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West fears outcome of the war in Gaza

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Picture: Thomas Coex / AFP / Taken on October 10, 2023 – Israeli soldiers stand near the body of a Palestinian militant in Kfar Aza, in the south of Israel, bordering Gaza Strip on October 10, 2023. The escalation of Israel’s war on Gaza, ‘has put a monkey wrench in the US-led Saudi-Israeli normalisation effort’ and poses a challenge on various fronts to US global hegemony. Western powers could be losing their grip, but they won’t admit it, the writer says.

By Alex Callinicos

The assault on Gaza doesn’t just mark a regional crisis in the Middle East. It is a global crisis, further widening the fractures that have been developing at a worldwide level. This is brought out in a compelling article in the journal Foreign Policy.

Foreign Policy is usually a venue where policy intellectuals debate what kind of strategy the United States should be pursuing to see off the many challenges to its global hegemony.

The author of this article, Stephen Walt, is a professor at Harvard University, so he’s an insider. But he’s also a long-standing critic of US foreign policy. Walt belongs to the school of realism within the academic discipline of International Relations.

Its supporters argue that the international system is an anarchic political order where individual states pursue their own interests, cooperating only when it suits them.

As Marxists such as Justin Rosenberg and I have long argued, they fail to acknowledge the roots of this competition among states in the global process of capital accumulation. To be a realist doesn’t necessarily make you a warmonger.

Walt co-authored along with the more famous realist academic John Mearsheimer, an article criticising the plans of the administration of George W Bush to invade Iraq in 2003. They also wrote a book arguing, mistakenly, in my view, that Washington’s support for Israel is a result of the influence of the pro-Israel lobby in politics.

Walt also thinks that what he describes in the article as “the United States and its Nato allies … waging a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine” was not a good idea.

He notes that, before the Hamas attack on Israel, “the war was not going well” with the failure of Ukraine’s offensive.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s administration was conducting “a de facto economic war against China” and trying to extend the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.

Walt notes that, even if the war doesn’t spread to involve Lebanon and Iran, it “has put a monkey wrench in the US-led Saudi-Israeli normalisation effort”.

It also diverts Washington’s attention and resources away from China, the biggest challenger to US hegemony.

Moreover, “the conflict in Gaza is a disaster for Ukraine”. Already the Republican right, who have taken control of the US House of Representatives, was sceptical about continued military and financial aid to Kyiv.

“Moreover, Israel will now compete with Ukraine for the US-supplied munitions that it is using to devastate Gaza.

“It’s bad news for the European Union, too,” since many member states are queasy about Germany’s drive unconditionally to support Israel.

Finally, Walt points out, “bad news for the West, but this is all very good news for Russia and China.

“From their perspective, anything that distracts the United States from Ukraine or East Asia is desirable, especially when they can just sit on the sidelines and watch the damage pile up … the war also gives Moscow and Beijing another easy argument for the multipolar world order they have long championed over a US-led system.”

As for the states in the Global South already resisting US efforts to brigade them against Russia and China, “We should expect them to pay scant attention to all of our prattling about norms and rules and human rights.

“Don’t be surprised if more states begin to see China as a useful counterweight to Washington.”

The interesting thing is that the political leaderships in Washington, Berlin, Paris, Tokyo, and London seem to have very little idea of how badly this is playing for them.

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken tweeted last week from a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting, “The G7 is more united than ever.”

The G7 used to describe themselves as the “leading industrial countries”, but that rings very hollow now that China is the biggest manufacturing producer.

Their “rules-based international order” is ever more clearly a Western imperialist bloc struggling to maintain its dominance.

Prof Alex Callinicos is a British political theorist and activist. The author of several books, Callinicos is also a member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party and serves as its International Secretary

This article was first published on Socialist Worker, UK