Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 26 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEd News:
OpEdNews Op Eds   

The role of continuous warfare in the age of imperial decline

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Rainer Shea
Become a Fan
  (14 fans)

The decline of the U.S. empire began much earlier than when Washington's downward trend in global influence became widely acknowledged. As far back as the middle of the twentieth century, the U.S.-led order that formed after the second world war began to come apart. In 1949, the empire lost China to communism, an event which would ultimately produce the current shift towards a new China-led multipolar order. The additional setbacks that imperialism had to undergo to reach this point began shortly after, with the Indochina wars that Washington would become embroiled in during the mid-twentieth century. Even as the empire garnered great victories during these decades, successfully carrying out numerous anti-communist coups, which allowed for unprecedented exportations of capital to the peripheral countries, with each war there would appear more cracks in U.S. hegemony.

The victories that the communists repeatedly won in southeast Asia during this time served to not just diminish capital's territorial grip within the region, but force capital to contract. Washington's loss of the war in Vietnam was costly enough to lead to the collapse of the global monetary system established at Bretton Woods, contributing to the economic crisis of the 1970s. Also at that time, Saudi Arabia retaliated against Washington's support for Israel by imposing an oil embargo.

By 1970, the USA's global wealth share had declined to one-quarter, a sharp fall from what it had been at the empire's peak. And these additional crises were enough to leave the empire's financial grip in a precarious position, prompting capital to take drastic self-preservation measures. Neoliberalism was implemented, compensating for the decline in profits by intensifying the exploitation of the working class. And the petrodollar system was established, saving the dollar's dominance by switching its tied commodity from gold to oil. The petrodollar also brought U.S.-Saudi relations to new heights, which Washington continues to use to its advantage in its wars throughout southwest Asia.

This new economic arrangement was preceded by the introduction of continuous war, which would eventually come to dominate how the U.S. empire compensates for its own collapse. It was during the aftermath of the conflict in Korea that the empire would take on this practice of making war perpetual in order to preserve its capital.

Even though Washington inflicted immeasurable damage upon socialist Korea during the Korean War, effectively destroying all of its urban areas and wiping out at least a quarter of its population, it didn't win the conflict. Neither side did. The northern half of the Korean Peninsula remained communist, and the southern half remained under a dictatorship installed by the imperialists. It was the extreme despotism within the southern half, since compounded by the introduction of neoliberalism to the South, that put the entire peninsula at risk of breaking free from imperial control. With such great contradictions, the masses within this neo-colony could easily have taken example from the Koreans on the other side of the divide, and overthrown the capitalist state they lived under.

To prevent the "domino theory" of socialist revolutions from coming true within their crucial strategic outpost, the imperialists refused to let the Korean War end. The fighting stopped, but no formal treaty was ever signed saying that the war was over. This allowed Washington to use the South for constant military buildup against both the Democratic People's Republic of Korea itself, and implicitly against China. As well as for the South to be tethered to wartime laws that severely restrict free speech, and that have remained in effect even after the dictatorship's official end. Anyone in the South who expresses positive sentiments about the North is criminalized, due to the North being considered an anti-government organization. This solidifies the repression against communism within the South, which negates the presence of communist organizing on the same level that Indonesia's ban against communism does.

This has deprived the South's people of a frame of reference for their living conditions. When the only accounts anyone can hear about the North involve the stories from paid defectors about dictatorship, extreme deprivation, and human rights abuses, there's no empirical way to prove that Korean socialism has provided a better standard of living than the neoliberal paradigm the South lives under. This elimination of accurate comparison extends to information about the living conditions in China and all the other examples of existing socialism. Because while speaking favorably of these countries isn't illegal, the stigma of sympathizing with communism applies to them as much as to the DPRK.

With this layer of narrative protection in place, the capital that Washington exported to the South has been able to fortify itself, with the U.S.-backed government transitioning from a neo-colony to an imperialist power. This has added an additional level to the suppression of communism in the South, since tethering the interests of the proletariat in a given country to imperialism weakens the solidarity that proletariat has with the workers in the exploited countries.

Perpetual war has let the imperialists keep the masses within occupied Korea--and within the rest of the imperialist countries--demobilized, unable to easily access the knowledge that would set them towards revolution. The DPRK's guiding Marxist-Leninist theory and democratic nature are hidden from view, replaced by a constant stream of war propaganda.

By the time the Cold War began, this dynamic of intellectual isolation within an anti-communist environment had already been engineered throughout the entire imperialist bloc. The Soviet Union's indispensable role in defeating the Axis powers had been obfuscated, and the myth had been established that Washington's nuclear attacks against Japan were what had ended the war. With the emergence of what would become the Central Intelligence Agency a few years later, the imperialists created a vast covert propaganda network, designed to demonize communism in tandem with McCarthyism's suppression of Marxists. As well as with the anti-communist mass-killing campaigns that the CIA's Cold War-era regimes carried out.

When the imperialists exploited the USSR's revisionism by breaking up the Soviet bloc, this war against communism didn't get milder, any more than U.S. militarism did. Washington didn't get out of Korea, leave NATO, or abolish the CIA. It didn't change its hostile stance towards Cuba. At the same time that it started the Persian Gulf War, it mobilized its intelligence operatives to bring the Cold War to Yugoslavia, planting atrocity propaganda to manufacture ethnic tensions so that Europe's last bastion of socialism could be eliminated. In the leadup to when Afghanistan was invaded, and when the present era of direct combat began, Washington was already intensifying its more subtle types of warfare. The loss of the USSR's vote on the United Nations Security Council expanded opportunities for the U.S. to impose sanctions on the countries that defied it, using the UN as its proxy for carrying out the economic restrictions. And by the end of the 90s, NATO was able to exploit the conflict it had created within Yugoslavia by bombing the nation.

The humanitarian costs of these maneuvers were rationalized as necessary through a war-propaganda tactic that's since become the empire's most common one: claiming that the empire's warfare is itself "humanitarian." The sanctions on Iraq, which killed a million-and-a-half people, were given a sense of moral mandate by the fact that it was the UN that imposed them. The combination of economic warfare, covert psychological subversion, and bombings of civilian centers within Yugoslavia were rationalized through similar means. U.S. officials and pundits justified both of these assaults by portraying them as the costs of advancing "human rights," however spurious the atrocity allegations against the targeted regimes were--and however ineffective starvation sanctions were at preventing actual abuses.

The wars that the empire then started partially relied on different propaganda tactics. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were ostensibly about keeping the U.S. population safe, as well as about the predictable rationales of "liberating the women" and "toppling a dictator." As the goalposts were shifted in the supposed missions of these wars, and as the "War on Terror" expanded to numerous other countries, these inconsistent narratives gradually solidified into a more cohesive explanation for why Washington's wars kept growing without end. This being that the U.S. had a duty to defend "democracy" and "human rights" from a bloc of autocracies. Essentially the same rationale that occupied Koreans are given for why their government is at war with the supposed tyranny in the North, except on a worldwide scale.

The dynamics that the empire cultivated within Korea--partitioning of land, continuous war propaganda, suppression of dissent, militarized borders, military buildup, brutal embargoes--have been expanded, with the same effect of keeping the masses demobilized. Like the occupied Koreans, and every other population that's lived under neoliberalism, the inhabitants of the imperial center have undergone a dramatic deterioration in their living conditions throughout the last half-century. Yet anti-communism and war hysteria are stronger than ever, at least in terms of their prevalence within the media that the empire's people are surrounded with. The new cold war has let the U.S. officially legalize covert psychological operations directed at its own citizens, get its tech companies to intensify censorship against anti-imperialists, and create a constant barrage of propaganda about "human rights abuses" by Washington's adversaries.

Under this paradigm, those within the imperialist countries are constantly exposed to the idea that life within the socialist countries--and in all other places which don't follow Washington's neoliberal model--is worse than where they live. No matter how widespread hunger, debt, substandard housing, homelessness, lack of access to medical care, police brutality, and other injustices become where they are, they'll see confirmations that their circumstances are preferable relative to the countries Washington is at odds with. Even though occupied Korea is the only imperialist country that currently suppresses positive information about the anti-imperialist bloc to the extent of automatically arresting dissenters, the sheer prevalence of the propaganda in all of these countries has made this distinction make little difference. Everywhere that the CIA's war propaganda has a firm grip, the cultural hegemony says that the designated enemies are brutal dictatorships with nothing to learn from.

In accordance with Orientalism, and with the geopolitical motives of the moment, China and the DPRK are presently the main targets for these characterizations. The rise of multipolarity, and the DPRK's outmaneuvering of Washington's attempts to stop it from obtaining nuclear defenses, are developments from the last two decades that have made this propaganda pivot inevitable. And at any moment, the popularized image of China as the world's evilest regime can be used to extend the accusations of human rights abuses into the latest country that China has been carrying out development projects within. The equivalent narratives apply to Russia and Iran, which like China are portrayed as "imperialist" powers whose international activities must all be put a stop to.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Well Said 2   Valuable 2   Must Read 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Rainer Shea Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Rainer Shea is writing articles that counter the propaganda of the capitalist/imperialist power establishment, and that help move us towards a socialist revolution. Donate to me on Patreon here:

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

China is Saving the Uighurs From Jihadist Indoctrination

Do Americans Know How Close They Are To Dictatorship?

The coming U.S. regime change attempt in Bolivia

Counting down to civilization's collapse

As the American Empire Collapses, It Could Launch WW 3

The fall of the U.S. empire and the coming economic crash

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend