Global Capitalism and Global Empire
The global political economy is significantly different than it was even a short time ago resulting in a metamorphosis of empire into a significantly different form. Yet, I have yet to see strategic analysts accounting for these significant differences, relying instead upon an outdated perspective more suited to bygone days. However, there are certain technological changes which have significantly altered the global political economy, yet are not adequately accounted for by those overly influenced by historical precedent. In certain respects, these times are really quite different from anything humanity has experienced until now, and the ramifications of these profound differences need to be accounted for.
My first observation is that the American empire has metamorphosed into a US directed global empire. It is no longer the nationalistic empire of the American nation-state, rather it represents the imperial ambitions of the transnational corporations and global financial institutions. These institutions manifest a global perspective, not a national one, except to the extent that a national perspective enhances their relative capital accumulation. We seem to be moving toward a form of neofeudalism whereby national boundaries and interests are being battered down by "trade" agreements, whereas, functional boundaries (agribusiness, genetic engineering, software, etc.) are being erected to protect "intellectual property rights."
One consequence of this new form of empire is that any analysis done from a strictly nationalistic perspective is probably wrong. It is no longer the elites of country A in conflict with the elites of country B, rather, it is the elites of country A in competition with the elites of country B within a framework of global relationships linked by the global financial system. Additionally, it is no longer the case of the elites of country A being united in opposition to the elites of country B, rather, elite interests and loyalties transcend national boundaries so that the central bankers of Russia and China have a shared interest with the US Federal Reserve in maintaining the current global financial system, their main concern the distribution of financial power within the system. And while Russian and Chinese political leaders may wish to eliminate the dollar as the world's reserve currency, they seek to do so without jeopardizing the global financial system, and may be at odds with their own central bankers.
The new transnational empire is one in which the global elites have a shared interest in maintaining the empire regardless of the will of the majority of citizens. This is one of the consequences of the revolution in computers and telecommunications whereby the global elites are linked into a virtual community, the fortunes of each person/organization sensitive to changes in the US dominated global financial system. Simply stated, their loyalty mostly is to the empire which made them rich and which sustains their power and privilege rather than to the country in which they reside. Nationalistic endeavors are confined to those which enhance their position within the system and never involve direct challenges to the system. Also, the intentionally created global interdependencies make breaking free from the global system extremely difficult. In this regard, it should be noted that computer aided globally integrated manufacturing systems are totally dependent upon the US based global communication systems which permit their functioning. The use of these and other globally integrated systems to achieve economic efficiencies have created de facto dependencies and vulnerabilities which can be exploited for geostrategic advantage. The information highway can be as critical to a nation's economy as access to energy sources in this globalized world.
In addition to a shared interest in maintaining the system which made them rich, the global elites exhibit a more-or-less shared ideology. Many of these elites in business, government and the military (and their children) have been educated in elite universities, primarily Western, where they are indoctrinated in neoliberal orthodoxy. For example, Third World government economists, World Bank economists and business elites all evaluate the political economy through the same biased, Western oriented globalized perspective. Radical deviation from corporate-friendly business as usual is virtually unthinkable. Differing perspectives are harmonized at elite gatherings such as Bilderberg and the Trilateral Commission. And the like-minded bankers of the global financial system tie it all together. Add to all of this the ability of today's elites to easily move their money, business and residences around the globe with the result being a form of gilded, international cosmopolitanism which supersedes nationalism. Furthermore, the ability of the global financial system to freeze elite financial assets acts as a powerful tool for compliance with systemic imperatives, that is to say, with imperial objectives. Finally, there is the explosion of Western developed and controlled internet usage which enables the gathering and evaluation of massive amounts of data by American corporations and intelligence agencies, and also provides an ideal platform for the marketing of ideas on the social media. This, in turn, provides a means of directly organizing anti-government disruptions in targeted countries.
What all of this results in is an interconnected global capitalist system which greatly limits the ability of individual countries to act independently. Furthermore, the entire system is dependent upon the global financial system which is a privately controlled, debt-based money system. That is, on balance, the total global money supply is based upon bank credit, loans which must be repaid with interest. In other words, the entire global economy is mortgaged to the money lenders, who have the preponderance of influence within the global political economy. Up until now, a growing real economy permitted the issuance of new loans to pay off the old loans plus interest as the global financial system grew apace with the real economy. Nowadays, real economic growth is inadequate to keep pace with loan/interest repayments, therefore, new loans go increasingly towards the privatization of existing public assets as the planet reverts to a form of neofeudalism and debt servitude, the end result of the process of neoliberalism. It should be noted that neoliberalism seems to be the prevailing ideological orthodoxy even among the challengers to American hegemony. This cannibalization of the real global economy by the financial elite can only go on for a little longer, at which point the financial system must be restructured or the system will massively default and collapse.
What seems to be occurring now is that the Western elites (primarily American) within the global corporate/financial empire are preemptively eliminating any and all potential competitors for Western primacy within the imperial power structure. Certain weaker Third World countries, such as Libya and Iraq have been destroyed, while Syria is under attack by Western supported "rebels." China is confronting a Western supported destabilization campaign in Hong Kong, along with an ominous US pivot to Asia. Most ominously, the West has instigated and supported a coup d' etat in Kiev leading to a Russophobic civil war in the Ukraine, spearheaded by US supported neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian government. The Ukraine is now a US/NATO controlled vassal state with a collapsed economy, economic aid contingent upon anti-Russian warfare in the east. The extreme violence directed against the Russian friendly eastern sectors of the Ukraine are supported by the CIA and US/NATO special operations forces. The apparent goal is to provoke a Russian intervention pitting Russian troops against Ukrainian forces. Additionally, the US has initiated economic warfare against Russia, including economic sanctions and the orchestrated collapse of oil prices, hence, Russian oil revenue which accounts for about 50% of Russian income.
The intent of the Ukrainian intervention is to scuttle what were plans to increase economic cooperation between Russia and Europe (primarily Germany). This economic cooperation could have resulted in a powerful Eurasian block of nations able to challenge US imperial primacy. That "threat" to American corporate/financial interests has been successfully eliminated by this intervention. As a consequence, Russia and China are trying to join forces, however, it is probably too little, too late. Both the Russian economy and Vladmir Putin are under attack. The goal is to crush Russian ambitions and independence.
Some strategic analysts view US actions as acts of a flailing empire in decline. They see US efforts as ultimately failing as power inevitably shifts eastward, with China at the head of a Sino-Russian block which surpasses Euro-American power. I beg to differ. While the American nation-state is in relative decline, the empire is stronger than ever, with potent new tools for geostrategic advantage at its disposal. The theoretical ascendancy of a Chinese/Russian power configuration is contingent upon the occurrence of future planned events which the empire will likely thwart. These events, such as pipeline construction, transportation linkages and de-dollarization are political agreements which may not be supported by the local oligarchs who have profited so much from the current system. For example, Vladmir Putin's power is far from absolute and his ability to maneuver greatly restricted by the "Atlanticists" within the Russian government and within the entire Russian political economy.
In order to participate in the global economic system, Russia and China have entered into agreements which have opened up their countries to financial and media penetration. One consequence of this has been the rapid development of US dominated internet communications including social media. This has opened up both countries both to the collection of vast amounts of data by the West on their societies (data mining), and to the development of economic dependencies upon this US dominated cyber space. The efficiencies of the commercial use of the internet have transformed both economies, hence, the disruption of internet services could result in significant economic consequences. American dominance of global telecommunications results in significant strategic leverage, and is a significant part of full spectrum dominance.
What must be kept in mind is that the power which the American led global empire can bring to bear on rivals greatly exceeds the power of the US nation-state. Not the least is that a significant percent of the Russian and Chinese elites are part of the global elite network which share goals and philosophy, and which partake in the rewards of imperial success. As such, they work to advance the imperial neoliberal agenda within their own country, and resist nationalistic efforts which may weaken the prevailing imperial system of which they are an integral part. Likewise, they can count on imperial support for their efforts, thereby increasing their power vis a vis their more nationalistic rivals.
In addition to the economic leverage of the internet, another factor is the rise of the social media as an instrument of social control. One has only to see numerous folks ignoring those around them while actively engaging with their mobile phones to see that in the twenty-first century the internet and social media are the opiates of the people. It is worth contemplating the the consequences of the ongoing replacement of physical reality with virtual reality where strangers become "friends" with which to discuss and perceive political economy and current events.
As I write this, massive demonstrations have taken place in France in response to the Charlie Hebdo murders. Demonstrations which were wildly disproportionate to the crime, particularly in view of Europe's record of mass-murder in the Third World and its ongoing demonization of the Islamic faith of its victims. This response appears orchestrated by the Western elites, and likely involves significant use of the social media (facebook, twitter, etc). This ability to produce passivity at home for harsh domestic policies, combined with the rapid arousal of mob anger at official enemies represents a quantum leap in the ability of the elites to manufacture consent. And since the internet knows no borders, to influence populations in targeted countries. The Russian and Chinese governments cannot even conceive of the ability to influence the American public in the way that the global empire is able to influence the Russian and Chinese populations.
To summarize, viewing events in places such as the Ukraine as a contest between the US and Russia is to misperceive the current reality. A more accurate picture would be that of Russia resisting the designs of the corporate/financial global empire and its institutions, one of which is the US nation-state. This is in many ways an internal conflict for power and influence within empire as the global financial system attempts to deal with the inevitable consequences of a private, debt-money financial system in a low growth environment. Neoliberalism is the financial capitalist response whereby public assets and services are privatized and capitalized. The goal appears to be a form of corporate neofeudalism, a dystopian version of a steady-state economy in which the nation-states and political systems would be totally subservient to a global matrix of elite financial and corporate control.
With all of this in mind, it should be at least somewhat clear that to resist the US, Russia must resist the entire American led global empire in which both Russia and China are enmeshed. Successful resistance to empire would likely result in a collapse of the entire system of global interdependencies with all of the consequences which that would entail, including the likely collapse of the Chinese economy. The US, which has long relied upon nuclear brinkmanship to get its way, is now using a form of global systemic brinkmanship to achieve similar results. Whether or not empire succeeds in creating a neofeudal dystopia or the system collapses or we blunder into nuclear war is unpredictable. It is even remotely conceivable that we could muddle through to a saner world. What seems clear, however, is that the global elites will continue their quest for power without due regard to the potential consequences.