Page 1 of 2 BOOK REVIEW The Roving Eye's grim world
view Globalistan by Pepe Escobar
Reviewed by David Simmons
HUA HIN, Thailand - Until this very moment, it was still a mystery: Why did the
Americans really invade Iraq if - as they claim - it wasn't "about oil"? The
WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and "spreading democracy" excuses were
discredited long ago. And so - why?
Now, finally, in Pepe Escobar's encyclopedic work Globalistan,
we have the answer: the US invaded Iraq to acquire the model for a new
Disneyland amusement complex:
As much as the Vietnam War was won by
Hollywood, Iraq will eventually be cloned by Disney as a theme park - complete
with a Mainstream Green Zone, the Sunni Triangle megamall, Adventureland jihad
rides, spot-the-IED fun and games, fake Kalashnikov target practice in
Frontierland, a multi-season Survivor pitting Sunnis against Shi'ites, a
multi-season Jihadi Bachelor, a multi-season Desperate Ba'athist Wives
and a monster kebab food court. (p 131)
okay - that's Escobar taking a rare time out from this very comprehensive
analysis of the entire planet Earth, or "a warped geopolitical travel book" as
he calls it, and indulging in a bit of dark humor. But it turns out it really
was about oil, all along.
But not only in Iraq, and not only oil. Using the palette of his own Roving Eye
observations and those of others liberally quoted (including, of course, Monty
Python), Escobar paints a terrifying picture of the world he calls Globalistan,
a world driven by greed for energy and by the means to monopolize its
acquisition, its production, and its transportation ("Pipelineistan"), and to
keep the Other (other nations, "terrorists" and above all the burgeoning
billions of dispossessed in Slumistan) from having enough of it. Or of anything
else, for that matter.
What we have here is Liquid War. This, we learn in the Introduction, is the name
of a video game, but in the book its use is based more upon Polish-born
sociologist Zygmunt Bauman's concept of "liquid modernity". It is a war that is
always in flux, even changing its name to suit the circumstances or - more
often - the needs of the spinmeisters (as in the "war on terror", which can
also be World War IV, or the Long War).
Voracious readers of Asia Times Online won't find all that much new in Globalistan.
Various ATol contributors, as well as Escobar himself, have written much on the
subjects that make up this volume. Several of them, including Syed Saleem
Shahzad, Henry C K Liu, F William Engdahl and others are cited therein. What
makes the book valuable - and fascinating - is the way it ties so many
apparently disparate threads of 21st-century geopolitics into a single
tapestry. These disparate threads are the "stans" that compose this bizarre
atlas - Corporatistan, Jihadistan, Talibanistan, of course Americastan, even
Osamastan and many others, transported and intermixed by Pipelineistan and
overseen by the mother - or rather the unruly daughter - of all "stans",
Probably the most important chapter in the book is "Pipelineistan", which
describes in intricate detail the complexities and the politics of the
transport system for oil and gas. Intrigue, regional, ethnic and religious
rivalry, economic ideology, the challenges of geography - all that and more are
in the mix. Much has been written elsewhere about exploring for oil (and gas),
extracting oil, fighting over oil, and yes, transporting oil in gigantic
tankers, but the lowly pipeline - itself a multibillion-dollar business - is
crucial to all of this. For example, everyone knows that Iran ships oil through
the Persian Gulf; far less has been written about the complicated deals Iran
has with the Central Asian republics to import their oil and export Iranian oil
in a swap arrangement.
It's all here, as is analysis of how Pipelineistan affects - and is affected by
- the politics not only of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf states
but of the Central Asian dictatorships, the vast nation of Putinistan, the
rising Asian giant Chindia, and even South America - now noticed even by the
lethargic US media because of the antics of Hugo Chavez, yet we learn here that
Bolivarian Pipelineistan extends far beyond Venezuela, under whose startlingly
beautiful Orinoco rainforest lie petroleum riches that might make even the Arab
oil sheikdoms envious.
Chavez, unlike nearly every other world leader mentioned in this book, comes
off as a hero; this is probably not surprising given Escobar's South American
roots and the fact that Chavez' policies and style are, for the moment, utterly
pro-people, anti-establishment and in-your-face. Still, Escobar's nearly
unbridled praise for this man who (after the book went to press) gave himself
temporary (we are told) power to rule by decree seems a bit over the top. For
everyone else, especially those at or formerly at (eg the "murderously
incompetent" Donald Rumsfeld) the top echelons of the George W Bush
administration, there is nary a gentle word.
Pepe Escobar is a lively writer, but not surprisingly much of this book is
heavy going, given the complexity of the subject matter and the amount of
documentation by way of supporting quotes from other authors. Unfortunately,
plowing through the book is made more difficult by the indifferent (to put it
kindly) copy-editing; in effect it is not edited at all, and this tends to make
Escobar seem a clumsier writer than he actually is (English is, after all,
approximately his fourth language).
Worse than the poor editing, perhaps, is the low quality of the graphics.
Escobar has gone to a lot of trouble to try to illustrate