Iraq And The Crisis Of Imperialism

In my last post, "None Dare Call It Imperialism," I said this:

It is the war in Iraq about oil? Of course it is — and that is no minimal concern. Oil fuels our corporate industrial economy. But so does chromium, rubber, timber, and cheap labor. Corporate capitalism demands these inputs, and further demands access to markets for what it produces. This is the essential nature of the American corporate empire. Only now that empire has overreached itself, and has found itself in crisis. The corporate power structure can’t stay in Iraq. Neither can it leave. Make no mistake, leaving will spell disaster for the corporate investor class, as they lose control over middle eastern oil, and as other regions of the third world slip away from their domination — see, Venezuela.

As if on cue, James Lewis at American Thinker publishes a piece yesterday entitled "The US Cannot Leave Iraq. Doing the usual conservative handwringing about the "disastrous consequences" of leaving Iraq, he says this.

Oddly enough, in the long term America’s getting entangled in Iraq may turn out to be a force for good. Yes, it’s a pain in so many ways – taking casualties, a drain on our resources and treasure, seeing the nightly horrors on TV. But Iraq provides the United States with a strategic position in the Gulf, the major source of oil that keeps the world alive. Afghanistan and Iraq both border Iran, and Saudi Arabia is fifty miles across the Gulf. As the Iranian "second revolution" invigorates the imperialist tendencies of the Khomeini cult, a geo-strategic case can be made that this is where we should be. If the US does not want the responsibilities of a superpower, it can walk away. But we cannot be the guarantor of world peace, free trade, a steady oil supply, and a slow movement toward greater sanity without paying a price.

Conservatives are interesting in that they admit the truth, if you’re paying attention. Notice the reference to our "strategic position in the Gulf, the major source of oil that keeps the world alive." This is the reason for all of this "end of civilization" talk these guys indulge in. It isn’t the threat to bombing US cities. Islamic Jihadists don’t have to travel that far. The jugular of western industrial capitalism is right in their front yard.

And of course, the whole article impeccably lays out just exactly why Islamic jihadists would have it in for the US. We’re in their part of the world — as in killing people — and we don’t plan to leave. In fact, we’re "keeping the Shiite and Sunni sides from fully winning the battle." You got that? Religious division among Muslims is a good thing — and we need to stay there and aggravate those divisions. Why? The keep that oil spigot under our control. Oh, and by the way, the function this guy describes for US forces in Iraq is EXACTLY the same function Saddam Hussein served. He was a hedge against Iranian fundamentalists, and at the same time, a worry to wahabi regimes like say, Saudi Arabia. That’s why we put up with him. That’s why leaving him alone was definitely an option. It doesn’t cost us nearly as many "casualities, resources and treasure" to have Saddam keeping a lid on things. Apparently these guys didn’t think about that, the way a "realist" like say George H.W. did back in 1991. Don’t you wish the grownups were in charge?

Here’s the problem for Mr. Lewis. Americans don’t want to stay there. We don’t want to sacrifice anymore of our children in that meat grinder. We don’t want to bankrupt ourselves in the process. Finally, we don’t want a generations long war-without-end — which is exactly what the neocons have forecast for us. In fact, we just voted the chickenhawks in Congress out of power. Dubya’s approval ratings are in free fall, with 60% of Americans now believing Iraq was a mistake. Just like Vietnam — which this idiot argues helped win the cold war — the corporate imperialist President took American into a war in didn’t want to fight. Not that neocons care what the people want, except that they have this bad habit in Democracies of asserting their will. Of course, as I pointed out the other day, democracies in the third world don’t present much of a problem to corporate imperialists. They just invade or subvert them, installing rightwing puppets to whip the proles into line. Or at least they used to.

All of this makes the current debate over the "unitary executive," complete with plenary power to intercept phone calls, and if necessary, jail and torture opponents, all the more poignant. They say they only want that power to "keep us safe" from the jihadists. But what happens if the American public demands withdrawal from a place where Mr. Lewis says we have to stay? What happens if a majority of Americans decide that we don’t want the "responsibilities of a superpower," after all? Specifically, what happens to US corporate interests if Americans decide that, when all is said and done, empire just doesn’t suit us? Do you suppose those corporate interests will simply accept the judgment of the American people?

I don’t either.

But wait, we haven’t really probed exactly why this amounts to a "crisis." Mr. Lewis admits — at long last — that is is all about the oil. Duhhh. Watch the fun as we probe all of the contradictions contained in this little pickle we have all found ourselves in. Let’s begin with a rather obvious observation. It is high time we got that oil monkey off our backs. It is obviously true that industrial society needs an energy source. Oil has just about outlived it’s usefuless. From global warming, to air pollution in general, to the environmental impact of drilling it, to the peculiar susceptibility of our economy to disruptions in the oil supply, to the fact that much of the world’s oil is in the hands of some pretty disagreeable people, we have every reason to find alternatives. For example, why don’t we raise fuel efficiency standards on automobiles, mandate and/or subsidizing other conservation measures, and start a "Manhattan Project" for the development of renewable alternatives?

On the last item, since we have a 100 billion semolyans a year to spend in Iraq, you would think we could afford some serious R&D into developing efficient solar panels — not to mention a variety of other alternatives [and the solution will probably wind up being a mix of alternatives.] Conservatives will tell you all of the technological hurdles to developing clean renewable sources to oil, even as they exude optimism that yes, Virginia, we will eventually build a missile shield. And besides, all of those proposals involve "government." Egad! Yes, the President can eavesdrop on your phone calls, and clap people into Gitmo forever without trial, but mandate higher fuel efficiency standards? "It’s big government tyranny, I tell you."

Therein lies the contradiction, and therein lies the proof of the real agenda. It isn’t about you. You would benefit from higher fuel efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy. It would literally be money in your pocket. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, a barrel saved is a barrel earned. The loser would be corporate capitalism. It isn’t "middle eastern oil" that you are dependent on. It is corporate America’s oil. They’re the one’s selling it to you — and they want you to keep buying it. Ending America’s oil dependency ultaimately means ending YOUR oil dependency — a dependency from which they profit.

In other words you don’t need to stay in Iraq, and keep your hand on the oil spigot. Or at any rate, you don’t need to in the long run. Corporate America needs to. Corporate America needs to maintain and perpetuate the oil economy as long as they can continue to milk it for profits. In other words, it isn’t the oil. It’s the oil economy. That’s what they’re defending in Iraq. And as you can see, there is no good reason for ordinary Americans to continue to support that effort. We are only supporting our own continued addiction.

So while you’re pressuring your favorite Congresscritter to end the quagmire in Iraq, start pressuring them to seriously support alternatives to petroleum. The neocons will oppose it for all of the bad free market fundamentalist reasons — even as they continue to support the "unitary executive" and his continued depradation on our constitutional civil liberties. Then you will have them. Then everyone will know what their game really is.

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