The political/economy of empire


While it’s useful to focus on what we can all do to make things better, going local will only go so far. Entering a presidential election between two deeply unpopular candidates, we are faced with problems that require a national response.

Take the US empire. Since the end of World War II the US has maintained a world wide empire to ensure global dominance. Of course, this empire hasn’t been for the average American, but for the 1% and the corporations they control. Hate Trump, or love him, his contribution in this election cycle has been to clumsily expose the political/economy of the US empire. The panicked response among the foreign policy elite and media to Trump’s apostasy with regards to the continuing operation of NATO is case in point.

Despite the media depiction of Trump as the devil incarnate, he’s actually running to the left of Clinton on issues of foreign policy. In this crazy, topsy-turvy presidential election the Democratic Party has become the party of war, with Trump flirting with traditional GOP notions of isolation. The neocons have noticed and are fleeing Trump for Hillary. Top Democrats and the media have maintained a studied silence about this turn of events.

Investigative journalist, Robert Parry, has also noticed how the media depicts all of Trump’s statements as batshit crazy when some of what he says is quite rational.

“Amid his incoherence and insults, Trump has raised valid points on several important questions, such as the risks involved in the voracious expansion of NATO up to Russia’s borders and the wisdom of demonizing Russia and its internally popular President Vladimir Putin. Over the past several years, Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment has pushed a stunning policy of destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia in pursuit of a “regime change” in Moscow. This existentially risky strategy has taken shape with minimal substantive debate behind a “group think” driven by anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda. 

Much as happened in the run-up to the disastrous Iraq War in 2002-2003, the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies bully from the public square anyone who doesn’t share these views. Any effort to put Russia’s behavior in context makes you a “Putin apologist,” just like questioning the Iraq-WMD certainty of last decade made you a Saddam apologist.”

Local readers looking for clarification on these and other foreign policy details will be sadly disappointed in our local papers coverage. The Tribune’s turn to the Washington Post for foreign policy coverage has not served readers well. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Washington Post is the neoconservative flagship paper in the US, and their foreign policy coverage bleeds into propaganda.

A recent article describing a security conference held at my alma mater was an illustrative example. The conference was led by a local Republican Congress-critter who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. The speakers at the security conference were other assorted Congress and neoconservative think-tank denizens. Their overriding message was one of reluctant American benevolence, that was seriously at odds with reality.

“America is the best and perhaps only hope to maintain world peace in todays dangerous times, but it’s friends and foes question its commitment to that role.”

Since it was a security conference, the attendees went on to lay out a litany of concerns. The threat of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, Iran’s support of terrorism, Russian aggression, the conflict with China over access to the South China Sea, and North Korea. The consensus was that the world is a scary place with dangers lurking around every corner, and that the US needed to spend whatever it takes to reverse American foreign policy disasters.

Since this was a Republican con-fab, the US foreign policy disasters are all the black guy–Barak Obama’s–fault, never mind the idiot white guy–George Bush–who came before him, and the fact that Obama has been continuing the same disastrous foreign policies as Bush.

The whole security conference was a sick joke, with a sort of willful blindness to recent history, where since 9/11, the US has destroyed  Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, etc., all in the name of maintaining “world peace in todays dangerous times.” It’s almost like the invasion of Iraq happened in another universe.

Jesus, it makes my head hurt.

Let me explain this slowly–the US is not the best and only hope to maintain world peace, but is a violent empire with hundreds of military bases garrisoning the world. The US, through NATO, has surrounded Russia, and installed an ABM system on their doorstep. The war on terror is a giant hoax. Instead of a threat to our way of life, Sunni terrorism is a Frankenstein monster we have created and nurtured in our quest for economic, military and political world dominance. As an example, we are supporting Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise–Al-Nusra–in our quest to overthrow the Baathist government of Bashar Assad. Our so-called independent media plays along, with CNN embedding a woman journalist costumed in a chador, with this bloodthirsty group of head-choppers.

Our foreign policy establishment and corporate media can continue to equate the US empire with American benevolence, but Trumps appeal is just one more indication of how threadbare this argument has become. Like financialization and globalization, while the American people may not know the exact details, they sense that the benefits accrue disproportionately to the 1%. They wonder why the US spends enormous resources to maintain a world-wide empire while cities at home crumble.

Making matters worse for our foreign policy establishment, the US is presently an empire in rapid decline and is vying to maintain it’s status quo in the face of aspiring powers–China and Russia, who are attempting to promote a multipolar world rather than the world we have now with the sole super-power–the US.

Commentator Alastair Crooke lays out the dilemma facing the US foreign policy elite. 

“Does he (Trump) not understand, (these “ancien regime” figures seem to say,) that rapprochement and entente with Putin now, could bring the whole structure tumbling down? It could collapse America’s entire foreign policy? Without a clear Russian “threat” (the “threat” being now a constant refrain in the U.S. Beltway), what meaning has NATO? And without NATO, why should Europe stay “on side, and [do] the right thing?” And if Damascus, Moscow and Tehran succeed in emerging with political credit and esteem from the Syria conflict, what price then for the U.S,-led “rules-based” global order?”

You’d be hard pressed to get any of this foreign policy complexity from our corporate media.

Instead we get American benevolence and Cold War 2.0.

Update: If you think I’m exaggerating about the new Cold War, watch NBC’s Olympic coverage for 15 minutes. Holy Fuck!


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