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The following article appeared in Left Business Observer #104, April 2003. It retains its copyright and may not be reprinted or redistributed in any form - print, electronic, facsimile, anything - without the permission of LBO.


Crappy little countries

Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.
- Michael Ledeen, holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute

Actually, the U.S. had been beating Iraq's head against the wall for a dozen years, with sanctions and bombing. The sanctions alone killed over a million Iraqis, far more than have been done in by weapons of mass destruction throughout history. But Ledeen's indiscreet remark, delivered at an AEI conference and reported by Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online, does capture some of what the war on Iraq is about.

And what is this "business" Ledeen says we mean? Oil, of course, of which more in a bit. Ditto construction contracts for Bechtel. But it's more than that - nothing less than the desire, often expressed with little shame nor euphemism, to run the world. Is there anything new about that?

The answer is, of course, yes and no. In a rather odd article in the London Review of Books, Perry Anderson argued that there wasn't, and wondered aloud why the U.S. war on Iraq had excited such unprecedented worldwide opposition - even, in all places, within the U.S. - when earlier episodes of imperial violence hadn't. Anderson, who's edited New Left Review for years, but who has almost no connection to actual politics attributed this st