We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The urge to surge: The US's 30-year high

by Tom Engelhardt from Asia Times Online

This is one of the best critical reviews of Empire polices, particularly in relation to the nine year war in Afghanistan-Pakistan, that I have seen. The author weaves together the many strands of the push to Empire, or as he expresses it, the "urge to surge" that has created this monstrous, power-drug addicted Empire. 

The author almost always provides a penetrating analysis of political events, but he is always careful not to stray beyond the limits of tolerance imposed on writers by all significant media outlets. Permit me to stray for him.

To be sure, domination over others is a powerful drug, but he fails to mention the other drug--probably the primary drug because it also provides power--the accumulation of wealth. The engine of this accumulation is the capitalist system, a system that is supported by the twin pillars of the  rights of private ownership of socially produced wealth and the inviolability of contracts, both of which are enforced by state military-police forces. 

The parallels that he describes between the Soviet military involvement in Afghanistan and the Empire's is useful, but only to a point. There are significant differences which reveal differences in the social-political structures of the former Soviet Union and the United States. 

The Soviet Union was a centralized bureaucratically dominated system with public ownership of all significant parts of the economy. Under Stalin's leadership it was never an expansionist country. But because of the constant threats, invasions, and occupations of their territory by Western capitalist countries in the 20th century, their leaders were understandably extremely protective of its borders. Afghanistan was right on their border, like Canada is on our border. They simply could not allow the CIA funded subversion of their neighboring country to succeed.

The US, on the other hand, is a country under the leadership of the capitalist class whose primary agenda is always the accumulation of more wealth, and with that wealth comes more power which also contributes to the accumulation of more wealth. 

After WWII the ruling class in the US was "king of the hill". It had the only industrial plant that was still intact, a huge military force, and tremendous wealth. It absorbed what was left of the British Empire, enforced their class interests in shaping the setup of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the US dollar as the currency used in international trade. 

It was primarily at this point in time that the ruling capitalist class in the US became really drunk on power. The most significant part of the globe that stood in their way of world domination was the Soviet Union. They declared (an informal) war, albeit a limited one, on the Soviet Union. It started off as containment because their were many countries on the border of the Soviet Union that wanted strong labor oriented governments. Hence the CIA subversion of these movements in France, Italy, Greece, Korea, and many other countries. Soon the policy evolved into "rollback" that resulted in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world was wide open to capitalist exploitation. There were only a few remaining areas that they couldn't control or strongly influence: mostly the Middle East or Eurasia, North Korea, and China. The latter country offered cheap labor for US companies, so it was largely left alone. North Korea wasn't very important. But the Middle East had most of the oil and other resources. Hence the need to come up with an excuse to invade that area. 9/11 provided that excuse.

The threat to world peace and social justice has always been the capitalist system. Nowadays, we are faced with the most ominous threat of all--the threat to our planetary ecosystem and human life.