Thursday, March 14, 2013

Deja Vu

> A Palestinian leader being warmly received in Moscow.

> China deciding to provide better social services.

> Latin American guerrillas educating peasants.

These are three stories that are in the news today.  The first and third are covered by RT, and I came across the second on a CNN web page devoted to China.

Predictably, the CNN story has a business focus;   however unlike the attitude of American business toward health benefits, which it tacitly approves (“The country can’t afford them”), the story on China emphasizes the benefit better health coverage will bring to the Chinese economy: people will spend more on consumer goods instead of saving for health needs. True to the basic tenet of American journalism, which often enables subliminal messages, CNN does not comment on the difference between the American and Chinese views on the economic advantages of subsidized health care.

The third story, featured on RT, is about the complex relations between independent gold miners in Columbia, the FARC guerrillas, and foreign mineral companies.  With the price of gold soaring, the long-standing tradition of small-scale mining - now carried out with the help of cell phones - has entered into conflict with large companies. The documentary moves from detailed coverage of the mining process and its health hazards, to political education and adjudication of village squabbles by modern day versions of Cuba's guerrilla fighters, assisted by laptops.

As for the first story, you have to be old enough to remember the Cold War to appreciate its irony: During that period, Moscow and Washington vied for influence in the Third World, and each had its client states and allies. Since then, most third world countries have come to see Washington as an adversary that is either out for its resources or raining bombs. These countries are once again looking to Moscow, no longer to emulate its centralized economic system, but because Russia opposes Washington’s aggressive stance. The presence of Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian head of the Israeli occupied West Bank reflects Russia’s support for the Palestinians, in direct opposition to America’s support for Israel, even as it relentlessly pursues its goal of ridding Palestine of its historical inhabitants in defiance of international law.

Broadly speaking, unlike the Cold War period, when Peking’s Communist party looked to Moscow as a Big Brother, the twenty-first century finds the two countries allied against Washington - even though one is still under Communist rule, while the other seeks to tame capitalism. Neither ideological nor cultural differences now prevent Peking and Moscow from forming a common front against Washington and backing the demands of the 120 Third World countries newly organized under the banner of the fifty year old Non-Aligned Movement.

The deja vu is stunning - but not nearly as much so as the planetary transformation it reflects and its implications for an American foreign policy focused on domination rather than cooperation.

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