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Imperialism

July-August 2007 (Volume 59, Number 3)

Notes from the Editors

At the end of May the Bush administration announced that the United States is planning on maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq on a model like that of South Korea, where U.S. troops have been deployed in massive numbers for more than fifty years. Despite the failures associated with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Washington is openly proclaiming to the world that it intends to do everything it can to maintain a lasting military presence in that country. By doing so it hopes to retain the main spoils won in the war and to declare it a partial victory. The strategic objectives are obvious: to control Iraq and Iraqi oil, threaten Iran, and dominate the geopolitically vital Middle East. Thus Secretary of Defense Robert Gates declared on May 31 that he did not expect the United States to withdraw from Iraq as from Vietnam “lock, stock and barrel” and invoked the example of South Korea. Earlier that week White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, conveying the views of President Bush, said U.S. troops would remain but would be in an “over-the-horizon support” role to maintain security in Iraq—with permanent bases on the South Korean model. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, in charge of daily military operations in Iraq, stated on May 31 that he supported the creation of a South Korean type U.S. military presence in Iraq. The message could not be clearer and can be summed up as: Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance (see John Bellamy Foster’s book with this title for an analysis of the larger forces at work).… | more…

Europe vs. America: Contradictions of Imperialism

Europe vs. America: Contradictions of Imperialism

The focus of this book is the emerging economic confrontation between European and U.S. capitalism at the end of the “golden age” of capitalism in the late 1960s. Ernest Mandel here paints a remarkably clear, comprehensive, and detailed portrait of trends at that critical period. Mandel moves with ease from the most general international problems to the specifics of corporate activity, and few developments in the business and economic worlds seem to have escaped his attention.… | more…

Imminent Crises: Threats and Opportunities

egrettably, there are all too many candidates that qualify as imminent and very serious crises. Several should be high on everyone’s agenda of concern, because they pose literal threats to human survival: the increasing likelihood of a terminal nuclear war, and environmental disaster, which may not be too far removed. However, I would like to focus on narrower issues, those that are of greatest concern in the West right now. I will be speaking primarily of the United States, which I know best, and it is the most important case because of its enormous power. But as far as I can ascertain, Europe is not very different… | more…

The South Has Already Repaid its External Debt to the North: But the North Denies its Debt to the South

The South has already repaid its external debt to the North. Since the onset of the global debt crisis, precipitated in 1979 by a sharp increase in the Federal Reserve’s interest rates by Paul Volcker, the developing/ emerging market economies as a whole have paid in current dollars a cumulative $7.673 trillion in external debt service.1 However, during the same period their debt has increased from $618 billion in 1980 to $3.150 trillion in 2006, according to figures published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The external debt of this group of countries, comprising 145 member states, will continue to grow throughout 2007, according to the IMF, to more than $3.350 trillion. The debt of the Asian developing countries alone could rise to $955 billion. Although they have already repaid, in interest and capital, far more than the original amount due in 1980, these countries are now carrying a burden of debt much larger than they faced at the beginning of the period… | more…

From Military Keynesianism to Global-Neoliberal Militarism

In mid-summer of 2006 a Harris Opinion poll revealed that roughly 50 percent of the U.S. public believed that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) had been found in Iraq by U.S. forces and nearly two-thirds of those polled thought that the Iraqi regime had been collaborating with al-Qaeda forces prior to the Washington invasion in the spring of 2003. All this, of course, stood in stark contrast to the facts as they were then known and grudgingly acknowledged by U.S. policymakers. At the same time, a large majority of the population believed that the invasion had been a mistake and favored significant troop withdrawals in the near future… | more…

The Imperialist World System

Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth After Fifty Years

The concept of the imperialist world system in today predominant sense of the extreme economic exploitation of periphery by center, creating a widening gap between rich and poor countries, was largely absent from the classical Marxist critique of capitalism. Rather this view had its genesis in the 1950s, especially with the publication fifty years ago of Paul Baran’s Political Economy of Growth. Baran’s work helped inspire Marxist dependency and world system theories. But it was the new way of looking at imperialism that was the core of Baran’s contribution. A half-century later it is important to ask: What was this new approach and how did it differ from then prevailing notions? What further changes in our understanding of imperialism are now necessary in response to changed historical conditions since the mid-twentieth century?… | more…

War Crimes in Vietnam

War Crimes in Vietnam

From the opening pages of this harsh and unsparing book, Bertrand Russell offers what he considered to be the unvarnished truth about the war in Vietnam. For Lord Russell, the war, and the way it was being conducted, was the responsibility of the United States. And, he adds, “To understand the war, we must understand America.”… | more…

Israel in the U.S. Empire

Any reader of Israel Studies’s recent issue on the “Americanization of Israel” would be likely to conclude that the most important aspect of U.S.-Israel relations was cultural and religious exchange.* U.S. commodification of Israeli consumption is a key focus here, as is the impact of U.S. religious trends on Israeli religious practices. Though politics does feature in the issue, its place is largely restricted to the influence of the United States on the Israeli party political system and to the ideological convergence between Christian fundamentalism and the Likud Party. The informing conception of the issue, then, seems to be the endeavor to pinpoint those aspects of Israel that have been “Americanized” in recent years. Contributors are thus preoccupied with determining how specific U.S. forms and norms have migrated to and been translated into Israeli culture and society… | more…

Imperialism: In Tribute to Harry Magdoff

Imperialism is the system by which a dominant power is able to control the trade, investment, labor, and natural resources of other peoples. It takes different forms in different stages of capitalist development and has elements in common with the imperium of ancient empires. I want to lay out these structural elements, contrast them with the mainstream economists’ view of exchange regulated by free market principles, and then discuss the specific form imperialism takes in our own time. Any essay on this subject written from the left must acknowledge the influence of the writing of Harry Magdoff and on this occasion his influence is highlighted… | more…

U.S. Imperialism and the Third World

Carollee Bengelsdorf, Margaret Cerullo, & Yogesh Chandrani, eds., The Selected Writings of Eqbal Ahmad (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 630 pages, paperback $26.50, cloth $69.50.

In his life, Eqbal Ahmad was a venerable icon in many left circles, not least in the United States. This was showcased at the conference organized in 1997 to mark his retirement from Hampshire College. There to honor Professor Ahmad were some of the most eminent radi- cal thinkers and activists from around the world. A list of the confer- ence speakers read like a Who’s Who of the global left… | more…

World Accumulation, 1492–1789

World Accumulation, 1492–1789

Most of Andre Gunder Frank’s early work on the nature of underdevelopment focused on one region: Latin America. Here he broadened his canvas and traced the world-wide effects of the process of capital accumulation from the period just prior to the discovery of America to the industrial and French revolutions. It is Frank’s thesis that “the world has experienced a single all-embracing, albeit unequal and uneven, process of capital accumulation centered in Western Europe,” which has been capitalist for at least two centuries.… | more…

Resource Wars

The close relation between war and natural resources is of long standing. What else was colonial conquest about? Vast estates held by the Dutch East India Company came under direct control of the Crown as did the lands conquered by the British East India Company. What was in demand in Europe dictated the commodities produced and the natural resources that were ripped from the earth. European violence set the terms on which resource extraction occurred. There was no free trade for mutual benefit based on comparative advantage. There were few constraints on the violence employed in the extraction of resources starting with the “shock and awe” of bombardments and fire storms of wars of conquest and followed by the pitiless subjugation of people of color. Having defeated the locals in battle the invaders suborned local elites and customs to extract resources from those they had conquered… | more…

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