Make War, Not Love

More than 35,000 children died of starvation or avoidable diseases such as dysentery on September 11, 2001. A more or less equal number has starved each day since. No corporation is ever going to take any interest whatsoever in this, except in the event the public relations benefits are deemed to warrant the expenditure of funds.  Even then the chief action of the corporation will be to create publicity for what they claim to be doing.  It is difficult enough to get governments to care. Why? Because governments are in thrall to transnational corporations, and there is no profit in caring.  But both are very interested in making war. Corporations cannot engage in so-called “free trade” without complicity from governments. All governments, without exception, are agents of those who hold political and economic power. In the modern world this nearly always means corporations in some manifestation.  War brings power, influence, and obscene profits.  The costs of war are not borne by those who profit.

It has been claimed that modern transnational corporations are beyond the reach of governments.  To the contrary, transnational corporations, far from being beyond the reach of governments, are served by them.  Free trade, to the extent it exists even in distorted and perverted form, rather than posing a threat to monopoly power leads inexorably to precisely that.  Free trade is an illusion, fostered by governments and corporations to facilitate the expansion of power.  It is a commonplace that, sans restraints, capitalism leads to monopoly.  Doctrinaire neoliberal economists may actually believe in the effectiveness of a free market.  Corporations and governments know better.  U.S. corporations, with the cooperation of their putative government, regularly promote the wonders of the market economy and the free market.  Left unsaid is the simple truth that there is no free market, and the market economy is supported in significant degree from taxes collected from ordinary wage-earning citizens.  Corporations are the happy recipients of colossal subsidies and other largesse granted by the U.S. government.  This is true whether the corporation produces tangible goods or is simply an agent of finance capitalism.  This is true to a greater or lesser degree with European governments as well.  The Institute for Policy Studies has reported on the massive “bailout” of financial firms in the infamous “economic meltdown” of late 2008[1].  North American and European governments have committed over $4 trillion to rescue financial institutions from their own excesses.  Compare this to the $90 billion spent worldwide by these same governments for development aid in 2007, aid often granted coercively and always accompanied by Draconian conditions and concessions.  Yet the only thing unusual about the money given for bailout of financial firms, meaning Wall Street, largely with no strings attached, is the size of the giveaway.  The man in charge of giving away this largesse: Henry Paulson, who received $900 million in compensation from Goldman-Sachs before going to Washington.  Not exactly Mr. Smith, eh?  The source of the trillions disbursed by Mr. Paulson?  Mr. and Ms. American taxpayer.  Accountability?  None.  Where did the money go?  No one knows (except the lords of financial capitalism, the perps).

Financial bailouts, direct giveaways, are not the most typical means of transferring wealth from the have-nots (relatively speaking) to the haves.  For this we must look to the seemingly endless array of subsidies, tax breaks, loopholes, and the like.  But this is not the particular economic activity I want to address here.

Corporations care not for the starving children of the world.  Free market ideologues consider this to be proper.  In the extreme, the Milton Friedmans, the Alan Greenspans, the Ben Bernankes of the world, suffering as they do from the Ayn Rand sickness, consider that starving children are externalities.  Caring for suffering people, adults and children alike, does not contribute to “efficiency.”  The costs would detract from shareholders interests, and so are to be avoided.  Yet corporations appear to merely pay lip service to accountability to shareholders.  Supposedly this is a fiduciary responsibility, but only in the most rare circumstances do shareholders successfully challenge corporate managers.  What these managers do pay heed to is maximization of profits in the short run.  This redounds to the short run benefit of those very managers.

Corporations, by definition, are amoral, even though they are legally “persons.”  These “persons” will do what is necessary for the advancement of their power and influence, and they cannot stop themselves.  They will always seek the cheapest source of labor available, and transfer as much of the costs of doing business as possible to taxpayers.  Who they cooperate with to get there is immaterial.  Acquiescence to the lure of free trade is the proverbial garden path.  It looks really pretty, but once you enter, you will never get back out.

Which brings us to war.  There is little dispute that the present U.S. government aspires to empire.  Some would say this has always been so.  Witness the annexation of huge portions of Mexico as a result of the Mexican-American War.  The Louisiana Purchase.  The transformation of what is now called Panama from being a part of the nation of Colombia to a place to put a canal facilitating transport of goods between hemispheres, with a 99-year “treaty” imposed to guarantee it.  But I have in mind more than conquest of land.  The empire envisioned by today’s government is economic, with domination as the vehicle.  Moreover, this empire is for the benefit of American corporations, the same corporations that do everything within their power to avoid actually having to pay for this empire; indeed, they want to profit from it.  One of the ways to expand the empire while simultaneously profiting from the endeavor is through the military, through war.

It has been said, many times, that the war against Iraq was not initiated for oil, but this is categorically not so.  Superficially, it would seem plausible that the occupation of Iraq was done for noble purposes, to bring freedom and democracy to an oppressed people.  But the untold tales belie such an assertion.  Centuries old divisions between Kurds, Sunni Moslems and Shi’a Moslems have not been resolved.  Rather the U.S. government, fearing Iran’s influence on Iraq’s Shi’as, has carefully sought to minimize the power of this group.  Sunnis, on the other hand, have been responsible for much of the resistance to the occupation, perpetrating the greater part of the violent acts against “coalition” forces, including suicide bombers and IEDs.  The Kurds are an ethnically distinct faction in Iraq, with a population spread across Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.  U.S. policy with regard to these groups has been confused and ineffective.  But the oil assets of this sad country have been assiduously protected.  Museums and other institutions with priceless antiquities have been plundered with impunity.  No attempt was made at all to protect these links to the origins of much of our own heritage.

It has also been said, many times, that the cost of the war has been too high to claim it was waged for oil.  The dirty secret about this should be obvious, but instead seems opaque.  The U.S. government does not pay for the war with the funds of the corporations that benefit.  It is the ordinary taxpayers, the middle class and the poor who pay.  And a vast array of corporations profit immediately by taking taxes from ordinary citizens and transferring the proceeds to American, foreign, and global corporations for the manufacture and distribution of weaponry and ancillary supplies used by the military.  Add to this the billions paid to mercenary “contractors.”  Evidently the corporations win.  The U.S. government wins.  The taxpayers lose.  On the short run this is absolutely true.  The long run is another matter.

The rise to power of those who have been labeled neoconservatives has been spectacular.  While generally espousing neoliberal economics, this group has appended a peculiar ideology to classic liberalism.  In 1992, Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense, charged Paul Wolfowitz, later briefly head of the World Bank until it became apparent he was incompetent for the job, and I. Lewis Libby, later Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff when the latter became Vice-President until he, Libby, was convicted of obstruction of justice, perjury; and making false statements to federal investigators, to draft a “Defense Planning Guidance for the Fiscal Years 1994- 1999,” released the same day Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  Eschewing containment, considered an outdated Cold War policy, the document argues that with the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. should use its military power deliberately and preemptively to dominate the entire world as the sole Superpower, and further to use that military power to ensure that the U.S. would remain the sole Superpower in perpetuity.  Such arrogance is doomed to ignominious failure, as empires by definition enter into decline when they reach the apex of their power.  This did not stop the administration from implementing the policy anyway.  History is irrelevant to those who are blinded by their own hubris.

On June 3, 1997 an entity calling itself the Project for the New American Century issued a Statement of Principles[2] Included was: “We need to accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.”  This circular “principle” does not inform us as to exactly what is meant by “preserving and extending.”  The signatories read like a Who’s Who of neoconservatism.  This was followed in September 2000 by a Report “Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Strategies, Forces and Resources For a New Century[3].”  Those sponsoring the Project have had an enormous influence on American military policy, although the Project’s Web site has no material dated later than 2006.  The position taken was that the U.S. is the dominant military power in the world, and that advantage be taken of what they term the “revolution in military affairs” to keep it that way.  That is, use the military for conquest and domination, although they use different wording.

The most recent National Security Strategy of the United States of America, issued March 2006[4] is less strident than the previous Strategy of September 2002, which explicitly expressed the doctrine of preemptive war, but it is still clear that the U.S. intends to maintain economic and political dominance world-wide through military as well as by other means.

Employing the military to advance the interests of American capitalism is nothing new.  The U.S. has resorted to war or military coercion repeatedly throughout its history.  What has been hidden is exactly what is meant by “interests.”  The subterfuge has been to claim that these military adventures have the purpose of promoting “freedom and democracy.”  Further, it has been asserted that military action has been necessary to protect “the American way of life.”  This leads us directly to the crux of the matter.  The American way of life, touted as a cornucopia of material plenty and unlimited choices, is really nothing more than a vehicle to expand the power of international corporations.  No longer does the military act merely to enable American capitalism.  American capitalism is global in scope, and has transcended national identity and national boundaries.

In his remarkable book “The Limits of Power”[5] Andrew Bacevich presents a thesis that the military acts around the world to support American habits of “profligacy.”  I contend, rather, that the military acts to support American capitalism, which in turn fosters American habits of profligacy so as to finance this economic empire.  The government functions quite transparently as a facilitating agent for the maintenance and expansion of that empire.  The supreme irony:  The Executive and the Congress, both Democrats and particularly Republicans, refuse to allow the U.S. government to participate in various instruments such as treaties and other international agreements on the grounds that these treaties and such would interfere with the “sovereignty” of the nation.  Yet the global corporations the government goes out of its way to enable have no fealty or loyalty whatsoever to the United States, or to any other nation for that matter.

Empires needs must have an emperor.  The legislative branch of the U.S. government has created such a one, mostly by failure to prevent it.  The Emperor is of course the President.  Congress has been more than happy to cede power to the President, since it does not then have to admit to any responsibility.  This is not a new development, but it has descended to a new nadir of accountability during the Presidency of George W. Bush.  During this period the President has become the de facto emperor.  All that is needed is to invoke “national security” and everything is permitted.  Due to the excesses of Bush and his Vice-President, Congress has made some noises of objection, but not taken any action worthy of the name other than acquiescence.

Power, especially economic and political power, is seductive.  To my mind, it is highly unlikely that successors of Bush will relinquish the powers recently accrued.  This does not mean a particular practice will continue, but if it is not specifically renounced or rescinded the power remains.  As Bacevich succinctly put it: “No one today seriously believes that the actions of the legislative branch are informed by a collective determination to promote the common good.”[6] It would be foolish to believe that suddenly the military would be relieved of their role as agents of “freedom and democracy” just because a charismatic new leader speaks soothingly and reassuringly.

The military will remain an agent of economic imperialism, at least for the immediate future until oil becomes scarce, global warming fatally alters the delicate skin of the Earth that has embraced us for so long, and industrial agriculture can no longer feed us.  The “American way of life” will remain non-negotiable, and wars will be fought in the name of that way of life, no matter the cost.  The principal beneficiaries of these bellicosities will remain international capitalism.  And the principal bill-payers will remain the American tax-payers.  Military action, with its enormous cost, is only one tool of corporations, which latter can be identified with late capitalism.  Most prominently the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization, are non-military tools of hegemony, but there are many others[7].  The difference is that military action brings with it enormous loss of life, both innocent and belligerent, and the direct and immediate costs in dollars, environmental destruction, resource depletion, and degraded human morality are greatest of all.

Supposedly, wars carried out by the U.S. military are solely to protect Americans and American institutions.  Happiness has been defined by propaganda disguised as marketing and advertising as freedom to buy an essentially infinite array of junk, to have the freedom to travel anywhere anytime, to own a home and several automobiles, and to be willing to work harder and harder just to pay for it.  Freedom, that is.  Famously, American consumers (one-time citizens are now consumers, economic units) travel long distances at very slow speeds (on average five to ten miles an hour if all factors are included) to jobs they hate just to make enough money to pay for the cars to get them to the jobs in the first place.  The culture that defines happiness as having more things is not a culture of plenty.  It is a culture of scarcity.  If happiness is having more, then by definition one never has enough.  If one never has enough, that’s scarcity.  In any case, there is a very large psychological price to be paid for this sort of happiness.  One is the loss of any sensitivity to the suffering of others.  Another is relinquishment of choice to the holders of power.  Cognitive dissonance is impossible to the truly complacent, who think they are happy.  Can anyone really believe that he/she made a free choice to purchase the SUV?  Absolutely not.  And when the market for SUVs is saturated or no longer profitable, “free trade” corporations will try to lead millions to the next “cool thing.”

Things seem so chaotic at this time that it is understandably difficult for some to comprehend that power is becoming more concentrated, not less. And unfettered power will always do evil.

[1] Anderson, Sarah, John Cavanagh, and Janet Redman, Skewed Priorities: How the Bailouts Dwarf Other Global Crisis Spending, Institute for Policy Studies, November 24, 2008
(, retrieved 06 January, 2009.)

[2] The Statement can be read at Retrieved
12 Jan 2009.

[3] The Report can be downloaded at
Retrieved 12 Jan 2009.

[4] Retrieved 12 Jan 2009.

[5] Bacevich, Andrew J., The Limits of Power, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2008.

[6] Bacevich, op. cit. p. 69.

[7] For descriptions of many of these see Draffan, George, The Elite Consensus, The Apex Press, New York,
2003, a publication of POCLAD, the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy.

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