Commentaries on current events, political economy, and the Communist movement from a Marxist-Leninist perspective.
Zigedy highly recommends the Marxist-Leninist website, MLToday.com, where many of his longer articles appear.
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Sunday, June 25, 2017
US Imperialism: Changing Direction?
over the last few weeks further remove the fog obscuring the foreign
policy objectives of the US ruling class. A series of seemingly
unrelated events casts light on the goals of US policy makers in an
era of intensifying international rivalries. Further, it is becoming
clear that President Trump is now largely deferring to the
ruling-class consensus on foreign affairs; his straying from the fold
has been substantially checked.
February, I wrote
of the implications of the widely ignored shift in the status of the
United States from an energy-seeking, petroleum-importing country to
a net exporter, a trader in all energy resources.
US still has a significant but shrinking position in the
international export of coal. Of course, coal use is both third in
importance among hydrocarbons and shrinking in use (coal production
internationally fell by the largest percentage on record in 2016).
But petroleum imports became essential to fuel the critical
transportation needs of the US as well as the massive military
machine in the mid-twentieth century.
After the oil crisis of the
1970s, dependence on petroleum imports became even more acute and an
even more vital factor in setting US foreign policy. Often, and for
good reason, the left was quick to associate the thirst for energy
resources with war-mongering and neo-colonial intrigue.
matters are changing rapidly, even if many seek to obscure or ignore
the new reality. As I argued in February:
began to change in the last decade, with US domestic oil production
nearly doubling between 2010 and 2014. In the last few years, US oil
production has reached levels in line with the world’s largest
producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia. For the first time in decades,
the US is again exporting extracted energy products. In fact, many
experts expect the US to become a net energy exporter in the next
evidence has only mounted since the February posting. Despite low
prices of oil, US drillers are producing like there is no tomorrow.
From its low in mid-year 2016, the rig count has nearly doubled in
North Dakota. As the Wall
reported on June 19, the big companies, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell,
and Exxon Mobil are investing tens of billions in the Permian region
of the Southwestern US. The giant multinational, monopoly-capital
producers are stepping in where smaller producers have failed because
of costs and limited capital. They are projecting Permian production
at 4 million barrels a day within a decade, about the production of
modern-day Iraq. Chevron, alone, anticipates a four-fold increase of
Permian production within a decade. Exxon is projected to spend half
or more of its massive investments in the next three years on North
American oil production.
will this oil go?
a June 8 article, Wall
writer Lynn Cook stated bluntly: “American [US] oil exports are
emerging as a disruptive new force in global markets.” From January
to April, US suppliers shipped 110 million barrels to foreign
destinations, chiefly India, Hong Kong, and Denmark. Asian buyers
account for 39% of purchases, with China showing, by far, the
greatest growth. With massive production increases coming online, is
there any doubt that US producers will be competing furiously with
OPEC and other traditional exporters for existing and new markets?
Should we not expect the foreign policy and the covert and overt
military strategies to reflect this intensifying competition?
the US is becoming an increasingly important exporter of natural gas.
As new technologies of liquefying and shipping natural gas are
implemented, the competition for markets is becoming ever more
ruthless. Seaborne liquid natural gas accounts for 40% of the market
today. As the world leader in natural gas production, along with
Russia, the US has a strong interest in exporting natural gas and
acquiring new markets. Among the exporters of liquid natural gas
(LNG), Qatar is the world leader, with every intention of maintaining
its position, recently opening its North field, believed to be the
largest gas reservoir in the world.
long fostered model that views US imperial interests as served by the
US securing and protecting its access to energy sources, by
guaranteeing energy for its Cold War allies, is in need of a new
look. Today, US interests lie in acquiring markets within the global
economy, competing with other energy suppliers, and creating
political and economic conditions favorable to US suppliers. Oil,
gas, and energy remain central to the imperialist enterprise, but the
roles are shifting in important ways, with important implications.
sought to define that role more clearly in February, when I wrote:
should be clear, then, that the approaching oil independence of the
US, the changing role of the US from consumer to producer, and the
attention to markets-for-oil over sources-for-oil profoundly
influences US strategic policies, including the weakening or souring
relations with other major oil-producing nations like Saudi Arabia
have only strengthened that observation. The rabid, crude
intensification of hostility toward Russia, the renewed demonization
of Iran, the sudden and bizarre isolation of Qatar, and the
heightened aggression in the numerous destabilizing wars throughout
the Middle East underline the evolution of an emerging foreign policy
consistent with securing new energy markets.
introduction and expansion of US military forces to hot spots like
Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan promise little resolution of the
conflicts, but guarantee further instability of energy sources and
the flow of hydrocarbons. The sale of a vast cache of military
weaponry assures the deepening and lengthening of the Saudi incursion
unexpected hostility toward Qatar shown by the other Gulf States in
the wake of Trump’s recent vulgar performance in Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia is likely directed against Qatari global leadership in the
exporting of Liquid Natural Gas, the market that the US hopes to
further penetrate. It is no accident that the Qatari gas fields are
jointly owned with Iran and both countries have cooperated in the
exploitation of the fields and the production of LNG. At the same
time, the Saudis have surrendered in the price war with US shale
drillers. With sovereign wealth shrinking from a costly war and low
oil prices, the Saudis are more interested in finding the best moment
to take ARAMCO public, to sell off portions of the national oil
company and refresh the kingdom’s coffers. The king and his retinue
are content to loyally serve the US in its global mission to command
energy markets. Saudi leadership of OPEC in its fight for market
share with US petroleum producers proved disastrous. The Saudi/OPEC
output cut “has been deemed an OPEC failure and a US production
win,” according to Tony Hendrick of CHS Hedging, as quoted in the
latest US anti-Russia (6-15-17) sanctions are clearly directed at
markets for Russian natural gas. The Senate voted 98-2 to “broaden
sanctions on Russia’s energy sector,” as reported by The
Wall Street journal.
While the message might have been lost on the mainstream media,
wallowing in neo-McCarthyism, and while it might have been missed by
a distracted left, it was not lost on Europeans. They immediately saw
it as an attack on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that would
bring Russian gas to Germany, Austria and other European countries.
And they saw it for what it was; Germany and Austria immediately
lashed out with a joint statement: “We cannot accept a threat of
extraterritorial sanctions, illegal under international law, against
European companies that participate in developing European energy
added sharply: “Europe’s energy supply is Europe’s business,
not that of the United States of America.” and “The
actual goal [of such sanctions] is to provide jobs for the US gas and
there it is-- naked recognition that US anti-Russian acts are thinly
concealed covers for US imperial goals. The US wants the European gas
business currently done with Russia.
anyone pretend that US imperialism-with-a-new-twist is strictly a
product of Trump, it should be noted that the 98-2 Senate vote was no
aberration. Writing in the Washington
(6-8-17), David Gordon and Michael O’Hanlon-- two solidly connected
Washington insiders-- pointed to “several hopeful signs” with
Trump’s foreign policy. They lauded the President’s national
security team and his stance in the Middle East. They were especially
enthusiastic about his continued belligerence toward Russia.
reckless foreign policy of the Trump administration still deviates
occasionally from the ruling class consensus expressed in the
editorial pages of The
New York Times or
But more and more it is reckless because
it conforms to that consensus. The endless wars and the escalation of
those endless wars are not met with ruling class impatience, but
appear to be more the new global norm.
destabilization of countries and the promotion of sectarianism appear
less as unintended consequences and more as those resulting from the
deliberate, calculated tactics of an imperialist power benefiting
in the classic pre-World War I era of reckless imperialist
competition, US imperialism is aggressively advancing its economic
agenda against rivals, including recent “allies.” The dangers
posed by these intensifying rivalries threaten to spark even more
devastating clashes and widening wars.