Queen Elizabeth II in Barbados on November 1, 1977. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images/Black Agenda Report)
Originally published in Black Agenda Report, 09.14.2022
It is vital to free ourselves from belief in the systems of white supremacy and imperialism that are inculcated in the educational system and are affirmed and amplified by the media and establishment opinion. The recent death of Queen Elizabeth II puts the need for political and psychological liberation in high relief. We are encouraged to admire an anachronistic monarchy, and are exhorted to join in mourning an individual and a system that have caused great harm to Black and other oppressed people around the world.
It is important to point out that British prime ministers are heads of government while the monarch is head of state. Elizabeth bore responsibility for every UK government action during her 70-year long reign. The concentration camps and torture in Kenya during the independence struggle were her responsibility. So was the U.S. backed decision to undermine the commonwealth nation of Australia, and dispatch Gough Whitlam, the elected prime minister, who strayed too far from the imperialist consensus. The Windrush scandal which deprived Caribbean immigrants of their rights happened under her reign, as did Britain’s invasion of Iraq and support for the destruction of Libya.
Yet anyone who questions the monarchy’s role as part of the western axis of domination is rarely given access to media, making it difficult to be free of propaganda that is used to elicit fealty to monarchs, presidents and the people and institutions who empower them. From childhood we are taught that invaders of other nations, enslavers, and colonizers are worthy of respect and admiration. Centuries of criminality are passed off as benign and we are admonished to remember that the criminals in question were “products of their time” and are to be thought of with fond reverence.
The corporate media didn’t begin lionizing the queen of England just this week. Her private life and that of her ancestors are the stuff of endless histories that permeate popular culture. Eras in British history are directly identified with past monarchs and called Elizabethan or Victorian or Edwardian. The idea that Americans should also be interested in the royals is the result of heavy-handed indoctrination.
This columnist was the recipient of a Eurocentric education, beginning with an emphasis on European history in high school. College continued this unstated belief in the superiority of the people being studied, that is to say white people who either were from the ruling classes or worked to further their interests. History lessons were full of emphasis on the blood lines of monarchs, and stories of which king or queen did what to whom were staples of the curriculum. It is a somewhat interesting factoid that the monarchs of Great Britain, Russia and Germany in the early 20th century were all related but that information doesn’t reveal anything about the causes of World War I. The lede was buried under historical fluff but teachers and professors don’t announce that they are brainwashing students.
Of course that is why the very deliberate confusion continues. The narrative that the U.S. and Britain have a “special relationship” is based on manufactured sentimentality rather than the fact that the founding state acts in concert with its settler colony. The indoctrination process can be like a sledgehammer, as it will be for the next few days, but can also be more subtle. None of my teachers said that the deaths of white people were worse than the deaths of people of color, but the only time I heard the word genocide in a classroom was if the Nazi killings of Jewish people were discussed. I was taught nothing of Belgian King Leopold’s personal theft of the Congo’s resources or of the killing of some 15 million people there. Nor was the word genocide used to describe the trans-Atlantic slave trade or chattel slavery as practiced throughout the Americas or the deaths by invasion, slaughter, and disease of indigenous people which also took place in this hemisphere. The elevation of one group as the sole victims of genocide and the erasure of others as not being worthy of the designation sends a subtle message that seeps into the mind and is imprinted in memory.
Decolonization is hard work and serious business. It requires a rejection of what passes for news and conventional wisdom. Of course, its meaning can be changed at an opportune moment, as recently happened when the neo-conservative fantasy of breaking up Russia was reimagined as decolonization. That sort of trickery is proof that political education is key.
Our political education must take place within revolutionary educational structures. If it doesn’t, we will believe that World War II started in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. It actually began in 1937 when Japan attacked China. What ought to be a simple and commonly known fact is lost because white supremacy centers the European experience. When we learn new information and unlearn falsehoods, the process of decolonizing begins. At that point no one has to direct us to ignore royal weddings or funerals or unveilings of Barack and Michelle Obama’s new portraits. We know the truth and free ourselves from believing in state propaganda.
Decolonized people know that the prestigious universities they are told to admire receive funds from the Defense Department and the military industrial complex. They know that think tanks that are treated as oracles not to be questioned are also an extension of the state. Corporate media are also compromised. The publisher of the Washington Post played a key role in Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s plan to control the media. Of course the current owner, Jeff Bezos, has CIA contracts through Amazon so little has changed. The decolonized know that the media act as scribes for police departments as much as they do for the state department.
Most importantly, radical and independent media, like Black Agenda Report, are a must for anyone who wants to free their thinking. BAR is one of the few publications, even left publications, which seriously analyzed the NATO attack on Libya, or the coups against the people of Haiti, or the U.S. role that began the current crisis in Ukraine. Reading BAR on a regular basis is an antidote to mental colonization.
So beware when a narrative is spun 24 hours per day, seven days per week. In all likelihood it is one that must be opposed, and in the best decolonized fashion possible.
The greatest threat looming over our planet, the hegemonistic pretentions of the American Empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species. We continue to warn you about this danger, and we appeal to the people of the United States and the world to halt this threat, which is like a sword hanging over our heads.
The United States Military is arguably the largest force of ecological devastation the world has ever known.
Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, and fulfill it or betray it.
U.S. imperialism is the greatest threat to life on the planet, a force of ecological devastation and disaster impacting not only human beings, but also our non-human relatives. How can we organize to dismantle the vast and complicated network of U.S. imperialism which includes U.S. war and militarism, CIA intervention, U.S. weapons/technology/surveillance corporations, political and economic support for dictatorships, military juntas, death squads and U.S. trained global police forces favorable to U.S. geopolitical interests, U.S. imposed sanctions, so-called “humanitarian interventions,” genetically modified grassroots organizations, corporate media’s manipulation of spontaneous protest, and U.S. corporate sponsorship of political repression and regime change favorable to U.S. corporate interests?
This article deals with U.S. imperialism since World War 2. It is critical to acknowledge that U.S. imperialism emanates both ideologically and materially from the crime of colonialism on this continent which has killed over 100 million indigenous people and approximately 150 million African people over the past 500 years.
The exact death toll of U.S. imperialism is both staggering and impossible to know. What we do know is that since World War 2, U.S. imperialism has killed at least 36 million people globally in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, the Congo, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Chad, Libya, East Timor, Grenada, Honduras, Iran, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Sudan, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Somalia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Palestine (see Appendix).
This list does not include other aspects of U.S. imperialist aggression which have had a devastating and lasting impact on communities worldwide, including torture, imprisonment, rape, and the ecological devastation wrought by the U.S. military through atomic bombs, toxic waste and untreated sewage dumping by over 750 military bases in over 80 countries. The U.S. Department of Defense consumes more petroleum than any institution in the world. In the year of 2017 alone, the U.S. military emitted 59 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, a carbon footprint greater than that of most nations worldwide. This list also does not include the impact of U.S. fossil fuel consumption and U.S. corporate fossil fuel extraction, fracking, agribusiness, mining, and mono-cropping, all of which are part and parcel of the extractive economy of U.S. imperialism.
U.S. military bases around the world. (Photo: Al Jazeera)
One central mechanism of U.S. imperialism is “dollar hegemony” which forces countries around the world to conduct international trade in U.S. dollars. U.S. dollars are backed by U.S. bonds (instead of gold or industrial stocks) which means a country can only cash in one American IOU for another. When the U.S. offers military aid to friendly nations, this aid is circulated back to U.S. weapons corporations and returns to U.S. banks. In addition, U.S. dollars are also backed by U.S. bombs: any nation that threatens to nationalize resources or go off the dollar (i.e. Iraq or Libya) is threatened with a military invasion and/or a U.S. backed coup.
U.S. imperialism has also been built through “soft power” organizations like USAID, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organization of American States (OAS). These nominally international bodies are practically unilateral in their subservience to the interests of the U.S. state and U.S. corporations. In the 1950s and ‘60s, USAID (and its precursor organizations) made “development aid” to Asian, African, and South American countries conditional on those countries’ legal formalization of capitalist property relations, and reorganization of their economies around homeownership debt. The goal was to enclose Indigenous land, and land shared through alternate economic systems, as a method of “combatting Communism with homeownership” and creating dependency and buy-in to U.S. capitalist hegemony (Nancy Kwak, A World of Homeowners). In order to retain access to desperately needed streams of resources (e.g. IMF “loans”), Global South governments are forced to accept resource-extraction by the U.S., while at the same time denying their own people popularly supported policies such as land reform, economic diversification, and food sovereignty. It is also important to note that Global South nations have never received reparations or compensation for the resources that have been stolen from them–this makes the idea of “loans” by global monetary institutions even more outrageous.
The U.S. also uses USAID and other similarly functioning international bodies to suppress and to undermine anti-imperialist struggle inside “friendly” countries. Starting in the 1960s, USAID funded police training programs across the globe under a counterinsurgency model, training foreign police as a “first line of defense against subversion and insurgency.” These USAID-funded police training programs involved surveillance and the creation of biometric databases to map entire populations, as well as programs of mass imprisonment, torture, and assassination. After experimenting with these methods in other countries, U.S. police departments integrated many of them into U.S. policing, especially the policing of BIPOC communities here (see our entry on the Boston Police Department). At the same time, the U.S. uses USAID and other soft power funding bodies to undermine revolutionary, anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist movements, by funding “safe” reformist alternatives, including a global network of AFL-CIO managed “training centers” aimed at fostering a bureaucratic union culture similar to the one in the U.S., which keeps labor organizing loyal to capitalism and to U.S. global dominance. (See our entries on the AFL-CIO and the Harvard Trade Union Program.)
U.S. imperialism intentionally fosters divisions between different peoples and nations, offering (relative) rewards to those who choose to cooperate with U.S. dictates (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Colombia), while brutally punishing those who do not (e.g. Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela). In this way, U.S. imperialism creates material conditions in which peoples and governments face a choice: 1. accommodate the interests of U.S. Empire and allow the U.S. to develop your nation’s land and sovereign resources in ways which enrich the West; or, 2. attempt to use your land and your sovereign resources to meet the needs of your own people and suffer the brutality of U.S. economic and military violence.
The Harvard Kennedy School: Training Ground for U.S. Empire and the Security State
The Mapping Project set out to map local U.S. imperialist actors (involved in both material and ideological support for U.S. imperialism) on the land of Massachusett, Pawtucket, Naumkeag, and other tribal nations (Boston, Cambridge, and surrounding areas) and to analyze how these institutions interacted with other oppressive local and global institutions that are driving colonization of indigenous lands here and worldwide, local displacement/ethnic cleansing (“gentrification”), policing, and zionist imperialism.
A look at just one local institution on our map, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, demonstrates the level of ideological and material cooperation required for the machinery of U.S. imperialism to function. (All information outlined below is taken from The Mapping Project entries and links regarding the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Please see this link for hyperlinked source material.)
In How Harvard Rules, John Trumpbour documents the central role Harvard played in the establishment of the Cold War academic-military-industrial complex and U.S. imperialism post-WWII (How Harvard Rules, 51). Trumpbour highlights the role of the Harvard Kennedy School under Dean Graham Allison (1977-1989), in particular, recounting that Dean Allison ran an executive education program for Pentagon officials at Harvard Kennedy (HHR 68). Harvard Kennedy School’s support for the U.S. military and U.S. empire continues to this day. HKS states on its website:
Harvard Kennedy School, because of its mission to train public leaders and its depth of expertise in the study of defense and international security, has always had a particularly strong relationship with the U.S. Armed Forces. This relationship is mutually beneficial. The School has provided its expertise to branches of the U.S. military, and it has given military personnel (active and veteran) access to Harvard’s education and training.
The same webpage further notes that after the removal of ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) from Harvard Kennedy School in 1969, “under the leadership of Harvard President Drew Faust, the ROTC program was reinstated in 2011, and the Kennedy School’s relationship with the military continues to grow more robust each year.”
In particular, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs provides broad support to the U.S. military and the objectives of U.S. empire. The Belfer Center is co-directed by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (a war hawk who has advocated for a U.S. invasion of North Korea and U.S. military build ups against Russia and Iran) and former Pentagon Chief of Staff Eric Rosenbach. Programs within HKS Belfer Center include the Center’s “Intelligence Program,” which boasts that it “acquaints students and Fellows with the intelligence community and its strengths and weaknesses for policy making,” further noting, “Discussions with active and retired intelligence practitioners, scholars of intelligence history, law, and other disciplines, help students and Fellows prepare to best use the information available through intelligence agencies.” Alongside HKS Belfer’s Intelligence Program, is the Belfer Center’s “Recanati-Kaplan Foundation Fellowship.” The Belfer Center claims that, under the direction of Belfer Center co-directors Ashton Carter and Eric Rosenbach, the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation Fellowship “educates the next generation of thought leaders in national and international intelligence.”
As noted above, the Harvard Kennedy School serves as an institutional training ground for future servants of U.S. empire and the U.S. national security state. HKS also maintains a close relationship with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). As reported by Inside Higher Ed in their 2017 review of Spy Schools by Daniel Golden:
[Harvard Kennedy School] currently allows the agency [the CIA] to send officers to the midcareer program at the Kennedy School of Government while continuing to act undercover, with the school’s knowledge. When the officers apply–often with fudged credentials that are part of their CIA cover–the university doesn’t know they’re CIA agents, but once they’re in, Golden writes, Harvard allows them to tell the university that they’re undercover. Their fellow students, however–often high-profile or soon-to-be-high-profile actors in the world of international diplomacy–are kept in the dark.
Kenneth Moskow is one of a long line of CIA officers who have enrolled undercover at the Kennedy School, generally with Harvard’s knowledge and approval, gaining access to up-and-comers worldwide,” Golden writes. “For four decades the CIA and Harvard have concealed this practice, which raises larger questions about academic boundaries, the integrity of class discussions and student interactions, and whether an American university has a responsibility to accommodate U.S. intelligence.”
In addition to the CIA, HKS has direct relationships with the FBI, the U.S. Pentagon, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NERAC, and numerous branches of the U.S. Armed Forces:
Chris Combs, a Senior Fellow with HKS’s Program on Crisis Leadership has held numerous positions within the FBI;
Jeffrey A. Tricoli, who serves as Section Chief of the FBI’s Cyber Division since December 2016 (prior to which he held several other positions within the FBI) was a keynote speaker at “multiple sessions” of the HKS’s Cybersecurity Executive Education program;
Jeff Fields, who is Fellow at both the Cyber Project and the Intelligence Project of HKS’s Belfer Center currently serves as a Supervisory Special Agent within the National Security Division of the FBI;
HKS hosted former FBI director James Comey for a conversation with HKS Belfer Center’s Co-Director (and former Pentagon Chief of Staff) Eric Rosenbach in 2020;
Government spending records show yearly tuition payments from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for Homeland Security personnel attending special HKS seminars on Homeland Security under HKS’s Program on Crisis Leadership;
Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council meeting minutes from February 2022 list “Edward Chao: Analyst, Harvard Kennedy School,” as a NERAC “Council Member”; and
Harvard Kennedy School and the U.S. Air force have created multiple fellowships aimed at recruiting U.S. Air Force service members to pursue degrees at HKS. The Air Force’s CSAF Scholars Master Fellowship, for example, aims to “prepare mid-career, experienced professionals to return to the Air Force ready to assume significant leadership positions in an increasingly complex environment.” In 2016, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Doug Elmendorf welcomed Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to Harvard Kennedy School, in a speech in which Elmendorf highlighted his satisfaction that the ROTC program, including Air Force ROTC, had been reinstated at Harvard (ROTC had been removed from campus following mass faculty protests in 1969).
HKS’s direct support of U.S. imperialism does not limit itself to ideological and educational support. It is deeply enmeshed in the war economy driven by the interests of the U.S. weapons industry.
Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, L3 Harris, General Dynamics, and Northrup Grumman are global corporations who supply the United States government with broad scale military weaponry and war and surveillance technologies. All these companies have corporate leadership who are either alumni of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (HKS), who are currently contributing to HKS as lecturers/professors, and/or who have held leadership positions in U.S. federal government.
Lockheed Martin Vice President for Corporate Business Development Leo Mackay is a Harvard Kennedy School alumnus (MPP ’91), was a Fellow in the HKS Belfer Center International Security Program (1991-92) and served as the “military assistant” to then U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy Ashton Carter, who would soon go on to become co-director of the Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center. Following this stint at the U.S. Pentagon, Mackay landed in the U.S. weapons industry at Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin Vice President Marcel Lettre is an HKS alumni and prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Lettre spent eight years in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The U.S. DoD has dished out a whopping $540.82 billion to date in contracts with Lockheed Martin for the provision of products and services to the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and other branches of the U.S. military. Lockheed Martin Board of Directors member Jeh Johnson has lectured at Harvard Kennedy School and is the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the agency responsible for carrying out the U.S. federal government’s regime of tracking, detentions, and deportations of Black and Brown migrants. (Retired) General Joseph F. Dunford is currently a member of two Lockheed Martin Board of Director Committees and a Senior Fellow with HKS’s Belfer Center. Dunford was a U.S. military leader, serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Commander of all U.S. and NATO Forces in Afghanistan. Dunford also serves on the board of the Atlantic Council, itself a cutout organization of NATO and the U.S. security state which crassly promotes the interests of U.S. empire. Mackay, Lettre, Johnson, and Dunford’s respective career trajectories provide an emblematic illustration of the grotesque revolving door which exists between elite institutions of knowledge production like the Harvard Kennedy School, the U.S. security state (which feeds its people into those elite institutions and vice versa), and the U.S. weapons industry (which seeks business from the U.S. security state).
Similar revolving door phenomena are notable among the Harvard Kennedy School and Raytheon, Boeing, and Northrup Grumman. HKS Professor Meghan O’Sullivan currently serves on the board of Massachusetts-based weapons manufacturer Raytheon. O’Sullivan is also deeply enmeshed within America’s security state, currently sitting on the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served as “special assistant” to President George W. Bush (2004-07) where she was “Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan,” helping oversee the U.S. invasions and occupations of these nations during the so-called “War on Terror.” O’Sullivan has openly attempted to leverage her position as Harvard Kennedy School to funnel U.S. state dollars into Raytheon: In April 2021, O’Sullivan penned an article in the Washington Post entitled “It’s Wrong to Pull Troops Out of Afghanistan. But We Can Minimize the Damage.” As reported in the Harvard Crimson, O’Sullivan’s author bio in this article highlighted her position as a faculty member of Harvard Kennedy (with the perceived “expertise” affiliation with HKS grants) but failed to acknowledge her position on the Board of Raytheon, a company which had “a $145 million contract to train Afghan Air Force pilots and is a major supplier of weapons to the U.S. military.” Donn Yates who works in Domestic and International Business Development at Boeing’s T-7A Redhawk Program was a National Security Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School in 2015-16. Don Yates also spent 23 years in the U.S. Air Force. Former Northrop Grumman Director for Strategy and Global Relations John Johns is a graduate of Harvard Kennedy’s National and International Security Program. Johns also spent “seven years as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Maintenance establishing policy for, and leading oversight of the Department’s annual $80B weapon system maintenance program and deployed twice in support of security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The largest U.S. oil firms are also closely interlocked with these top weapons companies, which have also diversified their technological production for the security industry–providing services for pipeline and energy facility security, as well as border security. This means that the same companies are profiting at every stage in the cycle of climate devastation: they profit from wars for extraction; from extraction; and from the militarized policing of people forced to migrate by climate disaster. Exxon Mobil (the 4th largest fossil fuel firm) contracts with General Dynamics, L3 Harris, and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin, the top weapons company in the world, shares board members with Chevron, and other global fossil fuel companies. (See Global Climate Wall: How the world’s wealthiest nations prioritise borders over climate action.)
The Harvard Kennedy School and U.S. Support for Israel
Harvard Kennedy School is home to the Wexner Foundation. Through its “Israel Fellowship,” The Wexner Foundation awards ten scholarships annually to “outstanding public sector directors and leaders from Israel,” helping these individuals to pursue a Master’s in Public Administration at the Kennedy School. Past Wexner fellows include more than 25 Israeli generals and other high-ranking military and police officials. Among them is the Israeli Defense Force’s current chief of general staff, Aviv Kochavi, who is directly responsible for the bombardment of Gaza in May 2021. Kochavi also is believed to be one of the 200 to 300 Israeli officials identified by Tel Aviv as likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court’s probe into alleged Israeli war crimes committed in Gaza in 2014. The Wexner Foundation also paid former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak–himself accused of war crimes in connection with Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead that killed over 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza–$2.3 million for two studies, one of which he did not complete.
HKS’s Belfer Center has hosted Israeli generals, politicians, and other officials to give talks at Harvard Kennedy School. Ehud Barak, mentioned above, was himself a “Belfer fellow” at HKS in 2016. The Belfer Center also hosts crassly pro-Israel events for HKS students, such as: The Abraham Accords – A conversation on the historic normalization of relations between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel,” “A Discussion with Former Mossad Director Tamir Pardo,” “The Future of Modern Warfare” (which Belfer describes as “a lunch seminar with Yair Golan, former Deputy Chief of the General Staff for the Israel Defense Forces”), and “The Future of Israel’s National Security.”
As of 2022, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center is hosting former Israel military general and war criminal Amos Yadlin as a Senior Fellow at the Belfer’s Middle East Initiative. Furthermore, HKS is allowing Yadlin to lead a weekly study group of HKS students entitled “Israeli National Security in a Shifting Middle East: Historical and Strategic Perspectives for an Uncertain Future.” Harvard University students wrote an open letter demanding HKS “sever all association with Amos Yadlin and immediately suspend his study group.” Yadlin had defended Israel’s assassination policy through which the Israeli state has extrajudicially killed hundreds of Palestinians since 2000, writing that the “the laws and ethics of conventional war did not apply” vis-á-vis Palestinians under zionist occupation.
Harvard Kennedy School also plays host to the Harvard Kennedy School Israel Caucus. The HKS Israel Caucus coordinates “heavily subsidized” trips to Israel for 50 HKS students annually. According to HKS Israel Caucus’s website, students who attend these trips “meet the leading decision makers and influencers in Israeli politics, regional security and intelligence, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, [and] the next big Tech companies.” The HKS Israel Caucus also regularly hosts events which celebrate “Israel’s culture and history.” Like the trips to Israel they coordinate, HKS Israel Caucus events consistently whitewash over the reality of Israel’s colonial war against the Palestinian people through normalizing land theft, forced displacement, and resource theft.
Harvard Kennedy School also has numerous ties to local pro-Israel organizations: the ADL, the JCRC, and CJP.
The Harvard Kennedy School’s Support for Saudi Arabia
In 2017, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center announced the launch of “The Project on Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council Security,” which Belfer stated was “made possible through a gift from HRH Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.” Through this project, Harvard Kennedy School and the HKS Belfer Center have hosted numerous events at HKS which have promoted Saudi Arabia as a liberalizing and positive force for security and stability in the region, whitewashing over the realities of the Saudi-led and U.S.-backed campaign of airstrikes and blockade against Yemen which has precipitated conditions of mass starvation and an epidemic of cholera amongst the Yemeni people.
The Belfer Center’s Project on Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council Security further normalizes and whitewashes Saudi Arabia’s crimes through its “HKS Student Delegation to Saudi Arabia.” This delegation brings 11 Harvard Kennedy School students annually on two-week trips to Saudi Arabia, where students “exchange research, engage in cultural dialogue, and witness the changes going on in the Kingdom firsthand.” Not unlike the student trips to Israel Harvard Kennedy School’s Israel Caucus coordinates, these trips to Saudi Arabia present HKS students with a crassly propagandized impression of Saudi Arabia, shoring up support for the “Kingdom” amongst the future leaders of the U.S. security state which HKS seeks to nurture.
Finding Our Mission
The vast network outlined above between the Harvard Kennedy School, the U.S. federal government, the U.S. Armed Forces, and the U.S. weapons industry constitutes only a small portion of what is known about HKS and its role in U.S. imperialism, but it is enough.
The Mapping Project demonstrates that the Harvard Kennedy School of Government is a nexus of U.S. imperialist planning and cooperation, with an address. The Mapping Project also links HKS to harms locally, including, but not limited to colonialism, violence against migrants, ethnic cleansing/displacement of Black and Brown Boston area residents from their communities (“gentrification”), health harm, policing, the prison-industrial complex, zionism, and surveillance. The Harvard Kennedy School’s super-oppressor status – the sheer number of separate communities feeling its global impact in their daily lives through these multiple and various mechanisms of oppression and harm – as it turns out, is its greatest weakness.
A movement that can identify super-oppressors like the Harvard Kennedy School of Government can use this information to identify strategic vulnerabilities of key hubs of power and effectively organize different communities towards common purpose. This is what the Mapping Project aims to do–to move away from traditionally siloed work towards coordination across communities and struggles in order to build strategic oppositional community power.
Appendix: The Death Toll of U.S. Imperialism Since World War 2
A critical disclaimer: Figures relating to the death toll of U.S. Imperialism are often grossly underestimated due to the U.S. government’s lack of transparency and often purposeful coverup and miscounts of death tolls. In some cases, this can lead to ranges of figures that include millions of human lives–as in the figure for Indonesia below with estimates of 500,000 to 3 million people. We have tried to provide the upward ranges in these cases since we suspect the upward ranges to be more accurate if not still significantly underestimated. These figures were obtained from multiple sources including but not limited to indigenous scholar Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology as well as Countercurrents’ article Deaths in Other Nations Since WWII Due to U.S. Interventions (please note that use of Countercurrents’ statistics isn’t an endorsement of the site’s politics).
Afghanistan: at least 176,000 people
Bosnia: 20,000 to 30,000 people
Bosnia and Krajina: 250,000 people
Cambodia: 2-3 million people
Chad: 40,000 people and as many as 200,000 tortured
Chile: 10,000 people (the U.S. sponsored Pinochet coup in Chile)
Colombia: 60,000 people
Congo: 10 million people (Belgian imperialism supported by U.S. corporations and the U.S. sponsored assassination of Patrice Lumumba)
Croatia: 15,000 people
Cuba: 1,800 people
Dominican Republic: at least 3,000 people
East Timor: 200,000 people
El Salvador: More than 75,000 people (U.S. support of the Salvadoran oligarchy and death squads)
Greece: More than 50,000 people
Grenada: 277 people
Guatemala: 140,000 to 200,000 people killed or forcefully disappeared (U.S. support of the Guatemalan junta)
Haiti: 100,000 people
Honduras: hundreds of people (CIA supported Battalion kidnapped, tortured and killed at least 316 people)
Indonesia: Estimates of 500,000 to 3 million people
Iran: 262,000 people
Iraq: 2.4 million people in Iraq war, 576, 000 Iraqi children by U.S. sanctions, and over 100,000 people in Gulf War
Japan: 2.6-3.1 million people
Korea: 5 million people
Kosovo: 500 to 5,000
Laos: 50,000 people
Libya: at least 2500 people
Nicaragua: at least 30,000 people (U.S. backed Contras’ destabilization of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua)
Operation Condor: at least 10,000 people (By governments of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. U.S. govt/CIA coordinated training on torture, technical support, and supplied military aid to the Juntas)
Pakistan: at least 1.5 million people
Palestine: estimated more than 200,000 people killed by military but this does not include death from blockade/siege/settler violence
Panama: between 500 and 4000 people
Philippines: over 100,000 people executed or disappeared
Puerto Rico: 4,645-8,000 people
Somalia: at least 2,000 people
Sudan: 2 million people
Syria: at least 350,000 people
Vietnam: 3 million people
Yemen: over 377,000 people
Yugoslavia: 107,000 people
The Mapping Project is a multi-generational collective of activists and organizers in the Boston area who are deeply engaged in Palestine solidarity / BDS work. For over a year, we’ve been tracing Greater Boston’s networks of support for the colonization of Palestine–and how these networks participate in other forms of oppression, from policing to U.S. imperialism to medical apartheid and privatization.
This was originally written for a Chinese audience and adapted and published in Guancha. —Eds.
The world is sensing the United States’s growing rapacious intent for war. Amid the development of the Ukraine crisis, the United States and NATO have been attempting to escalate their proxy war with Russia while continuing to intensify their siege and provocations against China. If there was any doubt regarding Washington’s intent to go to war with Beijing, the May 15th segment on simulated “War Games” by the weekly NBC Show Meet the Press should dispel any such notions. It should be noted that the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), who organized these “games”, is funded by an array of U.S. military and technology companies, including Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and George Soros’ Open Society. This simulation is clearly in line with the other signals toward war from both Congress and the Pentagon. On 14 April, a bipartisan delegation of US lawmakers visited Taiwan. On 4 May, Charles Richard, commander of US Strategic Command, made a strong case in Congress for the “nuclear threats” posed by Russia and China to the United States, claiming that China is likely to use nuclear coercion for its own benefit. On 5 May, South Korea announced that it had joined a cyber defense organization under NATO while at the same time South Korea and Japan were invited to attend the NATO summit in Madrid, which suggests the possibility of a NATO Asian branch.
In the face of the Biden administration’s aggressiveness and belligerence in foreign affairs, one can’t help but wonder: among the U.S. ruling elite, who is advocating war? Is there still a mechanism to curb such belligerence in the country?
This article comes to three conclusions: first, in the Biden administration, two foreign policy elite groups that used to compete against each other, liberal hawks and neoconservatives, have merged strategically, forming the most important foreign policy consensus within the elite echelon since 1948 and bringing the country’s war policy to a new level; second, in consideration of long-term interests, the big bourgeoisie in the United States has reached a consensus that China is a strategic rival, and has established solid support for its foreign policy; and third, due to the design of the U.S. Constitution, the expansion of the far-right forces, and the sheer monetization of elections, the so-called democratic institutions of checks and balances are completely incapable of restraining the belligerent policy from spreading.
The Merging of Belligerent Foreign Policy Elites
Early representatives of U.S. liberal hawks included Democratic presidents such as Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson, whose ideological roots – liberal interventionism – can be traced back to Woodrow Wilson’s idea that America should stand on the world stage fighting for democracy. The invasion of Vietnam was guided by this ideology.
After the defeat in Vietnam, the Democratic Party temporarily reduced calls for intervention as part of its foreign policy. Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (also known at the time as the “Senator from Boeing”), a liberal hawk, joined with other anti-communists who supported international intervention, helping to inspire a group of neoconservatives. The neoconservatives supported Republican Ronald Reagan in the late 1970s because of his commitment to confront Soviet “expansionism”.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the rise of U.S. unilateralism, the neoconservatives entered the mainstream in U.S. foreign policy with their thought leader, Paul Wolfowitz, who was once an aide to Henry Jackson. In 1992, just a few months after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, then Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Wolfowitz introduced his Defense Policy Guidance, which explicitly advocated a permanent unipolar position for the United States to be created through the expansion of U.S. military power into the sphere of influence of the former Soviet Union and along all its perimeters, with the object of preventing the reemergence of Russia as a great power. The unipolar U.S.-led “grand strategy”, through the projection of military force, served to guide the foreign policies of George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush, along with Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. The first Gulf War was made possible, in large part, due to the Soviet weakness. This was followed by the U.S./NATO military dismemberment of Yugoslavia. After 911, the Bush Jr. administration’s foreign policy was completely dominated by the neoconservatives, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
While they both advocated foreign military interventions, there are two historic differences between liberal hawks and neoconservatives. First, liberal hawks believed that the United States should influence the UN and other international institutions to carry out military intervention, while neoconservatives intended to ignore multilateral institutions. Second, liberal hawks sought military intervention alongside U.S.-led Western allies, while neoconservatives were not afraid to conduct unilateral military operations and violate anything resembling international laws. As Harvard historian Niall Ferguson put it, the neoconservatives were happy to accept the title of the “American Empire” and unilaterally decide to inflict military intervention on any country as the ruler of the world’s only empire.
It is a common misconception that the two U.S. parties are distinctly different in foreign policy strategy. On the surface it is true that from 2000 to 2016, the Heritage Foundation was a major neoconservative stronghold that leaned toward Republican policy, while think tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the later established CNAS were home to more pro-Democratic liberal hawks. There were members of both parties in each think tank whose differences centered on specific policy propositions, not on partisan affiliations. In reality, behind the White House and Congress, a policy planning network of nonprofit foundations, universities, think tanks, policy research groups, and other institutions shaped the “agendas” of corporations and capitalists into policy proposals and reports.
Another common misconception is that the “progressive” side of liberalism will balance social development, provide international assistance, and limit military spending. Neoliberalism, however, which began in the mid-1970s, is based on the state’s subordination to market forces and austerity in social spending, such as healthcare, food assistance, and education. Both the Republicans and Democrats follow this principle. Neoliberalism encourages unlimited military spending. Biden’s latest budget includes a year-on-year 4% increase in military spending. During the covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. government has provided $5 trillion in stimulus, $1.7 trillion of which went directly into the pockets of large corporations. It is particularly nefarious that neoliberalism has severely damaged the life quality of the peoples in the Global South. It has dragged developing countries into debt traps and coerced them into endless debt payments to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
In the field of foreign policy, the most influential think tank since World War II is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). This think tank receives donations from a variety of sources, and its current board includes Richard Haass, Bush Sr.’s principal adviser on the Middle East, and Ashton Carter, Obama’s Secretary of Defense. The German magazine Der Spiegel has described the CFR as “the most influential private institution in the United States and the Western world” and “the central politburo for capitalism”. Richard Harwood, senior editor and investigator at the Washington Post, called the council and its members “the closest thing to an American ruling body”.
Regardless of which party’s candidates they support in the elections, this long-standing collaborative network has maintained the stability of foreign policy. This U.S. supremacy worldview that denies other countries’ involvement in international affairs dates to the 1823 Monroe Doctrine, which proclaimed U.S domination to the entire Western hemisphere; only today’s U.S. foreign policy elite has applied this doctrine to the whole world rather than just the American continents. Cross-party synergy and party switching are common for this group of foreign policy makers, and they are closely tied to the ruling capitalist class, as well as to the Deep State (the intelligence services together with the military) that control U.S. foreign policy.
Prior to 2008, the main strategic goal of the neoconservatives, who gathered in the Republican Party, was the disintegration and denuclearization of Russia. Around 2008, however, U.S. political elite forces began to realize that China’s economic rise was unstoppable and that its future leaders would not be the next Gorbachevs or Yeltsins. It was from this period onward that the neoconservatives saw China completely from the perspective of confrontation and containment. At the same time, some pro-Democratic liberal hawks founded CNAS, and Hillary Clinton, a typical liberal hawk and then Secretary of State, led the development and implementation of the “Pivot to Asia” strategy, which was actually applauded by the neoconservatives who were then still in the Republican camp. Max Boot hailed it as “a strong voice”. Nevertheless, the strategy of extending NATO to Ukraine and confronting Russia remains a priority to the neoconservatives and liberal hawks. In terms of strategic priorities, they disagree with the “realists” who propose a détente with Russia in order to strengthen the confrontation with China.
Trump’s victory in 2016 created brief turbulence in the CFR consensus. As John Bellamy Foster wrote in Trump in the White House: Tragedy and Farce, Trump rose to power partly through the mobilization of a neofascist movement based in the white lower-middle class. Only a small number of people in the big capital elite supported him initially, including Dick Uihlein, owner of the shipping giant Uline, Bernie Marcus, founder of building materials retailer Home Depot, Robert Mercer, investor in far-right media outlet Breitbart News Network, and banker Timothy Mellon among others. Trump’s tendencies to shrink engagement in global affairs – particularly the withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and the diplomatic contact with North Korea – met the short-term interests of the lower and middle bourgeoisie and won the support of foreign policy realists including Henry Kissinger but upset the neoconservatives. A group of elite neoconservatives played a major role in the campaign against Trump, with some 300 officials who had supported the Bush administration switching back to the Democratic camp in the 2020 election. Max Boot, the neoconservative big shot, has thus become the thought leader on foreign policy in the Biden administration. In 2003, Boot wrote, “Given the historical baggage that ‘imperialism’ carries, there’s no need for the U.S. government to embrace the term. But it should definitely embrace the practice”.
With the end of the Trump interruption, the CFR returned to normalcy, and the neoconservatives and liberal hawks in the Biden administration are completely aligned on strategic orientation. Beginning with 911 and especially after the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the awareness of China’s unstoppable rise brought the two elite groups together; but in recent years, they have been united in some key foreign policy issues, a unity unseen in decades. The international affairs theory they agree on can be summarized as follows: the United States should actively intervene in the politics of other countries, remove unwanted regimes, make every effort to promote “freedom and democracy”, secure its global hegemony by all means, and crack down on those states that challenge Western values and military hegemony – with Russia and China as its primary targets. Last May, Secretary of State Blinken called for defending an ambiguous “rules-based international order” (this term refers to the U.S.-dominated international and security organizations rather than the broader UN-based institutions), which suggests that liberal hawks have now officially forsaken the pretense of following the UN or other international multilateral organizations – unless they follow U.S. rules.
In 2019, the well-published neoconservative Robert Kagan co-authored an article with the liberal hawk Anthony Blinken (Deputy Secretary of State under Obama), urging the United States to abandon Trump’s America First policy. They called for the containment (siege and weakening) of Russia and China and proposed a policy of “preventive diplomacy and deterrence” against “America’s adversaries” – that is, to “send the boys and tanks anywhere”. Incidentally, Robert Kagan’s wife, Victoria Nuland, served as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Obama administration. It is well known that she played a key role in organizing and supporting the 2014 color revolution/coup in Ukraine. She is currently serving as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Biden administration, the third highest position in the State Department, next to Secretary Blinken and Deputy Secretary Sherman. She is also a trusted follower of and a spiritual heir to Madeleine Albright, the recently deceased liberal hawk leader. CNAS staff are intertwined with those of NATO’s think tank the Snowcroft Center for Strategy and Security (Atlantic Council). Matthew Kroenig, its deputy director, recently argued for the consideration of U.S. preemptive use of “tactical” nuclear weapons. From this small coterie of death merchants, one can easily detect the deep integration of two elite foreign affairs groups as well as the real drivers of the Ukraine crisis.
The specific evolution of the Ukraine crisis reveals the tactics adopted by this warlike elite clique: to strengthen U.S. leadership over NATO, using NATO (rather than the UN) as the primary mechanism for foreign intervention, to refuse to recognize the “adversary’s” claims of sovereignty and security over sensitive regions, thereby provoking it to war, to even plan the use of tactical nuclear weapons and conduct a “limited nuclear war” in or around the territory of the adversary, and to impose unilateral coercive measures and combine economic sanctions, financial, informational, propagandistic, and cultural measures, color revolution, cyberwarfare, lawfare, and other hybrid warfare tactics throughout the process in order to weaken and subvert the adversary’s regime. If the desired results are achieved in Ukraine, the same strategy will undoubtedly be replicated in the Western Pacific.
Strategic alignment does not mean that policy elites are not divided on other, lesser issues, such as climate change. Even on this matter, however, as we have seen recently, the United States is demanding that Europe stop importing natural gas from Russia, and John Kerry, the president’s climate envoy, is noncommittal about the potential negative environmental impacts of such a move – in part because the United States wants to replace Russian gas sales in Europe with its own. Conflicts and contradictions within the United States remain unresolved and are moving in a dangerous direction.
In recent years, several international progressives have launched campaigns to voice their concerns about the aggressive U.S. foreign strategy. Their use of the term ‘new cold war’, however, underestimates the depravity of some aspects of current U.S. foreign policy. Historically, the Cold War with the Soviet Union followed certain rules and bottom lines: the United States used a variety of political and economic means to exert pressure and seek to subvert the Soviet state but would not try to change the national boundaries of nuclear adversaries. The two sides acknowledged one another’s actual scope of interests and security needs. Now the Wall Street Journal openly declares that the United States should demonstrate its ability to win a nuclear war, as the CFR elite claim that Ukraine and Taiwan must be protected as they are both strategic military locations within the Western military perimeter. Even the Cold War leader Kissinger has expressed concern and opposition to current U.S. foreign policy, arguing that the correct strategy should be to divide China and Russia, and to provoke Russia against China, and that direct war with the two nuclear countries would have dangerous consequences. Kennan and McNamara would have agreed with Kissinger, if they were still alive. The old generation of Cold War leaders has withered away, and no one would listen to them anymore anyway.
U.S. Bourgeoisie Supports War Preparations Against China
On the one hand, due to the formation of global supply chains, U.S. and European manufacturing industries rely heavily on imports from China, and Biden has to deal with the calls for trade war tariffs relief in order to ease the enormous pressure of inflation in the United States. On the other hand, China itself did not initiate the economic decoupling, but faced the pressure of the trade war and the technology war and pushed the “internal grand circulation”. Since the pandemic, there has been a superficial phased increase in China-U.S. merchandise trade.
It must be noted, however, that a change is happening in the basic logic of China-U.S. relations: the U.S. bourgeoisie has been tightening its alliance against China and supporting the bellicose strategy of the diplomatic elite. This situation stems from both real and ideological factors. GDP figures of the U.S. and the West notoriously completely mask the contributions made by labor in Global South factories. Apple’s highly profitable sales inside the United States appear in U.S. GDP numbers but the actual source of their high returns is the surplus created by the massively efficient and low-cost advanced productive labor force in Shenzhen, Chongqing, and other cities of Foxcon’s factories. China has an extremely sophisticated industrial, logistics, and societal infrastructure that account for 28.7% of world industrial production. We are not living in the era of large factories with low-paid unskilled workers. Moving the whole supply chain from China to India or Mexico would be a decades long process and cannot be based on just lower wages.
Few sectors of the U.S. economy depend heavily on the local Chinese market for sales, U.S. chipmakers being the exception. Neither Boeing, Caterpillar, General Motors, Starbucks, Nike, Ford, nor Apple at 17% has over 25% of their revenue from China. At Disney’s May earnings call, CEO Bob Chapek expressed confidence in success even without China’s market. The total revenue of S&P 500 companies is $14 trillion. No more than 5% of this is related to sales inside China. U.S. CEOs are unlikely to oppose the direction of U.S. foreign policy by being offered an unclear short-term increase in access to China’s growing internal market. Further proof of this can be seen in a few key industries.
The first is the zeitgeist of the time, the tech/internet industry. Among the top 10 richest Americans, the only outsider to the tech/Internet industry is Elon Musk whose first pot of gold, however, also came from the Internet industry. Compared to the list of the richest 20 Americans years ago, those from traditional manufacturing, banking, and the oil industry have disappeared. Most of the tech elite have strong anti-China impulses. Google, Amazon, and Facebook have virtually no market in China. Apple and Microsoft are likewise confronted with rising difficulties. Huawei’s market share had once surpassed that of iPhone in China, only to be overtaken again due to the chip ban. Sources have recently said that the Chinese government is comprehensively embracing indigenous Linux and Office Productivity systems to replace Microsoft’s Windows and Office. Traditional IT companies such as IBM and Oracle have long been marginalized by the Alibaba-driven de-IOE wave, which seeks to replace IBM servers, Oracle databases, and EMC storage devices with indigenous and open-source solutions. U.S. tech giants yearn for a political system change in China – even if it takes a war – to open the door of the Chinese market. Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google, led the establishment of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI). His constant promotion of the “China Threat” theory reflects the prevailing opinion in the U.S. tech community. In the past two years of public opinion warfare around the pandemic, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang, both Twitter and Facebook have played a role in suppressing objective reporting of facts and actively participated in demonizing China.
U.S. manufacturing remains dependent on Chinese production capacity. Consistent investment and technological innovation in U.S. manufacturing were effectively abandoned years ago, and despite Obama’s and Trump’s calls for “near-shoring manufacturing” back to North America, little has been accomplished. Tesla’s mega-factory in Shanghai might have been the only notable U.S. manufacturing investment in China in recent years; but Elon Musk has been winning many government procurement projects through SpaceX whose Starlink satellite was criticized by China as being highly irresponsible when its changed orbits came close to the Chinese space station twice last year. China’s PLA Daily said that its brutal expansion showed a sign of militarizing the application of satellites. The Starlink service in Ukraine is evidence of this. With Musk’s recent acquisition of the social networking platform Twitter, it is unlikely that he will change the long-standing control of Twitter’s narratives against China and Russia.
The U.S. financial services industry has been expecting China’s capital markets to open further to them, but in their fondest dream they hope that China will have a regime transition and embark on an outright neoliberal path. Soros’ anti-Chinese attitude is well known. Last November, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, declared that “JP Morgan Chase will outlive the Chinese Communist Party” (though he later apologized and said he was just joking) and implied that China would suffer a heavy military strike if it attempted to restore Taiwan. China’s capital markets are not advancing in the direction that Wall Street would prefer, as manifested by the Chinese government strengthening controls on the disorderly expansion of capital and a series of Chinese stocks delisting from the U.S. stock exchange. At the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in May, Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of the company, stated that China was worth the investment. But bear in mind that the premise of his statement is that the Chinese government is a “totalitarian regime” that “violates human rights”, and that it is only worth the extra risk because one can buy better businesses at lower prices in China.
It is not new that the U.S. retail and consumer industries are being squeezed by Chinese manufacturing and Chinese brands. Last March, Nike and other companies boycotted Xinjiang cotton on the false grounds of “forced labor,” then in May released an allegedly racist ad in China, resulting in a further loss of market share, outflanked by the Chinese brand Anta. The covid-19 pandemic has led to a significant disconnection between the two countries’ cultural and entertainment industries, with domestic movies accounting for 85% of the Chinese box office in 2021. Marvel superhero movies, once popular among Chinese filmgoers, have been unable to enter the Chinese market due to ideological concerns, with zero box office takings in China in 2021, and the new Doctor Strange movie, with yet again anti-Chinese scenes, is not expected to be screened in China. These cases signify U.S. companies’ trade-offs between commercial interests and ideology.
Of course, the infamous US “Military Industrial Complex” has always had a unique “special case” role as the pinnacle strategic economic, political, and military sector for imperialism. The top six military contractors in the world are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon Technologies, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics with combined sales of over $160 billion a year. New in line to compete are the tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, IBM, and Palantir (founded by extremist Peter Thiel). This group is being awarded contracts some of which amount to as much as ten billion dollars. The tech industry has become a major part of the military industry, plays the prime strategic role in the vast U.S. intelligence empire that collects all data, is at the center of U.S. soft-power media and social media hegemony and ensures total digital domination over the majority of the Global South. As such, it has become immune from real regulation or threats of de-monopolization.
The U.S. drive for military supremacy leads to spending sprees in the areas of weapons, silicon chips, advanced communications (including satellite cyber warfare), and biotechnology. The U.S. government’s fiscal year 2023 budget will spend $813 billion officially on the military (much of the military spending is disguised in other parts of the overall budget), and the Pentagon claims it will need at least $7.3 trillion in appropriations over the next 10 years.
The privatization of the State under neoliberalism has led to new features over the last 30 years. The State has become a consequential vehicle where high level government officials including Congressmen, Senators, Policy and Security advisors, Cabinet officers, Colonels, Generals, and Presidents from both parties become multi-millionaires and more, through the well-described “revolving door” with the private sector. Their insider Government status lets them ensure that once the phrase “National Security” is ushered into any meeting the spigot for personal and corporate greed and radical military expansion is opened even wider.
Under this now prevalent form of “First World” corruption, legal payoffs are enacted after leaving public office. These “legal” in-arrears bribes occur in the form of salary as paid employees, or fees as board members and advisors of the same firms to whom they had previously awarded and supervised contracts.
Bill Clinton was over a million dollars in debt when he left the White House, but now he and Hillary Clinton are worth $120 million. With shocking impunity, 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Hillary Clinton while she led the State Department donated $156 million to her family charity program, which was later disbanded in disgrace.
The current Secretary of Defense (an allegedly “civilian” post), Lloyd Austin, formerly served on the board of directors of military-industrial companies such as United Technologies and Raytheon Technologies where he earned the majority of his $7 million net worth AFTER “retiring” as a four star General.
Retired General and former Trump Secretary of Defense, and former board member of CNAS, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, had a net worth of $7 million in 2018, five years after his military “retirement” in 2013. It was earned through significant fees from a wide list of military contractors and included $600,000 to $1.25 million in stock and options in major defense contractor General Dynamics.
Between 2009 and 2011, over 70% (76 out of 108) of the top generals worked for military contractors after “retirement”. Generals can also double dip by getting fees from the Pentagon and fees from private military contractors simultaneously. The Brass Parachute Report found that in 2016 alone, military officers going through the revolving door included 25 Generals, 9 Admirals, 43 Lieutenant Generals, and 23 Vice Admirals.
Raytheon, General Motors, Boeing, and other military-industrial firms and their investors, Matsushima Capital, are significant funders of CNAS and WestExec Consulting – Secretary of State Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Haynes, Deputy Director of the CIA Cohen, Assistant Secretary of Defense Ratner, and others have all served at WestExec.
Another new feature is the rise of Private Equity (PE) owned Private Military Contractors (PMC’s). About half of the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were actually employed by PMC’s. Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, changed the company’s name to Xe Services and sold it to two private equity firms for $200 million in 2010. These PE investors renamed the firm ACADEMI, bought two of Blackwater’s competitors, Triple Canopy and Olive Group, then sold all three PMCs in 2016 to the world’s largest private equity firm, Apollo, for an estimated $1 billion.
The self-dealing, self-perpetuating Military Industrial Complex, composed of military contractors (now including tech and private equity) along with politicians and generals, is literally leading the charge for the massive expansion of US military capacity and all now use China as well as Russia as their pretext. Many of this group have committed war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere.
Few influential individual capitalists in the United States are willing to openly say no to the “China is Our Enemy” chorus. One rarely comes across publicly dissenting views or calls for restraint in the op-ed sections of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. Michael Bloomberg, who was criticized for being soft on China a few years ago, now does not voice any calls for restraint from the war hysteria. Instead, he was nominated to chair the Defense Innovation Board in February. Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, being optimistic about China’s economic prospects, has always been considered an ideological outlier and cultist. McKinsey favored more economic transactions with China and was criticized by the New York Times for “helping to boost the status of authoritarian governments”. Now McKinsey’s influence in U.S. business circles has been greatly weakened.
More critically, the upper echelon of the U.S. bourgeois elite has long been more influential than the “industrial elite” ever was. For example, Michael Bloomberg, whose value is estimated to have reached U.S. $83 billion and who owns 88% of the information services company Bloomberg, has also made considerable stock market investments over the years. Today’s billionaires from Eric Smidt to Charles Koch, George Soros, and Elon Musk, diversify their investments across industries and fund think tanks and policy groups through nonprofit foundations, enabling them to overcome the confines of short-term economic interests and see the big picture of foreign policy, in contrast to those old millionaires who, in the past, were focused on a single industry. A bourgeoisie with a shared consciousness would expect long-term excess returns from a fully liberalized Chinese market following the overthrow of the Chinese state, which is greater motivation for these billionaires to be willing to suffer temporary losses in some sectors as a result of containing China.
The CFR, which is depicted as “leading the U.S. government from behind the scenes,” has Founder-level corporate members including companies in energy (Chevron, ExxonMobil, Hess, Tellurian), finance (Merrill Lynch, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Blackstone), IT (Accenture, Apple, AT&T, Cisco), Internet (Google, Meta), among other sectors. In a research report published in January, the CFR proposed to “strengthen U.S.-Japan coordination in response to the Taiwan issue”. These policy proposals of preparing for war and containing China reflect the long-term strategic assertions of the bourgeois elite, which include the controllers, shareholders, and key accounts of the CFR members.
Among the upper-middle-class elite, there is a small group of far-right liberal isolationists, who are mainly intellectuals, represented by the Cato Institute. They speak out against the U.S. Federal Reserve System and military expansion, and they are against the United States’s role in Ukraine. But this group is marginalized in the international policy arena and does not have much influence.
Marx once noted that the capitalists have always been a “band of warring brothers”. This band maintains a modern state that has a large permanent body of armed men and women, intelligence functionaries, and spies. There were 4.3 million employees with security clearance in the United States in 2015. In alliance with the military-industrial-digital monopoly complex, they can exert great power without the need to go through any election. This is the U.S. version of the Deep State whose extraordinary power can be seen in the fact that Trump and his cronies became dysfunctional and unable to implement their own foreign policy shortly after he took office.
The Rise of the Far Right and the False Nature of Checks and Balances in U.S. Political System
Under the ruling bourgeois elite, the hostility of the U.S. middle classes toward China has deep racist roots. Trump’s four years in office witnessed a united coalition of populism and the white supremacist right-wing movement who calls themselves the Alt Right. Their mouthpiece, Stephen Bannon, former chairman of the white supremacist website Breitbart News, is unsurprisingly one of the most active anti-China campaigners in the United States. Their base of support comes from the lower middle class: mostly white people with annual household incomes of around $75,000. They mainly come from small cities or rural areas, run small businesses, or have professional jobs, and account for a quarter of the country’s population. While Bannon and even Trump himself like to boast of the support they get from “the white working class”, in fact their primary support base is the lower middle class rather than the working class.
The Republican Party has benefited electorally with the creation of this neofascist voting bloc. They love big capitalists and desire to be one of them some day; they hate the elitist political and cultural leaders for blocking their road to wealth; and they despise the working class underneath them. In 1951, the prominent U.S. sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about the American middle classes:
They are rearguarders. In the shorter run, they will follow the panicky ways of prestige; in the longer run, they will follow the ways of power, for, in the end, prestige is determined by power. In the meantime, on the political marketplace… the new middle classes are up for sale; whoever seems respectable enough, strong enough, can probably have them. So far, nobody has made a serious bid.
Until recently, the lower middle class has shown little interest in the “American Empire” and has rarely engaged with China, but they can sense the change in the economy. The U.S. economy has never fully recovered from the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, when loose monetary policy enabled the big capitalists to reap huge profits while the working class and the lower middle class suffered great losses. The latter group, angry and frustrated with their situation and in dire need of a spokesperson, was mobilized by Trump to become his key vote bank with the help of “white supremacist” racism, racial capitalism, and a “new cold war” to suppress China as an opponent in a full-out manner.
The hostility toward China is now widespread across the population. The impression that “China is the evil enemy of the free world and the greatest rivalry of the U.S.” has been increasingly reinforced by mainstream media outlets and Internet platforms, while freedom of speech has disappeared into thin air. Any sympathy for or even objective opinion of Russia and China will meet strong public criticism. Some progressives say that, not since the 1950’s, have they seen such a toxic public opinion environment in the United States, and some have even compared the social climate in today’s United States to that of the early 1930’s Germany.
Outsiders often misunderstand the real nature of the “checks and balances” and “separation of powers” in the U.S. system. Unlike the history of European constitutional reforms that were spawned by social revolutionary movements, the U.S. constitution, which was originally founded by a group of property holders (including slaveholders), was designed from the beginning to protect the rights of private property owners against what they feared could become mob “majoritarian” rule. To this day, the constitution has enough room to dismantle most traditional bourgeois social and legal rights.
Measures such as the electoral college were designed to prevent the people’s direct vote for President (one person one vote). Both Bush Jr. and Trump actually received fewer votes than their respective opponents when they won the presidency. This measure was originally implemented to protect the interests of the southern slave-holding and other smaller rural states and continues to this day. The process of amending the constitution was made extremely difficult and onerous. Despite the eventual removal of the original prohibition of voting rights for blacks, women, and those without property, voter disenfranchisement remains. In 2021, 19 states enacted 34 voter suppression laws that could limit the voting rights of up to 55 million voters in those states. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has the power to overturn voting rights legislation, strike down affirmative action, and allow religious organizations to abridge civil rights.
A 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as “Citizens United” removed limits on private and corporate contributions to elections, making elections a contest of financial strength in the legal sense. In the 2020 elections, overall spending for both the Presidential and Congressional/Senate races was $14 billion. In addition to the financial competition, there is also the factor of the “psychological-technological competition”. The persuasive technological tools based on social media, behavioral economics, and Big Data now play a decisive role in determining the results of the elections. At the same time, these tools are extremely expensive, ensuring that politics is an exclusive game for the rich. In 2016, the median wealth of U.S. senators exceeded $3 million. This is hardly a government that is checked and balanced by the people.
Are We Only Doomed to War?
In 2014, Xi Jinping, who had become China’s leader, said, “The broad Pacific Ocean is vast enough to embrace both China and the United States”. On the contrary, Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State claimed, in an internal speech, that the United States could call the Pacific “the American Sea”. In 2020, the UK’s Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicted that China would overtake the United States to become the world’s largest economy by 2028, a threshold that haunts the U.S. bourgeois elite. U.S. foreign policy and public opinion in recent years have been fixating on the preparedness to wage a hot war to contain China before 2028. The proxy war in Ukraine can be seen as a prelude to this hot war. The ideological mobilization to prepare for war is already in full swing in the United States. The wheels of neofascism are turning and a new era of McCarthyism has arisen. So-called democratic politics is only a cover for the rule of the bourgeois elite and will not serve as a braking mechanism for the war machine.
There are 140 million working and poor people in the United States, with 17 million children suffering hunger, six million more than before the pandemic. While a portion of this class do express ideological support for U.S. war-mongering policy, this support is actually in direct contradiction to their real interests. Historically, traditional progressive groups in the United States, such as the black and feminist movements, had a strong spirit of struggle, and leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X showed amazing courage in their struggle to create a wave of resistance within the United States against Washington’s aggression in Southeast Asia. Sadly, some (but not all) of the leaders of traditional progressive sections of the United States have become supporters of U.S. imperialist policy and anti-China campaigns.
There are important moral voices in the United States that do speak out. But it must be noted that the few progressive groups opposed to a new cold war were immediately vilified for “justifying the Xinjiang genocide”. The U.S. system guarantees the voices from this section of society are powerless.
Aside from the United States and its allies, other countries do not welcome the war that comes with NATO’s aggressive expansion. On 2 March, the UN General Assembly held the 11th emergency special session and countries with more than half of the world’s population voted against or abstained from voting on the draft resolution titled “Aggression against Ukraine”. Countries with more than two thirds of the world’s population did not endorse the U.S.-led sanctions against Russia. Washington’s attempts to escalate and prolong the war, and to force a decoupling of Moscow and Beijing, will lead to massive economic dislocation, which will bring about sizable negative reactions to U.S. rule. Even countries like India and Saudi Arabia are deeply concerned about the excesses of the United States in freezing Russian foreign exchange reserves and reinforcing dollar hegemony. This week, Mexican President Lopez Obrador announced that he would not attend the Summit of the Americas hosted by the United States. in Los Angeles because countries like Cuba and Venezuela were excluded. Resistance to U.S. rule is growing in Latin America. It should be noted, however, that international platforms such as the UN are not actually capable of restraining the United States from waging wars. Washington refuses to be bound by anything but its own “rules-based international order”.
The Biden administration of the United States is providing massive military aid to Ukraine to create a protracted war to weaken Russia to the maximum extent possible and bring about “regime change”. It is also deviating from the spirit of the three Sino-U.S. joint statements and destabilizing the Taiwan Strait in various ways. While the United States does have great military power, its current economic strength, while large, is in a perpetual state of decline and crisis.
In 1950, the United States accounted for 27.3% of world GDP (PPP), whereas by 2020 it had fallen to 15.9%. Its average annual GDP growth rate has fallen to an insufficient annual level of 2% even before the pandemic. China’s manufacturing production is more than 70% higher than that of the United States. Despite the recent huge, over $5 trillion, fiscal and monetary stimulus, U.S. net fixed investment rose by only 1.4 percent. This has led to the current round of inflation. This is not easily resolved and has nothing to do with the war. With the US-driven war, the United States has intentionally doomed Europe to lower, likely negative GDP growth, inflation, and increased military spending. It has abandoned any pretense of climate goals. Despite the huge domestic political consensus for decoupling, U.S. orders to China continue to increase. Actual substantial decoupling remains a pipedream. Adding more sanctions only speeds up the global process of de-dollarization and opposition to dollar hegemony. The United States will not just fall over economically by itself, but the consequences of its drive for war, sanctions, and decoupling will continue to damage its own economy and jeopardize the world food supply chain. The resulting global social instability will in turn cause more weakness to the U.S. economy as well as unexpected challenges to its rule.
China’s stable social governance, strong national defense, and peace-loving yet power-defiant diplomatic strategy can – as Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi put it – “proceed from a position of strength” to eventually make the United States give up the illusion of going to war with China and winning. It is in the interests of the Global South that China remains a strong socialist sovereign state and that it drives global governance alternatives such as A Community with a Shared Future for Humanity and the Global Development Initiative. There should be an immediate commitment to reinvigorating viable multilateral projects of the Global South such as BRICS and the Non-Aligned Movement. In this, the majority of the world share a distinct common interest. The vast majority of people from the Global South’s developing countries will be a major force to call for peace and resist war on various official and civil platforms. The United States will not be the first empire to overreach with arrogance and hubris and eventually outstrip its power.
Deborah Veneziale is an American journalist and editor who has worked in the global supply chain sector for 35 years. She is currently living in Venice, Italy.
Polish President Andrzej Duda and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a declaration on strategic partnership in June 2016, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (Photo: Andrzej Hrechorowicz)
The appetite around the world has increased for an alternative to Western globalization, but this does not necessarily mean de-globalization.
An article written by authors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge for Bloomberg on March 24 sounded the alarm to announce the end of “the second great age of globalization.” The Western trade war and sanctions against China that predated the pandemic have now been joined by the stiff Western sanctions imposed against Russia after it invaded Ukraine. These sanctions are like an iron curtain being built by the United States and its allies around Eurasia. But according to Micklethwait and Wooldridge, this iron curtain will not only descend around China and Russia but will also have far-reaching consequences across the world.
Australia and many countries in Asia, including India and Japan—which are otherwise reliable allies of the United States—are unwilling to break their economic and political ties with China and Russia. The 38 countries that did not vote at the United Nations General Assembly meeting on March 24 to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine included China and India; both of these countries “account for the majority of the world’s population,” Micklethwait and Wooldridge observe in their Bloomberg article. If the world bifurcates, “the second great age of globalization… [will come] to a catastrophic close,” the article states.
In 2000, Micklethwait and Wooldridge published the manual on this wave of globalization called A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Promise of Globalization. That book cheered on the liberalization of trade and finance, although its authors acknowledged that in this free market society that they championed, “businesspeople are the most obvious beneficiaries.” The inequalities generated by globalization would be lessened, they suggested, by the greater choices afforded to the consumers (although, as social inequality increased during the 2000s, consumers simply did not have the money to exercise their choices). When Micklethwait and Wooldridge wrote A Future Perfect, they both worked for the Economist, which has been one of the cheerleaders of Western-shaped globalization. Both Micklethwait and Wooldridge are now at Bloomberg, another significant voice of the business elites.
In an article for the International Monetary Fund, Kenneth Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University, warns of the risk of deglobalization. Such an unraveling, he notes, “would surely be a huge negative shock for the world economy.” Rogoff, like Micklethwait and Wooldridge, uses the word “catastrophic” to describe the impact of deglobalization. Unlike Micklethwait and Wooldridge, however, Rogoff’s article seems to imply that deglobalization is the production of Russia’s war on Ukraine and that it could be “temporary.” Russia, he states, “looks set to be isolated for an extended period.” In his article, Rogoff does not delve very much into concerns about what this means to the people in many parts of the world (such as Central Asia and Europe). “The real hit to globalization,” he worries, “will happen if trade between advanced economies and China also drops.” If that happens, then deglobalization would not be temporary since countries such as China and Russia will seek other pathways for trade and development.
None of these writers acknowledges in these recent articles that deglobalization, which is a retreat from Western-designed globalization, did not begin during the pandemic or during the Russian war on Ukraine. This process has its origins in the Great Recession of 2007-2009. With the faltering of the Western economies, both China and Russia, as well as other major economic powers, began to seek alternative ways to globalize. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was announced in 2013, is a signal of this gradual shift, with China developing its own linkages first in Central and South Asia and then beyond Asia and toward Africa, Europe and Latin America. It is telling that the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a backwater event founded in 1997, has become a meeting place for Asian and European business and political leaders who see this meeting as much more significant than the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting held in Davos, Switzerland.
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, countries such as China began to de-dollarize their currency reserves. They moved from a largely dollar-based reserve to one that was more diversified. It is this move toward diversification that led to the drop in the dollar’s share in global currency reserves from 70 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2020. According to author Tony Norfield, the share of dollars in Russian foreign exchange reserves was 23.6 percent in 2019 and dropped to 10.9 percent by 2021. Deprived of dollars due to the sanctions imposed by the West, the Central Bank of Russia has attempted various maneuvers to de-dollarize its currency reserves as well, including by anchoring the ruble to gold, by preventing the outward flow of dollars and by demanding that its buyers of fuel and food pay in rubles rather than in dollars.
As the United States widens its net to sanction more and more countries, these countries—such as China and Russia—seek to build up trade mechanisms that are not reliant upon Western institutions anymore.
Deglobalization leads to a different globalization
On January 1, 2022, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)—the world’s largest free trade pact—went into effect. Two years ago, 15 countries met virtually in Hanoi, Vietnam, to sign this treaty. These countries include close allies of the United States, such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, as well as countries that face U.S. sanctions, such as China and Myanmar. A third of humanity is included in RCEP, which accounts for a third of global gross domestic product. The Asian Development Bank is hopeful that RCEP will provide relief to countries struggling to emerge from the negative economic impact of the pandemic.
Blocs such as RCEP and projects like the BRI are not antithetical to the internationalization of trade and development. Economists at the HKUST Business School in Hong Kong show that the BRI “significantly increases bilateral trade flows between BRI countries.” China’s purchases from BRI countries have increased, although much of this is in the realm of energy and minerals rather than in high-value goods; exports from China to the BRI countries, on the other hand, remain steady. The Asian Development Bank estimates that the BRI project would require $1.7 trillion annually for infrastructural development in Asia, including climate-related investments.
The pandemic has certainly stalled the progress of the BRI project, with debt problems affecting a range of countries due to lower than capacity use of their BRI-funded infrastructure. The economic and political crises in Pakistan and Sri Lanka are partly related to the global slowdown of trade. These countries are integral to the BRI project. Rising food and fuel prices due to the war in Ukraine will further complicate matters for countries in the Global South.
The appetite in many parts of the world has already increased for an alternative to Western-shaped globalization, but this does not necessarily mean deglobalization. It could mean a globalization platform that no longer has its epicenter located in Washington or Brussels.
E. Ahmet Tonak is an economist who works at Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is the co-editor or author of several books, including Marxism and Classes, From Right to the City to the Uprising, and Turkey in Transition.