The US war machine can no longer provide its corporate masters the neo-colonial stability they need to reap long-term gain from the imperial order.
“The political crisis of U.S. imperialism is becoming more difficult to manage.”
The year of 2018 ended with a flurry of conflicts between factions of the ruling class in Washington. On December 20th, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis resigned in opposition to President Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria. A partial government shutdown ensued two days later after Trump issued an ultimatum to Democrats to support funding for the so-called “border wall.” The issues of war and immigration have led many in the White House and the corporate media to cry tears of desperation. And, as has been the case for much of the Obama and Trump Administrations, the U.S. left has been unable to explain what is going on to the people.
Tears are flowing from the war hawks in Washington because the political crisis of U.S. imperialism is becoming more difficult to manage.The U.S. plan to pull troops out of Syria is an electoral maneuver that stands to benefit Trump. U.S. imperialism is rife with allies such as Turkey and France who will shoulder the burden of terrorizing Syria. The war hawks in the Democratic and Republican Parties are screeching without end over the move because Trump has revealed the central weakness of U.S. imperialism. That is, nations such as Turkey cannot hope to overthrow the Syrian government without full-scale U.S. military intervention no matter how many mercenaries are armed, trained, and financed for the mission. Withdrawal of U.S. troops delays the dream of a Syrian state rid of secular and Arab nationalist President Bashar Al-Assad and indirectly acknowledges that the democratically-elected Syrian government has won the war.
“Nations such as Turkey cannot hope to overthrow the Syrian government without full-scale U.S. military intervention no matter how many mercenaries are armed, trained, and financed for the mission.”
Another aspect of the planned troop withdrawal from Syria that angers the ruling class so much is that President Donald Trump has forced the hand of the Democratic Party to discuss issues of war and peace in the upcoming 2020 election. Endless war is a subject that the Democratic Party wants to avoid at all costs even more so than the Republicans. Not only is endless war not a popular policy, but it is also one that the Democratic Party has supported over the last several Administrations. It was Democratic President Jimmy Carter who supported the creation of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to destroy the Soviet Union, a policy that led to the emergence of Al-Qaeda. Bill Clinton facilitated the murder of millions of Congolesethrough his enthusiastic alliance with Rwanda and Uganda beginning in 1996, a genocide which continues to this day. Barack Obama expanded Bush’s war in Afghanistan while starting new warsin nations such as Yemen, Libya, and Syria.And this just skims the surface of the Democratic Party’s active participation in the regime of endless war, lest we forget the important work of the late William Blum.
All of this is to say that for a “dumb” President, Donald Trump has effectively challenged Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the rumored Democratic Party challengers for the most important throne of imperialism. These candidates have shown little indication that they are willing to challenge Wall Street and the military industrial complex on issues of war and peace, with the slight exception of Bernie Sanders. However, despite Sanders’ recent speeches criticizing U.S. war crimes in Yemen and Iraq, the Vermont Senator has always been willing to toe the line of U.S. foreign policy. As Black Agenda Report Editor Glen Fordexplained, Sanders has created his own “Axis of Evil” list of nations to terrorize that ascribe to actual socialism such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). While no anti-war movement exists in the U.S. at this time, most ordinary Americans who can’t muster up $500 for a medical emergency are unlikely to support candidates who enthusiastically support a trillion-dollar war budget that raises the specter of more direct invasions like in Afghanistan.
“Barack Obama expanded Bush’s war in Afghanistan while starting new wars in nations such as Yemen, Libya, and Syria.”
There is an open struggle between elements of the ruling class over how to manage the political crisis of U.S. imperialism. This struggle has produced an almost incoherent foreign policy where Trump has dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in 2018 than in any single year under Obama, yet has at the same time demanded a military drawback from the occupied nation. Tears are flowing from the war hawks in Washington and the corporate media because the mere utterance of a scale back of the U.S.’ military presence in Syria and Afghanistan indicates that the empire has ceded the possibility of full spectrum dominance. A large section of the ruling elites is aware that no amount of support for jihadist proxies or allied nations in the NATO-bloc can overthrow the Syrian government or bring stability to the U.S. puppet government in Afghanistan currently protecting U.S. occupation forces. The lords of capital believe that only a full-scale invasion can achieve U.S. imperial objectives even if the reality on the ground in nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate that this isn’t true.
The political crisis of U.S. imperialism has both military and economic dimensions. U.S. imperialism is a stage of capitalism dominated by monopoly and finance capital. The dominance of the system is waning globally and has arguably been surpassed by the socialist command economy of China. U.S. monopolies and banks have depended upon military hegemony to maintain their grip on the world, but this too has reached a dead end. Whatever the U.S. military touches turns to dust and chaos. War on behalf of the monopolies and the banks can no longer achieve the neo-colonial stability necessary for the financiers to reap long-term gains, which is why the ruling class is so angry with Trump’s short-term foreign policy decisions.
“Whatever the U.S. military touches turns to dust and chaos.”
The political crisis also extends to the question of immigration. Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers in the United States have been further impoverished by the ruling class debate over the “border wall.” President Trump has demanded funding for the wall while the Democratic Party, led by Nancy Pelosi, has opposed Trump based on semantics. The truth is that both sides have once again used the issue of immigration for electoral purposes. Trump’s demand for a literal “wall” between the U.S. and Mexico is a concession to a significant section of voters who see immigrants as invading hordes of criminals. The Democratic Party believes that by leading Trump to a government shutdown, these same voters will abandon Trump and vote Democrat in the next election.
However, the Democratic Party has been wrong before, and there is much reason to believe that it is wrong again. First, the political crisis of U.S. imperialism is painfully evident in the immigration debate. Pelosi and the corporate Democrats understand that a virtual wall already exists on the U.S.-Mexico border . The Democratic Party under Obama increased the militarized border regime by tens of billions of dollars. Pelosi and the rest care only that border militarization is called a “fence” rather than a “wall,” which partially explains why the House Democratic leader was comfortable with spending thousands of dollars per night in a luxury resort in Hawaii as hundreds of thousands of federal workers remained without wages or work. The truth is that both political parties have maintained a phony conflict over immigration that masks the class warfare behind the issue. U.S. imperialism has waged military and economic warfare on Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and nations south of its colonial borders, sending thousands northward where they are detained, tortured, or superexploited as a source of low-wage labor.
“Pelosi and the rest care only that border militarization is called a ‘fence’ rather than a ‘wall.’”
White supremacy is the blinder that renders displaced peoples the enemy of most Americans, even those who claim to be “pro-immigration.” White supremacy stirs up white resentment toward displaced peoples as a means of social control and adds to the suffering for Black Americans and other “non-white” peoples while the profiteers continue their destructive policies unchallenged. Being “pro-immigrant” is meaningless unless the displacement is stopped at the source: the U.S. military and “free-trade apparatus.” Tears flow from the war hawks over immigration not because they care about immigrants but because the system causing the displacement is becoming ungovernable. The only solution for the war hawks is to inflict more pain on the poor and working-class regardless of national boundaries.
While the New Year ended grimly for the US ruling class, the end of 2018 should serve as a reminder that we shouldn’t share the sorrows of our rich enemies. Yellow Vest protestors in France have given workers and poor people in the U.S. the semblance of a model for waging a rebellion against the neoliberal order. China continued to consolidate its socialist economy in 2018 by raising millions more from poverty and developing its One Belt One Road initiative to raise the Global South out of poverty. Cuba elected a new President, revised its constitution to solidify its national commitment to socialism, and reported that the entire nation was fully electrified by the end of the year . And perhaps most joyous of all, the Syrian government has won the war against imperialist-backed terrorists and is currently cleaning house with Iranian and Russian assistance. Syria has made headway in integrating its Kurdish population into the national polity , which spells doom for U.S. ambitions in Syria in the wake of Trump’s promise to remove American troops. Even as the U.S. left continues to flail about amid endless austerity and war, the people of the world have given humanity something to celebrate.
“Being ‘pro-immigrant’ is meaningless unless the displacement is stopped at the source: the U.S. military and ‘free-trade apparatus.’”
The future of humanity rests in the global struggle against imperialism, not in the tears or ambitions of any section of the panicked war hawks in Washington. U.S. imperialism’s political crisis presents a profound challenge for the left in the United States to reject the American exceptionalism and lies of the Democratic Party. Only then can class struggle, solidarity, and socialism replace the stagnant political waters of neoliberal capitalist decay. Black America has historically been in the vanguard of the class struggle in the United States. Black people will inevitably lead the way again, but not unless committed leftists in the United States wage an all-out struggle against the neoliberal capitalist regime in 2019 and create the conditions necessary for an uprising to take root.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the forthcoming book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.