Michael H Goldhaber on Wed, 23 Jul 2008 21:13:39 +0200 (CEST)

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Rather than being naive, I think I was engaging in a kind of  
shorthand, leaving out intermediate reasons.  Of course there is  
military-industrial complex which tries to perpetuate itself, but it  
is successful only because others at times believe its clumsy  
arguments. Also, oil companies may indeed profit from invasions such  
as of Iraq, but mostly because the threat of war helps increase the  
price of oil, which would probably have gone up anyway. The threat of  
instability in Nigeria, say, without any US intervention, increases  
the price as well. So the military costs incurred by invading Iraq,  
say, are unnecessary on that score. Even if the oil interests believed  
otherwise, they would not have been able to invade Iraq if the public  
were not convinced that reasons entirely unconnected with oil were at  
stake. As for the argument that America's place in  the world economy  
depends on our  having bases and a round-the -world military presence,  
I think the examples I gave of the value to us of India and China show  
that view is itself naive. Finally, countries like German and the  
Netherlands demonstrate that having an imperial presence is quite  
unnecessary for economic success.

It could well be argued that US military expenditures drag down the US  
economy, as Seymour Melman used to argue, calling the result "Pentagon  
Capitalism." The counter-argument to that:military Keynesianism (mK)   
as a necessary economic stimulant to keep capitalism going internally.  
As I argued against Melman in the 80's, government spending on  
anything other than the military tends to  compete with "private  
enterprise, " which is why we have military expenditures rather than  
say single-payer health care (which would drive insurance companies  
out of business). We could spend the money on , say, going to Mars,  
but it is too clear to too many people that we don't need to do that,  
while "defending our way of life" is, as I noted, harder to argue  
against. While "national security" provides some rationale for  
confining military expenditures to non-out-sourced industries and so  
does to some degree prop up the internal economy, there is now too  
much "leakage," so that mK now is not particularly effective. Even at  
its bloated levels, it is also probably too small to be of substantial  
effect, certainly not what is needed when the US monetary economy  
turns down. The world today cannot afford the level of destruction  
commensurate with WWII that would do a similar economic job today. (At  
least I hope that is off the table.) So today, Melman would probably  
be right. American imperialism is an irrational (and naive) addiction  
that only helps the most narrowly defined interests. Still, tapering  
off will not be easy. Some will suffer directly, and they will shout  
much louder than the much larger group of those who would benefit  
mildly and mostly indirectly.


On Jul 23, 2008, at 10:18 AM, Brian Holmes wrote:

>Hello Michael -
>>So what does cause continued imperialism? For one thing, America's inward
>>looking. Our politics is mostly localist and parochial, and  yet politicians
>>end up making decisions to sustain foreign involvements  on the basis of
>>little knowledge. It is always safer to view the outside world as menacing
>>rather than benign. It is always safer to refer  to the US as the greatest
>>country and to assume that the world needs our  armies and weapons rather
>>than not.A pointless patriotism helps hold this disparate country together,
>>much as India is partially held  together by such means. And, as in the case
>>of the British empire, what keeps  ours going is mostly habit ? a bad habit,
>>but hard to change ? perhaps addiction would be the better word.

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