Thursday April 17th, 2014, 8:33 am (EDT)


Imperialism, Globalization and War

Against Literary Imperialism: Storming the Barricades of the Canon

My copy of The Mythology of Imperialism, the 1973 paperback that sold for $2.75, has lots of notes in the margins. They’re excited notes, not always comprehensible now, from the first course I ever taught, a small unofficial seminar on literature and imperialism. I’ve lost the syllabus, but I remember that we read Raskin’s books: Kipling, Conrad, Forster, and Orwell. I’m not sure I would have had the idea, or the courage, to follow that syllabus in my second or third year of graduate school teaching if The Mythology of Imperialism hadn’t made its miraculous, incandescent appearance. I certainly wouldn’t have known which writers to teach, or for that matter how to start talking about them. This was before Edward W. Said’s Orientalism appeared in 1978, before the academic field of postcolonial studies had been invented. There must have been more advanced people out there — it sometimes seemed to me that everybody at Harvard was more advanced than I was — but if they had figured out why and how imperialism mattered to us, they weren’t raising their hands and making speeches about it in any of the classes I took.… | more |

Jews Confront Zionism

One of the main accomplishments of the Israeli government’s bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip last winter was to inspire new vitality within leftist and peace groups in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation. This wave of activity has continued after the supposed ceasefire, with demonstrations and direct actions from New York to Los Angeles, Paris, Jaffa, and Tel Aviv. Most noteworthy has been a coming out of sorts of an increasingly large and vocal segment of the Jewish world that is not only opposed to the Israeli government’s wars and military occupations, but critical of Zionism itself.… | more |

Prophets of the ‘Permanent War Economy’

The Review of the Month entitled “The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending” by John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney (Monthly Review 60, no. 5 [October 2008]) carries on a valuable MR tradition. Monthly Review is one of the few voices on the left that has emphasized the necessity, from the point of view of capitalism, of this kind of military Keynesianism. Chalmers Johnson and Seymour Melman, who have written extensively on this issue, have tended to argue that other forms of government spending, a renewed New Deal, is possible.… | more |

Comments on Tariq Amin-Khan’s text

I am not surprised by our Pakistani friend Tariq Amin-Khan’s critique. I was expecting it. Therefore, I would like to offer some comments on his criticisms of me, which mainly result from ignorance of what I have written on the questions he raises … | more |

The Rise and Fall of the Third World

Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New York: New Press, 2008), 384 pages, paper, $19.95.

Vijay Prashad’s The Darker Nations opens with the assertion that the third world was not so much a place as a project. His goal is to provide an account of the anticolonial and nonaligned movement rather than a full history of the under-developed world in the last half of the twentieth century. However, in this remarkable book, he does both. Born in the wake of the upheavals of the Second World War, the third world movement that took form at the Bandung Conference in 1955 was championed by the likes of Nehru, Nasser, Tito, Sukarno, and Nkrumah. Its leaders collectively called for national independence, economic development, and Cold War nonalignment while basing themselves on the support of millions of followers in the under-developed nations.… | more |

The U.S. Imperial Triangle and Military Spending

he United States is unique today among major states in the degree of its reliance on military spending, and its determination to stand astride the world, militarily as well as economically. No other country in the post–Second World War world has been so globally destructive or inflicted so many war fatalities. Since 2001, acknowledged U.S. national defense spending has increased by almost 60 percent in real dollar terms to a level in 2007 of $553 billion. This is higher than at any point since the Second World War (though lower than previous decades as a percentage of GDP). Based on such official figures, the United States is reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) as accounting for 45 percent of world military expenditures. Yet, so gargantuan and labyrinthine are U.S. military expenditures that the above grossly understates their true magnitude, which, as we shall see below, reached $1 trillion in 2007… | more |

Humanitarian Imperialism: The New Doctrine of Imperial Right

Jean Bricmont’s concept “humanitarian imperialism” succinctly captures a dilemma that has faced Western leaders and the Western intellectual community since the collapse of the Soviet Union. From the origins of the Cold War, there was a reflexive justification for every resort to force and terror, subversion and economic strangulation: the acts were undertaken in defense against what John F. Kennedy called “the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy” based in the Kremlin (or sometimes in Beijing), a force of unmitigated evil dedicated to extending its brutal sway over the entire world. The formula covered just about every imaginable case of intervention, no matter what the facts might be. But with the Soviet Union gone, either the policies would have to change, or new justifications would have to be devised. It became clear very quickly which course would be followed, casting new light on what had come before, and on the institutional basis of policy… | more |

Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism

The rise in overt militarism and imperialism at the outset of the twenty-first century can plausibly be attributed largely to attempts by the dominant interests of the world economy to gain control over diminishing world oil supplies1. Beginning in 1998 a series of strategic energy initiatives were launched in national security circles in the United States in response to: (1) the crossing of the 50 percent threshold in U.S. importation of foreign oil; (2) the disappearance of spare world oil production capacity; (3) concentration of an increasing percentage of all remaining conventional oil resources in the Persian Gulf; and (4) looming fears of peak oil… | more |

Disaster Capitalism: An Offer You Can’t Refuse—Or Can You?

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 466 pages, hardcover, $28.00.

At the crossroads of Buenos Aires’s shopping district sits a posh mall called the Galerías Pacífico, a showcase for global brand names and a playground for Argentina’s rich. One day, a film crew descended to the basement. There they found an abandoned torture chamber, its walls still etched with names, dates, and messages from political prisoners disappeared under the military junta. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein goes digging deep into the basements of global capitalism, from the torture labs of Latin America to the oil fields of Iraq, unearthing the bodies and catching the culprits red-handed. In the process, she demolishes one of the great myths of our time: that free markets go hand in hand with free societies, and that globalized free enterprise brings peace and democracy. Instead, as Klein documents in this definitive history, the new world order is the product of three decades of free-market terror, torture, and shock.… | more |

Finance, Imperialism, and the Hegemony of the Dollar

The July–August 2007 crisis in subprime mortgage markets precipitated the collapse of the market for asset-backed securities, forcing huge write-downs of more than $45 billion on the balance sheets of major banks. In the aftershock, interbank lending dried up. Bond insurers and money market funds were beset by a loss of confidence as the credit squeeze spread. The plunge in stock markets in January 2008 suggests that the repercussions of the collapse of the subprime mortgage market are still working their way through financial markets. With over 170,000 jobs lost and the expected spate of foreclosures, many observers believe that the credit crunch has pushed the economy towards a recession.… | more |

March 2008, Volume 59, Number 10

March 2008, Volume 59, Number 10

» Notes from the Editors

This month marks the fifth year of the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq, which commenced on March 19, 2003. Despite setbacks for the U.S. empire, including unexpected losses in lives and money as a result of the continuing resistance of the Iraqi population, this war has succeeded in the U.S. imperial objective of eliminating Iraq, once a powerful force in the Middle East, as a nation to be reckoned with. Much of its population is dead, displaced, and divided. Its infrastructure is in tatters. The country is occupied on a seemingly permanent basis by U.S. military forces, allowing Washington to project its power more fully in the region, and making it easier to threaten Iraq’s neighbor Iran. Iraqi oil, designated as a vital strategic asset by Washington, is now largely in the grip of the U.S. empire.… | more |

Forget Guantánamo

In March 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was captured in Pakistan. Much of the information on his movements and whereabouts is believed to have come from interrogations of his two children, aged six and eight. The children are known to have been held in an adult detention facility for at least four months while they were interrogated. During this time, according to one witness, “the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs, and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.” After that, they disappeared into the system and nothing more was heard about them. Their current whereabouts and condition are unknown. The United States has sunk to kidnapping, imprisoning, torturing, and then “disappearing” children in order to get at their parents. What were once dark and unlikely rumors have gradually proven to be true: many men, women, and yes, children have been abducted around the world and fed into the maw of the American system.… | more |

Who Really Won the Space Race?

Last October’s anniversary of the launch of the Sputnik artificial satellite has led to much discussion as to who won the space race. Usually it is argued that the United States unproblematically “won.” But this is a very simplistic picture and one that should be challenged. Above all, the focus on nations “winning” or “losing” needs to be rejected. It is the rich and powerful who are doing the winning. And they can come from any country.… | more |

The War for Control of the Periphery

Steven Hiatt, ed., with introduction by John Perkins, A Game as Old as Empire: The Secret World of Economic Hit Men and the Web of Global Corruption (San Francisco: BK Currents, 2007), 310 pages, paper $24.95.

Just before John Perkins, author of the bestselling Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, decided it was no longer possible to remain silent about his intimate involvement in the economic warfare waged against the Global South, he sat despondently before the ruins of Ground Zero, totally incapable of visualizing the tragedy: all he could see was a U.S. contractor delivering millions of dollars of weapons to the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Perkins understood himself—a former economic advisor for a multinational utilities contractor, similar to Bechtel—and others like him, to be products of a “system that promotes the most subtle and effective form of imperialism the world has ever witnessed.” Mainstream commentators addressing Perkins’s book ignored the vivid recounting of his own personal involvement as an economic hit man. This is undoubtedly because Perkins used this experience to emphasize the substantial connections between U.S. intelligence agencies, multinational corporations, and political elites of the Global South, laying bare the true motives of “development.” As an “economic hit man,” Perkins fabricated nearly every economic forecast he was asked to produce—as his bosses clearly expected him to do. This led him to repeatedly attack U.S. economic dogma in Confessions… | more |

Political Islam in the Service of Imperialism

All the currents that claim adherence to political Islam proclaim the “specificity of Islam.” According to them, Islam knows nothing of the separation between politics and religion, something supposedly distinctive of Christianity. It would accomplish nothing to remind them, as I have done, that their remarks reproduce, almost word for word, what European reactionaries at the beginning of the nineteenth century (such as Bonald and de Maistre) said to condemn the rupture that the Enlightenment and the French Revolution had produced in the history of the Christian West… | more |

Abu Ghraib and Insaniyat

The issues that I will cover in this article and the cases I would like to describe make for uncomfortable reading. But I believe that it is important to record the torture at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq and to deconstruct the culture that accommodated and legitimated it, because what happened cannot be relegated to a mere footnote in the history of the region. I feel the same about Halabja and the chemical warfare employed by Saddam Hussein with the sponsorship of the “international community,” which is why I covered it in my other writings.1 I do not want to be misunderstood as arguing that the cultural context I will explain here is all-encompassing, that the U.S. presence in international society is singularly destructive, and that the “West” as an idea is nothing but “intoxicating.”2 What I say is much more confined. I am arguing that Abu Ghraib could not have happened without a particular racist current in the United States, that the individuals who committed the atrocities against the detainees were not isolated, and that they were part of a larger constellation with its own signifying ideational attitudes toward Muslims and Arabs. Those are the general claims that I would like to qualify in the following paragraphs… | more |

On the History of Imperialism Theory

In his illuminating survey, “The Imperialist World System: Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years” (Monthly Review, May 2007), John Bellamy Foster remarks that “The concept of the imperialist world system in today’s predominant sense of the extreme economic exploitation of periphery by center, creating a widening gap between rich and poor countries….had its genesis in the 1950s, especially with the publication fifty years ago of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth.” While acknowledging that traces of such a concept could be found in Marx and Lenin, he feels that “The classical Marxist approach to the worldwide spread of capitalist relations has often been characterized as a crude theory of linear stages of development” whereby the less developed countries would necessarily traverse the same path as the more developed ones. Among the adherents to this view Foster includes Marxists in the Second and Third Internationals… | more |

Rediscovering the History of Imperialism: A Reply

The Research Unit for Political Economy’s (RUPE’s) brief historical account here of the origins of the Marxist theory of imperialism constitutes a crucial corrective to common errors regarding that history. In my article, “The Imperialist World System: Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years” (Monthly Review, May 2007), I began by pointing out that Baran’s book was an outgrowth of classical Marxist thought—the ideas of Marx, Lenin, and Luxemburg. At the same time it represented a sharp departure from the rigid orthodoxy of linear development that had come to characterize so much of socialist (as well as bourgeois) thought—often presented in terms of Horace’s phrase, quoted by Marx, “the tale is told of you.” Baran’s treatment of the imperialist world system was a startling contribution at the time that his book appeared, challenging the conventional assumptions of both the right and an increasingly calcified left… | more |

November 2007, Volume 59, Number 6

November 2007, Volume 59, Number 6

» Notes from the Editors

Former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan’s new book The Age of Turbulence (Penguin 2007)set off a firestorm in mid-September with its dramatic statement on the Iraq War: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: that the Iraq war is largely about oil” (p. 463). The fact that someone of Greenspan’s stature in the establishment—one of the figures at the very apex of monopoly-finance capital—should issue such a twenty word statement, going against the official truths on the war, and openly voicing what “everyone knows,” was remarkable enough. Yet, his actual argument was far more significant, and since this has been almost completely ignored it deserves extended treatment here. … | more |

October 2007, Volume 59, Number 5

October 2007, Volume 59, Number 5

» Notes from the Editors

It is almost unheard of for a whole issue of MR (other than occasionally one of our special July-August issues) to be devoted to a single contribution. The typical MR issue consists of a lot of short articles. We have no intention of changing that. Nevertheless, we are making a rare exception in the case of Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” which we regard as the definitive critique at this stage both of the U.S./NATO role in the exploitation and exacerbation of the Yugoslavian tragedy and of the “Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse” that made this possible. So effective has been the media propaganda system at presenting the imperialist wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s as “humanitarian interventions” that this not only bolstered support for the invasions and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq (in defiance of international law), but is now being offered as a justification for further possible “humanitarian interventions” elsewhere, such as Iran, the Sudan (Darfur), Nigeria, and even Venezuela… | more |