, long essay by a Pakistani intellectual who had gone to the trouble of thinking about the world in these terms from the other side of the world. There are two versions of the essay, both slightly different and both excellent in covering the background to this “most important” discussion. Regulars here will not be surprised to find the late Albert Wohlstetter at the center of the story. Dr. Wohlstetter was the leader of the team of theoreticians to which I belonged and from which I broke in 1995. Until recently, Khurram Husain taught at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, in Lahore, Pakistan. He is also a contributor to the Pakistani press on issues connected to U.S. foreign policy. Here are the two versions of his essay, the first a bit shorter, the second the most recent: