Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
The internal combustion engine was an idea that originated in the 18th Century. While various working prototypes were built the concept couldn’t really take off until in the late 1850’s the drilling and refining of petroleum began to blossom. This was a time of the burgeoning Industrial Revolution. In 1885 Karl Benz patented his version of the engine and began producing automobiles. World War I, fought with various forms of mechanized weapons exploded the need for petroleum to fuel them. Major nations began to understand the strategic value of petroleum and the wealth of the Oil Industry began to grow exponentially. By the mid 1920’s the three major oil producers were Saudi Arabia, the United States and the Soviet Union. The oil reserves in Saudi Arabia and in the rest of the Middle East were considered to be the deepest and most valuable. At this point the Middle East, long a backwater in the “Great Game” of nations became the focus of both the industrial nations and of the now dominant Oil Industry.
Much of the history of the Twentieth Century and still today is about the domination of the oil supply. However, as this has played out surrogate issues have been used to provide a mythology to justify intrusions into Middle East that make this economic imperialism palatable to the majority of people. We have watched as Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator no doubt, was toppled for an act, 9/11, which he had nothing to do with. With our Iraq invasion, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s were killed and injured as collateral damage. The cost in the deaths and maiming of our troops was in the tens of thousands. The freedom of the Iraqi people has been improbably lessened, from that of the brutal Hussein regime, which at least was secular and somewhat respectful of women’s rights? The end result though of this unwarranted war was the signing over of Iraqi Oil Rights and the explosion of military spending geared towards various supporters of the Bush regime.
As this is written the drumbeat in the Middle East goes on for intervention to change the regimes in both Iran and in Syria. With Iran it is the supposed threat from their nuclear development (weapons of mass destruction sound familiar) and with Syria it is the removal of a vile, oppressive regime. My own view, which I will elaborate on below, is that in both these instances the reality is quite different from the myth being put forth. I believe that we are being gulled by those who desire American world hegemony via use of our overwhelming military might. There are forces that see the United States morphing into Empire, just as Rome turned from a Republic to an imperial state. While Caesar crossing the Rubicon was represented as the seminal moment in roman transformation, the reality was just as now that the change was a long time coming. Here is my condensed version of how this all came to be and at the end I will provide links that underlie some of my reasoning.
Originally our Founding Fathers cautioned against foreign involvement. They were knowledgeable men who were well aware of the history of European warfare and the destruction it caused. America was separated from all that European strife by ocean, there was a vast frontier on this continent to be conquered and finally the means of transporting enough military personnel to fight a war was limited by time and distance. While the great powers of the day did try to intervene in American affairs, their reach was limited. In the 1840’s the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution arose and with it the beginning of a
vast flow of immigration. The immigration multiplied after the Civil War since six hundred thousand lives were lost and this opened up opportunity for foreign job seekers to work in the factories, mines and other “blue collar” endeavors. This country began to excel in industrial production and so the need for international trade became urgent so that we could sell our wares and in turn receive needed natural resources. Foreign Policy became very important to the “Elite” that had run this country since the beginning. Originally those elite were based on a landed aristocracy, as were most members of our “Founding Fathers”. As the industrial revolution progressed a new class of industrialists and merchants rose to power, succeeding the landed aristocracy in influence, though in truth many of that aristocracy just diversified their holdings.
The tension nevertheless existed between those who believed in an America isolated from the rest of the world and those felt the country needed to achieve international prominence and power. Beginning in the 1890’s a Progressive Movement arose in the United States led by the historical works of Theodore Roosevelt and Frederick Jackson Turner. Their writings concentrated on the struggle for the American Frontier, the concept of “rugged individualism” and finally on the duty of America to bring civilization to the “barbaric” peoples of the Earth. It laid the groundwork for America to develop into an international power and justified it based on our need for “new frontiers” (markets) and the “altruistic” desire to bring “Anglo-Saxon” racial superiority to the less capable races of the world. For many of us brought up in the hagiography of Theodore Roosevelt this is perhaps a shock, as a sample of his thinking though:
Starting in 1907 eugenicists in many States started the forced sterilization of the sick, unemployed, poor, criminals, prostitutes, and the disabled. Roosevelt said in 1914: “I wish very much that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding; and when the evil nature of these people is sufficiently flagrant, this should be done. Criminals should be sterilized and feeble-minded persons forbidden to leave offspring behind them.”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt#Positions_on_immigration.2C_minorities.2C_and_civil_rights
Historian Richard Slotkin, link below, has documented this surprising Progressive heritage, which has morphed so differently today. We can remember that TR became famous for his “Rough Riders” charging San Juan Hill and his sending of American Warships around the world in what became our country’s nascent display of imperialist tendencies. Then too John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil became a major US industry and his political power extended everywhere. The United States foreign policy in the 1920’s became increasingly interested in the Middle East and its oil, but at that point Great Britain still held the area as a bureaucratic fiefdom accelerated by the fall of the Ottoman Empire after its loss in World War I.
While given its alternatives, the victory in World War II by the US sowed the seeds for future turmoil and eventually a theory of American Empire that has taken hold among this country’s elite. WW II was our victory since it established our country as the most powerful in the world, given the rampant destruction of the infrastructures of Europe and Asia and with the massive infusion of defense money into American Industry. It also led directly to the development of the Central Intelligence Agency, over the initial resistance of Harry Truman. The CIA’s ascendance was fostered by the “Cold War”, where the US foreign policy establishment saw our country in a “death struggle” between Capitalism and Communism. We now had finally cast off “conservative isolationist theory” and saw ourselves in an international struggle between good and evil. Since by its nature the “Cold War” avoided direct military confrontations, its main activity on both sides was spearheaded by the dominant intelligence agencies.
A full picture of how the rise of the Intelligence Community has inexorably led to a theory of American Empire one must look at the makeup of the Agency itself. From its inception this was an agency run by the elite of American citizenry, both in ethnic makeup and in interrelated education. The recruitment for Agency staff destined for upper management was aimed at students at Yale and Harvard and the effort succeeded. These were the scions of American Wealth, whose world view was shaped by the self interest of their families and the opinion that they were the most fit to lead. Since the Cold War was pictured as a death struggle between Capitalism and Communism, the interests of American Capitalism became intertwined with national security. Thus we began to see CIA intervention in Latin America, Europe and most specifically the Middle East, to protect American Oil interests. Thus we see the case of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, who was overthrown by the CIA and MI5 in 1953 and replaced with the Shah of Iran, who was friendly to Oil interests. We wonder at the dislike the Iranians have for the US, but few of us realize our history of bloody interference there has given them a long, harsh memory. so it goes in the Middle East even today as we have our foreign establishment escalating the drumbeat for regime change in Iran and Syria.
I have written before about the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and our country’s quest for Empire. You can follow this link below to refresh yourself with my thoughts on this quest.http://jonathanturley.org/2011/07/23/the-american-quest-for-empire/#more-37487
“There is a vital distinction between being powerful–even most powerful in the world–and being an empire. Economic expansion does not equal imperialism, and there is no such thing as “cultural imperialism“. If America is an empire, then why was it unable to mobilize its subjects to support the war against Saddam Hussein? America is not an empire, and its power stems from voluntary associations and alliances. American hegemony is relatively well accepted because people all over the world know that U.S. forces will eventually withdraw from the occupied territories. The effect of declaring that the United States is an empire would not only be factually wrong, but strategically catastrophic. Contrary to the exploitative purposes of the British, the American intentions of spreading democracy and individual rights are incompatible with the notion of an empire. The genius of American power is expressed in the movie The Godfather II, where, like Hyman Roth, the United States has always made money for its partners. America has not turned countries in which it intervened into deserts; it enriched them. Even the Russians knew they could surrender after the Cold War without being subjected to occupation.”[35
Despite protestations by Mr. Kagan to the contrary PNAC and its founding members are in favor of taking over every country in the Middle East that does not acknowledge American Hegemony. what is very interesting is the fact that Mitt Romney’s foreign policy position is called: “An American Century” http://www.mittromney.com/collection/foreign-policy As to his specific policy ideas the following will give you and idea and the link will detail it in full:
“First, a Romney foreign policy will proceed with clarity and resolve. Our friends and allies will not have doubts about where we stand and what we will do to safeguard our interests and theirs. Neither will our rivals, competitors, and adversaries. As the world’s greatest power, the United States will strive to set the international policy agenda, create a predictable economic and security environment that enables other countries to develop policies that are in conformity with our own, and minimize those occasions in which the United States is confronted by instability and surprise.
Second, a Romney administration will seek to maintain and advance an international system that is congenial to the institutions of open markets, representative government, and respect for human rights. History teaches that nations that share our values will be more reliable U.S. partners and will tend to stand together in pursuit of common security and shared prosperity.
Third, a Romney administration will apply the full spectrum of hard and soft power to influence events before they erupt into conflict. Resort to force is always the least desirable option, the costliest in resources and human life. A Romney administration will therefore employ all the tools of statecraft to shape the outcome of threatening situations before they demand military action. Though the use of armed force will never be off the table when the safety of America is at stake, a Romney administration will take a comprehensive approach to America’s security challenges.” http://www.mittromney.com/blogs/mitts-view/2011/10/fact-sheet-mitt-romneys-strategy-ensure-american-century
Now when you get to specifics it is true that the current administrations policies don’t seem to be much different than Romney’s. However, with John Bolton as Romney’s chief foreign policy advisor and with others on his team, the group stands as merely a successor to PNAC and its aims. I’ve long contended that this country is in the control of the Military/Industrial/Corporate Complex and their aims are the aims of American Empire.
To come full circle the propaganda drums are beating to attack Iran and we see them also beating to intervene in Syria. Russ Baker, an investigative Journalist I respect at WhoWhatWhy.com has written an article on Syria that has caused me to wonder if what we are getting regarding the revolution in that country, is but more smoke and mirrors leading a buildup towards regime change. You can see his premise here: http://whowhatwhy.com/2012/08/28/syria-we-can-learn-a-lot-from-the-small-stuff/ I don’t like the Assad regime in Syria, but are they committing the horrors ascribed to them, or is this merely the propaganda drumbeat that leads up to changing their regime by force? No one in the foreign policy establishment is calling for intervention in North Korea, which with its nuclear capability and strange leadership, is perhaps the most frightening country in the world. I think the key is that North Korea lacks any natural resources that the elite wants or needs.
My belief is that we have been manipulated in foreign policy far too long by those I the Foreign Policy Establishment and those in the mainstream media that do their bidding. Personally, although there is an election coming up, I don’t believe that any President has the ability to change this direction towards an American Empire that has been building since the day of Teddy Roosevelt. I think that the last President who felt he could influence our foreign policy direction was John F. Kennedy and we know how that worked out. Before change in any direction can occur, we must understand fully what we are up against. I this case, like in Rome of the past, the pressures towards empire are moving this country further towards a future we will not recognize.
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger