George W Bush and Tony Blair say they are waging war against ‘terrorism’ and for ‘democracy’ and ‘civilisation’. In private their language and motives are very different. Long before 11 September the US state was clear that its real aims are those of global military and economic dominance.
In 1998 a US government report called simply The Long Range Plan argued: ‘The United States will remain a global power and exert global leadership. Widespread communications will highlight disparities in resources and quality of life, contributing to unrest in developing countries. The global economy will continue to become more interdependent. Economic alliances, as well as the growth and influence of multinational corporations, will blur security agreements. The gap between ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ nations will widen, creating regional unrest. The United States will remain the only nation able to project power globally.’
The report called for the build-up of ‘war fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict’ to ‘protect US interests and investment’. US rulers feel they have to show that anyone who dares to challenge their power will be punished. That flows from the role the US sees for itself in the world. With the end of the Cold War it sees itself as the one global power. It wants a world subordinated to US interests, where multinational corporations can plunder the globe without obstacle. Its multinationals have huge power. Some have greater wealth than many countries.
Despite that power, the multinationals need back-up from the US state and the institutions it uses to shape the world in its interests. The US uses its weight inside the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to impose economic policies on whole countries and continents. Those bodies use financial muscle to force governments to sweep away restrictions on multinationals, and to slash public spending in order to channel debt payments to Western banks.
The awful price is poverty and death for the world’s poorest. One, now well known but no less chilling, fact sums up the reality-19,000 children die every day from the effects of the debt burden.
The US has also been using its dominant influence in the World Trade Organisation meeting this week to help smooth the way for the corporations. This barrage of policies creates, alongside poverty, great pools of bitterness around the globe, and fuels political instability.
That can lead to popular revolt which can challenge US interests, and push regimes in some countries to challenge US power. So behind business and financial power stands the military power of the US and its allies. That military power is the ‘armed wing’ of capitalist globalisation. US wars and military interventions are not always immediately related to particular investments or the projects of particular corporations. US rulers intervene and wage war against those they perceive as a threat to that global dominance.
The major US military interventions have been against regimes which it once worked with, but which overstepped the limits the US set for them. The US invaded Panama, bombing the capital and killing thousands of people, in 1989. Its aim was to overthrow and capture Panama’s ruler, General Noriega, who had been trained and installed by the US. This is a pattern that has been repeated over and over again.
The US helped Saddam Hussein come to power in Iraq, and armed and backed his regime during its long war with Iran in the 1980s. But when his regime took over Kuwait in 1990, the US decided he had challenged US power and interests in the region at the heart of the world’s oil supplies. So the US and its allies unleashed war. It has kept up the bombing and imposed sanctions ever since, killing hundreds of thousands more.
The US, working with the Saudi and Pakistani regimes, backed both the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden when that suited its interests. The war against Afghanistan is part of the US’s drive for global dominance.
It wants to discipline potential rivals such as Russia and China, which both have ambitions in the region. The US now dubs China its principal ‘strategic competitor’ on a global scale. The Star Wars missile ‘defence’ plan being pushed by Bush is part of that competition. The US hopes it will allow it to establish overwhelming military superiority.
The Long Range Plan said, ‘Now is the time to begin developing space capabilities, innovative concepts of operations for war-fighting’ to ‘meet the challenges of the 21st century’.
The war is first and foremost about showing that US power will crush anyone who dares to challenge it. It cares most about control of natural resources, markets and sources of profits. The most important resource is oil.
The Middle East accounts for two thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves. Over 27 percent of oil used in the US comes from the Middle East. Securing that oil supply is why the US props up brutal dictatorships across the region. The US has thousands of troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, and Britain has troops in Oman.
The US fears that such regimes could be toppled by revolts which threaten US interests. It is more confident about Israel, by far the world’s biggest recipient of US financial and military aid.
Former US president Ronald Reagan put it simply: ‘Israel has a force in the Middle East that is of benefit to us.’
The US obsession with the Middle East and its oil supplies is growing. In the last 20 years US domestic oil reserves have shrunk by almost a fifth. Over the same time the Middle East’s proven oil reserves have grown by 90 percent.
The US seeks to secure oil supplies in every area of the globe. One such region is in the former USSR, in countries like Azerbaijan and Kazhakstan near the Caspian Sea. Oil from there accounts for just 1.7 percent of world oil reserves at the moment.
But many analysts believe it could hold much greater reserves. US and Western oil companies want control over those potential supplies. The US also wants to ensure that it, rather than major rivals such as Russia and China, becomes the dominant power in the region.
Rival oil companies, local regimes and the shifting manoeuvres of the US state have fuelled a scramble over oil contracts and possible pipeline routes. US oil firm Unocal hoped to build a pipeline from the Caspian through Afghanistan and to the Indian Ocean. At one point Unocal signed a deal with the Taliban.
That plan has so far come to nothing. Now the US seems to have cut a deal with Russian president Putin that in return for Russian backing of the war the US will allow it greater control over the region’s oil. US oil interests include South America.
Venezuela is now one of the biggest suppliers of US oil. US and British oil multinationals are beginning to exploit possible major oil supplies in nearby Colombia and Ecuador. The US in 1997 officially designated oil in Colombia ‘a vital interest’. US military analyst Michael Klare explains that: ‘once a source of oil is designated a ‘vital interest’ it becomes incumbent on Washington to assure the long term safety of those supplies. This has often entailed direct military intervention.’
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