byEric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org
Alliances between nations are military. Without being military, they would be nothing. Trade agreements don’t require any alliances at all. World War I wouldn’t have occurred if there had not been alliances — it was built upon alliances. It was not built on trade agreements. It wasn’t even built on trading-blocs.
In fact, as the WTO (World Trade Organization) has said:
In the two decades prior to World War I, a number of tariff wars broke out, usually provoked by the establishment of a new, more protectionist tariff, or in the course of renegotiation of bilateral treaties.17 After the expiry of a treaty, tariffs were often raised temporarily as a means of improving negotiating leverage. … Despite the widespread increase of protectionist measures before World War I in continental Europe, the United States19, Argentina and other countries, world trade continued to expand rapidly.
It goes on to observe:
Even though the contention that trade and peace dovetail is still very present today,119 it is not uncontested on theoretical and empirical grounds. … Empirical evidence appears to generally support the idea that increasing bilateral trade reduces the risk of bilateral conflicts.122 But studies can be found that support either side of the argument, predicting both a negative and positive relationship between trade and war.”
World War III, too — a nuclear war — could be built upon alliances, which are now even more complex and unpredictable than ever. But that’s not the only danger from America’s alliances. America’s alliances don’t only increase the likelihood of wars, they sap the U.S. economy, and they also reduce democracy in America. Here is how:
Firms producing military goods and services (the makers of aerospace, munitions, etc.), sell mostly to their nation’s government (not to the general public), but also sell to the governments that are military allies of that government; and, so, virtually their entire sales are to governments.
As a consequence, these firms depend enormously upon their own country’s foreign policies, especially its alliances. Such a firm cannot sell to a nation that is being treated by its nation’s press as an ‘enemy’; and, on the other side of the matter, any nation that is treated as an ‘ally’ is virtually a “most favored nation” to become part of the given military firm’s foreign marketing-area. ‘Enemy’ nations are also needed by a military firm, however, in order for the domestic electorate to support increases in their government’s military budget (and this goes along with there being “austerity” for non-‘defense’ spending — and ‘security’ is thus trumpeted as a government’s top obligation to the public that it supposedly ‘serves’, above such areas as health care, education, any services to the poor, and even above infrastructure).
Both ‘allies’, and at least one ‘enemy’, are needed, in order for a nation’s military firms to thrive. But they thrive at the expense of others — and those “others” aren’t merely their economic competitors, but include the entire non-‘defense’ economy. An economy that has no ‘defense’ firms, can thrive, but an economy that has no non-‘defense’ firms (which would be a modern Sparta), will inevitably fail. (Even Spartans couldn’t eat their weapons.)
A military firm’s top domestic concern is to provide domestic employment so that its workers will be able to serve as an active political constituency for increases in military spending. The firm will thus spread their domestic employment (or “jobs”) around their country in order to be able the more effectively to lobby as large a percentage as possible of the nation’s Representatives and Senators (or other parliamentarians), so as to have the maximum influence over the government’s foreign policies (such as to overthrow a foreign government — “regime-change” — or otherwise to increase the demand for military expenditures).
The lobbying investments by military suppliers are consequently a crucial part of their overall expenses. If their own government won’t purchase from these companies, who will? Lobbying is vital for them, and it inevitably is lobbying for wars. The basic sales-message is that, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” That’s the basic message, no matter how it’s worded. For them: fear sells. This is especially the case because virtually no people in the domestic economy crave military weapons; and, so, in a field like this, only fear sells. Panic is terrific, and “the U.S. is still fundamentally operating under the old martial law framework”. None of the post-9/11 “emergency” powers has been cancelled, even 16 years after 9/11. (One panic did that? Really? Is this panic permanent? Why? Is this a democracy?)
Though commerce in military goods and services is merely a portion of a nation’s overall commerce, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s 17 January 1961 Farewell Address (since he had lacked the courage to challenge as the sitting President the increasing control over the U.S. federal government by the owners of that portion of the U.S. economy) warned his successors that “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
Privatizing this part of a nation’s industry, arms-making (such as the U.S. does), is thus inevitably inviting the owners of those corporations to control the government’s entire foreign policies: those corporations aren’t controlled by the government, so much as they control the government — at least its foreign policies, and those foreign policies will include not just military matters but also diplomatic ones, which includes trade-agreements; and, consequently, the scope of control over the government by the weapons-makers is far larger than is those firms’ mere percentage of the total national economy. In a nation such as the U.S., in which over half of all discretionary governmental spending is military, their control will be (and is) enormous.
A country whose ‘defense’ industry is privatized, is thus a country that is largely controlled by its military-industrial complex, and this is especially the case if the nation devotes a relatively large portion of its GDP to military production, such as the U.S. does. The clients of that military-industrial complex, and of that country, are not merely the private owners of these companies, but are also the foreign governments with which the given country is allied. This is the real reason why the U.S. government is allied with the countries that it is, including many (such as the Sauds, to whom the Trump Administration recently sold $350 billion of U.S.-made weapons) that are dictatorships. The U.S. even creates dictatorships, and these (like the Sauds) are very good for America’s ‘defense’ firms.
For examples, consider the Iran coup in 1953, Guatemala coup in 1954, Chile coup in 1973, Honduras coup in 2009, and Ukraine coup in 2014 — just to mention a few of America’s pro-dictatorship foreign policies in recent decades. The U.S. now turns democracies into dictatorships, far more often than it turns dictatorships into democracies. Military industry exists in order to coerce and kill people; no nation’s public want to be coerced or killed. Military industry isn’t like others; it is entirely based on fear of foreigners. That’s just a fact, even if economic theory (produced mainly by imperial powers) simply ignores this crucial economic fact and its huge implications.
America’s allies — the nations whose governments’ interests the U.S. spends its public’s blood and money to protect — are mainly Saudi Arabia and its GCC, or Gulf Cooperation Council, of fundamentalist-Sunni royal families (countries whose owners take the Sunni-interpreted Quran as their basic Law), but include also the fundamentalist-Jewish state of Israel (whose owners take instead as their basic Law the Torah), and also NATO, which is the secular anti-Russia alliance headed by the U.S. government, and which continues even after the Soviet Union and its communism and its Warsaw Pact military alliance had ended in 1991 and thereby had actually terminated NATO’s founding raison d’être — and yet NATO still doesn’t end, but instead expands to surround and threaten Russia even more. The U.S. government also has Asia-Pacific allies: mainly Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand (ANZUS); and these alliances, too, are Cold War relics, not authentic national-security expenses for the U.S. government in service to the American people — nothing of the sort. It’s purely profit and loss, not serve and protect. Only the military firms’ stockholders are being served, and protected.
All of these alliances are highly profitable for U.S. military contractors, which use the alliances as virtual marketing organizations for American firms’ military wares, selling their weaponry to foreign countries where the U.S. has military bases. The top U.S. ‘defense’ contractors are (in order):
1. Lockheed Martin.
3. General Dynamics.
5. Northrop Grumman.
7. United Technologies.
These are therefore the main companies that control U.S. military policies, and distort U.S. diplomatic policies to comply with those military demands.
They are served in Washington via “the permanent government,” which relies upon “the revolving door” between government and “the private sector,” which includes the think tanks, the lobbying firms, and, of course, everything that’s financed by the military contracting firms (including both scholarships and university chairs, and many other positions).
A de facto directorate of several hundred managers sitting atop dozens of military, diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies, from the Department of Homeland Security to the National Reconnaissance Office, has come to dominate national security policy, displacing the authority not only of Congress but of the courts and the presidency as well. The precise sizes of the agencies’ budgets and workforces are classified in many cases, but the numbers are indisputably enormous — a total annual outlay of around $1 trillion, and employees numbering in the millions…
Truman’s hope proved misplaced. [Here was Truman’s dashed hope. And here is how much it became dashed.] As one administration followed another, democratic accountability diminished, triggering an enormous transfer of power from elected officials to bureaucrats. Yet it was necessary to maintain the illusion that national security was controlled by our constitutionally established democratic institutions…
Despite Obama’s gestures toward harmony, it became increasingly difficult to believe that the three constitutionally established branches of government actually controlled U.S. security policy. After reports emerged that the NSA had eavesdropped on the cell phone conversations of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for example, Obama’s national security adviser claimed the president knew nothing about it; some of these programs, Secretary of State John Kerry confessed, were on “automatic pilot.”
The courts, for their part, used ringing rule-of-law rhetoric in high-profile detention cases, but in lower-profile disputes about national security, judges were noticeably less impassioned, often dismissing challenges to unlawful war-making, torture, surveillance, and kidnapping on dubious jurisdictional grounds. And Congress’s role in defining national security became more and more ceremonial.
Glennon had headlined earlier, in the January 2014 Harvard National Security Journal, “National Security and Double Government”, and he wrote there: “The public believes that the constitutionally-established institutions control national security policy, but that view is mistaken. Judicial review is negligible; congressional oversight is dysfunctional; and presidential control is nominal. Absent a more informed and engaged electorate, little possibility exists for restoring accountability.”
But, of course, “a more informed and engaged electorate” requires an honest press; and, for example, America’s most influential newspaper on international relations and on politics, the Washington Post, is owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder and head of Amazon.com, which company supplies the cloud-computing services (Amazon Web Services, or AWS) to the U.S. CIA and Pentagon, and which newspaper (the WP) is rabid against America’s ‘enemies’ such as especially Russia and Iran. The Washington Post is intensely neoconservative, thus boosting the business of AWS. On 23 April 2015, the newspaper reported that:
Amazon is by far the largest provider of cloud infrastructure and services to the federal government, including to the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon. The company declined to say how many U.S. government agencies it serves, but it has 1,500 government clients globally. Amazon also has a government-only cloud for storing sensitive data.”
Only AWS and the U.S. government know what’s in it. AWS is so profitable to Amazon that it accounts for all of Amazon’s net profits — the retail Amazon.com continues, during some quarters, to lose money, but the profits from AWS now dwarf any such ongoing retail losses. Amazon makes its money from the U.S. government, not so much from consumers. AWS has brought stability to Amazon’s profitability; Wall Street places a premium on any firm that has stability of profitability. And the Washington Post is public relations, or propaganda, for wars, to increase Amazon’s profit-source, which is military, much more than it is retail (the business by which America’s consumers know Amazon). Thus, for example, bombs in Syria are balms in Amazon, and in other U.S. ‘defense’ contractors.
America’s recent invasions have all been promoted (or “PR”ed) by ‘humanitarian’ concerns (such as against ‘barrel bombs’ and ‘chemical weapons attacks’, so as to ‘protect’ the people whom American bombs and bullets actually cripple and kill by the thousands or even millions of victims, but the entire network of America’s allies supports these invasions, as if the ‘humanitarian’ ‘explanation’ of an invasion is a reason, and not a mere (and cynical) rationalization, for the invasion. If America didn’t have so many allies, then the death and destruction that America did to Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and other Russia-friendly countries, wouldn’t be happening — it would be too embarrassing for even people such as George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, to do for their financial backers, who bought them their powers and established the system that narrowly constrains what they can do and still ‘succeed’ as the nation’s ‘leader’.
Under Trump’s Presidency, the Public-Enemy-Number-One country is Iran. (Under Obama, it was Russia.) Iran is the country that America’s two main Middle-Eastern allies, the Sauds and the Israelis, want to conquer or even destroy. And, the oil companies of America and of its allies, also want to take back the Iranian Oil Company, about which, wikipedia says that, until the U.S.-coup regime of the Shah ended in 1979, and the company was nationalized:
It was incorporated in London as a holding company called ‘Iranian Oil Participants Ltd’ (IOP). The founding members of IOP included British Petroleum (40%), Gulf (later Chevron, 8%), Royal Dutch Shell (14%), and Compagnie Française des Pétroles (later Total S.A., 6%). The four Aramco partners – Standard Oil of California (SoCal, later Chevron) – Standard Oil of New Jersey (later Exxon, then ExxonMobil) – Standard Oil Co. of New York (later Mobil, then ExxonMobil) – Texaco (later Chevron) – each held an 8% stake in the holding company. … Similar to the Saudi-Aramco “50/50” agreement of 1950, the consortium agreed to share profits on a 50–50 basis with Iran, “but not to open its books to Iranian auditors or to allow Iranians onto its board of directors”.
So: the U.S. government blames Iran for the 9/11 attacks (which were actually perpetrated by the Sauds, ‘our ally’), and U.S. President Trump has stacked his Administration with people who hate Iran (the country that the Sauds hate).
The United States is a fundamentally different country than its Founders had intended. George Washington’s famous Farewell Address asserted that, ”It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world”; and the third President, Thomas Jefferson, said in his equally famous Inaugural Address, that there should be “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations –- entangling alliances with none.” Jefferson’s comment there was also a succinct tip-of-the-hat to yet another major concern that the Founders had regarding treaties (“entangling alliances”) –- that by discriminating in favor of the treaty-partners, they also discriminate against non-partner nations, and so endanger “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations,” which was the Founders’ chief goal in their foreign policies. Today’s America instead seeks wars, and craves friendship with only ‘allies’, but demands “regime change” to ‘enemies’, who thus are especially necessary to the military-industrial complex (the firms that profit from wars), who now rule in the empire’s center.
It’s not personal; it is systemic. As Glennon said, “it was necessary to maintain the illusion that national security was controlled by our constitutionally established democratic institutions.” The only people who stand above the system are the ones whose interests set the system up as it is, and keep it running, “on ‘automatic pilot.’”
Alliances are a crucial part of that system, just as has been the case for every empire in the past. And, it’s something that America’s Founders had tried their best to prevent. Long after the American Revolution, the foxes have retaken the American chicken coop. Only this time, it’s America’s aristocracy (domestic “foxes”), not Britain’s (foreign ones), who are in control. It’s no longer “our constitutionally established democratic institutions,” but our own aristocracy. They determine which other nations’ governments are ‘our’ allies, and which are ‘our’ enemies. They rule the world — or at least they try to, like a slave-master with his whip.