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Monday, February 14, 2022

Imperialism, the Enemy of Peace

On February 2, I wrote: “Clearly, the Biden administration is fishing in troubled waters, exploiting unjustified fears of Russian aggression to advance narrow economic goals: natural gas sales and military-armament production and sales.” The point is that US behavior can be explained and is best explained as that of an imperialist superpower in the classic Leninist sense.

It was not concern for a fragile new democracy and human rights, nor was it resistance to autocratic power that motivated the US in the Ukraine crisis, as government officials and media in the US would have it.

Nor was it a misguided foreign policy or poor political choices exhibited by US leaders, as some liberal critics and center-left analysts would maintain.

Instead, the US was saber-rattling, fomenting discord, and war-mongering in the classic late-nineteenth century fashion chronicled by Lenin in his 1917 book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. Standing behind the high-minded, moralistic goals voiced by Biden, Blinken, and Nuland were the economic interests of the most powerful capitalist state. With his trumpeting of the war danger, Biden was carrying water for the US energy and military industrial sectors and guided by the imperatives of finance capital.

The “Western Marxists,” post-Marxists, and neo-Marxists that have seduced so many of the younger anti-capitalist activists in the West will recoil from this analysis, denouncing it as “reductionist,” reducing complex motives to simple, basic economic exploitation.

But US behavior is impossible to explain in any other way. US allies, with their own imperialist interests, have sought to defuse the US-generated crisis. As I wrote earlier, the Schönbach affair in Germany, resulting in the firing of the German Naval leader (explained in detail by Victor Grossman), along with the hectic diplomacy of France’s Macron, illustrate the depth of European resistance to Biden’s war baiting. They, along with Ukraine’s President, Zelensky, have sought to moderate Blinken and Nuland’s hysteria and slow the rush to war.

After Biden’s first formal meeting at the White House with Germany's new chancellor, Olaf Scholtz, on February 2, Biden could only enthuse that war would suspend the development of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. He is quoted in The Wall Street Journal: “If Russia invades, that means tanks and troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will put an end to it… I promise you we will be able to do it.”

Scholtz, on the other hand, would not link war with the pipeline’s fate. The shameless US media saw Scholtz’s response as a sign of his newness on the job!

Those who remain skeptical of the economic motives behind the US warmongering must explain why Biden placed natural gas politics ahead of any other matter before him and his German ally in this first significant policy exchange. Biden’s glee-- not shared by his German counterpart-- reveals the importance the US government places on seizing the natural gas market from the Russians, their rival in the energy business.

The Ukraine crisis presents other economic advantages as well. In less than two weeks, the US has sent eight cargo planes to the Ukraine with military supplies, part of the $200 million Biden authorized in new military aid. The xenophobic, ultra-nationalist Baltic states and Poland have sent massive amounts of military equipment to Ukraine as well, much of which is sourced from US corporations and will be replaced by aid or purchases from the US.

Whether Ukraine joins NATO or not, Ukraine is being militarized and will continue to be a destination for US arms. On this front, the US military-industrial establishment will win, regardless of the crisis outcome.

Adversaries on both sides of the Cold War-like divide will be armed to the teeth and the possibility of war raised accordingly.

Now that Afghanistan is gone as a source of demand for US military hardware, Biden’s team is looking for new conflicts to generate dollars for the misnamed “defense” industry and to prime the pump on a stagnating US economy.

The old term for the linkage between US economic performance and military spending is “military Keynesianism,” the idea that economic activity can be stimulated with unending, costly, and wasteful military contracts for exotic weapons and instantly obsolescent munitions. Since it's out of fashion to blame the swollen bi-partisan military budget for our ills (like inflation!), the floodgates for future military spending are now open.

In a recent op-ed piece, an academic and foreign policy think-tank heavyweight, who is well-situated in ruling class circles, Walter Russell Mead, makes the case for dramatically increasing military spending. Mead offers little or no compelling reasons for expanding military expenditures beyond the now conventional foes: Russia, the PRC, and Iran. Nonetheless, “America must again get serious about defense [sic] spending.”

Mead goes to great lengths to unfavorably compare the current share of GDP devoted to the military budget with that of past periods: the Cold War, the so-called War on Terror, the Reagan era, and even World War II. By these standards alone, we are not spending enough! A rather arbitrary and self-serving argument!

But that is just window dressing for Mead’s real purposes:

Increased defense spending wouldn’t be a drag on economic growth. The capacities America needs to add to its defense arsenal are mostly high-tech and have civilian as well as military applications. Just as Israel’s investments in cybersecurity and high-tech weaponry helped it become a startup nation with the most dynamic civilian economy in its history, a renewed commitment to national defense can increase the competitiveness of American industry while boosting national security [my emphasis].

So, behind the facade of national defense and serving America is the economic advantage that Mead sees from pouring hundreds of billions more into military spending.

The Ukraine crisis should underscore lessons about US foreign policy that the often disoriented US left should have long drawn from our history.

The US media functions like every other monopoly-dominated industry: driven by profits and expediency, while serviced by and serving the state. It’s trusted service to the state is rewarded with front-row seats in the state’s propaganda circus and full access to its ministers of misinformation.

CNN, a network swamped with turmoil and scandal, demonstrated the depths of state servility with a recent bizarre public scolding of Putin for his vulgarity in the gentlemanly and gentlewomanly diplomatic process-- an indulgence in triviality.

The Guardian, the supposed left flank of the mainstream media, expressed alarm over French President Macron’s energetic diplomatic initiative to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine, accusing him of “freelancing” and expressing “his particular view of Russia as a European nation, and lofty talk of new security guarantees…” which “will have set alarm bells ringing” in the exclusive NATO club.

Both commentaries are all too fitting and predictable from a lapdog capitalist press.

It should also be obvious to opponents of war that this risk and all risks of conflict in the era of imperialism spring from the clash of imperial powers or the pressing of their interests on other nations. While the anti-war movement is and should be a big tent, it will be limited in its success if it fails to grasp this point. Moralistic arguments or appeals to the political parties committed to imperialism, like the US Democratic Party, will have little effect. The long established bi-partisanship of the two parties on foreign policy and aggression, except in periods of a severe crisis of policy like late in the Vietnam war, should shine the necessary light on that fact.

Further, a genuine left committed to building a mass anti-war movement must not link the fortunes of such a movement to the fortunes of pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist (they are the same thing!) political parties like the Democratic Party.

With the Democrats holding power, fear of disrupting their rule disables the effort to avert war, as it does today.

Greg Godels

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

A Foreign Policy Built on a Foundation of Lies

Cuba, a country with a population roughly the size of Paris, France, poses no threat to the United States, except in the minds of the deranged. Yet there is a remarkable number of “deranged” people populating the upper echelons of US government officialdom, the foreign policy academy, and the media.

Given that Cuba has a military largely armed with, at its best, late Soviet-era armaments, the idea of any military threat to the US is ludicrous.

Nor does Cuba have any binding mutual defense pact with any great power.

What Cuba does have is a citizenry organized and impassioned to defend the country’s integrity and independence.

So, we must conclude that the virulent hostility that the US government has shown since the revolution until today comes from tiny Cuba’s audacity, the audacity to insist upon its unflinching, uncompromising independence.

With a long and well documented history of obsessive US intervention in Cuban affairs-- from the ludicrous to the outrageous-- it should be clear that Cuba is a constantly irritating mote in its giant Northern neighbor’s eye.

From unending, James Bond-inspired assassination attempts on the revolution’s venerated leader, Fidel Castro Ruz, to criminal, false-flag operations jeopardizing, even potentially taking the lives of US citizens, as proposed by the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (Operation Northwoods), the US has shown no restraint in seeking to remove that mote.

With very few exceptions, the US ruling class has been united and unabashed in its demented determination to overthrow the Cuban government. Well over half a century of a cruel, inhuman economic blockade attests to the perfidy of the US government, its office holders, and apologists.

When called out by public UN resolutions condemning the illegal blockade, most US allies vote against it; yet, none dare defy the US and break it-- a shameful, disgusting stain on their cowardly leaders of every conventional political persuasion.

When we think that US policymakers have reached the limits of insane depravity toward Cuba, they reach beyond that limit. In 2017, the US government concocted the “Havana Syndrome,” a mysterious Flash Gordon-like death ray that Cuba uses to incapacitate only those who represent US interests, leaving others untouched.

While this absurd claim should evoke some doubts from even the most gullible, the US (and European) media pounced on the story like it was bloody red meat.

Even after headaches, dizziness, and anxiety “struck” stalwart US officials in such diverse and seemingly unrelated places as Peoples’ China, Russia, Taiwan, Austria, Poland, Georgia, Russia, Serbia, Colombia, Vietnam, Geneva, and Paris, the media and the State Department saw a deep conspiracy. A support group, Advocacy for Victims of Havana Syndrome was founded. A Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act was passed by our caring Congress and signed by President Biden in October.

For over five years of relentless fear-mongering, we have been led to believe that Cuba and possibly her malicious friends are in possession of a powerful new weapon that could distress the heroic efforts of US agents of imperialism.

But now we are told by a no-less-authoritative source than the Central Intelligence Agency that the “Havana Syndrome” was not likely caused by US foes. Quoting the noticeably disappointed Wall Street Journal, “Instead, the agency concluded that other medical conditions, stress or unexplained factors could be behind the ailments…”

Another fable of imperialism exposed, yet the fantasy will persist.


The same hysteria purveyors who have for decades abused tiny Cuba with serial lies are now turning their attention on giant Peoples’ China (PRC). 

Recognizing that the PRC is today an economic rival and a relatively independent force with a significant military and its own foreign policy, the guardians of the empire have focused their security scrutiny on those of Chinese descent who are working and living in the US. One such unfortunate person, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and former head of his department, was arrested and accused of lying on an application for a US Department of Energy grant in 2017.

Gang Chen was charged in January, 2021 with failing to reveal information required on his Energy Department grant application and failing to report money received from Chinese institutions ($19 million!).

The problem with the FBI’s investigation and their xenophobic dragnet was that Professor Chen’s Energy Department application did NOT require him reveal the information allegedly withheld. Furthermore, the money allegedly received by Chen was in actuality a GRANT awarded to MIT from the PRC’s Southern University of Science and Technology.

Chen’s tragic story is part of a 2018 “China Initiative” undertaken by the US Department of Justice to ferret out spies, saboteurs, and other nefarious agents of People’s China bent on taking unfair advantage of the US, its research facilities, and universities. Implicit in the initiative is the understanding that the PRC is catching or overtaking the US in technological innovation, explicitly 5G networks. Thus was born a racist and nationalistic witch hunt of academics, students, and researchers of Chinese ethnicity.

Thousands have been investigated, with few convictions but lots of disrupted lives, discredited careers, and an experience “traumatic and deeply disillusioning” in the words of the exonerated Gang Chen. The US is finally dropping the charges after a year of public pillorying.

The unwarranted harassment of both Chinese Americans and Chinese nationals mirrors the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s and the accompanying illegalities committed by the FBI, all in the service of bolstering a rabid anti-PRC foreign policy.

After five years of scandalizing Cuba’s good name and nearly four years of demonizing Chinese and Chinese American academics, US officials have recognized their folly. Of course, irreparable damage has been done.


To read the universally compliant US capitalist media, Russia has amassed 100,000 troops on the border of Ukraine and is waiting for the moment-- frozen turf, a false-flag operation, an inadequate US response, a provocation, etc.-- to cross the border and march on Kyiv. The figure of 100,000 appears constantly without even a cautious media challenge. Where does the number come from? What does it mean?

Russian intentions are never questioned by US talking heads. “Putin is evil” replaces serious analysis.

Russian interests in the confrontation are never explained. The betrayal of US, Western, and NATO promises to refrain from eastern expansion go unmentioned or derided. And aggressive moves by the Eastern European extreme nationalists-- Poland and the Baltic states-- are whitewashed as defensive.

The entire establishment-- politicians, academics, think-tankers, NGO directors, newspaper editors and their toadies, celebrities, etc.-- are united in predicting an imminent invasion of Ukraine by Russian hordes. All march in step with the State Department press releases crafted by the Russia-haters, Blinken and Nuland.

The feverish campaign reached its most absurd moment with the phone call from US President Biden to Ukraine President Zelensky warning of a fast-approaching barbarian invasion and the “sacking” of Kyiv. The next day, Zelensky asked the Western press to report Ukrainian calm and to tone down the imminent-war rhetoric.

Few in the West have noticed the President and State Department’s inconsistency. On the one hand, they project an Eastern European apocalypse and on the other hand, they propose no serious military deterrent on the part of the US or NATO. Instead, Biden’s administration harps on Trump-like sanctions aimed at the Russian economy and, not least of all, its energy sector.

If oil was a motivating factor in US foreign policy activism in the 1980s and 1990s, then natural gas is a decisive motivating factor today. Where the US was determined to secure oil resources in the past, energy independence and the fracking revolution motivate US policy makers to secure natural gas markets today.

In essence, the US is baiting the Russians into actions that will encourage the Europeans to reject their dependence upon cheap Russian natural gas. Instead, they want Europe to rely on expensive US liquified natural gas, a change that Europeans have, so far, resisted. War hysteria is meant to frighten the Europeans into rejecting the nearly completed Nord Stream pipeline and, instead, build costly liquified natural gas terminals to accept US gas. Thus, the underlying strategy is economic-- a not-so-subtle bullying of Europe into aligning with US economic interests.

The goal is to restart the botched, overinvested, badly managed fracking revolution that would now ride the tide of high energy prices.

The French and German leadership understand this gambit and have tactfully urged negotiation. The Germans, in particular, recognize the dangerous consequences for their economy. Their recent commitment to move away from nuclear energy and coal, leave their export-driven industries vulnerable to natural gas prices.

While visiting an Indian think tank, the German naval chief, Schönbach, recently spoke candidly of the confrontation in Eastern Europe, urging discussion and “respect” for President Putin. Though a voice of moderation and, no doubt, reflecting a broad section of European opinion, NATO hardliners forced his resignation.

Clearly, the Biden administration is fishing in troubled waters, exploiting unjustified fears of Russian aggression to advance narrow economic goals: natural gas sales and military-armament production and sales. Unfortunately, the dangers of violent confrontation are only multiplied by the boot-licking of many European leaders and the media. Much hinges on how the Russians weigh their options. They, too, have narrow interests, opportunists, and warmongers.

All wars based on lies end tragically.

Greg Godels