Global Independent Analytics
Panagiotis Papargyris
Panagiotis Papargyris

Location: Greece

Specialization: Greece, Crisis of the US hegemony; Israel / Occupied Palestine, Oppression of Black people in the US

The “Ethics of Responsibility” and the Bombing of Agrabah

Anyone interested in opposing the reactionary agenda of Western imperialism should not allow himself or herself to be taken in by such vulgar pseudo-theories

The ‘80s were not a good period for the Soviet Union. The economic achievements accomplished in the '70s were a thing of the past, and the country was now entering a period of stagnation and crisis. One look at the age composition of the country’s leadership is enough to complete the picture; the average age of the members of the Political Bureau was higher than 70.

Excluded from the financial markets, the USSR sought to borrow directly from the US only to receive the well-known answer: "reforms for loans." The invasion of Afghanistan, the defeat and the cost of the war, the intensification of the crisis and the lack of liquidity led the political leadership of the USSR to accept the settlement proposed by the enemy. The price was dissolution. The results are well-known. Inside Russia: destruction, colonization by the Western powers, a terrible demographic crisis. At the global level: a lack of a counterweight allowed the aggression of the imperialists to explode.

The dissolution of the USSR meant that a number of regimes in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Central and Eastern Asia were now “orphans:” isolated and an easy prey for the imperialists. The Western Empire wasted no time in its efforts to integrate these orphans into the global system under its heel. The plans had been drawn up since the ‘80’s, now it was time to carry them out. The instrument for the re-integration was in some cases debt, in other cases direct intervention and war. The recent developments in Libya, Syria and Ukraine need to be viewed in this context.

The ideological dress-up of the new series of crusades, which drew heavily from the theoretical junk advocated by various professors in western think-tanks, is an interesting subject that cannot be fully addressed here. A few aspects of it can be identified, however. While Fukuyama advocated the infamous theory of “the end of history” and claimed that the Fall would be followed by a world-wide expansion of liberal democracy and free-market capitalism that would eventually result in the end of various conflicts, Huntington was more pragmatic. He understood that imperialism could not and would not stop generating conflicts and wars. He proposed a theory - the “clash of civilizations”- that identified people’s cultural and religious traditions and identities as the main driver for conflict in the post-Cold War world. According to this pseudo-theory, the most important of these clashes would supposedly be the clash between the West and Islam. Noam Chomsky correctly characterized this “theory” as “a justification for any atrocities that they (the US) wanted to carry out.”

The story advocated by the Empire is also clearly influenced by the legacy of colonialism (which always had to present the colonized peoples as inferior, backwards, incapable of self-governance etc.) and by the work of sociologist Max Weber and the two schemas of ethics he had proposed back in the beginning of the 20th century: the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility. According to these mutually exclusive schemas, the ethics of conviction characterized those who pursued their ideas without taking responsibility for their actions, as the various revolutionaries (Bolsheviks in Russia, Spartacists in Germany). The ethics of responsibility, however, characterized the ruling elites, who were mature enough to take hard yet necessary decisions and whose violence was always responsible and justified. Back in his day, Weber, who had celebrated World War I as “great and wonderful,” had used these two schemas to justify the bloody crackdown of the (“irresponsible”) Spartacist uprising by the (“responsible”) Friedrich Ebert in Germany with the infamous phrase “Liebknecht belongs in the madhouse and Luxemburg in the zoo.” Eleven days later, the two revolutionary leaders would be murdered by the Freikorps.

In the bottom-line, the use of this mix of “theories” nowadays can be wrapped up as follows: we, the civilized imperialist West, are characterized by the ethics of responsibility. It is our duty to watch over the backward peoples, since they cannot rule themselves, and discipline them when required. We are constantly defending ourselves from the barbarism and backwardness that surrounds us. Even though we eventually have to make difficult decisions with devastating effects (that may cause the deaths of thousands of children, for instance), our actions are justified.

In a recent poll in the US, 30% of the Republican and 19% of the Democrat primary voters said that they would support the bombing of… Agrabah – the mythical city portrayed in the Disney movie “Aladdin.” A clear-cut indication of the ethics of responsibility if ever there was one!

Anyone interested in opposing the reactionary agenda of Western imperialism should not allow himself or herself to be taken in by such vulgar pseudo-theories, some of which are once again taking their position at the forefront of the Empire’s ideological battle.

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