Imperialists vs. Tea Partiers:Bosses’ Budget Brawl Masks Rulers’ Dogfight over War Needs

Obama averted a government shutdown on April 8 by brokering a flimsy budget compromise between two increasingly hostile camps of U.S. capitalists.

One is composed of imperialists who need ever-expanding and more costly U.S. wars. This faction’s power and wealth depend on forcibly reasserting its once almighty control of the world’s energy trade. Until 1975, Exxon, Mobil and Chevron — descendants of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil colossus — (along with ally Texaco) legally owned all of Saudi Arabia’s unsurpassed oil reserves. But today, rival oil and gas barons in China, Russia and Iran, unrest in the Arab world, and al Qaeda threaten the empire headed by U.S. flagship Exxon Mobil.

So, from Libya to Afghanistan, the U.S. war machine seeks to rescue the Rockefeller-Exxon wing of U.S. capitalists, at a cost of trillions of workers’ tax dollars; 27% of everyone’s federal taxes go to pay for these wars, which consume more than half of the Federal Budget.

On the other side of the split stand smaller, domestically-oriented bosses like oil billionaires Charles and David Koch, who consider war taxes an unnecessary burden. They rally popular support by bankrolling the anti-tax Tea Party. Koch Industries’ big new project, a proposed 900,000 barrel-per-day pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas won’t require paying one dime for a single aircraft carrier, bomber or soldier. By contrast, Exxon’s newfound gushers in Iraq [see box] help explain why U.S. “Defense” chief Gates “suggested that American troops could remain [t]here for years.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/10)

Each side in this ruling-class divide, highlighted by the budget battle, employs think-tanks to organize opinion among fellow capitalists and mislead the working class. The Cato Institute, founded and funded by the Kochs, decries the U.S. invasion of Libya; calls for halving the Pentagon’s financing; and supported the government shutdown Obama sidestepped. The U.S. war machine does relatively little for the Kochs and allied minor-league bosses.

Thus, Cato fellow Doug Bandow complains, “Most American military forces are busy doing tasks which have no recognizable connection to U.S. security.” (Forbes, 4/4) But the far more influential Rockefeller-led Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has the opposite take. CFR big shot Larry Diamond called U.S. military intervention in rebellious Arab lands a matter of life and death for U.S. imperialism: “It’s an existential challenge for the United States, because our interests in the region are so profound.” (CFR website, 4/8)  The CFR cloaks Obama’s Mideast-North Africa oil grab with the liberal fig leaf of “humanitarian protection.”

Saudi Oil Treasure Is Imperialists’ Grand Prize

Holding onto Exxon’s reshaped but still sweetheart Saudi deal forms the core of U.S. strategy relative to the “Arab Awakening.” Exxon now enjoys first dibs on crude oil from the nationalized Saudi Aramco outfit at undisclosed contract prices far below the current going rate of well over $100 per barrel.

When the Saudi royal rulers “seized” the Rockefeller companies’ holdings in 1975 — with oil selling for $13 a barrel — they were assured “access to seven million barrels per day…at the rate of 47 cents per barrel.” (“Oil, God, and Gold: the Story of Aramco and the Saudi Kings,” Anthony Cave Brown, 1998). With figures adjusted for price rises and Chinese encroachment on the U.S. share, this racket still endures.

That’s why Obama, while backing pro-U.S. “rebels” in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, endorses Saudi-backed “shoot-the-protestors” actions in Yemen and Bahrain. They both border Saudi Arabia. Obama’s recent $60-billion arms sale to the kingdom cements both Washington’s status as Saudi Aramco’s military overlord — dependent on U.S. weaponry — and Exxon’s status as its especially favored partner. However, when market conditions force Koch to buy Saudi oil, he pays prevailing prices.

The liberal war-making Rockefeller wing needs an all-out purge of imperialism-thwarting businesses like Koch as well as a mass, liberal, pro-government, ideological civil war against the Tea Party. But they can’t pull off either yet.

Ex-New York governor Eliot Spitzer tried to force the imperialists’ war agenda throughout Wall Street. But some bankers — more focused on their bottom line than on “sharing sacrifice” to counter China and other imperialists — torpedoed him.

Meanwhile, the rulers face a contradiction: On the one hand, capitalists cut workers’ services to make the working class pay for the current economic crisis. But this severely reduces their ability to win these same workers’ loyalty to Washington’s war agenda.

Headed for World War III, U.S. Rulers Need ‘Roosevelt 2’; But Obama’s Not Achieving It

In The Great Depression, President Roosevelt carefully constructed a host of federal job programs such as his Works Progress and Civilian Conservation schemes which — along with his concessions to mass (communist-led) working-class struggle for Unemployment Insurance, Social Security and the 40-hour week — won a great deal of worker support that U.S. rulers needed to eventually wage World War II.

Presidents Kennedy and Johnson tried similar policies — a militaristic “high-tech jobs” space program in response to the Soviet ‘Sputnik’ (the first shot into space); Medicare and voting rights for black people in response to the Civil Rights struggle. However, they had far less success for the cold war against the phony “communist,” but anti-U.S, Soviet empire. And their efforts eventually failed to win backing for their war of aggression in Vietnam.

Obama, faring even worse, has yet to come up with anything to mobilize the working class for the wars the rulers’ dominant imperialist faction must prepare to wage against Iran, China and Russia. Al Gore’s liberal environmentalism didn’t quite succeed in winning masses to government service. So Obama, or his successor, must find another smokescreen for imperialism.

There exists, nevertheless, a viable but demanding course for workers against worsening ruling-class-enforced war-making and cutbacks. It lies in relying neither on liberal/imperialist nor Tea Party politicians but on our class alone. Exposing the profit motive of both capitalist factions’ attacks on us — on the job, in schools, neighborhoods, universities, among rank-and-file GIs and in every mass organization we work in — can help build a mass base for our revolutionary, communist Progressive Labor Party. We have the long-term outlook of forcibly replacing the bosses’ unceasing wars and repression with rule by the working class in our own class interest.J

Two Million Iraqi Lives, 5,000 Dead GIs Reap Profit Bonanza for Exxon

When Exxon invests in Iraq’s oil, its government pays Exxon $1.90 for every barrel Exxon pumps out of the ground. But it costs Exxon far less to pump that oil. Nominally the oil Exxon gets from Iraqi soil belongs to the Iraqi government. But the 2010 “Entitlement” program forces Iraq to sell the lion’s share of that oil to Exxon and to British firms Shell and BP.

This would be at a price far lower than the current potential $120-a-barrel, as well as less than Iraq sells to other imperialists. This enables Exxon to make fabulous profits. And Exxon’s Iraqi oil fields have enormous potential. The West Qurna field’s yield alone could soon out-produce that of entire oil powerhouses like Venezuela, Kuwait and Nigeria.

So the invasion of Iraq enabled Exxon to gain these enormous profits over the dead bodies of two million Iraqis and 5,000 dead GIs.

One thought on “Imperialists vs. Tea Partiers:Bosses’ Budget Brawl Masks Rulers’ Dogfight over War Needs

  1. From Beijing Review
    Of the multitude of Chinese publications in English Beijing Review is one of the most important and has been for many decades. Currently BR serves as an important and very discrete forum for the Party to float its analysis of key questions, foreign and domestic. Frequently, following current norms for maintaining decent relations with capitalist countries, these commentaries often come in the form of analysis of what capitalist authorities are writing. This discussion of America’s Rules is an example and the fact that it comes from a former BR chief editor should be taken as meaning it is an authoritative statement as far as the Chinese Communist Party leadership is concerned. Therefore it is important to us communists here in the USA. Note that the CPC is intimately aware of the reality they confront with regard to US imperialism.
    UPDATED: April 18, 2011 NO. 16 APRIL 21, 2011
    Playing by America’s Rules
    U.S. author explores the ideology behind the United States’ need to maintain its dominant global position


    Facing off against U.S. political and military players may not bode well for one’s future, but criticizing and writing about powerful forces sometimes does. Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of international relations and history at Boston University, has published several books critical of U.S. foreign and defense policies that have captivated readers around the world in recent years. For his latest book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, CNN hailed Bacevich as a leading voice among anti-war critics. A Chinese language version of the book was released earlier this year.
    As the book points out, U.S. national security policy since the 1950s boils down to what Bacevich calls the Washington rules, a consensus in Washington consisting of two components: the American credo and the sacred trinity. The American credo, Bacevich says, “summons the United States—and the United States alone—to lead, save, liberate, and ultimately transform the world.” To ensure world peace and order, the sacred trinity “requires the United States to maintain a global military presence, to configure its armed forces for global power projection, and to counter existing or anticipated threats by relying on a policy of global interventionism.” The two are mutually supplementary, one defining purpose and the other defining practice.
    In analyzing the evolution of the Washington rules, Bacevich writes, “Prior to World War II, Americans by and large viewed military power and institutions with skepticism… In the wake of World War II, that changed. An affinity for military might emerge as central to the American identity.”
    Bacevich singles out publishing magnate Henry R. Luce for initiating this change and introducing the concept of an American century. Writing in Life magazine in 1941, Luce exhorted his countrymen to “accept wholeheartedly our duty to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.” His manifesto has exerted a profound influence—and more importantly, his conception of an America Age found strong support in Washington.
    Among the creators of the sacred trinity, two men stand out—Allen Dulles, Director of the CIA from 1953 to 1961; and Curtis LeMay, the four-star general in charge of the U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 1948 to 1957. The CIA and SAC wielded power beyond their mandates. Besides conducting espionage, the CIA stationed operatives worldwide engaged in disseminating misinformation, bribery, sabotage and assassinations to influence politics in other countries. LeMay transformed the SAC into a global nuclear strike force capable of destroying not only the Soviet Union, but the entire Communist world many times over.
    Every U.S. president since Harry Truman in 1945, Republicans and Democrats alike, has flaunted the policy differences they’ve shared with their domestic political rivals or predecessors, but none has attempted to depart from the Washington rules. Bacevich writes, “to cast doubts on the principles of global presence, power projection, and interventionism, as Republican Congressman Ron Paul (who advocates limited government and opposes intervention abroad) and Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich (who opposes using force as a tool for foreign policy) did during the 2008 presidential primaries, is to mark oneself as an oddball or eccentric…certainly not someone suitable for holding national office.” Both Paul and Kucinich are among the few U.S. politicians against U.S. armed intervention in Libya.
    Unchallenged and outdated
    With the exception of the Viet Nam War, the Washington rules have been met with little resistance at the grass-roots level. Only 15 years after that war, which shook the rules to their foundation, the American credo and sacred trinity were fully restored. This was achieved, Bacevich says, by identifying a scapegoat, with liberals, academics and “biased media” bearing much of the blame. Then a plan was hatched to look for suitable persons to reverse the war’s apparent verdict. The result was the publication of The Viet Nam Legacy: The War, American Society, and the Future of American Foreign Policy. This book was conceived under the auspices of the Council on Foreign Relations, a highly influential research institution, think tank and publisher that provides a forum for the discussion of world issues and foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. The 24 contributors were all-white, all-male, and all except two were Americans. They included, Bacevich observes, name-brand politicians, once-and-future high-ranking officials, well-known academics and prominent journalists. All being “respectable and eminently reliable” persons, they could be counted on to confine their disagreements to matters where disagreement was deemed permissible.
    The demise of the Soviet Union and the unification of Europe in the early 1990s would have logically made the Washington rules obsolete. But there has been little change—troops still occupy bases in Europe, Japan and many other parts of the world with military operations ongoing in territories far beyond America’s borders. “So the Pentagon devised a new rationale,” Bacevich writes, “U.S. forces abroad were now needed to facilitate the emergence of a new world order.”
    Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, then-President George W. Bush declared war on terrorism and claimed essentially unlimited power by putting forward the doctrine of preventive war. Anything he and his advisers judged necessary to keep America safe became a legitimate cause for military action.
    The author enumerates many facts and figures to show that the implementation of Washington rules, besides inflicting the loss of numerous American lives, have landed the United States in a financial quagmire. A half century ago, the United States was a creditor nation—now it is a debtor nation. During the eight years under the Bush administration, U.S. national debt almost doubled, reaching $10.6 trillion. Based on official analysis, by 2019 this figure may surpass $21 trillion, an amount substantially greater than the nation’s GDP.
    A matter of civic culture
    Bacevich’s discussion of the interaction between the Washington rules and American civic culture may be the most intriguing and insightful part of the book. In a considerable measure, the author attributes the long life of the Washington rules to the fact that these rules conform and enforce certain “problematic” aspects of American civic culture. The present-day conception of citizenship, for example, requires simply that “you pay your taxes and avoid flagrant violations of the law.” Bacevich characterizes the conception as “impoverished and attenuated,” stressing that it “privileges individual choice above collective responsibility and immediate gratification over long-term well-being.”
    Two examples, Bacevich says, show how policymakers have taken advantage of this weakness to facilitate the implementation of the Washington rules. One of them was, and still is, increasing national debt to defray military expenditure overseas, with responsibility for repaying that debt off-loaded onto future generations. Public outrage at excessive taxation that would otherwise have been imposed can thus be averted. Therefore, the author notes, if the Washington rules go unhindered, ordinary Americans cannot escape their part of the blame.
    To replace the Washington rules, Bacevich calls on the ideas of the nation’s founding fathers. In his celebrated farewell address to the nation in 1796, George Washington urged his countrymen to chart an independent course, enabling the United States “to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.”
    Twenty-five years later, John Quincy Adams, a secretary of state who afterwards became the sixth president of the United States, further elaborated on Washington’s idea. “[The United States] is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all,” Adams said. “She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.” He warned against going abroad “in search of monsters to kill” or enlisting under others’ banners to avert being involved in “dirty” wars.
    Valid argument
    Quoting copiously from various sources, Bacevich argues his case in a convincing and matter-of-fact way. Although he focuses on issues of his own country, his approach sometimes reveals a way of thinking not uninfluenced by oriental philosophies. He uses yin and yang to describe the relationship between Dulles’ CIA and LeMay’s SAC, which he observes was one of competition and interdependence. The discussion about the author’s own hypothetical program for Chinese military expansion abroad, which looks threatening but pales before the reality of the global military posture of the United States, could be interpreted as a veiled suggestion for Washington to think in some else’s perspective. Obviously, the Boston professor fully understands the political wisdom of the famous Confucian adage, “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.”
    In Bacevich’s scenario, he puts forward the following ideas:
    In light of China’s status as a rising power, the minister of defense of the People’s Republic of China announces plans to: increase Chinese annual military spending to an amount that will exceed the combined defense budgets of Japan, South Korea, Russia, India, Germany, France and Britain; create a constellation of forward-deployed Chinese garrisons in strategically sensitive areas around the world, including Latin America; negotiate access agreements and fly-over rights with dozens of nations for the purpose of facilitating humanitarian intervention and maintaining global stability; partition the Plant Earth into sprawling territorial commands, with one four-star Chinese general assigned responsibility for the Asia-Pacific, another for Africa, a third for the Middle East,… Also included are a Chinese North America Command and a Chinese Space Command.
    Bacevich adds the Chinese defense minister would certainly caution other nations not to view this program as posing any threat, assuring them that China is a vigorous, rising nation-state with a long civilization, and that she is committed to living in harmony with others. Few observers in the United States or elsewhere, Bacevich concludes, would take comfort in such assurances.
    Military experience
    The unique background of the author lends additional credibility to his arguments. Bacevich graduated from U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served in the U.S. armed forces for 23 years, including two years in Viet Nam. After retiring as a colonel, he devoted himself to academic research and now holds a PhD in American diplomatic history from Princeton University. Before coming to Boston University, he taught at West Point and John Hopkins University.
    In the book’s introduction, Bacevich calls himself a “slow learner.” He recounts how, as a young man, he always took comfort in orthodoxy and subjected himself to authority. His real education did not begin until middle age when he often found reality at odds with what he had been taught to believe. He wrote this book in the hope that more people could share his experience.
    But the lack of discussion from an economic and geopolitical approach may be a major weakness of the book. For the Beijing-based Xinhua Publishing House, bringing out a Chinese edition less than six months after its U.S. debut was certainly an achievement. But Chinese translations are not always faithful to the original text. It doesn’t take a meticulous reader to detect errors here and there.
    Nevertheless, many Chinese will read Bacevich’s book with great interest. Most will join the American general public in saluting this “fierce and smart peace-monger,” an epithet given him in a book review of the New York Times. Not only does he give us a concise, incisive historical review of U.S. national security policy, his insightful observations in many passages also provide food for thought. When he criticizes today’s Americans for lack of interest in cultivating virtue while frantically pursuing happiness, defined often in terms of wealth and celebrity status, he actually puts a finger on an illness common in many societies, the Chinese included. Again, his discussion of Luce’s conception of an American Age as the source of the Washington rules reminds us, the enthusiasm of some Chinese in talking about the “rise of China as a major power,” the “Chinese model” or a “Chinese century” may not be good for the nation’s health.
    The author is former Editor in Chief of Beijing Review

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