October 7, 2005


Driving American foreign policy: a review of The Endgame of Globalization by Neil Smith (Dmitry Shlapentokh, 10/08/05, Asia Times)

In the author's view, the US as the embodiment of capitalism is therefore the most aggressive nation. In fact, imperial drive has defined American foreign policy, and the Iraq war is a continuation of this trend. The author has discarded the notion that the war is just about oil. It is much broader. American imperial expansion is in many ways due to the desire to install the American type of capitalism all over the world.

In a way, the author has taken the official Bush explanation of the war at face value. He also apparently believes that "neo-conservatives" are driving the war with their agenda of transforming the world according to the American model. In the author's view, the neo-conservative American elite believe they are spreading democracy.

But the effect is to create a totalitarian, fascist-type regime. This is exemplified by using the word lebensraum (living space), used by the Nazis in their imperial drive, to characterize American foreign policy. The author uses the American problems in Iraq and Afghanistan to argue that the American elite might try to impose their domination all over the globe, but would definitely fail to impose an actual neo-fascist regime.

One could of course challenge the author's argument. It is true that America has been imperialistic. But what country has not? All great and not-so-great powers have engaged in imperial aggrandizement at some point in their history. And clearly "Uncle Joe" (Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin) was not just in a defensive position at the beginning of the Cold War.

But the major problem with the book is the implicit connection of present-day American society with the Nazi regime. [...]

The analogy between Bush's US and Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany does not fly, but not because most inmates in American prisons eat better than the captive workers of Siberian camps or the prisoners of Auschwitz.

The reason is much deeper. Stalin and even Hitler had rather sound views on war compared to those of the current US administration, which might be more successful if it followed the Nazi line. This reviewer is sure the author would recoil in disgust at the idea that a change along national-socialist lines would make the US more successful in the hard work of empire-building and survival in a world where it is losing its economic edge.

But one should remember that Hitler's policy was not just gas chambers and millions of slaves, but also a variety of sound social-economic arrangements that made it possible to fight, and almost win, a war against the majority of the world's population.

As each year passes one despairs of folks ever actually understanding how the Cold War was won, or lost. As Richard Pipes describes in his memoirs, Ronald Reagan's Westminster speech completely changed the terms of the Cold War confrontation and repudiated the notion that two co-equal powers were facing off against each other. Instead, he declared that even by its own Marxist terms the Soviet Union was a complete failure and was doomed, irrespective of anything we in the West might do.

This, of course, had been recognized by George F. Kennan much earlier, but rather than the inevitability of its collapse, folks mistakenly latched onto his idea of containing the Soviet Union. So, while it came decades too late for our own good, Washington finally recognized that not only did the USSR pose no long term threat to us, but that, like that python in Florida, the more it tried to swallow the closer it came to bursting. Communism can not work anywhere, as even tiny states like Cuba and North Korea have amply demonstrated, but the notion that you could simultaneously run a country under communism and build a stable and healthy Empire is truly absurd, because communism can not possibly satisfy the human needs and desires of those who live under it and so there will always be unrest. Sooner or later you run out of the extermination squads that are required to make bureaucrats and military forces serve an ideology they find repellant; you end up with shoddy equipment made by an inept idustrial sector; you end up with a leadership so divorced from reality and so decimated by murderous infighting as to be useless; and so on and so forth.

Indeed, the only thing that kept the Communists in power for so long was the help they received from the West during World War II and the good fortune of having external enemies to pit the nation against. Just as a punched out fighter can stay standing for awhile by leaning on his opponent, so the Soviets depended on their confrontation with us to keep themselves standing. But in the meantime they were incapable of mounting any meaningful offense, as they discovered to their humiliation in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, etc.. And when Ronald Reagan stepped back and openly spoke of how feeble an opponent they really were and how few rounds they had left in them, it broke them psychologically. When he further announced we'd build a space shield so that even their bombs couldn't bother us and that they were so insignificant he'd be happy to shield them too -- since they'd obviously never be ab;le to build one themselves -- they went down like Duk-Koo Kim.

As it happens, we actually did go to war with the Nazis and so never got to see these same dynamics play out to their end there, but all obtain and many other weaknesses unique to Nazism besides. In the first instance, while it's apparent to all but the nuttiest amongst us, Hitler's socialism was never going to afford the basis for a sound economy in the long term either. But, more importantly, how can not just German nationalism but Applied Darwinism provide the basis for an extended empire? The brilliance of Rome and America lies in the possibility that anyone can become a Roman or an American, or adopt our ways within their own nation. How does one become an Aryan? Under Nazi racial theory nearly every population the Germans came in contact with was by definition hostile and would always be hostile, unless actually exterminated. What sort of "sound view" does that afford of war?

Of course, we did get to see exactly the kind of lunatic leadership that Nazism offered up. Hitler and his henchmen were so deluded and the system they'd built so feeble that by the time we got into the war they'd already lost it. They couldn't even take the British Isles, had to leave half of France under Vichy control, couldn't get Franco to give them access to Gibraltar and got themselves bogged down in Russia in a war that even if they'd been able to "win" would have left them with a land mass and population they'd never have been able to hold onto. The idea that the entire continent of Europe governed by an occupying force with a Nationalist Socialist ideology would have been a going concern with a productive economy just beggars the imagination, unless of course you're Dmitry Shlapentokh.

By comparison, consider the American empire in Europe. All or nearly all of the nations of Europe have in fact been remade in our image--democratic, protestant, and capitalistic. We even threw in Japan for good measure. Now, it is argued that the Arabs or Muslims are genetically incapable of adopting this Anglo-American model, just as it was previously argued by the same folks that Slavs, or Africans, or asians, or Latinos, or whoever was under discussion at the moment was incapable of said. but the experience of History teaches us that whatever ism a people labors under is certainly doomed to failure and that they can only arrive at one system, our system, by which they will be able to order their society and make it decent, affluent, and stable. The End.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 7, 2005 9:20 AM

Your speech is truly frightening. You really think that the US has stumbled on the best, true, god-given system that is the only model for everyone in the world to follow? The Romans felt the same way.
The process of forging the third-world into our image has not been nearly as pleasant and cheerful as Fukuyaman scholars such as yourself would like to believe.
There is an alternate history of the struggles of the nations that have suffered through the manipulations of US foreign policy.

here is a very good set of links, that will post and then quietly leave open for anyone to discuss.


Posted by: Jhana at October 7, 2005 11:34 AM

US supports the Suharto regime's grab for power under the auspices of a Communist plot during Indonesia's independence movement, and assists in the following murder of up to 1 million civilians. The CIA helps by compiling death lists of communists for Suharto to execute.

Democratic? Protestant? Well, maybe it's just Capitalist.

El Salvador is ravaged by a bitter civil war leaving around 70,000 dead. The US provides military funding during this period to the tune of $6 billion.

Goulart nationalises oil, expropriates unused land, and passes a law limiting the amount of profits multinationals could transmit out of the country.
A CIA-backed military coup overthrows the government of Joao Goulart.

Ghana today provides an example of the end results of IMF's policies. 20% of Ghanaians are unemployed and the cost of food and services has gone beyond the reach of the poor. GDP per capita was lower in 1998 ($390) than it was in 1975 ($411); 78.4% of Ghanaians live on $1 a day and 40% live below the poverty line; 75% have no access to health services and 68% none to sanitation. User fees in education have raised the primary school dropout rate to 40%.

BBC article ( cached ) See also: 1

These conditions prevail despite Ghana being the second largest gold producer in Africa. SAPs have compelled Ghana to sell the gold mining sector to Western multinational corporations which now own up to 85% of the large-scale mining industry. More than half of the 200 active gold concessions belong at least in part to Canadian companies. The corporations can repatriate up to 95% of their profits into foreign accounts and pay no income tax or duties. This means that Western companies virtually monopolize Ghana's gold which contributes little to its economy.

Mobutu seizes full power and reigns as a despot for 35 years with US support. In 1980 he bans all political parties except his own. He personally controls 70% of the country's wealth, valued at $5 billion. At his death in 1997, he is personally responsible for 80% of his country's debts.

During this period (up till 1991 when the US cuts aid), Mobutu receives over $1.5 billion in economic and military aid from the US while US companies increase their share of Congo's fabulous mineral wealth.

It's the same story over, and over, and over again.

Posted by: Franz at October 7, 2005 11:38 AM


No, not stumbled. It took centuries of experiment and failure, but was pretty obvious by the end of the 18th century.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 11:42 AM


Yes, the Realism of the Cold War led to a series of decisions where we accepted totalitarian regimes, that's why it was wrong. We should have nuked Moscow in '45.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 11:52 AM

None of these examples are a success; every one of the countries Franz has mentioned is worse off than before the US started meddling. Democratization? Do you know what happened there.
It doesn't bother me that Americans are proud, and feel that their way is the best; I just wish they would be more honest with themselves and the rest of the world of the costs of their foreign policy decisions, which include regularly suppressing the will of the people in poor countries while supporting tyrants.

Posted by: Jhana at October 7, 2005 11:54 AM


Yes, they are all now functional democracies that allow freedom of religion and are eager to enter the global trade scheme. History is over--we won.

As your cites demonstrate, even where we intervened against democracy it ultimately prevailed anyway.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 11:58 AM

I thought monarchy was the best system in your view?

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 7, 2005 12:06 PM


Yes, a constitutional monarchy is the ideal. Spain and England are democracies, no?

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 12:09 PM

But wouldn't that leave us as "almost best"?

Posted by: Paul Cella at October 7, 2005 12:32 PM

Yes, the American Republic is not as good as it could be. However, it's the best anyone has even within the rapidly expanding liberal democratic sphere. That's mostly a function of the Constitution and its enshrinement of a theological basis for our rights and our government as well as the particular mechanisms of government it sets up.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 12:38 PM

Jhana sez "It doesn't bother me that Americans are proud, and feel that their way is the best; I just wish they would be more honest with themselves and the rest of the world of the costs of their foreign policy decisions, which include regularly suppressing the will of the people in poor countries while supporting tyrants."

So I take it that you are fully supportive of our work in Iraq to remove their tyrant who we once supported (although not as much or as long as Russia, France, Germany, etc. did) and let the will of the people rule?

Posted by: b at October 7, 2005 12:38 PM

Ever notice how the "will of the people" in the third world is always assumed by the left to be for some type of Marxist government?

I mean, it's not like the Soviets weren't involved in Central America, Africa, etal.

See Mitrokhin and Andrew's The World Was Going Our Way, recently published, for the Soviets and the "will of the people".

I seem to recall that when actual free elections, absent the heavy-hand of the Soviets, were allowed, that the likes of Ortega somehow no longer represented the "will of the people".

Yes, it's a shame that we supported a number of tyrants in the short term, but to argue that absent our influence, the "will of the people" would have prevailed is well . . .

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 7, 2005 12:56 PM

I think some of you are confusing oj's ideals and the actual history of US foreign policy. People, and nations, are never able to live up fully to their ideals, but that doesen't invalidate those ideals. US foreign policy is marred by many failures but overall its the best thing going for the uture of humanity. Only misanthropists expect perfection in matters of humanity.

OJ -

I thought you considered the POTUS as American monarch.

Posted by: Shelton at October 7, 2005 12:58 PM


No, the POTUS is an elected hack.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 1:03 PM

One does not need to try hard at counter-factuals to imagine multiple scenarios that Germany could have won the war. These end more or less after 1942, but even as late as 1944 stalemate could have been the result. The Allied victory was not pre-ordained.

The long term results of a Nazi victory are a bit harder to forsee. While in certain areas a Nazi economy was socialist, there was still private ownership and competition. Hitler was not a Strasserist. Furthermore, Hitler viewed all the Nordics, the Benelux, and the British as fellow Aryans. Italy and the Iberians were fellow fascists, and there plenty of collaborators in France. In the east, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria were allies. The Nazis would also have been popular in the Arab world for overthrowing the colonist powers and removing the Jews, securing its oil supplies. Hitler would not have occupied most of Europe, just Poland and Russia west of the Urals. It certainly would have been a drain, but there would have been plenty of growth as Hitler and Speer turned Europe into an EU-like entity.

Certainly OJ is contemptuous of the EU, but it did provide decades of fast growth, and the Nazis would not have allowed their military to shrivel. And unlike the USSR, the Germans had high technical achievement and were certainly ahead of the US in rocketry and jet aircraft.

OJ is too dismissive of the Nazi threat, but I think regular readers already know this.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at October 7, 2005 1:24 PM

Chris: You write as if Hitler was rational, and had some sort of coherent strategy with definite end goals. That was the whole justification for appeasement--that he actually could be appeased. He could not. He was completely insane.

Posted by: b at October 7, 2005 2:20 PM

Geez, OJ, now you're a scholar.

Chris: Any Nazi victory would require them to get the A-bomb before us. Their racial policies made it impossible for them to get the bomb before us.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 7, 2005 2:20 PM

Indonesia's communists were a similar type of threat; to almost as many jihadists and fellow
travelers we have now in that country. El Salvador
and for that matter Guatemala; behaved the same way under Max Hernandez and Ubico, in the 30s, or Estrada Cabrera in the early 1900swhen there was no American involvement. Of Ghanian lunacy, before
under Nkrumah, and later under Sgt. Rawling?, little needs to be said; Kofi Annan's from there,

Posted by: narciso at October 7, 2005 2:42 PM

" American imperial expansion is in many ways due to the desire to install the American type of capitalism all over the world."

They just DO. NOT. GET. IT.

We keep telling them and telling them and telling them, even going so far as to firebomb their cities and drop atomic bombs on them.

The one and only primary American desire with regard to the rest of the world is to leave us alone. Don't attack us, don't kill Americans and we'll be happy do deal with you on any terms you want. You want to trade with us? Fine, we'll do that. You want to have nothing to do with us? Fine, we'll be happy to do that, too.

ALso, of course, if you want to attack and kill us.....well, we'll resignedly say "Done your way!" and treat you the same way.

Posted by: ray at October 7, 2005 6:00 PM


They'd have started exterminating Arabs too. How popular would that have been in the Arab world?

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2005 6:03 PM