Updated 14 July 2007
America, one of the first to revolt against the British Crown, now wears the crown. Our leaders seem not to realize how heavy that burden can be. Much less do they seem to be aware of their own roots and how it feels to be exploited as our founding fathers were in organizing the Boston Tea Party. Our leaders may not remember how we became a nation via refugees. They seem to have forgotten just what it was that our ancestors fled from--like tyranny, economic oppression, religious straightjackets, lack of opportunity. If all this is not so, what are we doing in Iraq? Why are we concerned about Iran which is, at this writing, rationing gasoline?
Things moved fast in the early days of our republic. A Constitution was hammered out, the first of its kind. Our Founding Fathers began at the grass roots. Then the Bill of Rights was added to cement freedom and justice. Democracy and how it relates to freedom, liberty and equality was well understood back then, at least for the founding European immigrants.
The election of 1800 kicked the Federalists out of power--permanently. It was another generation before the Jacksonian democrats gave birth to equalitarianism. Well not quite; slavery was not only common but growing. Lincoln abolished that deficit though it would be another century before blacks could even begin to enjoy small measures of equality.
Meanwhile the Monroe Doctrine and the War of 1812 established a hegemony of sorts. Napoleon routed kingdoms in Europe, giving many their first taste of freedom. Manifest Destiny became the American slogan as the original 13 colonies pushed westward, enlarging their numbers, pushing native Americans and Mexicans aside. The Spanish-American War finished Spain as competitive empire.
Although empire had been the name of the international game from the time of Rome, WW I brought about the end of the Ottoman Muslim Empire that embraced the Middle East and saw the US emerge from hemispheric to global reach. Meanwhile, empire was business as usual in Europe. World War II and its aftermath continued the demise of classical empires and reached its culmination when the Soviet Union and its hundred dialects broke apart with the collapse of Communism.
Enter neoimperialism. Neoimperialism did not just switch on like a light. It grew so gradually it became well entrenched before many people realized what was happening. While classical empire involved political control of foreign lands, neoimperialism was more subtle. Economics and trade were used to control resources--the same basic motive behind classical Imperialism. Only the method differed. Neoimperialism came with modernization and globalization riding the horse of technologies enabling rapid communication, transportation and military progress. The United States became the new empire builder of sorts. Its economic reach became global after WW II, and continued growing after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Meanwhile, life in the West grew steadily more complex requiring ever more energy. Since nature provided the Middle East with a surplus of petroleum, it began providing fuel for the world, enabled by Western technology and investment, largely from the US and Europe.
To whom do the resources of a land belong? Surely we Americans will fight to retain ownership of the gold and other metals, such as iron, copper, and aluminum beneath our ground. So also for petroleum and gas. Europeans have the same tradition. The transition from classical- to neoimperialism began early, but accelerated between the two World Wars. From Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian national hero:
"Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was born on May 19, 1882. His father, Hedayat Ashtiani, was the Finance Minister under Naser-oddin Shah Qajar, and his mother was a granddaughter of the Crown Prince Abbas Mirza Qajar. After the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, Mohammad Mossadegh was elected from Isfahan to the First Parliament, but since he was under the age of 30, he refused his position as a parliament member and moved to France to continue his education.
"Dr. Mossadegh was educated at the Ecole des Sciences Politiques in Paris and at the law school of Neuchatel University in Switzerland. He held various government positions from an early age: The Governor General of the Fars province 1915-1920; The Minister of Finance 1921; The Minister of Foreign Affairs 1922; Member of parliament 1924-1927. He was forced to early retirement from political life by Reza Shah Pahlavi, under the British guidance, from 1928 to 1941
"While Dr. Mossadegh was out of political atmosphere, the British could lobby the passage of the 1933 oil agreement signed by Reza Shah, to plunder the Iranian oil for another 60 years. After Reza Shah left Iran for exile, in 1941, Dr. Mossadegh returned to political life. Despite all the interference and frauds by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, (under the British influence) during the parliament elections in 1943, Dr. Mossadegh and a group of nationalists were elected for the 16th Parliament, 1943-1947. A while later, the parliament elected Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh as the Prime Minister of Iran, in 1951.
"When he became the Prime Minister in 1951; the first thing he accomplished after introducing his nationalist cabinet, was the enforcement of the Oil Nationalization Bill to terminate the British ownership and influence on the Iran's oil industry. The British immediate reaction was a lawsuit against Iran in the United Nations Security Council and Hague International Court. Dr. Mossadegh traveled to New York then to Netherlands (Holland) to defend Iran's rights. The battle between Dr. Mossadegh and the British government in the Hague International Court concluded with a big historical victory for the Iranian people. The Hague Court voted in favor of Iran in spite of a huge international legal encounter with England. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was dissolved and the 1933 oil agreement between the Government of Iran (Reza Shah) and the British was cancelled. The British ownership and influence on the Iran's oil industry was terminated and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the first national oil company in the Middle East, was established on March 19th, 1951 (29th day of Esfand 1329, Persian calendar)."
How America entered the world of neoimperialism is reported by: SAEED RAHNEMA -- The Globe & Mail
- "In 1953, a democratically elected Iranian government that had nationalized the Iranian oil industry (and endured economic sanctions imposed by the British) was toppled by a joint CIA- and British secret service-staged coup d'tat. The Shah, who had earlier watched the falling of his statues and had fled the country, was brought back by the coup organizers. Among the first agenda items put in front of him by the Americans and British was to settle the oil affair. Immediately, a consortium of oil companies took over Iran's nationalized oil. This time, British Petroleum got only 40 per cent of the shares; for the first time, the U.S. oil companies got 40 per cent. The rest was divided between Royal Dutch/Shell and the French CFP."
Actually this event was an echo of the classical imperialism, except that America was brought into it for the first time.
RAHNEMA goes on:
- "The Shah consolidated his dictatorial rule and followed development strategies dictated by Washington. When Iranians removed the man they considered a U.S. puppet 26 years later, the U.S. lost one of its most important allies.
"The images broadcast from Baghdad made me relive those revolutionary days in Iran, with looting and mob rule. Almost overnight, when the fear of the Shah's regime and his secret police crumbled, the lumpens and the opportunists turned revolutionaries. They, too, joined the jubilation in the streets, trampling on the Shah's fallen statues. The Shia clerics, the most organized and the least suppressed under the Shah, took control and set the mob to curbing the rising influence of the secular forces that had initiated the revolution."
If these events do not indict heavy-handed economic imperialism, nothing does, and the result was predictable. The immediate issue now in Iraq is how to exit most humanely. [The surge had little or no effect on the tolal violence; it was displaced out of Baghdad. Once the added policy of working with the enemy was instituted by Petreaus, violence decreased substantially. Iraqi cooperation, not the surge itself, has restored a measure of safety in several places.]
Paul Bremer, an ardent Neocon, did his part. On 19 Sept 2003, Bremer issued a decree announcing that 200 Iraqi companies would be privatized allowing foreign ownership up to 100% with no limits on how much profit the owners could take out of Iraq. Bremer's action was illegal under Iraqi law, which happens to be recognized not only by the world but by the US itself. It was also illegal under International Law.
Under the decree, virtually all reconstruction was being done by outsiders importing labor while Iraqis remain unemployed, and that is how it largely turned out. Is this the way to build / rebuild an Iraqi infrastructure operated by a middle class? Hardly. It made Iraqis feel unappreciated, even humiliated. These feelings became hatred, the feedstock for radicalizing terrorists.
Bremer's decree was entirely consistent with the Neocon philosophy of a US hegemony.
1992 "Defense Planning Guidance"
"This story from PBS/Frontline's highlights excerpts from Paul Wolfowitz's then-controversial 'Defense Planning Guidance' draft. Many of the goals in the draft became the hallmarks of the Bush foreign policy doctrine.
Draft Excerpts [from 15 years ago!]
"The 46-page classified document circulated for several weeks at senior levels in the Pentagon. But controversy erupted after it was leaked to The New York Times and The Washington Post and the White House ordered then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to rewrite it."
Three primary points from the neocon draft:
- "The number one objective of US post-Cold War political and military strategy should be preventing the emergence of a rival superpower.
- "Another major US objective should be to safeguard US interests and promote American values.
- "If necessary, the United States must be prepared to take unilateral action."
Note the second and third points carefully. The Neocons want to project American values--one of which is to take unilateral action!
Neoimperialism is delirium-making for the Authoritarians. It not only affects the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, but the common American as well. "We kicked butt" captured the essence of so much casual conversation in the first year after the two invasions. "Macho" was the media word and implication when Mr. Bush appeared on an aircraft carrier--in a flight suit yet! We wonder if this "attitude" is not the feature of the American Psyche that the Neocons and Mr. Bush put their fingers on after 9/11. We wonder too how our psyches got that way. And what can we do about it? [Do you suppose Wolfowitz read Mein Kampf?]
Must form and appearances always come ahead of substance? Victory in Iraq was the stated substance. But Victory in Iraq looks not even pyrrhic; it looks worse--impossible.
A democracy in Iraq needs stable political institutions, a market economy, and a middle class to make it all work. Iraq has some of these elements, but all too often they are subject to tribal rivalries and/or Islamic dictates. Islam will not easily relinquish its traditional role in governance--for it is so written in the Qur'an and historically to date. In fact, with a new constitution that will likely be voted upon, Iraqi women will take giant step backwards if it is approved. What will all the sacrifice be worth then?
Where does this leave Iraq? Where it has always been. Sunni Baathists vs. Kurds vs. Shiites vs. Sunni. Each needs security. Only the Kurds have experimented with democracy.
Is Neoimperialism here to stay? The 2004 election decided it will until 2008 at least. But trouble and scandal are brewing; the electorate woke up enough in 2006 to slow the train wreck. Are we up to the task of reversing the pendulum of history?
Posted by RoadToPeace on Monday, August 08, 2005.