Imperialism: The Hegemony of the Military-Industrial Complex

February 16th, 2013

Published on Dissident Voice, by Christopher Helali, February 12, 2013.

… The financial euphoria of the 1990’s culminated with the new millennium, which hailed the capitalist system as one of the crowning achievements of human ingenuity. However, the true nature of capitalism and its inherent contradictions were disclosed again in 2008 when the market collapse caused worldwide recession. 

To divert attention from the inherent inequality of the economic system, the threat of terrorist attack, and the fear of the “Other,” the United States catapulted into a global war on terror before the manifestation of the economic collapse. In an effort to downplay the economic catastrophe, the United States continues to pursue supposed enemies around the world, using fear as a means of control.

Lenin made the observation in his classic work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism that “the non-economic superstructure which grows up on the basis of finance capital, its politics and its ideology, stimulates the striving for colonial conquest.” Financial capitalism is the foundation by which politico-ideological structures promulgate a supposed “need,” resulting in rapid territorial expansion. The words of Lenin, written almost a century ago, echo the timeless truth inherent to the structure of imperialism.

What Lenin recognizes is a fundamental unity that exists within imperialism. Political, ideological and economic structures work in tandem to the mutual benefit of all imperial institutions at the expense of weaker nations. What we are dealing with is a system that perpetuates its existence through market growth in the form of financial capitalism, the bourgeois mass media, transnational and multinational conglomerates, and the maximalist tactics of the state, to include its ultimate power, war.

The system ensures its existence by holding sway over public opinion in what Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky refer to as “manufactured consent.” A powerful system of propaganda and constructed information that manipulates the way the general population perceives, for example, news, issues and policies. Manufactured Consent creates new markets through the use of its coercive powers by furthering its ideological aims. Once accomplished, the economic and political power of the state provide the rulers and elites carte blanche to pursue an imperialist “grand strategy” through the use of their most powerful weapon: the military.

It is important to recognize that the United States grew to its global prominence by way of imperialism. At home, the United States engaged in a perpetual war with the Native Americans, while abroad, the targets included Mexico, Spain, Cuba, and the Philippines. The advent of mechanized war and complex global financial markets in the 20th century furthered the United States’ development of complex systems to combat enemies at home and abroad.

The classic speech by Republican President and former General Dwight D. Eisenhower reaffirmed the necessity to be constantly prepared for war, but warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex (MIC) since its implications were unknown. In line with this, President Eisenhower expressed grave concern over the unwarranted influence and power of the MIC within democratic governance that could shift the balance of power and endanger freedom and liberty … //

… The most disturbing characteristic of the post-Cold War period is the fact that the periphery is still, twenty years later, mired in perpetual war and increasingly impoverished. The nations that have not industrialized rapidly are being exploited by industrialized nation, supplying raw materials including entire sections of land bought for and paid by foreign conglomerates. This economic colonialism, is destroying the local economies and indigenous capabilities of many, and is thus a powerful feature of modern imperialism. The incessant demand by large capitalist industries necessitates the exploitation of natural resources to include minerals and fossil fuels at the expense of local populations. The needs of the market increase the conflicts in the periphery, leading to systemic sexual violence, human trafficking, and child soldiers. Lucrative business contracts with warlords and dictators have in effect financed the systemic violence and ongoing conflicts destroying these nations.

This increasing inequality between the elites and the poor- and working-classes, whose ranks are growing more impoverished daily, is alarming. Chris Hedges pointed at this during the recent outbreak of violence between Gaza and Israel saying that the conflict is a “window [of] our coming dystopia,” noting that the elite want to “make Gazans of us all.” Gaza and Palestine are the largest open aired prisons, a sentiment echoed by activists like Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis. The U.S. continues arming its allies and puppet regimes at the expense of local populations struggling for greater justice, freedom and self-determination.

While the United States continues to battle competing nations and ideologies to maintain hegemony, one thing is certain, the military-industrial complex will continue perpetuating violence to further feed its insatiable appetite for capital. The propaganda machine at home and abroad will quell public dissent and in effect stop the opposition from actualizing change.

The economic crisis, fueled by the speculation of major banks and financial institutions, led to record profits at the expense of billions across the globe. The spiral of violence perpetuated by the elite rulers of the modern “empire” only supports Lenin’s thesis on imperialism. The growing inequality around the world, culminating in massive protests, austerity and violence will only result in further crisis. The accumulation of blood-soaked wealth by the imperialist powers cannot continue unabated. The need for broad-based movements of solidarity and resistance is an existential imperative if humans are to survive on this planet and build a better world for generations to come.
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