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Empires as National and Cultural Megalomaniac Dreams
Once upon a time, national entities and cultures aspired to build empires. The impulse was the erroneous assumption of being a superior civilization. It was about exporting an extensive set of aspirations, a culture, and a value system. Romans thought that bringing water through aqueducts and paved roads to the “savages” of the north were the selfless gift of a superior civilization. Much more recently, France’s empire built its colonial towns, such as Saigon and Algier, following exactly the architectural model of French towns of the XIX century. In what could be an indication that history is on an accelerated course, the life span of empires is getting shorter. For example, the Egyptian empire lasted more than 3,000 years; the Mayan empire survived 2,900; the Chinese empire more than 1,600; the Roman empire itself, as a united empire, remained for 500 years while the Eastern Roman empire or Byzantine empire lasted an extra 1,000 after the split from the Western Roman empire.
Empire strategy: destroy, rebuild, occupy and exploit Closer to the modern era, and following the progress of technology in weapons and transport, Great Britain or France, during the rule of Napoleon, and even more recently Nazi Germany and its Japanese ally, had the lofty borderline-psychotic goal of complete world domination. In the ruins of World War II emerged the two winning empires, the United States and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). To the winners belong the spoils of war, and in 1945 the world was de facto split in two. The two parts of Germany were rebuilt from complete wreckage in the image of their new respective masters; the US Marshall plan was the remedy prescribed to deal with West Germany’s ruins. In Japan, General MacArthur took charge of the mass murder, demolition and later reconstruction for the US empire. Germany and Japan were not rebuilt as free national entities but occupied vassals on a short leash. Almost 70 years after the end of World War II, US military boots are still on the ground in both countries. According to data from the US Department of Defense (DoD), more than 50,000 US troops were still in Germany and almost 40,000 were still occupying Japan in 2011. Overall, according to the DoD, the US military has troops stationed in almost 150 countries.
Global Corporate Empire: Sovereign Nations are the Only Obstacle
Imperialism has long been a collective disease for humanity. In its current perverse capitalist incarnation, imperialism’s methods have become even more brutal and ruthless. If the physical destruction of a country’s infrastucture is still in the foreground, this is used in conjunction with the creation or revival of civil wars, ethnic or bloody sectarian conflicts in previously stable national entities. Corporate imperialism aims to break the national spirit. The few remaining sovereign nations are the final obstacles to the looming threat of a global transnational corporate empire. Corporate imperialism’s only concern is the bottom line: it is on a permanent quest to maximize profit. It is not about bringing the supposed gift of civilization to savages anymore, unlike the old-fashioned imperialist adventures. In this context, why bother to rebuild the shattered countries when the only goal is to plunder resources, either natural or human? Public resources are allocated to reconstruction, but these resources usually disappear in black holes of corporate war profiteers such as Halliburton in the US. Wrecked countries are never rebuilt because they are easier to exploit while they are in a shambles.
Why bother with regime-change policy when failed states are so convenient? The model for transnational corporate imperialism was set up in Iraq, then applied to Libya. This global imperialist strategy is in the works in Syria, the Ukraine, Mali, Central African Republic, and Venezuela. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) usually acts as the armed fist for this process, but sponsored proxy agents such as Jihadists in Syria or fascist factions in the Ukraine and Venezuela are also used to destabilize governments. In Venezuela on February 7, 2014, before the not so spontaneous protests started, Japanese car giant Toyota abruptly announced it was closing a plant employing 1,700 people. Is this pure coincidence or part of an overall ploy to crash Venezuela’s economy? There is a saying in Lebanon, that the country is “always five minutes away from civil war.” This tragic Lebanese reality has spread to the entire Middle East, Africa and is gaining ground in Eastern Europe. The old imperialist adage “divide and rule” is obsolete, the new motto seems to be “divide and steal from those divided.” The new strategy is to fuel ethnic or sectarian conflicts as much and as long as possible, and ideally maintain a permanent state of low-intensity civil war. In the Central African Republic, the clashes between the majority Christian population and the 15 percent Muslims gave France the perfect opportunity to send 2,000 troops. French troops are still in Mali to protect mining interests. In Iraq, the low-level sectarian warfare is a disaster for Iraqis but has worked well for corporate interests. The oil is flowing, and of course, just like in Syria, weapons dealers, mercenaries, and “reconstruction” contractors are making a killing.
Corporate Imperialism’s Legal Framework
In the disastrous case that they would be ratified, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would provide the legal framework for the global corporate empire. When top elected officials travel abroad, they are supposed to represent and defend the national interests of their people; however, they function mostly as sale representatives of mega-corporations. For example, French President Francois Hollande travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Brazil to sell the fighter jets “Rafale.” One of the main goal of his recent trip to the US was to indicate to top technology executives from Google, Twitter and Facebook that, despite the misleading socialist label and such, France’s best friends are corporations, not people.
Opponents of the TPP have rightly called the agreement NAFTA on steroids, but they rarely talk of its Atlantic counterpart, the TTIP. If the agreements ever see the light of day, most people would end up working for slave wages. Like the wealth of ancient empires that was built on slavery, the fortunes of today’s masters of transnational corporations are being made principally by breaking the backs of people who work for slave wages. The princes of Qatar are building their world cup stadiums with slave labor from Nepal. Global corporate imperialism does not only aim to dismantle the few sovereign nations left, but also to cripple regions and towns. A microcosm of this is Detroit, Michigan. The Motor City is in ruins, a failed town, and a symbol of what corporatism can do. With the TPP and the TTIP in place, we will have hundreds of Detroits. Large sections of Detroit have become ghost towns. In 1984, the independent non-aligned nation of Yugoslavia was able to organize Olympic games in Sarajevo. Thirty years later, and after the dismantlement of Yugoslavia by Clinton and his Western vassals in the mid 1990s, Bosnia has more than 40 percent of its people unemployed.
Putin: Standing for National Sovereignty
At the peak of the Syrian crisis in 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin stood his ground and got NATO to back off from attacking Bashar al-Assad. Many awful things have been said about the former KGB Colonel, but nobody can claim that he is not the man at the helm of Russia. One might like it or not, but Putin is clearly in charge of his country, which, if nothing else, at least gives people a sense of clarity. Unlike the so-called “leader of the free world,” there are no puppet masters behind Putin. Fidel Castro was the same, although he ruled a smaller island state. Putin also understood, that in order to maintain Russia’s national sovereignty against the United States and the European Union, he had to forge strategic and economic alliances, especially with China; BRICS was created in this context and for this reason.
But the BRICS nations and Putin must remain ever vigilant. The engineering of a failed state in the Ukraine cannot be allowed to happen. Likewise, BRICS’ member Brazil must also closely monitor the situation in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro is less charismatic than his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, and what global corporate imperialism abhor the most is “resource nationalism,” i.e. the nationalization of prime resources such as oil by sovereign states, as is currently the case in Venezuela. National sovereignty is not about nationalism; it is instead an expression of different cultural identities. National and cultural specificity are getting in the way of the end game of corporate imperialism. We must, as diverse people, unite and fight to stop this abomination. The United Nations is a failed institution at best, but it could be worse if it should ever become the United Corporations.
Gilbert Mercier is the Editor in Chief of News Junkie Post, where this essay originally appeared.