ALL AMERICANS should reject Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's statement that the United States would consider the "use of force" in the Mideast to prevent "strangulation of the industrialized world" by the oil producing nations.
Kissinger's "use of force" means war. No one who recalls the barbarism and destruction of the "use of force" by the United States in Vietnam can accept it now, even in another context. Kissinger's remark, no matter how phrased, threatens the sovereignty and well-being of the people of the Mideast who cannot be held responsible for the policies of their autocratic rulers.
Americans should be equally unwilling to accept the fallacy which permeates Kissinger's analysis of the role of the oil-producing nations in the economic crisis of the industrial West. Kissinger would have us believe that high oil prices are responsible for the chaos of the Western economies, and that if these economies fail it will be because they were "strangled" by the oil producing Arabs. This is false.
Blaming the Arabs for Western economic problems follows past patterns of simplistic--but useful--political analysis. It emulates Sen. Joseph McCarthy, telling the American people that "Commies" were to blame for their problems, or George Wallace, revealing that "Niggers, Jews and Yankee businessmen" kept the South poor. Like these analyses, Kissinger's will promote hatred, violence, and denial of the truth--which is that the West is largely responsible for its own problems.
The Arabs are convenient scapegoats, but they are only doing what the U.S. has done to them for years--taking us for all we are worth. Economic exploitation is reprehensible, whether it is done by the U.S. or by Arab states. And high oil prices are crippling not only the long-corpulent industrial West, but also nations like India and Pakistan whose impoverished millions' only crime was to be born in a country with neither oil nor the industrial capacity to pay for it. The Arab states are wrong to force these nations to pay oil prices determined by the Western industrial market. But the United States and Western Europe are not India. The Western nations--not the Arabs--have strangled themselves.
How can the United States attack high oil prices as the cause of our economic problems--and then permit the oil corporations to make up to 125-per-cent increases in profits, as they did last year? These are the same oil corporations that originally encouraged oil price increases--often by keeping cheap Arab oil out--knowing they controlled a monopoly market. The Arab states have simply followed their lead.
How can the United States attack the oil producing nations for economic "strangulation" when the U.S. and European business interests have been strangling the Mideast for decades--taking billions of dollars of petroleum wealth for a fraction of its value? American concern for a "fair price" did not stop the Central Intelligence Agency from helping to overthrow an Iranian government that tried to obtain one. The U.S. has also supported and encouraged the dictatorial regimes of the Arab sheikdoms. U.S. economic interests have combined with the autocratic political interests of the Arab rulers to ensure that the Mideast would remain a land of economic underdevelopment and misery for the majority of its people.
The Vietnam war should have shown that this sort of policy of economic and political domination, even with the "use of force," is destined to failure. But according to Kissinger Vietnam taught the U.S. "that it is easier to get into a war than to get out of it." This is a tragic commentary on how little the chief foreign policy maker in the U.S. government really did learn from Vietnam, especially if he still considers the "use of force" an option in the Mideast. And no one should forget that President Ford says Kissinger's views "reflect" his.
For despite the differences between Vietnam and the Mideast, one issue is the same: whether the people of the United States will permit their government to wage war to maintain a capitalist Western economic system that must use some 80 per cent of the world's wealth to sustain itself, at the cost of misery and political repression in the non-industrial world.
Not Kissinger's specters of foreign enemies, but Western industrial capitalism, is the real cause of economic crisis. It is unfair and unfortunate that this generation of Americans should bear the brunt of the economic burden for the crimes and errors committed by their country over the last century. But the people of the Mideast have been bearing the cost for our well-being, as well as the well-being of their rulers, for too long.
What is equally important is that the standard of this well-being is itself the product of a capitalist economy that constantly encourages increasing consumption of unnecessary commodities in order to maintain its growth, stability and profits. It is time to begin the shift from this capitalist system and the consumption it demands to a socialist economy. Capitalism cannot fairly distribute increasingly scarce resources, like oil; neither can it use them to plan production in most people's interests. Socialism at least has the potential to bring an equitable distribution of resources. And although the U.S. may have a lower standard of living, it will not be socialism that brings this, but rather the recognition that past levels of consumption were unjustified.
Receiving less low-priced foreign resources will force changes in our lifestyle and our society. But these changes have been too long delayed--all the more if the alternative is an unsupportable war as in the Mideast.
Americans should not look upon the decline of this industrial society as a tragic end, but rather as the opportunity for a better beginning--to establish both an economy that does not require war to maintain itself, as Kissinger suggests, and a nation that is supported by its people.
Americans should refuse to support any military action in the Mideast. They should reject Kissinger's and Ford's view of American problems and begin working to change the system that has produced them.