Rethinking Anglo-American Empire: It starts with the language

There is a serious, almost insurmountable, language obstacle I find when trying to discuss the US regime or its foreign policy. It is the absolute uselessness of terms like “communism” in the literature or other verbal sources. As I always argue from the beginning of any article, the “Cold War” and “communism” or “Soviet expansion” etc. were all terms that obscured the actual policies, interests, conflicts, and actors such that it became impossible to identify the genuine roots of power and targets of its exercise. This continues today. The term “international terrorism” has become a substitute but the structure in which even this term is anchored relies upon the doctrinal template established in the age of “anti-communism”.

Of course, being “anti-communist” in the outer party,1 did and does mean something but that “something” has little, if anything, to do with communism, in whatever form it was defined in the 19th and 20th centuries. So when one starts to read about things like “containment”, “rollback”, “deterrence”, “international stability” and even “world peace”, etc. it ought to be clear that this is a language designed and maintained to disguise the real interests and actions involved — even from those who at lower and middle level are part of the apparatus of control. The ancient universities, whose debates defined and interpreted the doctrines of Christendom, perform the same function today — namely, the formulation of doctrine and the indoctrination of cadres sworn to protect and preserve power as it is currently exercised.

As I have suggested in previous remarks, I am contemplating the kinds of discrete, cultivated relationships Agee2 reported were maintained (and are maintained) throughout Latin America. These began by recruiting junior people, “young potential” who through promotion would become those who assure that the military and business oligarchy are able, wittingly or unwittingly, to respond in support of US imperial interests at any critical juncture.

The challenge for the US after the Soviet defeat of Hitler was to re-infiltrate the political hierarchy in Eastern Europe. It took them a long time, but it is apparent that they succeeded, together with German vassals, in bringing Eastern Europe under the control of the West.

Another problem with the language is that it focuses attention on a coherence in official policy that is fictional and distracts from the function of policy as a means of concealing actual exercise of power. So the explanation most often given for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the COMECON3 is their economic inefficiency and the inability to modernise, etc. and/or oppressive armaments budgets that could not be funded. In other words “everything the ‘communists’ did was unsustainable and everything the “West” did was durable or more rational, because it survived.” This, of course, begs the question about the status of the rest of the world economy and the NATO budgets. If these were the reasons for the collapse in the East, why was there no “collapse” in the West?

In fact, there was a collapse in the West but it was never explained as such because the collapse in the East was never accurately described either– at least not for public consumption.

These language parameters are doctrine and like Christian doctrines of the immaculate conception or the virgin birth or the filioque, they have no real meaning for the operation of the Church as an institution. “Defending the Trinity” is not an instruction anyone can follow. It is a sign that affirms the value of any action so categorised by someone responding to institutional instructions. We need to pay less attention to the rhetoric of the Church and more serious attention to the operation of the institution itself.4 This is not simply putting the horses back in front of the cart but viewing the entire vehicle as a whole: cart with content, horses, and driver.

The argument I am trying to make is that we have to return to a disaggregation of the doctrinal schemata in which the wars against the Soviet Union and decolonization/national independence movements were packaged and examine the preponderance of transactions in all sorts of overt and covert business activities (e.g. how did those “wheat deals” with the Soviet Union actually function?) from about the time when the Nixon regime introduced the petrodollar to the ascendancy of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. We also have to understand that the end and defeat of national liberation movements in Africa by 1968, effectively ended the so-called Civil Rights movement in the US — Angola and Southern Africa notwithstanding.5 We also need a reappraisal of US empire in the Asia-Pacific region which includes Indonesia and Oceania and does not focus simply on the ostensible failures of Korea and Vietnam.6 China existed for centuries before Mao or Deng.7

We need to look at the global economy under AAIE 8 domination as a reduction of international relations to the trade in weapons, drugs, oil and money (financialisation) and tribute. We have to return to the operative functions of the Bretton Woods institutions and discard the obsession with their post-war ideological functions. Most of all we have to draw the logical consequences of identifying “bankers” as “warriors”– meaning we also must start from an accurate description of the “warrior” and see the “banker” as a form of “warrior/war lord”.

One useful starting point may be to admit that the very inception of the single superpower today was the child born of a marriage of slaveholders and slave traders to profit from stolen land and bonded labour: “as it was in the beginning, is now, and forever shall be.” The creation of the US regime and its operation as a purposeful system ought to be seen distinguished from the accident of the majority who came to inhabit it.

In essence this means reformulating the programme of “economic history”.

  1. Orwell’s term for the bulk of the governing bureaucracy: academia, middle corporate management, the middle and lower ranks of the civil and security services. []
  2. Philip Agee, former CIA officer and author of a critical exposé CIA Diary: Inside the Company. []
  3. The Comecon was founded in 1949 by the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The primary factors in Comecon’s formation appear to have been Joseph Stalin‘s desire to cooperate and strengthen the international socialist relationship at an economic level with the lesser states of Central Europe, and which were now, increasingly, cut off from their traditional markets and suppliers in the rest of Europe. []
  4. Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages; and Karlheinz Deschner, Die Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums. []
  5. Gerald Horne, his book The End of Empires: African Americans and India, shows that there was a dialectical relationship between African-American struggles in the US and the independence struggles in Africa and India and that the key figures in these struggles were well acquainted with each other. The US regime fought hard to isolate African-Americans from world struggles, one of the functions of “anti-communism”. The result of this was to marginalize Black Nationalism in the US and hence reduce Black struggle in the US to “civil rights” as opposed to the human rights agenda established under the UN Charter. Hence one could say that just as the US regime set the standard for segregation and racialist regimes in Germany and South Africa, the defeat of the human rights struggle in the US created a paradigm for the post-apartheid dispensations in Africa — namely, a “civil rights” model which eliminated the demands for economic justice. Already this paradigm became apparent in the corporate solution for South Africa– brokered by Anglo-American Corporation and the ANC. []
  6. See: Gerald Horne, The White Pacific: US Imperialism and Black Slavery in the South Seas After the Civil War, May 2007;  John Pilger’s film The New Rulers of the World, 2001; and Bruce Cumings, Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power, 2009. []
  7. Andre Gunder Frank, Reorient: Global Economy in the Asian Age, July 1, 1998. []
  8. Anglo-American Israeli Empire: Beyond the very serious issue of Palestinian independence, the global function of Israel as an “off-shore” entity, enjoying privileges and immunities not unlike those of the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages, needs to be more seriously studied and the results broadly communicated. []

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa (Maisonneuve Press, 2003). Read other articles by T.P..