Andrew Gavin Marshall
Defining the Imperial Stratagem
In the late 1990s Brzezinski wrote up the design for America’s imperial project in the 21st century in his book, “The Grand Chessboard.” He stated bluntly that, “it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America,” and then made clear the imperial nature of his strategy:
To put it in a terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.
He further explained that the Central Asian nations (or “Eurasian Balkans” as he refers to them):
are of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most immediate and more powerful neighbors, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, with China also signaling an increasing political interest in the region. But the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals, including gold.
Brzezinski emphasizes “that America’s primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to control this geopolitical space and that the global community has unhindered financial and economic access to it.”
Obama as a Rabid Imperialist
Obama wasted no time in rapidly accelerating America’s imperial adventures. While dropping the term “War on Terror” from usage, the Pentagon adopted the term, “overseas contingency operations.” This was to be the typical strategy of the Obama administration: change the appearance, not the substance. The name was changed, but the “War on Terror” remained, and not only that, it was rapidly accelerated to a level that would not have been possible if undertaken by the previous administration.
The current expansion of American imperialism globally has been rapidly accelerated since Obama became President, and seems intent on starting and expanding wars all over the world. When Obama became President, America and its Western allies were engaged in a number of wars, occupations and covert destabilizations, from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, to the Congo, and Obama took office in the midst of Israel’s brutal assault against Gaza. From the beginning of his presidency, Obama immediately justified Israel’s vicious attack against innocent Palestinians, rapidly accelerated the war and occupation of Afghanistan, expanded the war into Pakistan, started a new war in Yemen, and supported a military coup in Honduras, which removed a popular democratic government in favour of a brutal dictatorship. Obama’s administration has expanded covert special operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, and is paving the way for a war against Iran. In fact, the Obama administration has expanded Special Operations forces into 75 countries around the world (compared with a height of 60 during the Bush regime). Among the many countries with expanded operations are Yemen, Colombia, the Philippines, Somalia, Pakistan, among many others. Further, in recent months, the Obama administration has been saber rattling with North Korea, potentially starting a war on the Korean Peninsula. With the creation of the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), American foreign policy on the continent has become increasingly militarized.
No continent is safe, it seems. America and its NATO cohorts are undertaking a seemingly insane foreign policy of dramatically accelerating overt and covert military imperialism. This policy seems to be headed for an eventual confrontation with the rising eastern powers, in particular China, but potentially India and Russia as well. China and America, specifically, are headed on an imperial collision course: in East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. The competition for access to resources is reminiscent of the ‘Great Game’ of the 19th century, of which Afghanistan was a central battlefield.
One would think that in the midst of a massive global economic crisis, the worst the world has ever seen, the major nations would scale back their imperial over-reach and militarism in order to reduce their debts and preserve their economies. However, there is an ‘imperial logic’ behind this situation, and one that must be placed within a wider geopolitical context.
Conceptualizing the Rise of China
First, we must properly address the nature of China’s rise in the world order. What we are witnessing is an historically unique situation. For the first time, the rise of a ‘new’ power is taking place not in the context of rising against the hegemonic powers of the time, but within the hegemonic order. In short, China’s rise has not been a rise against America, but rather a rise within the American world order. Thus, China has risen as much as the West has allowed it to rise, but that does not mean that China will not seek to serve its own interests now that it has accumulated significant global status and power. China has risen by integrating with the Western-dominated economic system, and in particular the Western banking and central banking systems. China and America are economically dependent upon one another, as America purchases China’s cheap products, and China funds America’s debt. In effect, China is also funding America’s imperial adventurism.
Thus, we are presented with a unique situation: one of mutual dependence and competition. While China and America are dependent upon one another, they are also each other’s greatest competitors, specifically in terms of access to and control over resources. For example, China supports both Iran and Sudan. These two nations are major targets of American imperial ambitions, not because of any humanitarian or anti-terrorism concerns (although that is the propaganda espoused most often), but because of the significant resources and strategic relevance of these nations. As they are not subservient to the West and specifically America, they are considered ‘enemy nations’, and thus the media focus on demonizing these nations so that the public is supportive of military or other means of implementing “regime change.” China supports these nations because of its access to their resources, and as a counter to American influence.
To add another complex feature to this story, we must place this conflicting relationship in the context of the global economic crisis and the world response to it. The G20 is the principle forum for ‘global governance,’ in which the nations of the world are working together to increasingly integrate their governance approaches on a global scale. The economic crisis has provided the impetus to spur on calls for and the implementation of plans to construct a system of global economic governance: a global central bank and global currency. So, as China and America are seeking to further integrate economically and globally, they are also competing for access to and control over resources.
The logic behind this is that both powers want to be able to negotiate the process of constructing a system of global governance from a more secure standpoint. While it is generally acknowledged that the world is witnessing “the rise of the East,” in particular with China and India, we see the center of global power moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Several commentators for years have been analyzing and discussing this issue; however, the fact that power has been centered in the Atlantic for the past 500 years means that it will not be so easily moved to the Pacific. In fact, the Western powers not only acknowledge the rise of the East, but that the East has risen because they have allowed it to and aided it in this process. The Western powers have done this not out of some benevolent design, but because the organized intellectual powers of the West (namely, the principle think tanks and banking interests) have sought to create a perfect global system of governance, one in which power does not sway from nation to nation, or West to East, but rather that power is centralized globally. This is obviously a long-term project, and will not (if ever) be realized for several more decades. Yet, it is through crises – economic, political, and social – that this process of global governance can be rapidly accelerated.