Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Neocolonialism 2.0

Whenever I have nothing else to do my conspiracy theorist alter-ego tends to direct his not inconsiderable energies toward the large pork chop-shaped doppelganger that dangles seductively over every little bit of information that periodically emerges in the public domain about the United States’ notoriously turbid foreign policy. 

While the current administration’s focus right now is on the studiously intractable Israel-Palestine conundrum, it could just as soon be on Sudan next week where unless an independence referendum is held in five months from now, renewed civil war is assuredly forecast (southern Sudan, by the way, is an oil-rich region). At the same time the U.S. government is ostensibly withdrawing its troops from the Iraqi theater of war while still carrying on its military campaign in Afghanistan, all while irrepressibly building up military presence in and around the South China Sea and continuing to prop up dubious governments from the Middle East to Latin America. (There are, of course, hidden skeletons tumbling out of the closet for each and every one of these developments – a clear majority of Palestinians does not support the current rounds of talks in Washington, violence in Iraq is increasing by the day just as American troops are leaving, Sudan’s southern and northern warlords are breeds of violent men so polarized as to make conservatives and liberals in the U.S. seem politically contiguous… etc. etc.)

The question is; where does the wherewithal for all this foreign policy engagement come from, especially during the major local unemployment crisis the U.S. is currently facing due to the continuing effects of the Great Recession? It is easy to see after the events of 9/11 that maintaining peace and security (and business as usual) in the rest of the world works to keep America’s restive middle-class blissfully ignorant of the trials and tribulations that its planetary co-inhabitants face, and thereby ensure a sense of safety and normalcy at home. But even so, with the massive military hardware industry that its leaders deploy as a very obvious elephant in the room in its negotiations with other countries, and as a key proponent in the policy of ‘mutual deterrence’ that their institutions keep pushing down everyone’s throat from which they garner massive volumes of both individual sales of weapons as well as armament-level militarization across continents, it is still difficult to see what a massively burdened U.S. government gains from over-stretching both its popularity at home and its economic potency abroad simply by emphatically stamping its presence so far from home… until you begin to dredge through the corridors of a not too distant past.

Business-wise, it is to the benefit of anyone to search for markets beyond natural realms, and international trade has led to some of the most spectacular modern odysseys in economic exploitation – the most proximate example being the East India Company’s foray into the region of the world from where I now type more than four centuries ago. That it eventually led to the British Crown co-opting the South Asian sub-continent as a colony of its own for reasons that were purely economical is recorded history. Trade, then, initially started on mutually beneficial terms and then rapidly favored the traders of England over local business when British economists saw self-evident benefits in playing one fractious kingdom over another to eventually dominate an entire region of the world. When an administrative colony finally took shape, forays were made further east through reprehensible attempts to turn an entire people into drug addicts, simply for trade’s sake.

That it would be almost impossible for the U.S. today to occupy a country indefinitely and cry terrorism as an excuse is a foregone conclusion – the last time they tried something like that more than 30 years ago they were routed by dedicated fighters from a region so small in size and resources as to be virtually insignificant in comparison with some of its own smaller states. It seems obvious then to expect that any contemporary U.S. administration would identify the key players in the world’s most undisciplined regions and interest them in a mutually beneficial game of kiss-ass, keep them supplied with arms and intelligence, and use every trick in and out of the book to keep such players in power. They already do it in some regions, so why is the strategy not working everywhere? 
This is where, my alter-ego says, the revenge of the subaltern kicks in – we do not live any longer in a mutually exclusive world. Assets are spread over a large swathe of the planet and business interests do not converge within a specific region any more. ‘Globalization’ was a fancy word bandied about by first-world capitalist chauvinists over thirty years ago but the full realization of the term today has meant the revelation of inhuman levels of economic disparity between haves and have-nots, contextual analyses of local issues presided over by trans-national interest groups, and a paradigm shifting new-age media that refuses to shut up. Does anyone really wonder why the UN’s appeal for aid to Pakistan’s millions of displaced flood victims has only raised half the required sum for rehabilitation barely a month after the release of purportedly ‘well-known’ facts about Pakistan’s implicit involvement in terrorism in Afghanistan? The events of 9/11 themselves have been the subject of so many discredited conspiracy theories about the previous administration’s secret involvement in the plot to bring down the WTC towers, that it is blatantly obvious around the world that working-class Americans do not see that just by knowing about how they live, people far away connect dots and start to see beyond the façade of the natural ascendency the U.S claims because of its so-called commitment to freedom. ‘What about our freedom!’, the third-world cries in unison… ‘Don’t we count?’

And so, with the expansion of the sphere of influence of China, the tottering superpower has to project a reiteration of the status quo – that, in fact, they still are the world’s only superpower - and economic and military adventurism follows economic and military adventurism until the world will cease to see the U.S. as a nation at all – only as a vaguely familiar foreigner who once, a long time ago, arrived to trade but stayed to rule… and say to her, ‘Wait… You are not welcome anymore.’

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