Our economy long ago abandoned producing functional things that people need and became dependent on people buying things they want. And when the economic model reached the breaking point it has rescued itself through various means. In the 1980's as Capitalism reached its limits with the American framework, new doors were opened through outsourcing and easy credit. In the 1990's a new economic energy was generated via the Internet which made the potential of globalism more accessible to small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Today there are new adjustments taking place that allow the economy to continue to function, but clearly the limits are being stretched to the breaking point.
Even those who would look back to the halcyon days of the 1950's and 1960's when the United States sat atop the industrial world in the realms of production need to look again. It was an age when Unions were strong, a factory job meant middle class status, and even average people had good benefits and could take good vacations and yet it was ultimately unsustainable.[i]
The reality is Europe (in particular Germany) was destroyed and still rebuilding, and in the East, Japan was also still in a state of post-war restructuring. When these two competitors came into their own (let alone the later addition of China under Deng Xiaoping) and were able to stand economically, the United States now faced stiff competition and the American system began to fail and slowly collapse.
Once again Europe spent its money on infrastructure and building social programmes and thus even though they never attained the economic magnitude of the United States, they were able to sustain solid economies with a very high standard of living. Americans who have visited Western Europe have seen this with their own eyes and are left puzzled at the high quality of construction and goods, as well as the standard of living and the cleanliness that is found there compared to most of the United States.
American Conservative Euro-haters will often point out that Europe was able to sustain the welfare state because America provided their security. We sacrificed, building bases, tanks, submarines, and jets so Europeans could have free health care, state pensions, month-long vacations, and the best mass transit system in the world.
Of course the European take on this is quite different. While Europe has always been grateful for the benefits that came with the Marshall plan, many Europeans and many other nations around the world have realized American generosity comes at a great price and in fact in many cases is not generous at all.
No government ever gives away their treasure out of the goodness of their heart. The Cold War paradigm was built on several and sometimes blatant misconceptions, falsehoods, and outright deceptions. The Soviets indeed had their satellites, but the United States no less so. American assistance meant American dominance and intrusion. The Italians found this out when their elections were corrupted. The French found this out when the United States intervened in their post-colonial affairs and ultimately the CIA participated in an assassination plot against DeGaulle. These actions led France to withdraw from NATO and in many ways was the genesis of the antagonism that continues to this day. The French are personally offended that the Americans have claimed the mantle of democracy. They find many American actions and institutions to be completely contrary to democratic principles and instead resemble class oppression and exploitation.
American Conservatives are always fearful of international and globalist organizations. They are convinced that somehow they're going to end up subverting and ultimately overthrowing American sovereignty. They're ascribing too much to those who head these organizations and underestimating the strength of will and ruthlessness behind the power-base that undergirds the American Establishment. The powers that be, which built the American Empire, are not for one moment going to just up and surrender the power and wealth they've accumulated. Nor will the politicians they control. These international organizations, from the IMF to the United Nations and even NATO are in the end, tools, mechanisms the powers use to run the empire. Unilateral centralized control brings transparency and responsibility. Rule through secondary means allows the elite to cloud motives, divide costs and responsibilities (on a micro level) and serves various other functional and practical purposes. These organizations have historically served as puppets for the American (dominant) interest.
This explains France's hostility and their withdrawal from NATO. They realized what others knew and yet were more than willing to accept....Western Europe was an American Satellite. Using covert operations has allowed the United States to maintain the smokescreen of democracy. The Soviets never had to worry about the public perception and so for them it was easier to just send in tanks. But once the Cold War ended, even the challenge of perception fell by the wayside. The United States could act with impunity.
As soon as the potential for geo-political confrontation was removed, the Americans showed their true colours to the deviationist Serbs. Tanks are a blunt tool. The Americans prefer F-119’s and B-2’s. With a compliant American media, and stupid acquiescent imperial grunts (like me at the time,) the whole situation can be spun and sanitized. Europe’s new order was enforced with violence, and in the 1990’s the United States demonstrated (morally) to the Russians, Serbs, and many others (like China) that ethically the United States was no different than the Soviet regime had been.
The American Geo-political establishment wrongly read the situation in Asia. The birth of Red China in 1949 was viewed as the great Soviet prize, the great Communist grab. Only later in the 1960's (and capitalized on by Nixon in 1972) did the American Establishment realize there was no Communist International. It was a fiction. Communism was a vehicle for post-Imperial and post-Colonial forces to gain power. In the end, nationalism remained and within the Communist system there were still hierarchies and classes.[ii]
The Soviet threat was largely a fiction. Of course opponents will say this is a hindsight judgment. But the reality is, the Soviet Union was never more than a Third World country with nuclear weapons. Soviet aggression? The Brezhnev Doctrine was no more aggressive than NATO policies. France was allowed to leave NATO but had France really tried to subvert NATO further actions would have been taken. The Americans always preferred to use covert action and subterfuge. Eisenhower did much to establish and further these precedents. Certainly the 1950’s and 60’s were a golden age for the malevolent spooks and murderers haunting the halls of Langley.
The Soviets twice turned to tanks in 1956 and 1968. But in terms of aggression, the only real overt Soviet aggression was in the 1979 Afghanistan invasion. Originally the Americans knew the Mujahideen were backed by Reagan. Then later the public learned they were backed by Carter, but eventually we learned Brzezinski (Carter's NSA chief) had been working to provoke the Soviets into invading. Remember it wasn't an outright invasion. Afghanistan had a Communist regime that was in trouble. They moved in to prop it up and apparently by their own admission, the Americans were helping to create the instability leading to the invasion. The narrative that the aggressive Soviets just attacked and invaded is a bit misleading. Brzezinski was determined to give them their own Vietnam and his plan worked.
Of course he didn't care one iota about the million or so who would die, nor the great regional turmoil it unleashed which is still being felt today. This is the great crime of the Cold War. The two Superpowers could never engage openly so they warred via proxy and left a trail of carnage and betrayals all over the globe. Millions died and yet millions of Americans are still convinced this lie was necessary to sustain our freedom.[iii]
The reality is numerous Non-Aligned countries rejected both systems and refused to ally themselves with either the American or Soviet bloc, and they often were punished for doing so. While Bush was the first to vocalize, "If you're not with us, then you're against us," it functioned as a reality during the Cold War period. So much for democracy.
Insiders knew Soviet power was essentially a myth and it was painfully clear by the time Reagan came into power. Nevertheless he embarked on a massive military buildup and the current Conservative myth is that Thatcher, Reagan, and John Paul II 'defeated' the Soviet Union. I'll say it again. This is a myth. The Soviet Union collapsed of its own accord. The system was never actually Communist and it never worked. Reagan’s brinkmanship was a frightening episode that made the Cold War almost hot again and unraveled the period of Détente birthed by Nixon and Brezhnev.
Eisenhower warned of the Military-Industrial Complex and the undue influence it would wield. He was right to point out that it would affect every facet of society. Every missile built meant a road that wasn't being built. Every tank meant a school or a section of railroad. The consumer culture wedded to militarism has had a profound effect on our society and as he warned... has certainly invaded and greatly affected the Christian Church.[iv]
Military spending is viewed as legitimate because it falls within the confines Nationalist Conservatives have outlined for the state. And yet few have paused to consider at what point does the spending lose legitimacy? At this point the United States spends more on the entire military apparatus than the rest of the world combined. Conservatives and especially Neo-Conservatives wish to continue raising the bar and increase spending.
What is the purpose of the military? Few American Conservatives would argue it exists to further the causes of Empire and yet somehow they've convinced themselves (and many others) that having dozens upon dozens of overseas bases (occupations) and spending vast sums on equipping a worldwide military presence...is all somehow a necessary defense to make 'us' safe. Somehow these bases ‘defend our freedom’ and secure our liberties rather than provide a catalyst for conflict, an incentive to war and breed resentment as the military and other US government agencies breed resentment through espionage, secret wars, assassinations, and economic policies which exploit other countries, undermine their governments, and destabilize their societies.
Other countries that do not engage in these policies do not need fleets of warships, thousands of fighter jets, missiles and submarines because they have not waged a low-scale war on the rest of the world.
The United States is the world's number one arms dealer which is another tool of manipulation and control. The United States is a terror to countries which will not bend to its will which is often expressed in the interests of American dominated multi-national corporations. Their interests are backed up by the CIA and the United States military.
Why do so many people hate the United States? Because much of the rest of the world understands that it is a lie and a force for great evil. Why do people still flock here? It's Babylon, the great whore. It's pretty enticing, people know what it is, but they often still want it. And yet how many come and are disillusioned? How many come and are internally torn? How many immigrants have I talked to who like fat, happy, dumb Americans realizing the average citizen has no idea what their brutal and evil government does elsewhere? They are torn, liking Americans but hating the political system they support. Maybe some of these folks figure maybe they should come here and make some money... and send home that money to their home countries often suffering as a result of American policy? It’s ironic.
How many come here and proper financially but feel they’ve lost their soul?
American militarism is a great lie and a great evil and yet it is one of the foundational planks of our economy.
And who benefits from it? Does society as a whole or do certain people within certain sectors benefit from the American war machine, every dime paid for with tax money? How many 401k’s are invested in so-called Defense contractors which survive off of government funding? These people can make tens of thousands and tens of millions but those at the bottom of society who are paid unlivable wages are begrudged some basic assistance. Multitudes make six-figure salaries all flowing from the tax coffers and are viewed as legitimate members and contributors, while the low-wage worker is a parasite if they take help for a heating bill or because they have no health insurance end up at an Emergency Room with a bill they cannot pay.
[i] Please do not assume I support Labour Unions. While I understand why they arose and can sympathize with the workers who driven to organize, as a Christian I have always and continue to possess serious misgivings about being part of a Union. That said, I also have little sympathy with the largely successful Right-wing attempts at eradicating them. Both sides are dirty and both are morally compromised.
[iii] ‘We learn from history that we learn nothing from history,’ said GB Shaw. It seems to be the case that all too often this statement is sadly true. As Christians I think we can do better and even Shaw would have most certainly said that history is a worthwhile endeavour. But the more you learn, the more sorrow you will endure when you see how others manipulate it and learn nothing from it.