Behind Star Wars
Policing the 'have nots'
NIGEL CHAMBERLAIN is the national press officer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Karl Grossman is professor of journalism at the State University of New York and has written widely on the US government's Son of Star Wars project. Socialist Worker spoke to both about why globalisation is leading to a renewed threat of war rather than the peaceful economic expansion defenders of capitalism predicted.
"A VERY good cartoon sums up what is happening," says Nigel Chamberlain. "It shows a starving black child and a rich businessman in the first frame. Then a US soldier appears and says, 'I'm here to protect you.' The child looks up hopefully. In the final frame the soldier pushes the child away and smiles at the businessman. George Bush's National Missile Defence, or Son of Star Wars, scheme is part of this interlocking of economic and military power."
Karl Grossman has pored over the official US documents relating to the new arms race announced by Bush. He says, "The focus on US interests in the world economy is explicit. One document reads, 'Globalisation of the world economy will continue with a widening gap between the haves and have nots.' It goes on to say that the US will have to police the have nots. They mean keeping in line the sweatshop workers turning out Nike shoes and also any country that appears to upset the global economic order. Another document says that the US should take as a model the way the European colonial powers built up their militaries a century ago." But, Karl points out, "that arms race ended in the First World War."
Of course, there are differences between the way the world looked a century ago and today.
But the core features remain. War, militarism and the gulf between rich and poor are as built into capitalism today as they were 100 years ago. Multinational corporations today are bigger and have their tentacles spread further across the globe.
They still, however, depend on links with powerful states. The biggest depend on the most powerful state of all, the US. "The links are most obvious when you look at the arms companies. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and TRW all stand to make a fortune from Son of Star Wars and are lobbying hard for it," says Nigel Chamberlain. "They are intimately connected to the US military and government."
"It is also clear with the oil industry," says Karl Grossman. "The 1991 Gulf War was plainly about securing control, largely for US companies, of the most important area of production of the most important commodity on earth. "That was a microcosm of what is happening now. It is not just about protecting particular industries. There is a long term drive to enforce US interests in every sphere. US president Ronald Reagan began the Star Wars project in 1983. It did not go away when Russia was bankrupted through trying to keep up with US arms spending. Clinton spent an average of $7 billion a year on it and authorised $30 billion last December. So called Missile Defence through interceptor missiles is only part of it. All the official papers refer to extending military power to space. They want to strike anywhere on the earth's surface without suffering casualties. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire says US military domination of space is 'our new manifest destiny'. He is deliberately using the language of US leaders who justified the colonial domination of Latin America and the Philippines a century ago."