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Intervention: whose gain? whose pain?
By Michael Parenti

Today, the United States is the foremost proponent of recolonization and leading antagonist of revolutionary change throughout the world. Emerging from World War II relatively unscathed and superior to all other industrial countries in wealth, productive capacity, and armed might, the United States became the prime purveyor and guardian of global capitalism.
Judging by the size of its financial investments and military force, judging by every imperialist standard except direct colonization, the U.S. empire is the most formidable in history, far greater than Great Britain in the nineteenth century or Rome during antiquity.

A Global Military Empire
The exercise of U.S. power is intended to preserve not only the international capitalist system but U.S. hegemony of that system.
The Pentagon's "Defense Planning Guidance" draft (1992) urges the United States to continue to dominate the international system by"discouraging the advanced industrialized nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger global or regional role." By maintaining this dominance, the Pentagon analysts assert, the United States can insure "a market-oriented zone of peace and prosperity that encompasses more than two-thirds of the world's economy".
This global power is immensely costly. Today, the United States spends more on military arms and other forms of "national security" than the rest of the world combined. U.S. leaders preside over a global military apparatus of a magnitude never before seen in human history. In 1993 it included almost a half-million troops stationed at over 395 major military bases and hundreds of minor installations in thirty-five foreign countries,and a fleet larger in total tonnage and firepower than all the other navies of the world combined, consisting of missile cruisers, nuclear submarines, nuclear aircraft carriers, destroyers, and spy ships that sail every ocean and make port on every continent. U.S. bomber squadrons and long-range missiles can reach any target, carrying enough explosive force to destroy entire countries with an overkill capacity of more than 8,000 strategic nuclear weapons and 22,000 tactical ones. U.S. rapid deployment forces have a firepower in conventional weaponry vastly superior to any other nation's, with an ability to slaughter with impunity--as the massacre of Iraq demonstrated in 1990-91.
Since World War II, the U.S. government has given more than $200 billion in military aid to train, equip, and subsidize more than 2.3 million troops and internal security forces in more than eighty countries, the purpose being not to defend them from outside invasions but to protect ruling oligarchs and multinational corporate investors from the dangers of domestic anti-capitalist insurgency. Among the recipients have been some of the most notorious military autocracies in history, countries that have tortured, killed or otherwise maltreated large numbers of their citizens because of their dissenting political views, as in Turkey, Zaire, Chad, Pakistan, Morocco, Indonesia, Honduras, Peru, Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba (under Batista), Nicaragua (under Somoza), Iran (under the Shah), the Philippines (under Marcos), and Portugal (under Salazar). U.S. leaders profess a dedication to democracy. Yet over the past five decades, democratically elected reformist governments in Guatemala, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Syria, Indonesia (under Sukarno), Greece, Argentina, Bolivia, Haiti, and numerous other nations were overthrown by pro-capitalist militaries that were funded and aided by the U.S.national security state.
The U.S. national security state has participated in covert actions or proxy mercenary wars against revolutionary governments in Cuba, Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Portugal, Nicaragua, Cambodia, East Timor, Western Sahara, and elsewhere, usually with dreadful devastation and loss of life for the indigenous populations. Hostile actions have been directed against reformist governments in Egypt, Lebanon, Peru, Iran, Syria, Zaire, Jamaica, South Yemen, the Fiji Islands, and elsewhere. Since World War II, U.S. forces have directly invaded or launched aerial attacks against Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Libya, Iraq, and Somalia, sowing varying degrees of death and destruction. Before World War II, U.S. military forces waged a bloody and protracted war of conquest in the Philippines in 1899-1903. Along with fourteen other capitalist nations, the United States invaded socialist Russia in 1918-21. U.S. expeditionary forces fought in China along with other Western armies to suppress the Boxer Rebellion and keep the Chinese under the heel of European and North American colonizers. U.S. Marines invaded and occupied Nicaragua in 1912 and again in 1926 to 1933; Cuba, 1898 to 1902; Mexico, 1914 and 1916; Honduras, six invasions between 1911 to 1925; Panama, 1903-1914, and Haiti, 1915 to 1934.

Why Intervention?
Why has a professedly peace-loving, democratic nation found it necessary to use so much violence and repression against so many peoples in so many places? An important goal of U.S. policy is to make the world safe for the Fortune 500 and its global system of capital accumulation. Governments that strive for any kind of economic independence or any sort of populist redistributive politics, who have sought to take some of their economic surplus and apply it to not-for-profit services that benefit the people--such governments are the ones most likely to feel the wrath of U.S. intervention or invasion.
The designated "enemy" can be a reformist, populist, military government as in Panama under Torrijo (and even under Noriega), Egypt under Nasser, Peru under Velasco, and Portugal under the MFA; a Christian socialist government as in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas; a social democracy as in Chile under Allende, Jamaica under Manley, Greece under Papandreou, and the Dominican Republic under Bosch; a Marxist-Leninist government as in Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea; an Islamic revolutionary order as in Libya under Qaddafi; or even a conservative militarist regime as in Iraq under Saddam Hussein--if it should get out of line on oil prices and oil quotas. The public record shows that the United States is the foremost interventionist power in the world. There are varied and overlapping reasons for this: Protect Direct Investments. In 1907, Woodrow Wilson recognized the support role played by the capitalist state on behalf of private capital:
Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused. Later, as president of the United States, Wilson noted that the United States was involved in a struggle to "command the economic fortunes of the world." During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, large U.S. investments in Central America and the Caribbean brought frequent military intercession, protracted war, prolonged occupation, or even direct territorial acquisition, as with Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Panama Canal Zone. The investments were often in the natural resources of the country: sugar, tobacco, cotton, and precious metals. In large part, the interventions in the Gulf in 1991 (see chapter six) and in Somalia in 1993 (chapter seven) were respectively to protect oil profits and oil prospects.
In the post cold-war era, Admiral Charles Larson noted that, although U.S. military forces have been reduced in some parts of the world, they remain at impressive levels in the Asia-Pacific area because U.S. trade in that region is greater than with either Europe or Latin America. Naval expert Charles Meconis also pointed to "the economic importance of the region" as the reason for a major U.S. military presence in the Pacific (see Daniel Schirmer, Monthly Review, July/August 1994). In these instances, the sword follows the dollar.
Create Opportunities for New Investments. Sometimes the dollar follows the sword, as when military power creates opportunities for new investments. Thus, in 1915, U.S. leaders, citing "political instability," invaded Haiti and crushed the popular militia. The troops stayed for nineteen years. During that period French, German, and British investors were pushed out and U.S. firms tripled their investments in Haiti.
More recently, Taiwanese companies gave preference to U.S. firms over Japanese ones because the U.S. military was protecting Taiwan. In 1993, Saudi Arabia signed a $6 billion contract of jet airliners exclusively with U.S. firms. Having been frozen out of the deal, a European consortium charged that Washington had pressured the Saudis, who had become reliant on Washington for their military security in the post-Gulf War era. Preserving Politico-Economic Domination and the International Capital Accumulation System. Specific investments are not the only imperialist concern. There is the overall commitment to safeguarding the global class system, keeping the world's land, labor, natural resources, and markets accessible to transnational investors. More important than particular holdings is the whole process of investment and profit. To defend that process the imperialist state thwarts and crushes those popular movements that attempt any kind of redistributive politics, sending a message to them and others that if they try to better themselves by infringing upon the prerogatives of corporate capital, they will pay a severe price.
In two of the most notable U.S. military interventions, Soviet Russia in 1918-20 and Vietnam in 1954-73, most of the investments were European, not American. In these and other such instances, the intent was to prevent the emergence of competing social orders and obliterate all workable alternatives to the capitalist client-state. That remains the goal to this day. The countries most recently targeted being South Yemen, North Korea, and Cuba.
Ronald Reagan was right when he avowed that his invasion of Grenada was not to protect the U.S. nutmeg supply. There was plenty of nutmeg to be got from Africa. He was acknowledging that Grenada's natural resources were not crucial. Nor would the revolutionary collectivization of a poor nation of 102,000 souls represent much of a threat or investment loss to global capitalism. But if enough countries follow that course, it eventually would put the global capitalist system at risk.
Reagan's invasion of Grenada served notice to all other Caribbean countries that this was the fate that awaited any nation that sought to get out from under its client-state status. So the invaders put an end to the New Jewel Movement's revolutionary programs for land reform, health care, education, and cooperatives. Today, with its unemployment at new heights and its poverty at new depths, Grenada is once again firmly bound to the free market world. Everyone else in the region indeed has taken note.
The imperialist state's first concern is not to protect the\ direct investments of any particular company, although it sometimes does that, but to protect the global system of private accumulation from competing systems. The case of Cuba illustrates this point. It has been pointed out that Washington's embargo against Cuba is shutting out U.S. business from billions of dollars of attractive investment and trade opportunities. From this it is mistakenly concluded that U.S. policy is not propelled by economic interests. In fact, it demonstrates just the opposite, an unwillingness to tolerate those states that try to get out from under the global capitalist system.
The purpose of the capitalist state is to do things for the advancement of the entire capitalist system that individual corporate interests cannot do. Left to their own competitive devices, business firms are not willing to abide by certain rules nor tend to common systemic interests. This is true both for the domestic economy and foreign affairs. Like any good capitalist organization, a business firm may have a general long-range interest in seeing Cuban socialism crushed, but it might have a more tempting immediate interest in doing a profitable business with the class enemy. It remains for the capitalist state to force individual companies back in line.
What is at stake is not the investments within a particular Third World country but the long-range security of the entire system of transnational capitalism. No country that pursues an independent course of development shall be allowed to prevail as a dangerous example to other nations.

Common Confusions
Some critics have argued that economic factors have not exerted an important influence on U.S. interventionist policy because most interventions are in countries that have no great natural treasures and no large U.S. investments, such as, Grenada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Vietnam. This is like saying that police are not especially concerned about protecting wealth and property because most of their actions take place in poor neighborhoods. Interventionist forces do not go where capital exists as such; they go where capital is threatened. They have not intervened in affluent Switzerland, for instance, because capitalism in that country is relatively secure and unchallenged. But if leftist parties gained power in Bern and attempted to nationalize Swiss banks and major properties, it very likely would invite the strenuous attentions of the Western industrial powers. Some observers maintain that intervention is bred by the national-security apparatus itself, the State Department, the National Security Council, and the CIA. These agencies conjure up new enemies and crises because they need to justify their own existence and augment their budget allocations. This view avoids the realities of class interest and power. It suggests that policymakers serve no purpose other than policymaking for their own bureaucratic aggrandizement. Such a notion reverses cause and effect. It is a little like saying the horse is the cause of the horse race. It treats the national security state as the originator of intervention when in fact it is but one of the major instruments. U.S. leaders were engaging in interventionist actions long before the CIA and NSC existed.
One of those who argues that the state is a self-generated aggrandizer is Richard Barnet, who dismisses the "more familiar and more sinister motives" of economic imperialism. Whatever their economic systems, all large industrial states, he maintains, seek to project power and influence in a search for security and domination. To be sure, the search for security is a real consideration for every state, especially in a world in which capitalist power is hegemonic and ever threatening. But the capital investments of multinational corporations expand in a far more dynamic way than the economic expansion manifested by socialist or precapitalist governments.
In fact, the case studies in Barnet's book Intervention and Revolution point to business, rather than the national security bureaucracies, as the primary motive of U.S. intervention. Anti- communism and the Soviet th