Imprimir Republish


Far from God, close to the USA

A study by Moniz Bandeira dissects the formation of the American empire

ReproductionDismouted: The Forth Trooper Moving The Led Horses, Frederic Remington, 1890Reproduction

An old and lamented Mexican saying goes: “What bad luck for us. To be far from God and close to the United States”. From the young nation that wrenched out sighs from the European illuminists for its “passion de l’egalité”, in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, to the America of today, a little more than two centuries after its birth, it has managed to make a large part of the globe arrive at a negative consensus concerning it, something previously seen as an envious leftwing inflexibility”. The country seems to be hovering over the world, proud in its isolationism, always disposed to begin a new war in the name of liberty, which, they say, would have been invented by their founding fathers in 1776. A curious fallacy, since the father of the country, George Washington, had already averted, in 1796, that “any military excess is damaging to liberty, particularly to Republican liberty”.

“This disdain of the United States for the sovereignty of other peoples, the unilateralism of its international policy, militarism, arrogance and prepotency, the pretension of reforming the world to its image and resemblance, the pretext of promoting democracy with rationale for the deflagration or participation in wars didn’t flower as a result of the attacks of September 11th, but is bedded in the fundamental formation of the country”, says the historian Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira, author of Formação do império Americano [Formation of imperial America], a solid study of how the “empire of liberty” does everything to give  “liberty to the empire”. “In order to understand this process of pervasion of democracy, which has broken with civilized life and established a state of permanent war, was what drove me to write about the formation of the American Empire as an epilogue of globalization of the capitalist system, which is a world system and not one of a summation of national economies”, analyzes the professor.

For the idea of this global world, with America in command, Moniz went searching within Karl Kautsky, a disciple of Marx, left aside by the left in favor of Vladimir Lenin, for whom imperialism would be the expression of “agonizing capitalism, in decomposition”. The practice, observed the historian, gave reason to Karl, and not to Vladimir. “Kautsky said that one could apply to imperialism the same that Marx stated about capitalism, which is, that the monopoly generated the competitiveness and the competitiveness generated the monopoly, in a furious competition, which led the financial groups to conceive of the idea of the cartel. According to him, it wasn’t possible that capitalism would enter into a new phase, marked by the transference of methods of cartels towards international policies, the phase of ultra-imperialism.”

The theory by Kautsky has a notable logic: imperialism as the fruit of industrialized capitalism needs to export its capital goods to survive, which makes the conquering war an economic necessity, since it was necessary to guarantee a market in which to dump the produced merchandise. The problem is that these wars, with the competition between companies, were painfully costly. Hence the audacity of the anti-vision: they had beaten each others heads so much, that the major powers ended up forming a “universal trust, a unique world state, subject to the capital finance of the victors, which would assimilate all the rest”.

The vision of powers devouring each other, which Lenin would most certainly sell as socialism triumphing, the only survivor of this war among capitalists, was definitely closed in 1976, with the establishing of the Group of Seven (or eight), the G-7, the summit meeting of the major economies to coordinate the global economy, confirming, assures  Moniz, Kautsky’s forecast, that a joint exploration of the world would occur by way of financing capital, although this integration would not eliminate commercial competitiveness and the contradictions between the industrial powers.

At the head of which are the United States. A long way from any innovation by Bush Junior, this tendency for Messianism, noted the professor, marked the formation of the American people, America renovating the Jewish tradition. “We, the Americans, are the chosen people, the Israel of our time; we carry the Ark of Freedom of the world. God predestined great things for our race and the rest of the nations will follow close behind in our path”, wrote the creator of the great white whale Moby Dick, Herman Melville in 1850. “The American people, just like the Israelites, have gone on to be considered the mediator, the link between God and man on this Earth”, points out the professor.

The Pilgrim Fathers that left Europe for an adventure in the New World, where they founded the colonies that would become the United States, had considered themselves “protagonists of an exercise of exceptionalism, believers that were capable of a role that other peoples could not perform”. Then in 1912, recorded professor Moniz, the Brazilian Ambassador in Washington, Domício da Gama, summarized what was the Yankee spirit: “The hard individual egotism has broadened itself to the proportion that it could be called national egotism”. “Not without reason, in January of 2003, a high official at the State Department, on being questioned as to what extent the United States would resolve to delegate its sovereignty when joining multinational institutions or international treaties, declared: ‘It depends’. This infers that the only intangible sovereignty is that of America and only America has the right to decide what it must or must not be internationally respected”, observes the researcher. Consequently the country has gone, throughout its history, on to oscillate between isolationism and expansionism until, finally, it assumed in the current administration “the disdain for the sovereignty of other States, unilateralism and militarism, which were latent and sometimes had shown themselves, have been converted into official norms of its international policy”.

This was a long road, although covered rapidly and dubiously. At the start of the trail there was the Monroe Doctrine, that of “America for Americans”, formulated in 1823 by the then president James Monroe, who had isolated the United States from the Old World, reinforcing the desire of George Washington, for whom “Europe has interests without relation to ours, if not somewhat remote”, but, at the same time, holds the “tradition” of Thomas Jefferson, who said that “America had a hemisphere for itself”, of explicit expansionism. Which began, indeed, within its own territory with the conquest of the West and the purchase of vast adjacent areas to it (such as Louisiana, from France) that belonged to European countries.

Industrial progress demanded new areas of consumption and shortly thereafter the immense American territory seemed small. With the spirit of “(a) destiny manifesto”, the historian analyzed, the USA saw that it was necessary to “extend the area of liberty”. The dubiousness of the Monroe Doctrine was functional in this and the precursor in the use of the ideological “breach” of the isolation idea was President Theodore Roosevelt, the inventor of the big stick policy, the clout towards democracy. “Roosevelt was the first ‘imperial president’ of the USA, since for the first time possessions were administered far from and near to his territory, attaining the dominant influence in the Caribbean and in central America, transforming his navy into the second most powerful in the world, and consequently, convincing the other countries to take his policies and counseling”, analyzed professor Moniz.

The country quickly understood that domestic market restrictions demanded an expansionist military movement. Thus in 1848, the war wrought against Mexico, the attack and the annexing of Hawaii in 1898, and, in that same year,  the confrontation of what remained of imperial Spain, thrashed out by a liberation movement in Cuba. Using an incident with an American ship, the USS Maine, anchored in Havana, the USA militarily intervened in Cuba and took it over as a sort of protectorate.

Shortly afterwards it was the turn of the Philippines, where as well they joined in with a liberation movement against the Spanish, who had lost to America what had remained of their dominions in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Having finished everything that the ancient muse had sung, another empire had arisen. Or in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, in1904, “the Monroe Doctrine could force America, in a reluctant manner, to exercise the power of an international police force” in the case of “wrong doing or impotence” in countries in the Western hemisphere. The apex of this first movement occurred after the end of the First World War, when German imperial expansionism was defeated and the Americans came out of the conflict enriched and all powerful.

And it was the new German  attempt to compete with the USA markets that led Franklin Roosevelt, during the 30’s and 40’s to dedicate himself to reversing the American isolationist tendency and get into the world conflict. Moniz points out the various provocations made by America towards Japan and Germany, and avoided, so that both would break relations with the Americans. The War, observes the historian, was a categorical imperative for Roosevelt and Pearl Harbor was the pretext that the president had needed. There are even those who affirm that he prodded the Japanese to the extreme and knew about the 7th of December attack on the base and kept quiet, and there are the words of the secretary of the navy Frank Knox that Roosevelt “expected to get hit but not so hurt”. But, noted the researcher, not only by arms do empires live.

In 1944 the Bretton Woods agreement created the International Monitory Fund, the IMF, and the World Bank. “The fundamental factor in the Fund?s policies didn’t emanate from its capacity to decide which State merited assistance, but its principle of conditionality. Whoever received help would be obliged to satisfy determined objectives, which would bestow on the FMI intermeddling power in the internal policies of each country”, says professor Moniz. “From the First World War on, with the weakening of France and Britain,  the USA emerged as the hegemonic power and consolidated its position after the Second World War, also modeling the international economic system in conformity with its interests, under the helm aegis of the World Bank and the FMI. The liberty for which the founding fathers had fought went on to be identified, more and more, with consumer capitalism, namely free-enterprise. The free world began to mean the world of the free-market”, explains the historian.

The exception did not stop to confirm the rule. Democratic and Republican governments can have diverging views, but all of them, with rare exceptions (Jimmy Carter, for example), have continued to exercise their power over the globe by direct force of arms or by bland intervention (via the FBI and CIA). “Militarism was the privileged means found by American capitalism for its accumulation of capital. Since the start of the 20th century it has become necessary to continuously feed the warmongering industry and big business, in which military and industrial personnel associated themselves, forging a climate of threats, an environment of fear, in such a way as for Congress to approve huge resources to the Pentagon and defense organs”, analyzes the researcher.

Hence the constant need for “new enemies” that were substituted as time went by, from communists to Islamic fundamentalists, passing through the war against drugs. In what other manner, questions Moniz, can one understand the growth in the American military budget even with the end of the Cold War? And more: “The American governors and politicians in their extreme nationalism, have never admitted to the nationalism of other Latin American peoples or from any other region of the world”. But they could do business, once in a while, recorded the historian, with dictators, if this were to be of interest to the USA, as was the case of the Brazilian military, Saddam, Pinochet, among so many others. Anti-Americanism sprung up with force, accentuated in the Middle East by the strong alliance with Israel. “The ‘international terrorism’, which after the Islamic revolution in Iran appears in the speeches of American leaders as the new enemy, substituted ‘international communism’. All in order to justify the high spending on defense.” Do not only blame George W.

The East-West conflict is being left to the side and the new rhetoric speaks of a clash of civilizations, Christianity versus Islamism, everything in the capacity of the primordial question of access to crude oil reserves, since the giant has feet of clay and needs the raw material. After the first Gulf War on Iraq, bringing together militarism and economic rationalism, the so called “haws” came to the fore (Wolfowitz, Cheney, Perle, with reference to the current American administration), Pentagon employees who defended the “preventive war”, to attack before in order to impede the formation of a rival. With them also came the Washington Consensus, which encouraged privatization, the de-regulating of the economy and the liberalization of commerce.

Of the others. “The reduction of the role of the State, the Minimum-state, has meant, within the process of the globalization of capital, the reduction of sovereignty of national states, transferring their economic power to the transnational corporations, the majority of them North American”, evaluates Moniz. Kautsky would appear to have been more and more correct.

And the external movement was accompanied internally. “Democracy has continued, as in the time of Theodore Roosevelt, to be identified as the concept of ‘good government’, which means not the respect for public liberties and the rights of the individual, but the maintenance of stability.” Moniz says that the choice of President Bush to govern the USA confirms that American democracy in recent decades has begun to blunder and to show signs of having lost its direction. Which is something that is not so recent, since the “post September 11th policy was not the turning point in the USA’s external policy, it only gave impetus to a tendency that had always existed.  Bush must be seen as an actor who recites consolidated phrases more than a playwright who ends up writing a new play?.