Miscellaneous content from the original enlightened caveman. Some serious, some not. Take your chances.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Imperial America?

Those of you who've been around for a while know that I am intensely patriotic - I dearly love this country, not so much for the people who typify it today, but for the philosophical underpinnings of it. I have, for many years, taken issue with people who have argued that all of the foreign policy problems we have are of our own making. To argue that we gave Saddam all of his power in the 80s, which means we are responsible for the mess in Iraq in the 90's and recently, has always seemed to be classic liberal fantasy talk. I have endlessly maintained that we played the cards in our hand at that time, that we acted pragmatically in the face of a difficult international situation. Our one time friend, Iran, was out of control (Anyone remember the Iran Hostage Crisis?), so we had to do what we had to do. But I'm beginning to wonder if the "it's our own fault" crowd isn't more right than I ever imagined?

A few days ago, while killing time in a bookstore, I stumbled across a book called, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins. I got the paperback, but the first publish date was November 2004. Here's a bit of the Amazon blurb:

John Perkins started and stopped writing Confessions of an Economic Hit Man four times over 20 years. He says he was threatened and bribed in an effort to kill the project, but after 9/11 he finally decided to go through with this expose of his former professional life. Perkins, a former chief economist at Boston strategic-consulting firm Chas. T. Main, says he was an "economic hit man" for 10 years, helping U.S. intelligence agencies and multinationals cajole and blackmail foreign leaders into serving U.S. foreign policy and awarding lucrative contracts to American business. "Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars," Perkins writes. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is an extraordinary and gripping tale of intrigue and dark machinations. Think John Le Carré, except it's a true story.

I'm only fifty or so pages into it and my stomach is turning, so much so that I decided to get online to see if I could fact-check some of his stories. So far, everything he says checks out. (Admittedly, I don't have the patience to do this task justice, but my cursory investigations didn't produce any red flags.) Folks, this is a problem for me, not a huge problem, but a problem nonetheless.

As I said, I have heretofore dismissed much of the liberal criticism of this country as standard "blame America first," myopic dribble. However, there's simply no question that we facilitated the overthrow of Iran's popular prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953, to place the Shah of Iran in power. We did this both to stem the tide of communism that we feared would pervade the Middle East and to enrich some large American corporations. The result was enough resentment toward the US to fuel the 1979 revolution in Iran. Then comes our alliance with Saddam, which gave him the power to do what he did in the early 90s, and here we are. Check out this interesting post on counterpunch.org from 2003.

So what are we to make of this?

Franly, I'm not sure yet. It's still sinking in. The one thing that I am sure about is that this is not a partisan thing. Perkins' book spans three decades and several administrations - including Democrats and Republicans. It's a money and corruption thing, which, as I've argued recently, applies equally to all politicians. It's sickening.

I suppose it isn't hard to explain this kind of behavior in terms of human nature, especially in the context of Brian Tracy's seven basic attributes - all humans at their core are lazy, greedy, ambitious, selfish, vain, ignorant, and impatient. These economic hit men (EHMs) were in the business of selling less developed countries (LDCs, not to be confused with DCs like ours) on the benefits of tapping into their resources to raise the quality of life for their people. They would convince them to take out massive loans from US banks, and then they would make sure they defaulted on the loans, thus making them beholden to the US for decades to come. The EHMs were essentially operating a mafia-like protection racket - they alerted their "customers" to the dangers that faced them, and then they coerced them (financially and by force, if necessary) into arrangements that they could never get out of. This is nothing more than greed gone wild - standard issue human stuff.

The sad thing is that it is very easy to conclude that America is just another imperial power looking to subjugate the world to build a massive global empire. In fact, there's no question that the money available from these kinds of endeavors is like a giant vacuum, attracting the most unsavory of human beings. So, we can definitely say that there are some people in this country, some powerful people, who are pursuing just this type of agenda. But is this an idictment of America at large, of capitalism and free markets? I think not.

It is a commentary on how the free market system only works when it is...well, free. The key to it all is the voluntary nature of trade between parties and the role of information in the decision-making processes of everyone involved. When one party has flawed or incomplete knowledge, they may voluntarily enter into a transaction that is in fact not good for them at all. This is why the phrase buyer-beware is so inextricably tied to free market endeavors. It's one thing when a buyer is simply ignorant; it's another thing entirely if the seller actively misleads the buyer. This is called a conjob, and the EHMs were nothing more than conmen with CIA thugs as their muscle.

So I said that this is a problem for me, but not a huge problem. No doubt, I'll have to adjust my perspective on why we are where are today in international affairs. That's never pleasant for someone like myself who likes to settle things and move on. However, the core of my worldview remains essentially unchanged. I still believe that humans will cut each other's throats for enough money, and I believe that no organization above a certain threshold of size and wealth is immuned to corruption, including the kind of corruption that results in mass death and deprivation. I just always believed that the US, as a country, was less proned to the kind of short-sighted international chicanery that is prevalent almost everywhere else on the planet.

Maybe it's because ours is the only country in history ever to be founded in the interests of common people, the only country ever to establish human rights, the free market, and the rule of law as the basis for everything. Maybe it's because the founding fathers were well enough versed in human nature to set up a system of checks and balances. And maybe it's because history has shown that countries engage in invasive imperial actions the moment they have the power to do so, yet we have the power to take Canada and Mexico with no problem, and we have not. We're non-offensive - our basic policy of military action revolves around dealing with threats, not capturing territory. But, facts are facts.

Yes, we refrain from simply attacking countries to loot them. However, if Perkins' book is true, then we simply loot them through economic coercion (conjobs) and the precision use of force (removing leaders who don't comply). Hard to swallow, my friends. But, as I am first and foremost committed to the truth, I have no choice but to wallow in this new perspective. I'll keep you posted as I ruminate on this. This is one of those times when I wish I were just a mindless ditto-head.


Blogger Michael Gersh said...

The overthrow of Mossadegh was the first point of entry for the people of the former Persian Empire to enjoy the fruits of modern civilization. Our involvement with the overthrow of Mossadegh was no more and no less than our (and President Carter's) involvement in the overthrow of the Shah - followed by the theocracy of Khomeini and the Ayatollahs - which also lies at our feet.

So, which is better - Eisenhower's support of the modern Iran, or Carter's support of the theocracy? At least the Shah made for a better environment for American interests to make some money. And what if you do not like either version - then you want to isolate the U.S. rather than staying involved in world geopolitics.

Whatever way we go, there will be winners, losers, and unintended consequences. Me, I'll take Eisenhower over Carter any day. And George W. Bush first of all. And, in case anyone wants to label any of this, support for the Shah, and opposition to Saddam, and the use of force to accomplish same, makes me a LIBERAL. Calls for withdrawal and leaving the Iraqi people to their own fate, makes you an isolationist conservative, supporting an imperialist fascist.

So much for labels

1/13/2006 08:01:00 PM

Blogger Digital Femme a.k.a. Android PR Gal said...

Ah "labels" what are they good for?!

Well EC I can imagine how your stomach must've felt as you took in each page of the book. I wonder if it's similiar to the feeling I had when I haphazardly found a journal that my ex-boyfriend had left, after we had gracefully split up (that I eventually found the guts to read, since he must've left it in our closet on purpose for me to see anyway) and found that he had been carrying on this blaze blaze affair with some chick towards the last year of our being together. It concerned me alot. Not too much but enough for me to almost get sick to my stomach thinking of how naive I was ...

Did this change my perception of relationships? Did this make it harder for me to trust and love another man? Nay I say. The actions and choices of one person was THEIR choice at that time. Sure there may be others out there capable of cheating on me. Heck, what makes me immune to being the one to be the cheater? However, I had to believe that there would be some men that could over look their need for varied pussy and could find it in themselves to be satisfied with my own .. and not have to act immorally.

Sorry, I had to relate this to a relationship .. well, in a way it DOES make sense does it not? If we had to speak in terms of economics, the U.S. certainly has made it's choice in what type of relationship (be it intentional with an agenda in mind) it wants to carry on with other countries? Whether or not those choices were made by the leaders of those times ...
I kind of agree with M.G. "Whatever way we go, there will be winners, losers, and unintended consequences ...."

Hmmmm, I am so glad I stayed up late two weeks ago to watch the History Channel. It reviewed the controversial events of 1979 and it was a good refresher to what was going on at the time. I was only but a mere wide-eyed teenage Canadian watching CBS's commentary on world events .. heck, what did I know.

I do however, appreciate you sharing your thoughts and feelings on what may be .. a somewhat 'rude awakening'. It may not be that bad, once you finish the book and had time to process the facts. I'm definitely looking forward to your review .. and your summation of what you learned from it and what you learned about your perception(s).

Afterall, isn't enlightenment what we are trying to achieve?

Keep up the good work! I have hope that the opinions you share, after going over them with the fine tooth comb of rationality will help your readers reach a greater awareness of the bigger picture!

1/14/2006 08:21:00 AM


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