Saturday, March 29, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 3: The Global System Segment 2/5
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2. The Changing Tasks

In the early post-World War II period, U.S. planners hoped to organize most of not all of the world in accord with the perceived needs of the U.S. economy. With 50% of the world's wealth and a position of power and security without historical parallel, the "real task" for the U.S. was "to maintain this position of disparity," by force if necessary, State Department Policy Planning chief George Kennan explained. The vision was partially achieved, but over time, the U.S. position of dominance was bound to erode. The Kennedy administration attempted a "Grand Design" to remedy the growing problem, expecting that Britain would "act as our lieutenant (the fashionable word is partner)," in the words of one senior Kennedy advisor who carelessly let slip the true meaning of the lofty phrases about partnership.5 By that time it was becoming difficult to manage and control Europe, the major potential rival. The problems mounted as U.S. allies enriched themselves through their participation in the destruction of Indochina, which proved costly to the U.S. economy.

Both superpowers have been declining in their power to coerce since the late 1950s. Now Washington's "real task" is to maintain a position of dominance that is seriously challenged. These long-term developments in the international system continued during the 1980s, accelerated by Reaganite social and economic mismanagement with its deleterious effects, which some regard as a "crippling blow" to a "decaying America" (Senator Ernest Hollings).6 For years, the world has been drifting towards three major economic blocs: a dollar bloc; a yen bloc based on Japan and its periphery; and a German-centered European bloc, moving towards further unity in 1992. The incorporation of Canada within a U.S.-dominated free trade system in 1988 is a step towards consolidation of the dollar bloc, which is also intended to incorporate northern Mexico with its supply of cheap labor for assembly plants and parts production, and whatever else may be viable economically in Latin America. The Caribbean Basin Initiative is a halting step in the same direction. Europe and Japan have different ideas, however, not to speak of the region itself. These tendencies towards the formation of conflicting power blocs may be heightened by Washington's efforts to induce Europe and Japan to bail the U.S. out of its trade deficit and other economic problems, and by the impact on Third World exporters if the U.S. abandons the role as consumer of last resort for the countries that adopted an export-oriented development model under U.S. pressure.7

The Kennedy Grand Design was an effort to ward off the growing danger of an independent European bloc with its own global designs. In Henry Kissinger's "Year of Europe" speech in 1973, he admonished the Europeans to keep to regional interests within an "overall framework of order" managed by the United States, and to refrain from developing a larger trading bloc to which the U.S. would be denied privileged access. The conflicts with Japan are by now front-page news. In earlier eras, such developments have led to serious conflict, even major wars. Presumably, the interpenetration of the global economies and the awesome nature of means of destruction will avert direct confrontation, but the seeds are there.

What role will the Soviet Union play in this world system? The Cold War had a regular rhythm of confrontation and détente, influenced heavily by domestic factors within each superpower and its need to exert force within its own international system; for us, most of the world. The Soviet Union made a number of efforts to extricate itself from a confrontation that it lacked the economic power to sustain; since they were rebuffed, we cannot know how serious they were (see chapter 1, pp. 24f.) The present case is qualitatively different, however.

Gorbachev's moves towards détente had little to do with U.S. table pounding, militarization of the economy, or the expansion of international terrorism under the Reagan Doctrine. They were undertaken in an effort to drive the cruel and inefficient centralized state constructed by Lenin and his successors towards economic and social change, an effort at reform from above that has given rise to a wide range of popular responses and initiatives with exciting but uncertain prospects, and to much uglier features as well, from deterioriation of the economy to chauvinist, racist, and anti-Semitic excesses.

Fortuitously, these moves towards détente and internal reform coincided with the natural flow of American politics. By the mid-1980s, the task for the U.S. political leadership was not to terrify the public into paying for military programs it did not want, but rather to deal with the costs of the Reaganite welfare state measures for the wealthy. As early as 1982, 83% of top corporate executives surveyed in a Wall Street Journal/Gallup poll favored a reduction in military spending in order to reduce the rapidly mounting federal deficit,8 and within a few years it was clear that under the conditions of the 1980s, with the United States having lost its position of overwhelming dominance over its industrial rivals, the old devices of state intervention in the economy were no longer feasible. For purely domestic reasons, then, the international environment came to be portrayed as less threatening. With the imaginary "window of vulnerability" no longer needed and therefore closed, the Evil Empire was not quite on the verge of swallowing us up after all; and international terrorists were no longer lurking behind every corner. The world had become a safer place, not so much because the world had changed, but because new problems were arising at home. A statesmanlike pose became mandatory. Reagan even revealed himself to be a closet Leninist. In this context, it was possible to be at least somewhat receptive to Gorbachev's moves, undertaken for independent reasons.

Nevertheless, the decline of the Soviet threat is a dark cloud on the horizon for the reasons already mentioned. Long before the Cold War, H.L. Mencken commented that "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." The Soviet hobgoblin has served admirably for the domestic and international designs of U.S. elites, who are far from overjoyed to see it fade from view. The question of the Soviet role in the emerging international system is also casting a shadow over planning. On the surface, disputes with the allies concerned technical issues, such as the U.S. demand that Lance missiles be upgraded to just below the level of those dismantled by the Russians under the INF treaty, a tacit abandonment of the treaty, in Soviet eyes. But these matters were of little moment,9 serving as a cover for the more serious issue of relaxation of East-West tensions. The real problem is that the major rivals of the United States are exploring closer relations with the Soviet Union, which is eager to obtain capital and technology and to forge closer economic links with the West, reestablishing something like the quasi-colonial relations of earlier years. Germany and Japan particularly have capital and technology that the USSR and its satellites badly need; in turn, they offer resources to be developed and exploited, markets for excess production, and perhaps cheap labor and opportunities for export of pollution and waste, as expected of well-behaved semi-developed dependencies. Germany and other European countries are eagerly exploring these prospects. Before too long, there may even be a free trade zone for Japan in Vladivostok and Japanese exploitation of oil and other resources in Siberia, developments which, if realized, could materially alter the structure of the world order.

A drift towards closer links between the industrial rivals of the United States and the Soviet bloc would awaken the worst nightmares of U.S. geopolitical thinking, which sees the United States as an island power standing off the Eurasian land mass, just as committed to prevent its unification as England was with regard to continental Europe in the era of its more limited hegemony. For such reasons, Washington has been distinctly uneasy about the growing ties with the Soviet Union. Through the 1980s, it sought to block expanding economic relations that would have eased Cold War tensions and furthered the integration of the Soviet economy into the Western zone. In late 1989, the U.S. was isolated in opposing high technology exports to the USSR, alleging security concerns, though these were hardly even a joke by that time. In an October 1989 meeting of COCOM, the committee of 15 NATO nations, Japan, and Australia which regulates trade with the Soviet bloc, the U.S. stood alone in seeking to prevent high technology sales. COCOM partners accused the U.S. of trying "to stifle foreign competitors of American manufacturers," who could profit from these trade relations, AP reported.10 The U.S. has since continued to try to erect impediments to aid to the USSR -- "aid" being understood as an export promotion device that the U.S. is now ill-equipped to employ, in comparison with its rivals, particularly after the Reaganite blows to the domestic economy.

Go to the next segment.

5 Costigliola, in Paterson, ed., Kennedy's Quest for Victory.

6 Washington Post weekly, May 8, 1989.

7 For some recent discussion of these matters, see Walter Russell Mead, "The United States and the World Economy," World Policy Journal, Winter 1988-89. A year later, a free trade zone with Mexico was under active discussion, and a vague plan to extend it to all of Latin America was floated by President Bush.

8 See Brad Knickerbocker, "Defense spending no longer off limits to budget-cutters," Christian Science Monitor, April 21, 1982.

9 Within a year, these meaningless diversions had collapsed, along with the Berlin wall and the remaining shreds of the Soviet imperial system in Eastern Europe.

10 Mort Rosenblum, AP, October 25, 1989. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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