It comes as no surprise that the present era has witnessed a resurgence of virulent complaint and outrage from the so called “left community.” Not that the tendency has ever been absent in recent history; but from the time of the 2000 election and the claim that President Bush “stole” the prize of state power through nefarious means, the chorus of complaints has risen to a fever pitch. With the Bush Administration’s response to the September 11th catastrophe–the Patriot Act I and impending II, the attack on Afghanistan, imprisonment of foreign nationals and American citizens, patriotic defense of American prerogative in the world, the Iraqi War and the assertion of the right to preemptive attack and total domination of other nations, the government has come under mounting denunciation and even acts of civil disobedience from those who still cling to the touching notion of respect for the right to life, the autonomy of nations, and the quaint principle of world justice.
Rather than unmask this fervid and largely irrational assault of empty claims and groundless declamations piece by piece, I will simply present an overview of the situation that will establish the inherent logic, the brilliant argument, that is to say, simply put, the wisdom of the Administration’s policy. In order to embark on this pursuit it is necessary to set out a framework, a meta-political position from which the present situation can be evaluated and its justification established through logical deduction. Of course, as in any deductive scheme, definitions, postulates and assumptions are required but rather than tax the lay reader with technical pronouncements and theoretical elaborations, I will simply lay out a general framework from which the argument can be seen to follow apace. And for this purpose, nothing could better serve than the logic of neo-liberal economic theory, a doctrine so inherently plausible that even its ideological opponents are powerless against its deductive power.
There are two basic points to be established from which everything else will follow with the necessity of Euclidean rigor.
1. The first thing to understand is the simple and unassailable contention that if each country contributes to the world what it is best suited to produce, without interference, the result cannot be anything other than the most perfect allocation of resources and the greatest well-being for the largest number of human beings. Lay people need only imagine the point by reflecting on Darwinian theory. It has been established, even to the acknowledgment of the liberal academics, that in the competition of animals and animal species the “fittest” will succeed. And in the struggle for scarce resources (“food” in theory of Malthus, from whom Darwin took his fundamental conception) each species will dominate by utilizing its particular survival skill to establish its position: the speed of the jaguar, the strength of the elephant, the instinctual reproductive brilliance of the ant and bee, these are specialized characteristics that afford each of these species a unique advantage in its distinctive environment. And hasn’t the great economist P. Samuelson informed us that “Again and again we have seen how specialization increases productivity and standards of living?” Certainly the point is obvious? For as he has rightly noted, specialization rests on “interpersonal differences in ability.” Of course, beyond the natural differences of human beings there are those that are further developed by the process of specialization itself.
Of course, all of this follows logically from the principle of comparative advantage. Once again, to employ one of Samuelson’s brilliant derivative examples (elucidating the model proposed so artfully by Ricardo) if the best lawyer in town is also the best typist, it “pays” him to permit his typist to go on typing while he concentrates on his more productive and unique capacity to lawyer. One may quibble that not everyone is socially empowered to become a lawyer and that the position in return confers special privilege, particularly in comparison to that of secretary, but that is a minor consideration that need not concern us at the moment. Nor need we worry ourselves with the fact that the wages of the secretary are sufficiently low to obviate the rationale for the lawyer doing his own typing. For notice that not only is the typist free to concentrate on typing, and thereby enhance her typing skill, but the division of labor makes it possible for this secretary to work content in the knowledge that a superior intellect is making the crucial decisions that will provide security for her existence. Of course, how people come to their particular social positions in the division of labor is an interesting question but it is best to consider it at another time.
The basic argument, fundamental to bourgeois economics and neo-liberal exchange and trade theory is quite simple, is it not? If everyone, and by logical extension every country, does what it is uniquely constituted to do, the result will be the greatest efficiency of the entire system, that is, the greatest efficiency of the global economic system. Since human beings, and by extension nations, are fundamentally rational, (and as great thinkers like Tarde, Burke and Durkheim have noted, nations would not exist over long periods of time if they did not embody some profound “logic,” though not of course enlightenment “reason,”) the very fact that trade among nations has come to establish a particular pattern of exchange must mean that this is the best possible exchange arrangement. Otherwise, reasonable persons and heads of state would have altered the arrangement long ago.
2. Now it only remains to turn to the second basic issue to be decided: what exactly is it that the United States produces more efficiently, more effusively, more copiously, than any other nation on earth and can be relied upon to continue in a similar manner? And the answer, I believe, is unavoidably obvious. The United States is presently the prime producer of military threat and assault, world intimidation, global violence, ideological mystification, international corruption, and material threat, bribery and extortion; in short, “patriotic gore.” Now it may be maintained that other countries possess many of these characteristics, for none of the major powers and not even many of the world’s smaller nations are without a similar capacity, honed and exercised over the course of their histories, to perpetuate extraordinary violence, brutality and human and ecological despoliation of quite extraordinary barbarity. One need only refer to Israel, Russia, Ireland, the Congo, Chile, India and on and seemingly on ad infinitum, to recognize that the United States is certainly not alone in its capacity for extreme destructiveness.
And if we look back to the beginning of the century and include Germany, The Soviet Union, China, Japan and Turkey, the list becomes longer and more impressive still. In fact, for short periods of time, it would have to be acknowledged that other nations have actually exceeded the United States in their barbarity. Probably no country can equal the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime in a scant twelve years of its total existence. And beyond Nazi Germany, one country or another can certainly match or even exceed the United States in sheer barbaric cruelty in one aspect of social life or another. In fact, when it comes to domestic slaughter, as in the case of Rawanda, where it is estimated that over 1,000,000 Tutsi died before the catastrophe evidenced itself in Zaire with the sustained death of an enormous number of Hutu refugees, or in the case of the Pol Pot slaughter in Cambodia, or in Indonesia where in 1965 the State eliminated the Communist Party and murdered some 600,000 persons in the process, to be followed in 1975 the invasion of East Timor and mass murder on a proportional scale roughly equivalent to the Cambodian example, it is clear that the United States cannot equal these figures among its own populace (excepting of course, such moments as the Civil War.) For the nature of American democracy entails that internal order be maintained largely (though with significant exception) through ideological means, whereas foreign domination is essentially to be maintained, not only by the threat of force, but by its regular perpetuation. There is a point here, no doubt. But for the totality of power, domestic and international, for its capacity to destroy not only countries and their peoples but environment conditions and resources, cultures and identities, dignity and hope, and for the length and breadth of its tenure and the scope of its systematic world engagement, certainly no other country can rival the unique ability of the United States at murderous mayhem.
It is to its considerable accomplishment, its particular “comparative advantage,” that from its inception America was violent and expansive. In 1585, before the English established permanent villages in Virginia, Richard Granville “sacked and burned” an entire Indian village. Nor were things substantially different in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Soon we would be witnessing the importation of Black slaves. It is important to keep this point in mind when assessing America’s “comparative advantage.” For no other country in the modern era can claim so expansive and deeply rooted a tendency to imperial domination; and so, when one considers which contemporary nation has the “”comparative” advantage” in matters of this sort, one has to conclude that not only by simple behavioral evidence, but by socially constructed character, the United States is singularly prepared to adopt the role of world Leviathan. American roots in grandiose, fundamental evangelicalism and technological, enlightenment rationality combined to place instrumental reason in the service of a sense of world superiority. In summary, the American tendency to global domination is not only extensive, but so deeply rooted in the American system that we have good reason to believe that it can be trusted to persist in the face of world opposition.
If we merely consider the American record since the end of the Second World War, we cannot help but be enormously impressed. A brief, and by no means complete, survey of the recent historical record will provide us with an admirable record of American intervention in the world (military and non-military: China, 1945-1960; Italy, 1947-1948; Greece,1947-1950; The Philippines, 1940’s-1950’s; Korea, 1945-1953; Albania, 1049-1953; Eastern Europe, 1948; 1956; Germany, 1950’s; Iran; 1953; Guatamala, 1953-1954; Costa Rica, mid 1950’s, 1970-1971; Syria, 1956-1957; the Middle East, 1957-1958; Indonesia, 1957-1958; Vietnam, 1950-1973; Cambodia, 1955-1973; Laos, 1957-1973; Haiti, 1959-1963, 1986-present; Guatamala, 1960; Ecuador, 1960-1963; the Congo, 1960-1964; Brazil, 1961-1964; Peru, 1960-1965; Dominican Republic, 1960-1966; Cuba, 1959-1980’s; Indonesia, 1965-2000; Ghana, 1966; Uruguay, 1964-1970; Chile, 1964-1973; Greece, 1964-1974; Bolivia, 1964-1975; Guatamla, 1962-1980’s; Iraq, 1972-1975, 1990; Angola, 1975-1980’s; Zaire, 1975-1978; Jamaica, 1976-1980; Seychelles, 1979-1981; Grenada, 1979-1984; Morocco, 1983; Surinane, 1982-l984; Libya, 1981-1989; Nicaragua, 1981-1990; Panama, 1969-1991; Bulgaria, 1990; Afghanistan, 1979-1982, 2000-present; El Salvador, 1980-1994; Yugoslavia, 1999-2001; and of course, Iraq, 2003. What an extraordinary achievement, and this record covers only the fifty eight years. Were we to go back to the 18th and 19th centuries, to the devastating slaughter in the Philippines and the war against Mexico, for example, the accomplishment of American domination would be even more noteworthy.
Two additional points are worthy of consideration: First, I have noted instances of American intervention in the affairs of other countries, both through military and no-military means. But we should also note those instances in which the United States was not the primary aggressor, but established the context and offered support for those countries that carried out the main violence. The situation in the Congo which led to the murder of Lumumba is a case in point; Belgium was certainly the direct murderer of Lumumba, but the United States provided more than ideological support. CIA Director Allen Dulles warned of “a communist takeover of the Congo with disastrous consequences…..for the interests of the free world, ” and supported his position with the creation of a fund of $100,000 to replace Lumumba with a “pro-Western group.” True to its position, the Eisenhower administration “supported the Belgian military intervention on behalf of Katanga…” In short, the United States not only carried out violent intervention throughout the world, but conspired with other nations to facilitate their aggression. But any reader can supply a large number of such instances. There are few places in the world in the past century in which American support has not been relevant to local slaughters.
Second in developing an argument grounded in neo-liberal notions of rational efficiency it must not be thought that any particular judgments of value are involved. As any academic well knows, the first principle of theoretical study is the notion of value neutrality, objectivity, of impartiality as bequeathed us by such towering figures as Max Weber in his classic statement of the separation of fact and value.
Though such terms as “aggression,” “violence,” “destruction,” “terror,” “intimidation,” “barbarism,” and “murder” have been freely used in this brief essay, it should not be concluded that they represent any statement of moral judgment. One must eschew all tendency to assume that a judgment of value is being exercised in this account. Murder, villainy, torture, violence, intimidation and slaughter are facts of the world. Whether one approves of them or not is a completely separate issue. Nothing could be more factual than the cessation of life following the bombing of Hiroshima or Dresden. At one moment of space-time there were live human beings; at another, there were previously live human beings, now dead. That is how the world is to be described. That is, of course, not how contemporary governments describe such situations and the United States is no exception. But the terms used by nations are merely attempts by emotional means to move large number of the ignorant and uninformed. The only relevant criteria actually applied by modern states are political power and economic expansion, and, once again it must be insisted that these are facts; hard, quantitative, inexpugnable facts.
It is not for the present author to determine whether mass murder is good or bad, for example; reasonable people will disagree about the value of such states of affairs, as they have in the past and are likely to continue in the future. This may suggest that moral judgments are less matters of reason than pure emotion or social conditioning, but this is a subject for another discussion.
What has been argued here is relatively simple and purely what we might sutably call, logico-empirical: first, that the most rational allocation of capacities is enhanced by each nation providing that practice that distinguishes it from the rest; and second, that the obvious advantage of the United States in this consideration is its clear monopoly over the practices, motives, resources, psychological imagination and single minded commitment to world domination, oppression, military intimidation and superordinate arrogance. However one judges these characteristics, they seem to the present writer to be simple facts of the world that serve to mark the United States as the country uniquely qualified to serve as the vanguard of world tyranny.
Herman Neutics and Associates
RICHARD LICHTMAN is the author of “The Production of Desire,” “Essays in Critical Social Theory,” and most recently, “Dying in America,” which among other aspects, includes a memoir of the death of his father. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org