Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog

A radical dissident perspective on various topics. Comments welcome at

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The United States is an empire. The U.S. has over 725 military bases in over 153 countries. Additionally, over half of the world’s population live in countries whose economies are more or less run by the (U.S. controlled) World Bank and IMF. Two critically important points are: how did the current situation come to be, and how is the system changing?

World War II was a watershed. Prior to the war, the world suffered from classic imperialism, characterized by ongoing competition between European empires. These European states engaged in colonialism where each imperial state strove to conquer the most lucrative Third World territories. This competition over who gets to conquer what led to frequent bloody wars between the European nation states.

The advent of industrialization brought a whole new dimension to warfare and to empire. With the development of modern weaponry, large numbers of poorly armed resistance fighters could be killed economically by much fewer, heavily armed groups of imperial soldiers. The battle turned into a slaughter.

Even more significant was the impact modern weaponry had upon the inevitable European wars of the competing powers. World War I provided an example of industrial scale death and destruction, however, it was World War II which caused the western nations to stare into the abyss. The advent of strategic bombing, nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles meant that any future war between the industrial nations of the North could prove suicidal. This fact caused a fundamental shift in imperial strategy.

The United States profited greatly from World War II, emerging as the dominant world power. War had provided the answer to the elite quandary of how to end the depression by utilizing the government to manage the economy without appearing to do so. Basically, the U.S. became a national security state (a covert form of fascism) which relied upon a permanent war economy to stimulate demand, provide government funded R&D, etc. Warfare became America’s core business.

Additionally, U.S. elites took advantage of the post World War II power imbalance to pursue unrivaled world dominance and empire. Germany and Japan were earmarked to be key players in the U.S. global agenda as World War II enemies became friends, and World War II friends became enemies. Now we enlisted the extreme anti-communism of our fellow fascists for geostrategic reasons. The overt fascism of Germany and Japan was transformed into the more subtle fascism of the national security state which, in turn, was camouflaged by nominal democracy (elite rule, with elections).

The problem of inter-European warfare was handled mafia-style. The U.S., due to its unrivaled power, became the Godfather of imperial, national security state capitalism. NATO was formed to provide the U.S. with direct control over the European militaries, and to provide the organizational framework for U.S. dominance of European affairs. The NATO deterrence to Soviet aggression was pure propaganda. At the time, the USSR was an economic and military basket case. Having suffered grievously during WW II with well over 20 million war deaths, the Soviets were in no position to launch any attack against Europe for at least 15 years (if then) according to U.S. intelligence estimates. NATO has never been a defensive alliance to counter Soviet military threats. The expansion of NATO following the collapse of the USSR is in keeping with the true nature of the alliance. NATO has been expanded and has transformed into an Imperial, out-of-area, mercenary strike force. Uncle Sam’s foreign legion.

Uncle Sam’s role as Godfather was to prevent war and promote business, in the mafia sense of the terms. War is when two or more "families" (western industrial nations) engage in armed conflict. It’s usually very destructive and bad for "business." On the other hand, the use of armed force to smash Third World countries that attempt to break free from western economic domination and control is a necessary part of the ongoing business of cooperative neo-colonialism. Following WW II, the U.S. has engaged in a non-stop war against the entire Third World to thwart independent development and to keep the downtrodden in their place as suppliers of raw materials, cheap labor, and markets for western manufactures.

A new wrinkle was the use of Third World peoples as designated enemies, to be used as targets of Imperial mass-murder. One simply cannot justify a national security state without enemies, and defenseless enemies, which can be presented as great threats, yet easily defeated and killed, are the ideal targets of the U.S. national security state. The lesser mafia dons (Britain, France, Germany, Japan, etc) deferred to U.S. leadership, supported U.S. geostrategic maneuvers, and were rewarded with a piece of the action. Cooperative imperialism. Peace and prosperity for the western nations (plus Japan), poverty, war and hopelessness for the Third World poor.

The times they are a-changing. There is an ongoing shift away from nationalistic neo-colonialism towards the globalization of corporate economic control. A transnational matrix of economic interdependencies that work to effectively lock-in economic domination and control by the western corporations and financial institutions. The planet is being transformed into one big company town where the corporations call the shots. National economies, particularly those of the Third World, are transformed into unsustainable export economies dependent upon corporate controlled trade for survival. Failure to play by the corporate rules results in sanctions leading to economic collapse and mass starvation. Playing the game begets rich rewards for the compradors and satraps, along with poverty and hopelessness for the majority of people. Economic independence, education, healthcare, adequate food, clothing and shelter are increasingly unavailable as the poor get poorer so that the rich may get richer.

One aspect of the current situation which is far from clear is the extent to which the corporations and financial capital have already integrated the global economy. For example, many commentators issue dire warnings about the U.S. trade deficit, noting that it can’t go on much longer. Or can it? Nobody is much concerned about Oregon’s trade imbalance with California because the federal government can redirect the financial flows to keep things in balance. Is it possible that the global economic system has evolved to the point where transnational finance can effectively force China to buy U.S. bonds indefinitely? Also, how much of the Chinese economy is Chinese? Is the bulk of the Chinese economy controlled by the transnational corporations, using China as one big export platform?

A critically important point is the extent to which corporate globalization is a form of economic imperialism. Also, the degree to which corporate globalization emphasizes economic coercion and forced trade-dependent economic interdependencies as the instruments of global economic empire. The economies of poor Third World nations directly controlled by corporations and/or the corporate controlled instruments of global economic control (World Bank, IMF, WTO, FTAA, CAFTA, etc.). While it is still reasonable to speak of American interests versus German interests versus Japanese interests, it is important to remember that it is American corporate interests versus German corporate interests, etc. Furthermore, transnational corporate interests transcend national boundaries and may not always align with the so-called national interests.

What all of this means is far from clear. It should be clear, however, that the corporate imperial system (corporate globalization) cannot be evaluated strictly in terms of national power politics. At the least, the corporate system seeks to make all nation states (including the U.S.) subservient to corporate domination and control. This could help to explain the intentional hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing base. Therefore, there is a certain internal tension between the jingoistic nationalism of the U.S. national security state and the economic interdependencies of the unfolding transnational corporate empire. Furthermore, as the U.S. gradually weakens relative to its rivals (Germany and Japan), the possibility exists for a return to nationalistic armed rivalries over which industrial power gets to subjugate and exploit what part of the Third World.

The current system (the U.S. as head Godfather) is held together by overwhelming U.S. military power and effective U.S. control of the world’s primary oil supplies. However, U.S. economic weakness (unsustainable deficits, etc) may cause the system to collapse. If that happens, the current mafia style "peace" may also collapse leading to wars between the industrial powers over resources. This could lead to nuclear warfare and planetary annihilation. The U.S. seems particularly anxious to find an excuse to use "low yield" "bunker buster" nukes. It should be obvious that an economic system based upon permanent militarism and contained by overwhelming U.S. military superiority is eventually bound to fail with catastrophic results. Two things seem clear: we are in uncharted territory and we are going in the wrong direction.

Seattle Keith 6/29/06