By Ryan Sparrow
Leading an empire is a lot of work. President Obama won a second term as President over a slightly nastier person, Mitt Romney. In their course for the White House, the main headquarters to direct the empire, billions upon billions of dollars were spent. Billions were spent saying the right-wing Democratic Party is better than the right-wing Republican Party and vice versa.
The US is a massive empire; it has near hegemony over the entirety of the world.
This is why in the Presidential debates there was no mention of tackling climate change or curbing military spending.
The US has 50% of the world’s defense budget not because it is defending itself or freedom, but to maintain an Empire. Liberal commenters will have us believe that the Empire building is simply mistakes, simply invasions based on wrong information or stupid ideas.
It is not by mistake or stupid decisions that Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam or many others were invaded. It’s not by mistake that Yemen, Pakistan, and many other countries are being drone strike on a regular basis. It’s not by mistake that democratically elected governments were overthrown like Haiti, Honduras and Paraguay.
It is, however, big business. Millions die across the globe in order for profits to be made. There is a lot of money involved in attacking other countries via defense contracts, there is a lot of money involved in stealing their resources, and there is a lot of money in rebuilding contracts afterwards.
Empire is not about military conquest; empire is imperialism which is resource extraction and profits. For example in 2008 when the government of Honduras was overthrown, they overthrew the government without any initial bloodshed, though death squads do round up and routinely kill supporters of many of the democratic organization, peasant associations and trade unions. The new dictatorship in Honduras has now opened themselves to the dictates of mining corporations, many of which are based in Canada.
It is not necessary to have a country be a colony by use of military invasion, simply the threat of force when a country engages in economic nationalism. Economic nationalism refers to economic policies that are directed towards the betterment of the colonial people at the expense of the interest of the imperial country.
As President, Obama has overseen the expansion of the US Empire to include more colonies, like Libya. Libya’s crime to the empire was not abuses towards the population which no doubt existed, nor that Gaddafi was a undemocratic, it was that Libya did implement policies that were in the economic interests of the Libyan people. Policies like a public oil corporation whose profits went to fund healthcare, infrastructure and education. The crime to the empire was the lack of markets for foreign multinationals to profit where profits could be made.
Obama’s new colony is very unstable, the life expectancy and purchasing power of Libya has plummeted since the NATO bombardment and overthrow. But this is not a concern of the US Empire. Libya, once the richest country in Africa now has much of the country’s major infrastructure in ruins. Soon after the overthrow Libya had its oilfields privatized and are now in the hands of big oil multinationals.
The empire however is not free; someone has to pay for the costs involved in maintaining an empire. When the United States government goes to wars, maintains military bases or attacks other countries it uses its defense budget and public treasury to pay for it. The spoils of war are not going back into the government’s coffers, the revenues brought in from imperialism are privatized, and the profits of war are provided to corporations and their boards of directors. The CEO of banks and hedge funds, Oil companies, construction firms, defense firms, and so on all benefit from imperialism.
Imperialism allows that the coffers of defense contractors’ overflow, with their rampart “unexpected” cost overruns much like the F35 Fighter Jets that Canada is planning on purchasing, where the costs more than doubled.
So much profit is made, but the people have to pay for this empire, they do this through taxes, which are increasingly flat taxation. What is meant by flat taxation is working people are paying a larger share of it, while the rich and the corporations pay less or sometimes nothing. Debt is used to finance the imperial ambitions, which in turn provide massive returns to those issuing the debts. Cuts to the social wages are made, cuts to social security, public sector wages, and so on in order so that these vultures can profit ever more for war.
In order to maintain an empire, there is a need to suppress alternative political voices that are opposed to it, most notably in this most recent election was the arrest of the Green party candidates and their exclusion from the debates. Most notably under Obama was the repression of the Occupy Movements, this continues policies that attack organized and peaceful protests and the routine arrests of the poor and racialized people.
The monopoly media cartel and the public education system also help reinforce the dominant imperial ideology by not just promoting and framing the discourse but also limiting the realm of acceptable opinions. For example discussions on reducing the US defense budget or even municipal policing budgets are deemed subversive and outside the realm of acceptable opinion.
Obama is not in opposition to empire building, he is engaged in it. If he was opposed to it, he could not be president.