Historical Shifts and the Danger of War
The overwhelming aspect in the world situation today is the shifting of economic power from one area of the world to another. It is very difficult to select the essential element that shifts power from one country to another. We are not talking about shifting the power from one class to another. That involves social revolution and is easy to understand. Very often we have to go back in history and discover the levers of change to help us understand this kind of a question.
Shifting economic power in world history
One thing that stands out in world history is the fact that mighty nations, powerful nations, develop along trade routes. Whether you are considering ancient Egypt or the Middle East or the rise of China or the United States, they all became powerful as wealth production shifted from one sector of the world to another. We are seeing again a very dramatic shift of wealth creation, trading and a consequent shift of power from one area to another, from the West to the East.
This is not a short-term or easy process. We’re talking about an entire portion of history. If we look back at the period of time when the Middle East was the center of wealth and culture we will see that it was the terminal of what was known as the “Silk Road,” the trade route between China and the developing European market.
Why did it collapse suddenly? The invasion of America and the subsequent development of the slave trade, which was the most profitable enterprise in history, changed everything. The triangular trade route, with Western Europe as its hub, quickly changed world economics. Gold instead of land came to represent wealth, and the “rosy dawn of capitalism” ushered in an entirely new era.
The rise of Western Europe was very dramatic and entirely tied to the slave trade. The development of the textile industry was akin to the development of electronics today. A whole new world with cotton as its base came into being. Just as globalization “naturally” grew out of electronics, imperialism “naturally” grew out of the development of industry. The West was able to colonize the so-called backward world and maintain economic hegemony through economic dependency as well as military might.
World War II changed all that. The collapse of the British Empire shifted the balance of power from West Europe to America. Jubilant capitalists declared an American century based upon the reality of the world’s dependence on U.S. food and industrial production.
U.S. imperialism is essentially financial, that is, investment rather than simply the expropriation of other people’s natural resources. Financial imperialism’s first task was to control the overthrow of the closed colonial system developed by Europe’s imperialists. This was accomplished through 30 years of slaughter of the colonial liberation movement.
Just as earlier forms of imperialism created the conditions for its destruction, so we are seeing the logic of modern imperialism creating such conditions again.
As American imperialism tightened its grip in the former colonial and semi-colonial world, it increased its investments in these countries. Industry and its infrastructure were strengthened as these countries attempted to export their way out of the entanglement of debt to the financial oligarchy. Just as the indebted world admitted the failure of export economies, the electronic revolution changed everything.
World production for a world market became possible. The rapid growth of production in the enforced low wage areas and the lightening-like shifting of finance and speculative capital created conditions for demographic factors to assert themselves.
China and U.S. Geo-strategy
China, through its revolution, put an end to its “century of humiliation” and began the process of reclaiming its country. The rapid development of its industrial base along with a rapid expansion of its population placed China again in a central position in the world’s fastest growing market.
Let us look at the demographics. Asia, with an overall 30% of the world’s landmass, holds 60% of the world’s population. During the 20th century the Asian population quadrupled. There are 731 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean with one billion in Africa. Clearly, it would only be a matter of time before these relatively backward nations were pulled into the effects of international trade and commerce and then begin the process of struggling for their independence and finally dominance of their areas.
Change involves destruction – it has always been a violent process. As the shifting of world power accelerates, so does the danger associated with change. Henry Kissinger’s statement made in a CNN interview this year with Fareed Zakaria that with “China’s increasing power and economic security, dealing with the Communist nation poses a ‘big challenge’ for the United States,” is a case in point.
“There are elements in China who, particularly after the financial crisis, feel that there has been a fundamental shift in the balance of power and that the international conduct of China and the results of its conduct should reflect this,” he stated. American has been dominant in the last 50 years – China has been dominant in 1,800 of the last 2,000 years.
“America is entering a world in which we are neither dominant nor can we withdraw, but we are still the most powerful country. How to conduct ourselves in such a world? China is the most closely approximate country in terms of power. And one with such a complex history. It is a big challenge.”
This is diplomatic talk covering preparation for war. China is concerned with America’s steady progress in encircling China with military outposts. A military post today is a squad of specialists who are trained in the destruction of space platforms and the triangulation that guarantees the accuracy of rockets.
The Chinese are well aware of these dangers and are discussing the situation. The U.S. arms deal with Taiwan last year is understood to be a key part of the U.S strategy to encircle China and the East region, allowing the US to have a footprint from Japan to the Republic of Korea to Taiwan.
In an article published in January, 2011, the renowned military strategist, Air force colonel Dai Xu, summarized the U.S. geo-strategy and its impact on China’s interests. “China is in a crescent-shaped ring of encirclement,” he wrote. “The ring begins in Japan, stretches through nations in the South China Sea to India, and ends in Afghanistan. Washington’s deployment of anti-missile systems around China’s periphery forms a crescent-shaped encirclement.”
Ni Lexiong, an expert on military affairs with the Shanghai Institute of Political Science and Law, told the Guanghzou Daily in February of this year, “The U.S. anti-missile system in China’s neighborhood is a replica of its strategy in Eastern Europe against Russia. The Obama administration began to plan for such a system around China after its project in Eastern Europe got suspended.”
Tang Xiaosong, Director of the Center of International Security and Strategy Studies with Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, said that the encirclement can be expanded at any time in other directions to India or to other Southeast Asian countries. The U.S. efforts to sell these countries the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 missile defense system is one indication of this. This, of course, is being closely watched, as any “integration of India into the U.S. global missile defense system, would profoundly affect China’s security.” (“China Circled by Chain of U.S. Anti-Missile Systems,” China Daily, February 22, 2011)
We should note that both the U.S. and China have a first strike nuclear doctrine. In other words, the slightest miscalculation on either side could launch the rockets. A new world order is emerging, and we should expect world relations to become even more volatile, with all the social and political consequences for us as revolutionaries in this country.
Militarization of U.S. economy and society
It is not possible to speak of the militarization of American society and its economy without keeping uppermost in out minds what this economy is. Wikipedia gives us a brief synopsis:
“The economy of the United States is the world’s largest national economy. Its nominal GDP was estimated to be nearly $14.7 trillion in 2010, approximately a quarter of nominal global GDP. Its GDP purchasing power parity was also the largest in the world, approximately a fifth of global GDP at purchasing power parity. The U.S. economy also maintains a very high level of output per capita. In 2009, it was estimated to have a per capita GDP (PPP) of $46,381, the 6th highest in the world. The U.S is the largest trading nation in the world. Its two largest trading partners as of 2010 are China and Mexico.”
It is difficult to sort out various aspects of the economy since the so-called military industrial complex has existed since WWI and is entangled with every aspect of our economic and social life. The militarization of the economy is summed up in these few statistics:
In the past nine years, non-industrial production in the U.S. has declined by some 19 percent. It took about four years for manufacturing to return to levels seen before the 2001 recession – and all those gains were wiped out in the current recession. By contrast, military manufacturing is now 123 percent greater than it was in 2000 – it has more than doubled while the rest of the manufacturing sector has been shrinking.
As for the ongoing militarization of American society – rather than paraphrase, it is worth quoting a section of Michael Sherry’s book, In the Shadow of War: The United States since the 1930s:
“Though the United States never completely demobilized following World War I, and standing forces were maintained to a greater extent in the years that followed it, World War II was the driving force that utterly changed this historical pattern of general neglect of the military. During the Second World War, the United States underwent total mobilization of all available national resources to fight and win, alongside her allies, a total war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, a mobilization of resources far greater than that which took place during the entire previous history of the United States.”
In 1977, after the Vietnam war and the Watergate crisis, President Jimmy Carter began his presidency, Sherry writes, with “a determination to break from America’s militarized past.” However, increased defense spending in the era of President Ronald Reagan brought the military-industrial complex back into prominence.
As for the militarization of American society – the economy and the society are joined. In his 2005 review of Andrew J. Bacevich’s The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, Tony Judt puts it well.
The United States, Judt writes, is becoming “not just a militarized state but a military society: a country where armed power is the measure of national greatness, and war, or planning for war, is the exemplary (and only) common project.”
“….Why does the US Department of Defense currently maintain 725 official US military bases outside the country and 969 at home (not to mention numerous secret bases)? Why does the US spend more on defense than all the rest of the world put together? After all, it has no present or likely enemies of the kind who could be intimidated or defeated by star wars missile defense or bunker-busting “nukes.” And yet this country is obsessed with war: rumors of war, images of war, “preemptive” war, “preventive” war, “surgical” war, “prophylactic” war, “permanent” war.
“… Among democracies, only in America do soldiers and other uniformed servicemen figure ubiquitously in political photo ops and popular movies. Only in America do civilians eagerly buy expensive military service vehicles for suburban shopping runs. In a country no longer supreme in most other fields of human endeavor, war and warriors have become the last, enduring symbols of American dominance and the American way of life.
“But Bacevich’s deepest concern lies closer to home”, Judt writes. “In a militarized society the range of acceptable opinion inevitably shrinks. No nation, as James Madison wrote in 1795 and Bacevich recalls approvingly, can ‘preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. Full-spectrum dominance’ begins as a Pentagon cliché and ends as an executive project.’” (“The New World Order”, NYT Review of Books, July 14, 2005)
The chilling reality is summed up in the fact that Chicago has three military elementary schools.
This militarization of society could not take place without an unending propaganda campaign. Every day the TV spends hours convincing the people that it is glorious to be severely wounded. The government, the military, the educational system, the media and industry have become a machine of unending war and a militarized society to support it. This is the face of American fascism and describes the difficult task that lies before us.
Political Report of the LRNA Standing Committee, July 2011
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011