World Market And World Power
Globalized Civil Society And Its Anti-Terrorist Culture Of War
Reasons for war come about in times of peace — when else? Conversely, peace is the “state of affairs” brought about by wars and is unthinkable without the capacity and willingness to wage them. This is something the Romans were already aware of long ago when they declared, si vis pacem, para bellum (if you seek peace, prepare for war).” And in the twenty-first century, NATO follows the same principle when it commits to being willing and able to carry out no less than six simultaneous military missions at any time — two larger wars with 60,000 troops and up to four smaller wars with 20,000 to 30,000 troops — for the purpose of securing world peace.
Of course, it’s not just the dimensions in which those in charge of strategy think and act that have changed in the course of time. The fact that the great powers these days want to be responsible for nothing less than world peace, let no armed conflict go unsupervised, can intervene all over the world, and also reserve for themselves the right to do so at their own discretion, has — to say the least — “something to do” with the fact that they have managed to establish a truly worldwide capitalist system, and that their continued economic existence depends on the benefits they reap from this capitalistically unlocked world. For the greatest beneficiaries, such an existential dependence implies the necessity — and for their governments this is tantamount to the imperative — to ensure that rulers all over the world acknowledge their own participation in global business as the material basis, essential content, and binding guideline for their rule, and to make sure that none of them steps out of line. At the same time, the leading world politicians by no means rely on the inherent constraints of the world market — which, in the opinion of many modern globalization theorists, have degraded even the mightiest states to feeble henchmen of the superior power of economic relations. It is clear enough to their pragmatic minds that even the most severe constraints and imperatives of market-economy rationality take effect if and only if a sovereign state is determined to take part in the world economy and obligates its society to moneymaking as its means of survival. Of course in that case, there is a compulsion to every part of free-market life, and all aspects of the societal reproduction process are used as levers for extortionately asserting the private power of money and the authority of its creators. But in order to be able to go at each other and the entire world on the well-ordered paths of extortionate business maneuvers, the leading capitalist powers require an argument that convinces sovereign powers — which ultimately understand only their own language, the “language of force” — of the lack of any alternative to a decision in favor of the capitalist world system, of the responsibility of the big powers for the order and security of the course of global business, and for the indispensability of “good governance” on the democratic, free-market model. There is no doubt as to the necessity of incontestable force, because politicians responsible for world order always have to defend their peaceful economic order from some troublemaker or another. For decades, the universality of the freedom of property and its inherent constraints was broken by Soviet power and its Socialist bloc, so that order and peace had to be defended against them. The globalization of the free-market idyll attained today required no less than a lengthy Cold War with a continually perfected threat of nuclear annihilation and many secondary theaters of war. With the triumph over that big adverse exception to the capitalist system, the world war regime that the leading power of the free world got off the ground — by arming itself and by means of a network of alliances for this purpose — has, as is well known, in no way become superfluous. On the contrary, it has come closer to its true intent: no longer hamstrung by “counterdeterrence” and a “nuclear stalemate,” the “West” confronts the world with both its willingness and capacity for total military deterrence, lending credence to them my means of threats and “asymmetrical” military deployments against real and potential deviants anywhere in the world. The traditional distinction, the clear division, between a state of war and peace, is no more. The highly esteemed rules of free competition on the world market only take effect and remain in effect if security issues large and small are continuously resolved by force. In this case, however, on the basis of constant military deployment, the nonviolent utilization of these rules in the economic dealings among nations is guaranteed — a utilization that brings to bear a good deal of potential for extortion and creates both remarkable dependence and a striking distribution of wealth.
Of course, this glorious success of free imperialism has a catch: it undermines the cooperation that the great capitalist powers needed to be urged to in confrontation with their common archenemy in Moscow. Even during the Cold War, for which the United States used and functionalized its partners in Europe and elsewhere, and in which the latter in turn enlisted America as a protective power for their national interests, all parties kept a constant and exceedingly critical eye on the costs and benefits of their common security policy. On the one hand, they had to pay the costs not only in money for armament, but in alliance discipline, consideration for one’s partners, renunciation of unilateral actions and exclusive rights — after all, the colonial empires of the two western European victorious powers were over and done with because the new American world order had no more use for them. On the other hand, there were the benefits of being free to compete, to make use of wealth resources worldwide, and to exercise political influence on one’s allies, and strategic importance in general, etc. Since the self-dissolution of the Soviet Union, the outcome of the allies’ efforts to revise the terms of this cooperation, efforts marked by distrust and aimed at improving their own status, is no longer decided in advance by a common world war option: all parties are recalculating. None of them wants to do without the collateral benefits their military alliance has yielded: their shared control over world order, the authority to domineer over other sovereigns, the obligation of each partner to accommodate the others, the freedom to monopolize the entire world as a sphere of economic activity; no modern imperialist wants to go back to a division of the world into exclusive spheres of influence. On the other hand, none of the parties, neither the superpower nor its allies, are really content with the state of their nation’s control over world order, nor with their prospects for national economic success, nor with their political and economic yield from world peace and the political and financial costs of the universal regime of deterrence required for it. The strategic and material services that the United States demands of the other great powers coincide neither with their interests in utilizing the world, nor with their claims to power, nor with their will to gain the respect of the American world power as a rival of equal stature. So all parties are struggling to revise their relations, and this corrodes their will to reach agreements, a will upon which the customary and peaceful course of the competition of nations is based, and which none of the responsible powers wants to terminate.
That’s how it works — imperialism today.
I. The competition of nations for the wealth of the world
Competition over capitalist wealth is carried out by its owners and managers in accordance with the absurd logic of free-market rationality and subject to regulations and concessions laid down by their national legislatures and political supervisors. The latter, on their part, are keen on the overall success of the economy they govern: on successful capital accumulation in general, and on positive balances of transnational business in particular. After all, the power and influence of their state depends on it. Hence a modern sovereign not only registers the results of competition its foreign traders and multinationals bring about; it competes against its peers over national gain with the instruments of state power.
1. A nation’s capitalist base and its means of success
A modern people needs work — not in the banal sense that a certain amount of effort is always required to satisfy a society’s need for food and other consumption items, and to produce the required means of production. If this were the purpose, if a rationally planning materialism were at work, then the expenditure of labor power would merely be a means to an end; it would be performed with the aim of reducing time and effort as much as possible and gaining freely disposable time for freely chosen activities. But things aren’t that simple in the free-market economy, where countries only do well if their inhabitants report in the greatest possible numbers for duty in offices, factories, or other, mobile workplaces, day in and day out, from late youth to early old age, from morning until night or in continuously rotating shifts. And peoples do not struggle to overcome a shortage of useful goods that could be remedied by expediently employing labor and machinery. On the contrary, when there is no work to be done because the world’s department store shelves are overstocked, they actually suffer hardship.
The immanent logic of this craziness is so familiar to every enlightened, modern individual that this absurd inversion of means and ends is barely worth mentioning when unionists, presidents, and prime ministers call for the development of new products and the stimulation of corresponding needs in order to “create jobs.” In the market economy even needs themselves, which — be they natural and necessary or acquired and cultivated — are satisfied by products of labor, are merely means to the end of earning money with labor. In fact, this purpose equates labor expenditure and money income so completely that a society caught up in the market economy actually develops a need for work. However, as everyone knows and unfortunately takes to be absolutely normal, this is only the case because there are two complementarily opposed meanings to equating labor with moneymaking, which divide society into two economic classes.
- The “broad masses” need somebody, i.e., an “employer” with money, who pays them for work performed. So strictly speaking they don’t so much need the work as they need the money they get paid for doing it. But as “wage-dependent” persons, not even the possibility of working and demanding money for it is within their power; instead they are dependent on a businessman giving them something to do. The very opportunity to earn money by working lies in another person’s power, like an elementary item of necessity that lies beyond their reach. So for them, necessity turns work itself into a basic economic concern. If some of these people are fortunate enough to find a job, then the equation of labor with money continues on for them, as their sole chance of improving their pay is through increased toil and effort and lengthened working hours. And even this chance is not a means at their disposal, but an offer the opposing side first has to make them, and which they themselves have to “demand” as if for an object of need.
- This other party, which in market-economy terminology is tersely called “business,” needs on its part the labor of other people, the employed rank and file. Business doesn’t require this labor for some particular need that some person would like to have easily fulfilled in exchange for money, but as a source of money, of freshly created property in the shape of salable commodities of any kind whatsoever that bring in money. It has a need for labor that is as conditional as it is boundless. The condition is a relation, between the money an employer pays out for labor and the money taken in after having used it, that makes an ‘employer’ richer — not just richer in general, but to an extent that allows him to succeed among his peers, “on the market,” i.e., against his competitors, with big-selling products that offer particularly good ‘value.’ In this sense, an ‘employer’ calculates with labor as a means to an end, as necessary expenditure — not of time and effort, but of money that has to be paid to other people in order to squeeze out a maximum profit from their labor. This calculation necessitates thriftiness in two senses: firstly, the needed amount of labor must be inexpensive, so wages per unit of labor time have to be low; and secondly, the needed amount of labor itself has to be small in relation to the salable product, or conversely, every paid hour of labor must return a maximum in monetary output. This sort of thriftiness is thus extremely extravagant with respect to the effort, time, and work per unit of time performed by wageworkers. At the same time, it is quite contemptuous with regard to the value of the labor power it has to pay for in money. This combination of extravagance and contempt is what makes labor profitable, and is the indispensable, but at the same time also the sole condition that labor must meet in order to be suitable as a means for “business” and in demand. The need of business for profitable labor is simply boundless. It is never content with meeting any demand: the competition among firms rages over who can command an ever greater maximum of profitable labor; more and more profitable labor is itself the economic purpose of society. Conversely, this boundless need intensifies the efforts of the competing actors in the free-market economy to restrict their payments for labor and their use of paid labor ever more severely, i.e., to achieve an ever smaller minimum of labor in relation to the money value it creates and the money paid for it. That is the weapon in the competition over capitalist wealth, a kind of wealth that has its source in profitable labor and its measure in the quantity of profitable labor.
The two sides in this competition, both of which actually need work in the idyllic market economy, are faced with the paradoxical character of this competition — but in very different ways. The wage-earning masses, with their labor time, their capacity for work, and the salary they thereby earn, are subjected to the doubly restrictive constraint of profitability. Hence in the course of capitalist progress, they are rid of neither toil nor long hours of labor; they don’t get rich, and certainly not rich enough to buy their way out of this predicament. On the contrary, “business,” with its “labor-saving technological progress,” ensures that the need of the working class for job opportunities consistently goes unsatisfied to an ever greater extent — be it because successful firms succeed in competition by reducing their workforce in absolute terms, or because the losers manage only to a lesser extent to get a profitable exploitation going, or none at all, thus leaving behind armies of unemployed. Even with a growing economy, “business” as a whole retains a reservoir of available manpower, which it can draw upon at any time to satisfy its need for cheap labor. However, the growth that “business” achieves by combining the restrictive conditionality and boundlessness of its need for labor in such a profitable way generates a most absurd limit on growth. In their endless quest for money, capitalist firms again and again produce more salable goods than can in fact be sold profitably — especially considering the extremely limited sum of money that wage earners can spend in their capacity as consumers. The ambition of employers to make ever more money through the boundless use of ever more profitable labor exceeds the amount of money that can actually be earned on their markets — that is what makes their competition so intense. And now and then, even those who don’t run the least profitable places of work pay for this with bankruptcy. In an economic crisis, “business” on the whole periodically suffers and can’t avoid an extensive throwaway-campaign — only to continue on then with the same absurdity.
A modern state manages these relations with all its law-setting and law-enforcing power. Of course, those in charge would never admit that the state imposes these relations on its legal subjects, nor that its political economy is a violent affair in general. Those who have a say in this free commonwealth simply have no qualms about forcing the existence of their citizens into a corset of rules and regulations, which turn labor for money into the sole purpose of social life and the sole means for making a living. On the contrary, they take this to be a service that those who govern owe to their autonomous subjects, and with which they must meet the objective requirements of the “naturally” prevailing market economy, since otherwise it just wouldn’t function. This is how modern politics fittingly makes this so clearly two-sided fundamental societal need for labor its own. The state stands by its businessmen — who, by virtue of their legally protected property, have license to use and exploit the labor of society — by providing them with a continually refined catalog of regulations, measures, and assistance, so that their exercise of private command over the sources of free-market wealth turns out as profitable as possible for them individually and as a whole. That is no easy task in light of the fact that it is, in principle, impossible to manage the general competition between capitalist property owners, and the anarchy of markets necessary for competition, to the general satisfaction of the beneficiaries of capitalism. At any rate, those in charge of politics get along just fine with the fact that there is always somebody who objects to the way they foster the flourishing of capitalist growth: as a deprivation of freedom and the right of private property, while at the same time calling for reforms in the interest of economic rationality. They incorporate the contradictory demands made by “business” into their party rivalry. And they can’t go wrong anyway, as long as they keep to the one general line that crosses all party lines: firstly, labor must be profitable, and secondly, a continually increasing amount of maximally profitable labor must take place under the command and for the benefit of the nation’s firms. A proper economic policy, by defending this line, fulfills its responsibilities not only toward “business,” but also toward the need and moral right of the nation’s masses to be “employed.” The modern class-state agrees with the demand for jobs completely, while at the same time sticking hard and fast to its principle that the provision of this exalted good be left up to the employing minority. And on that basis, it fosters the general willingness of active, and especially of would-be workers, to cut back on their livelihood while stepping up their availability and willingness to work for the sake of having a job. That is how those in power serve their communities, all the while keeping their eye on the material basis of their rule, which consists in the money — the objectified power over the entire free-market world of commodities and the labor that produces them — created in profitable workplaces under the direction of competitive employers and accumulated by capitalist property owners.
Being such a self-interested and, for that reason, all the more an unquestioning friend and promoter of economic growth, of the endless efforts of its propertied class to enrich itself, the state discovers a most critical deficiency in the country and its inhabitants that it makes available for these efforts. Regardless of how extensive its territory may be, it is always in principle too small for capital’s boundless drive to expand. The societal ability to pay, destined to transform the products of the labor of society into real, i.e., abstract wealth, into money, is confined to the domestic citizenry — whose buying power is additionally limited by the fact that the wage-dependent majority only possesses as much of this power as the criterion of profitability allows them to receive for their labor. This limit contradicts the basic requirements of capitalist accumulation — wholly apart and independent of whether all basic needs have already been satisfied, and regardless of the sorts of needs invented and awoken for the purpose of making money by supplying extravagant goods and services; and also regardless of whether producers and retail stores remain stuck with their goods. The same goes for the natural resources that a nation’s economy needs and consumes in order to grow; the resources found within a state’s territory are always finite, and therefore constitute a potential and possibly an actual restriction on the accumulation of wealth. And even if the national labor market is amply stocked with unemployed workers, the capacities for growth that business produces and is supposed to develop exceed, in principle, the supply of domestic personnel; so in this regard as well, the spatial limits to the power of the nation-state are incompatible with capital’s boundless drive to expand. Consequently, those in charge of politics do everything to open their state's borders, and thus those of their neighbors, and in fact all the borders of this world, so that domestically active capital can exercise its private power to gain control over globally available resources.
- A state aware of the free-market basis of its power provides its businessmen access to natural resources in other countries, both mineral resources that are lacking at home or that could only be extracted at high cost, and agricultural products from other climatic zones or from countries where such products are cheaper to produce than at home. As a prelude to the recent history of capitalism, the most absurd of all needs intrinsic to this mode of production had its glory days: gold, extracted and acquired in huge volumes and heedless of any losses incurred in the process — not because gold was useful for any specific material need or indispensable as a means of production, but because, by virtue of force and custom, it concretely represents the power of property over all that is useful, including its production. It is a “fetish” of the bourgeois world, whose economic power relations it literally embodies in units of weight. It is quite fitting that the ones who accumulated the benefits from the grand campaign to procure gold were not the predatory colonial masters, who merely spent it, but the merchants who earned it, who used it as the basis for credit, and the credit as capital, and in this businesslike manner started enriching themselves on the labor and products of their own and other people’s workforces. The nations that have become centers of capital accumulation — not through this plundered money commodity as such, but by using it in a capitalistically expedient manner — have long since developed far more ambitious needs for controlling resources. They now fight tooth and claw over sources of raw materials for their industries, and especially over the secure control of the natural energy sources so materially indispensable for their economies, and whose prices go into every free-market cost calculation and thus influence a nation’s capabilities for growth.
- Cheap raw materials from all over the world, which keep down firms’ costs for materials and energy, are critically important, because capitalists now compete worldwide on the basis of their commodity prices. After all, the modern state puts all its effort — and not without result — into opening up access to foreign markets for its capitalists, where they can pit their command over profitable labor against foreign competitors and earn other nations’ money. In return, the state opens up its own sovereign territory as a market to foreign suppliers, thereby exposing its domestic firms to foreign competition and risking the outflow of capitalistically realized wealth to foreign countries. So it cannot get around critically comparing the costs of doing business on its own territory with that of other locations. Of course, the priority of the modern bourgeois state is, at any rate, to remove the barriers that the borders of the domestic market represent for the growth of the nation’s economy and its boundless need to make more money from profitable labor, but this does not mean that it stops critically assessing the advantages and disadvantages of open borders at this point — on the contrary, this is where its calculations really begin. These calculations certainly do not just concern the prices of imported raw materials, but overall competitive conditions. By imposing protective tariffs, quotas, and other barriers to trade, a state makes it difficult or impossible for foreign firms that are superior in terms of profitability and capacity for growth to stir up the domestic market to the detriment of domestic suppliers. Conversely, it expects other nations to submit to its own firms’ competitive strategies for conquering foreign markets. On the premise that, at all events, money should and must be made across all borders, the inter-nationalists that govern the market economy combine protectionism with free trade, and have succeeded in bringing about today’s world market that, with its flood of commodities and the competition for the world’s money fought over them, leaves no corner of the earth untouched.
- Businessmen carry on this worldwide competition for command over a maximum of money-yielding labor by fighting for the most profitable labor. And this is why they don’t limit themselves to commodity trade in their efforts to dominate markets worldwide, but assert their interest in making use of labor wherever opportunities beckon for the competitively profitable exploitation of this factor of production. A modern, cosmopolitan sovereign understands this need quite well, too, and in the expectation that the enrichment of the nation’s businessmen, wherever it comes about, will inevitably serve the nation’s economic growth, it, in principle, grants its employers the right to take their profit-yielding power of command abroad and help themselves to cheap labor in other countries. Conversely, the state invites foreign conglomerates to come into its country and fulfill their need for labor, and the need of the local masses, and above all, as the responsible ruling power, its own need, for jobs. Admittedly, the expectation that the nation will inevitably benefit by no means works out for all sides, and cannot do so, for the simple reason that the competitive strategies of the multinational firms and the maneuvers of the interested and affected states constantly thwart each other. Nevertheless, bad experiences in this regard have not yet led states to call off the game, but to make several advances and new achievements in capitalist site policy.
Modern states draw a practical conclusion from the worldwide competition that they empower and compel their firms to take part in: even without being faced with poor trade balances, they see themselves compelled to do everything in their power to foster the competitiveness of the nation’s business class and to make conditions for business as attractive as possible in their own country. To this end, they scrutinize and reform all the preconditions for the exploitative use of societal labor, as well as all the official assistance they provide for that purpose, with a view to their potency as weapons in the international test of economic performance. In the same spirit, they attend to the labor factor — to the national wage level including the cost of social insurance, to labor’s up-to-date usefulness, i.e., to basic and higher education, public health, morals, and readiness to work — and to keeping the costs for all this under control. All this is certainly part of the catalogue of tasks of a responsible government in a class state anyway; but those in charge are readily challenged by the necessities of international competition — that they have created themselves — to be purposefully relentless in this regard, citing to the victims of their policies their powerlessness in the face of a foreign competition that has to be kept in check with all their power. By contrast, when it comes to infrastructure and technological advances in the broad field of “innovative” products and production processes, commodity transport, communications, money circulation, etc., politicians are downright generous in “handing out money.” Of course they thereby inevitably burden the “business community,” whose worldwide competitiveness is their concern — after all, the money has to come from somewhere, and even the most resolute thriftiness in social spending won’t produce it in the end. But the art of government borrowing can attenuate this contradiction quite well and can even be made into a source of income for investors. And besides, a modern government knows how to help its more important firms achieve a size that allows them to take full advantage of the state’s offers with regard to the profitable use of societal labor, regardless of the taxes they must pay, and to develop the capability to outdo all competitors on a global scale.
Conversely, a state’s determined efforts to upgrade its national economy for the conquest of the world market logically entails the necessity of insisting all the more, and all the more consistently, on a functioning world market, i.e., on the condition that all nations irrevocably and without restriction expose their economies to international competition. After all, it’s precisely the most successful capitalist nations, whose businessmen earn money all over the world and thereby augment the wealth of the nation, that are existentially dependent on the guarantee that their multinationals can continue to get hold of the money of other nations — and that means in principle of all of them. Capital accumulation in these countries is “globalized”; it needs a perfect world market of corresponding size and weight as its means for success. And this has to be permanently ensured, for one thing is certain: the incessantly repeated message about all-sided growth through free trade is a slogan that glorifies the success of the successful and ignores the victims that global competition inevitably causes — even among its organizers, the actors in the capitalist struggle for survival. At any rate, the calculation that all nations will fuel each other’s accumulation through their activities on the world market — an accumulation they benefit from — and that they will benefit from the growth they trigger for their trading partners, doesn’t work out, not even in phases of general worldwide economic growth. National markets that are too small for the nation’s own capital are not all of a sudden large enough to also help foreign capital that makes itself at home there succeed in growing. Or conversely, national business communities, whose domestic bases of operations offer too few opportunities for expansion, don’t just automatically all expand and prosper alongside each other when they expand into their competitors’ home bases. The fact that firms from one country both share in and contribute to growth in another country always has a flip side: these firms contest their competitors’ growth, and losses in the national accounts are inevitable. This is why precautions must be taken against the likelihood that nations that temporarily or notoriously find themselves among the losers in the competition over capitalist wealth and capacities for growth will withdraw “unduly” from the freedom of worldwide competition. Conversely, it also ought to be seen to that the winners don’t take “undue” advantage of their market power. In short, modern capitalism must go on as world business, because otherwise it won’t go on at all.
So enlightened politicians concerned with their capitalist base have plenty to do.
After two world wars over the partitioning of the world, the bosses of the leading capitalist powers, pragmatic as they are, came to the conclusion — or saw themselves compelled to subscribe to America’s conclusion — that a sufficiently unrestricted growth of capital requires more than forcibly demarcated and monopolized spheres of business: it needs a secure and worldwide free movement of commodities and money, universal freedom of capitalist access to markets, resources, and labor-power everywhere in the world. It was also clear to them that it doesn’t suffice to take advantage of superior competitiveness bilaterally and carry home the gains: in order to utilize trading partners as reliable and permanent sources of money and spheres for the expansion of their own capitalism, the dominant nations have to make offers to each other and the rest of the world — offer opportunities to make money and prospects of contributing to growth in these same countries. It is only in this way that rivals can be involved in dependencies that cannot simply be terminated in the case of negative national balances, and that allow threats to revoke permissions and deny business opportunities can take their desired effects. It was the Americans who made the crucial advances in this direction during the decades of the Cold War through their alliance with the Western Europeans. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was not meant to be a mere anti-Soviet military alliance, but a capitalist bloc essentially committed to the “rule of law” — whose content is the complete political economy of private property — and obligated to economic cooperation and mutual support. This unleashed the competition among the economically dominant nations, while at the same time subordinating it to the principle that all partners in the alliance be strengthened vis-à-vis the common archenemy in the East, and leaving it up to capital’s drive to expand, naturally and especially that of American capital, whose feats were to create and secure the material basis of the alliance. In this way, a multilaterally administered competition got underway — starting with the important capitalist nations, and coming to include the members of their colonial empires that one by one became independent, and finally worldwide — even reaching into the socialist “state-trading countries.” A tightly organized and supranationally administered anarchy of markets constituted the regulatory framework for a political-economic test of strength, a framework in which the success of the strongest competitors was more or less methodologically ensured. The mutual dependence thus forged between competitors of differing strength offered the stronger partners opportunity and leverage for exercising a determining influence on the trade policies and domestic economic policies of their weaker partners — an influence which has long since gone beyond pressuring the opposing party into making calculated concessions, and now aims at scrutinizing every area of their economic policy. On the basis of the “most favored nation” principle — the nonexclusivity of bilateral trade concessions — a body of rules was developed and a canon of permitted and forbidden state interventions institutionalized in the World Trade Organization (WTO). This lent a deeply intrusive and extremely one-sided international system of extortion the semblance, and even the character, of a grand powwow aimed at achieving consensus, of a permanent and joint process of deliberation with the aim of passing amicable resolutions on the progress of all-sided prosperity through the freedom of world trade. Within this system, the Western European nations have launched the enterprise of subjecting their competition as partners, and their reciprocal exertion of influence, to a common political management. By offering firms the chance to grow to a whole new scale on a spacious internal market, and by, in part, jointly managing their countries and populations, they seek to take up competition with America's superior capitalism — a direct test of performance in the struggle over the concentration of profitable labor on their own territories as well as over access to markets, resources, and opportunities to exploit labor in third countries. The European Union (EU) acts as a collective economic great power in the permanent dispute over the proper rules for the freedom of global business. And for its chief actors, its joint competitive power leads more or less automatically to the program — in dealing with the competing outside world — of not just setting suitable business conditions, but also attending to security matters militarily…
This world trade policy of the last few decades has not only resulted in an enormous increase in the worldwide circulation of commodities and money. Through the accumulation of competitive victories and defeats on different sides — this being the true political-economic substance of a rapid “explosion” of world trade — and the political supervision of the inevitable antagonisms, the participating nations, now including all nations, have each worked their way into a status, an overall state of their national capitalism, which defines their ranking in a system of mutual utilization and dependence, and determines their position in a remarkably stable hierarchy of trading powers.
- North America, the EU, and Japan with its Western Pacific periphery are the dominant world trading powers. They function as each other’s crucial markets, where the big money is to be made and where they therefore need to succeed in competition. This means, conversely, that their multinationals compete against each other worldwide, set the standards for profitable labor and successful business with their competitive power, and constantly raise the bar. And under this criterion, they examine other nations as business locations, make use of them whenever appropriate, and concentrate the growth capacities of global capitalism in their home countries. As the profiteers of worldwide competition, these three centers of world business maintain, despite their rivalry, a basic consensus over the terms of competition that they impose more or less concertedly on the rest of the world. And for the time being, their agreement suffices to safeguard the regulated anarchy that allows them to profit from their competition against each other and the rest of the world.
- In this competition, they not only have to deal with each other but above all with a handful of emerging markets — half of Latin America, half of South Asia, and half of East Asia. These nations stand out as most attractive spheres of investment because, under the currently prevailing conditions of competition set from abroad, they need nothing more urgently than capital, while on the other hand they offer quite useful conditions for growth: cheap and profitably usable labor-power above all, sufficiently functioning class relations under somewhat reliable state control, a convenient infrastructure needed and demanded by the modern business world, and, from this perspective, an interesting market with public and private customers on whom good money can be made. The label “emerging market” indicates the precarious status of these countries, which stand on the threshold between a shortage of capital and capitalist success. And this status means quite different things for the dominant world trading powers and the nations in question. The latter are striving to cross the threshold and become world trading powers, i.e., to get an accumulation of capital going in their own country that will allow them to co-determine the course of world trade, and to become launching pads for capital export, enabling them to make use of, and shape, other nations accordingly. The established great powers of world trade, on the other hand, are doing a good deal to maintain their multinationals’ competitive edge and prevent their new and useful business partners from attaining equal competitive power, i.e., to keep them in the contradictory status of a fruitful market and a simultaneously capital-needy sphere of investment. The inevitable conflict revolves around things like free-market access for agricultural and other bulk commodities from these aspiring nearly “industrial nations,” while the other side focuses its efforts on the “protection of intellectual property” and thereby strives to consolidate the dominance of their own business class over all the more sophisticated branches of capitalist commodity production and over all sorts of business deals in “their” “emerging markets.”
- The participation of most of the remaining countries in the modern world market puts them into the category of suppliers of raw materials. Apologists of capitalist wealth love to attribute to these countries a “contradiction” between “natural resources” — mineral resources, favorable climatic conditions, splendid nature, etc. — and the actual poverty of the masses. In this context, these experts just willfully ignore the fact that the substance and measure of wealth in the capitalist world derive from the volume of profitably applied labor, and not at all from some kind of natural material, let alone from some kind of ease of its procurement. Raw materials themselves aren’t wealth at all in this sense, and in the market economy are only worth as much as capitalist firms are willing to pay for them in the interest of enriching themselves. And as far as concerns the deprivation in these countries, it is, first of all, part of the essence of capitalist wealth that it always goes along with poverty in its likewise modern form: the exclusion of the majority from produced surplus. The drastic deprivation of the masses in the countries whose political-economic definition consists in the export of raw materials has really next to nothing to do with a natural shortage that stands in contrast to a bounteous nature, but is the product of the global money economy’s forcible exclusion of a capitalistically surplus population: the exclusion, of innumerable people who are worthless as labor-power, from overabundant heaps of existing commodities. In fact, the very brand name these countries carry is an expression of the fact that under currently prevailing world market conditions, they are incapable of doing anything useful with their natural endowments, and are completely subsumed under the role of auxiliary service to the capitalistically productive economic powers. All the same, an elite has formed among these countries: oil states that earn lots of money selling off their mineral resources. But this money is far from functioning as capital, as a wellspring of national wealth in the form of money. It is only by “recycling” (a decidedly biased expression) their “petrodollars” that these countries become doubly useful, and in such a capitalistically proper way at that. Either they transfer their revenues to the centers of capitalist finance, where one knows a thing or two about creating money with them. Or, they stock up on luxury goods on the world market and, in their efforts to work their way up to the status of emerging markets and beyond, purchase all they need for a full-fledged economy with factories and transport routes, thereby turning the profitable labor of the true “industrial nations” into money. The sizable remainder of the world of states divides up into those countries that, with their natural conditions and thanks to a quirk of their colonial and postcolonial histories, have found a niche in global business, perhaps as a privileged sugar producer under EU patronage or as a Caribbean tourist destination; and those countries for whose decline and collapse the First World, responsible for this downfall, has just recently devised the status of “failing” or “failed states,” only paying attention to them from the cynical perspective of dangers to be averted — AIDS, terrorism, floods of immigrants…
Just like any business outcome, a nation’s global economic success or failure is realized in money — in the quantity of nationally earned money and in its further use as a means for further economic growth. The mass of this money and its power to yield more money are the capitalistically definitive receipt for a nation’s political-economic accomplishments and failures, the valid expression of its competitive status, and the determinant of its political-economic prospects. This is only logical and just, for if everything really revolves, and is supposed to revolve, around money — and it is to this that states all over the world have committed themselves, subordinating their societal reproduction process to the purpose of earning money, and passing verdict on man and nature, productive forces and articles of consumption, labor and material wealth, that they either function as a source of money or count for nothing — then money will also decide the economic fate of nations. Then they will be called to account for what they are good for in the use of their money as a means for its own accumulation, and will be confronted with a reckoning that inexorably establishes their ranking in the system of global capitalism and — for better or for worse — determines it for the future.
And then it can’t be any surprise that one special branch of capitalist business looks after this reckoning.
2. The currency and its value
Money is materialized and quantified power of command over products and work; it is the irrational material form of the relationship of exclusion and force upon which the political economy of capitalism is based. This power of gaining access to, and having control over, everything, inherent in money by virtue of state decree, is, on its part, not independent of what success a nation, which does business with it, achieves as a source of money. Conversely, a nation’s capitalistic competitiveness, its standing in the competition of national centers of capital, manifests itself in the power of its money. Assessing and bringing forth the results of this competition, in money, falls to a special sphere of business that is not concerned with buying and selling commodities, nor with investing capital and exploiting labor; in this sphere, money is made instead by a scrutinizing comparison of national moneys. In the course of its daily business, this line of business carries out the decisive political-economic sorting of the world of states.
Moneys have exchange rates, whose great importance is revealed by the fact that they are determined and published several times each day. Even millions of television viewers who don’t make any practical use of such information are kept regularly informed. And regardless of the different conclusions that exporters, investment advisers, or central bankers may draw from it, their interest is always directed solely toward the quantitative relation between different moneys:
This is not just. After all, this is the substance that matters most in the economic life of capitalist nations. This material is just as much the measure and means of the modest livelihood of the masses — down to the minimal existence of welfare recipients — as it is of the wealth on whose growth everything depends: providing jobs and taking jobs, private life and the national budget. And the first thing revealed by the moneychangers’ trade is that this real embodiment of the entire wealth of society is stopped at a nation’s border. The wealth around which everything revolves in modern nations — wealth in its most capitalistically appropriate form as universally employable means of access, of gaining disposal over all goods and services, the societal means of existence and the economic substance per se — has no validity where the state’s final word has no legal force. What a national economy does business with, what it — capitalistically speaking — ultimately produces, what business uses to command the labor of society, what it obtains, what the people live off, what a state rules with: all this turns out to be the work of state force and depends on its physically limited sovereignty.
This is a contradiction that absolutely must be resolved; this is the second thing the currency trade reveals with its continually reestablished monetary parities. After all, when a state commits its society to the making of money, it doesn’t intend that everything revolve around this supreme good within the nation, only to have a different definition of wealth count between states. The private power of disposal over goods and labor embodied in a nation’s money is, according to the will of the state that guarantees it by law, absolutely valid; it is not merely part of a set of domestic rules, but the valid essence of material wealth, boundless and exclusive in every respect. A state that not only dictates that its citizens earn and accumulate money as means and condition of subsistence, but also, as governing treasurer of its community, itself observes this order as if it were more or less objectively required, insists that the money it is responsible for is wealth per se, and therefore has to be acknowledged as such worldwide.
But there is a snag. Whereas every state denies in practice for its own work that the “nature” of its society’s wealth is based on nothing but its forcible control over the material life process of its citizens and its provision of an instrument of private power of disposal, it “sees through” this denial as soon as it comes from any other state. In the first instance, it doesn’t acknowledge foreign money as money in the same demanding sense in which it wants recognition of its own money. For every sovereign state, what other powers put into circulation as legal tender is, in the first instance, nothing but colored slips of paper — at best a substitute for money, a token for money that at all events needs to be attested by a “real” monetary substance that somehow backs it up, i.e., one that it also recognizes as fully valid.
Hence bourgeois state powers confront each other in the following way: when it comes to the recognition of their own currency as money in the sense in which it matters to them — as materialized, unrestricted power of disposal over products and services, in short, over work of every kind — their demands know no bounds. When it comes to recognizing other states’ currencies as money in the same sense, they are as negative and critical as can be. A compromise is required and can be found without any problem. Not so very long ago, when the ruling authorities declared their own self-created means of payments to be banknotes in the original meaning of this achievement — promises-to-pay issued on precious metal hoarded by national banks of issue and coveted as the embodiment of wealth by all enlightened nations — the right to get hold of this national treasure was demanded in return for acknowledging other states’ currencies. The basis for trading with national paper moneys consisted in an international consensus over the material fetish that the power of property is to cling to, and a guarantee — furnished with all sorts of provisos — of its being paid out on demand. Today, states are beyond all recourse to gold or silver. Internally, they do not accept any difference between the notes issued by their central banks and “real” money, and externally they demand that their peers unconditionally acknowledge their currency as money without qualification — at least in principle. Conversely, they insist that every other sovereign make its money available to any interested foreign party as a guaranteed means of business. And an agreement has been reached: the currencies of all the capitalist nations are in principle convertible, i.e., valid variants of one and the same universal private monetary power measured and denominated in national units.
What remains to be settled are the proportions in which the country-specific monetary units are to count as equal. This causes intense consternation among the business world and politicians, since it decides a great number of things: whether the price calculations of capitalist producers and merchants still work out when they take up competition abroad as exporters; to what extent the exchange of currencies makes competing easy or difficult for importers; whether — all other conditions presumed to be unchanged — it pays to invest abroad with a different currency or whether the homeland is attractive for owners of foreign money interested in investing it; how the capitalist wealth of the nation and its growth capabilities look in general when measured by the yardstick of another currency instead of by the domestic currency standard. Within a nation, these are all points on which clash nothing but conflicting competitive interests; all the more between nations with their diverse and opposing calculations and demands, which are to be reduced to the abstract, common denominator of a currency parity. With their consensus on acknowledging each other as — in principle — equally responsible creators of a money to be used capitalistically, the national authorities have therefore opened up a permanent and rather complex dispute over the mutual valuation of the currencies declared to be convertible. And their agreement about convertibility notwithstanding, in no way have they dropped their fundamental reservation about the monetary material of their partner countries. Their mutual assurance that they are deadly serious about the capitalistic worth of their currency includes the mutual obligation to satisfy the universal right of disposal that their scraps of money are meant to represent, not only by formally guaranteeing the exchangeability of their currency into every other kind of money, and doing so as a matter of principle, but by vouching for it materially. Central banks — basically as in the days of precious metals — have to provide for this guarantee with an appropriately sized reserve of foreign exchange. And even after the “demonetization” of gold, i.e., its degradation from the definitive money commodity to a mere, easily liquidated material asset , accumulated hoards of it are part of every treasury.
The practice of internationalizing money, of actually “converting” convertible currencies — accepting currencies earned in foreign countries and crediting the corresponding equivalent in customary units, obtaining and selling foreign currencies for foreign business — falls to the profession of the money and credit trade. After all, it has already concentrated the money of society in its hands, has a finger in every transaction worth mentioning, and uses all that as the basis for creating credit, loaning to the business world, and using the course of others’ business to serve its own business success. As soon as a state has decreed and guaranteed the recognition of a foreign currency, this line of business does not hesitate to also use foreign-denominated means of payment, claims, and obligations without prejudice as money and means of credit, both in the service of cross-border trade and as part of its own business. And it wouldn’t be a capitalist money and credit trade if it didn’t immediately know how to do some extra business with the use of foreign money, and to make a complete, new line of business out of this extra business.
This starts out rather inconspicuously, with money traders exchanging sums of money into corresponding sums of other moneys on the basis of exchange rates fixed by those responsible for creating and overseeing the nation’s currency, and charging a fee in return for this hard service. All the same, they accomplish more with this than the mere servicing of individual clients. They collect offers and needs, producing aggregated quantities with their trading, an overall demand for local currency on the one hand and for various foreign currencies on the other. And by professionally comparing these quantities, they draw their first practical conclusions in their extremely simple greed for money: some currencies come in, and also go out again, in large quantities. Dealing in these currencies pays off merely with small surcharges or deductions. Stockpiling these currencies is as good as holding deposits in local currency; they make a suitable basis for granting loans in any currency whatsoever, as they can be converted quickly and easily into any other means of payment demanded. Currencies for which there is an enormous demand but which flow in only scantily allow and necessitate a greater price margin, at the client’s expense, because then the required sums cannot be taken out of the flow through the foreign currency coffers of the bank, but must be purchased or borrowed from foreign partners. If this is the case with some or even all other currencies, it sheds a poor light on the local money, because there is obviously too little overall demand for it. Conversely, the stronger and more one-sided the demand from foreign clients and business partners for the local currency, the greater the leeway to sell it dear. Purely from the currency trader’s technical perspective, that says something for its quality. Finally, with currencies that flow in but don’t attract any considerable demand, no business can be done apart from purchasing them at a low price. They are not suitable as security for creating credit or making loans; the currency trader has to try and find buyers for them; he charges his clients for the bother. And so on and so forth.
With the ratios between supply and demand they produce, the zealous currency traders enter into a critical relation to the central banks whose products they exchange, and to the currency custodians legally authorized to set exchange rates. If, at the stipulated parity, a local currency must constantly be converted into foreign money in large quantities but itself finds no decent demand, the responsible central bank has to plunder its currency reserves in accordance with its liability for the convertibility of the notes it issues. It is then faced with the question as to how long it is willing and able to withstand the outflow of national monetary assets in the form of the foreign currency it has hoarded and managed. At any rate, the businesses authorized to trade currencies make clear to the central bank that the national currency is too expensive and “in reality” worth much less than the official exchange rate purports. If, conversely, the currency-trading industry is saturated with foreign currencies and passes on what it has acquired to its own central bank in large quantities, while being unable to get hold of enough local means of payment to satisfy the needs of its foreign exchange clientele and demanding an increasing amount of printed material from the creators of the nation’s money, then those in charge of monetary policy can’t escape the conclusion that they are selling their currency “below value,” collecting nothing but low-grade currencies in return, and thus in the end throwing money away. In both cases, of course, there are important beneficiaries of the given ratios, and important interests in the national and international business world in not having them altered. Yet currency traders, solely by going about their business, put pressure on the political authorities to correct the stipulated exchange rates, by which they create for themselves a new business opportunity of a higher sort: they speculate on the corrections they consider to be due. That is to say, they buy on their own account — with their own or borrowed money, at any rate entirely independently of the foreign trade they serve with their exchange trade — “undervalued” currencies and sell currencies they consider “overvalued” on a massive scale, solely for the purpose of profiting from the corresponding rate changes. They thereby increase the pressure on the responsible currency custodians to make these very corrections. So the states that have committed themselves to capitalism, made their moneys convertible, and thereby set the exchange trade free, get the appropriate response: the speculation business, which they have gotten off the ground with their license, forces them to continual adjustment of the valuation ratios between their currencies.
With a radical step, the dominant trading nations have escaped from the difficulties involved in the back and forth between the constraints of the international money market, the political calculations of the affected states, and the conflicting interests within the local and global business worlds. They have decided to leave the task of setting parities directly to the currency traders, who make money buying and selling their currencies. If, in the end, the relation between supply and demand produced by the speculators determines exchange rates anyway, then obviously there is no longer a need for a target in this regard from the official side. On the contrary, it contradicts the economic logic, the unleashed competition, of those who use and deal in money, to try to impose the result of their business activities on them. With this conviction and the resolve to let their currencies “float” freely in relation to each other, the national currency custodians have made finance capital — already busy trading currencies —responsible for evaluating the units of measurement of national wealth, and thus its relative total valuation. Of course, their central banks still vouch for the convertibility of their money with a stockpile of foreign currencies, but now under conditions set for them by the buying and selling strategies and maneuvers of the finance industry. And by so doing, this trade confronts the states with a summary balance of their national and cross-border business activities, which sets the decisive conditions for the progress of this business.
The first set of results that the “money markets” put together — results brought about in the abstract form of a currency parity for the nations whose money they put a value on in the course of their business — concerns the nation’s cross-border trade in goods. Industrialists, exporters, and importers may earn as much as they like; but for the nation, the competitive successes and failures of its domestic business world add up — with the trading of the money they earn and spend abroad — to an inflow or outflow of wealth in its decisive capitalist form. A nation’s trade balance is positive — not just in a technical, but also an economic sense — not if a nation lives comfortably on the products of the labor of other nations, but the other way around, when it makes more money “supplying” the rest of the world with its products than it has to pay out to foreign suppliers of indispensable raw materials and to more competitive foreign manufacturers. And vice versa — there is nothing different in the buying and selling of goods that goes on between capitalist nations as opposed to within their domestic markets. In both cases the aim is to gain abstract wealth, to acquire money as the material power to further growth in competition with others. Whether this aim is achieved on a national level; whether, on balance, proceeds of money from the accumulation of capital abroad are appropriated and utilized to further growth at home, or conversely, whether financial means achieved at home, and thus growth capability or even some substantive national assets flow abroad: this is the first result that the worldwide money trade manages and registers with the competition it organizes between supply and demand for foreign exchange. It accomplishes the distribution of the abstract wealth of the world, namely, with the two effects it brings about: it diminishes the foreign reserves and other “valuables” in possession of a central bank responsible for a nation with a notoriously negative balance of trade, conversely causing the treasury of a successful state to swell; and it draws a practical conclusion from the deficient or lively use of a currency about its value; from the volume of the types of currencies useless for, or required by, business, it decides about their unit of measurement, devaluing or revaluing them as the case may be, and so decreasing or increasing the international clout of the capitalistic wealth of the respective nation.
Money flows between nations, not just in the import and export business, but also for another purpose — for which, in its own way, the international money trade renders daily account as well — as a means of business for loans and investments: for cross-border movements of capital. Capitalists who move capital abroad are simply interested in increasing their property in foreign countries just as they do in their home base of operations; they make use of foreign resources and labor power, making their selfish contribution to production and circulation in another country; they buy their way into the accumulation of capital taking place there, enriching themselves on the need of foreign businessmen for credit and on the debts of foreign states. By investing their own money in nations in which they reckon on succeeding in competition, they intensify any effects trade balances have had on the exchange of currencies, and thus on the distribution of capitalistic means of growth between nations; or they correct these effects to the extent that they put their “good” money into financially weak countries. Their capital export benefits the target nation’s holdings of foreign currencies, and perhaps even the exchange rate of its currency, slowing down or even averting the outflow of the nation’s reserves, and increasing the mass and growth capability of capital in the country. For the home country, its capitalists’ foreign investments make appropriate capitalistic use of the surpluses accumulated on a successful location of capital; money earned at home thus serves abroad as a means for its own growth. This not only benefits companies searching for investment opportunities and striking a bonanza abroad; it also benefits, on principle, the states whose currencies are sent out into the rest of world of states as a means of business for globally active businessmen, either as credit or for investments. These states are thereby confirmed as creators of money and creditors of the capitalist business world: everything done with their money within their own dominion on the basis of their sovereign decree is, on foreign markets, done in the end on a global scale for purely economic reasons.
This is of fundamental significance, because modern states do not merely serve a “natural” need for means of payment with the money their central banks issue — although this alone would be extremely useful for promoting the accumulation of national capital — but inject central bank notes as means of credit into their national economy in order to initiate growth that might otherwise be a long time coming; and, moreover, thereby finance their own expenditure, creating additional demand that stimulates business in at home. By doing this, they make money act as a means of growth, money that neither arose from profitable labor, nor was earned by anybody, but simply represents anticipated future growth. For this operation to succeed according to plan, political money-creators count and depend on a capitalistically successful national course of business justifying it, and preventing a general rise in prices, i.e., the inflationary fall in value of the monetary unit, that would expose their credit money as a mere inflated fiction. When a state’s money is exported and functions worldwide as it is intended and economically necessary, that is, as the starting point and endpoint, the instrument and material result of capitalistic production, circulation, and accumulation, and as a financial means for other sovereign states bound to the value of money — then the state’s calculation is proved correct, the money it creates by fiat is confirmed as unconditionally useful in capitalism. When it is used by the business world as a means for exporting capital, it becomes a global means of credit and the material of worldwide capitalistic wealth. And exactly this: its global use justifies every sum that its creators bring into being as means of finance for their home territory and their own use, confirming these sums as real wealth in precisely the shape in which the whole world seeks to earn and accumulate it, and attesting the financial power the state presumes to have with its creation of money. A state such as this commands the capitalist wealth of the world — not just to the extent that successful exporters bring in to it other nations’ formally convertible money or currency reserves, thereby strengthening the international power of access of its own currency. Rather, the money it guarantees — and, to the extent it creates it, allows to be used and uses itself — functions as power of disposal over the wealth of the world, and therefore is this wealth. In such a basic way and at such a high level, a nation benefits from the capital export of its successful capitalists.
This success, however, has its price. It is incurred by those countries that not only benefit from extensive imports of capital — more or less, depending on the course of competition between domestic and foreign companies — but are dependent on it. These are countries that — unlike the capitalistically “developed” nations that make the global capital market grow as much by being investors as by being an investment sphere — show tendencies toward, or even admittedly suffer from, a lack of capital. When the mass and proceeds of an autonomously created money, thrown into national circulation as means of credit, doesn’t suffice for the attainment of sweeping successes in world-market competition, when the nation’s growth is dependent upon a supply of capital in the form of foreign credit-money, then this foreign money competes with the local currency for the role of being the decisive means of credit and payment. Foreign money then threatens to demote the local currency, ousting it and replacing it as the source and more generally as the “material” of national wealth. In the end, the imported money might — in the most practical way, namely, in the use the business world makes of it — refute the claim of the responsible sovereign to have brought about a suitable credit-money with its legal tender. Step by step, the money-creating sovereign of the capital-exporting country takes the place of the local money guardian as guarantee power of this capitalistically used money, and as source of the financial means required for accumulating this money, finally even as originator of the local state’s solvency. The latter finds itself demoted to a dependent agent of the financial power of the state whose multinationals invest in the country — and which are ready at any time to withdraw their good money from a country that by itself has no currency to offer in which they can feel their capitalistic wealth in secure hands.
By speculating on, with, and against the currencies of the nations that have made money-making their reason for, and means of, existence — i.e., as source of a money that is successfully used as means of credit and accordingly demanded worldwide — the international cabal of currency traders presents to the national money-creators a combined overall end result whose object and content consist of how things stand in this respect. With their completely autonomous and speculative purchase and sale of currencies, national debts, and securities of every stripe from the various countries; with their shifting sums of money in — for the lay public — such phenomenal magnitudes “merely” for the purpose of exploiting the tiniest differences in valuations and their movements — with all this, finance capitalists so engaged carry out a continuously updated, critically comparative assessment of the capitalistic competitiveness of entire nations; they do so under the narrow-minded and appropriate point of view of how profitable and how secure the nations’ debts, and the moneys representing these debts, seem to them. All kinds of observations and conjectures go into forming these judgments, but what is most important is whether a nation is indebted internally or externally, in its own or in a foreign currency, but also then the degree of indebtedness; besides that are the means and prospects of policies to promote growth and exports, the rate of inflation and the government’s management of the budget, its foreseeable need for credit, its power to influence the foreign trade, credit, and monetary policies of other states, as well as the conditions of world trade as a whole and overall, and therefore also all sorts of questions of power, from the stability of a government to the security of a nation’s raw materials supplies, and so on and so forth. All this is summed up in the market value that “the markets” “determine” for the currency and the liabilities of the various nations, only to immediately call them into question with their speculation on changes — and not only that.
With their professional speculation, money traders draw a much more fundamental, qualitative distinction between, firstly, the few currencies that offer them security in, and for, their speculation, and which therefore serve as the actual endpoint and indispensable means of their business deals; and, secondly, those debts and national moneys that they “go into” only to “go out” of again with large profits. They like to undertake excursions into speculative, high-risk areas only to return, in their search for security for their acquisitions, to moneys they themselves have had confidence in for the longest time and helped to the ranks of a solid currency for speculation. This is how a few currencies prove to be worthwhile as “hard,” while most others disqualify themselves to various degrees as “weak,” counting as representatives of real money, i.e., money that is reliably useful for elaborate financial operations, only with reservation, which in practice takes the form of especially high interest demanded and all kinds of hedge transactions. Other national moneys simply do not exist for the global money market. All currencies are supposed to be convertible, all of them expressions of one and the same wealth in nationally varying units of measurement — but in the end, they differ not only according to their “purchasing power” and its quantitative changes, but qualitatively according to how secure finance capital feels with its speculation on, and with, the debts of nations. It is in this form, i.e., in the only suitable “language” of money, that the currency trade gives the nations its capitalistically official testimonial on how useful they are for the purpose of speculative money accumulation, and in this respect as locations for capital in general. It informs states — in fact in a practically binding form — how things look for their power to generate capitalistic growth with the money of their central banks as means of credit, and therefore, according to the best speculative judgment, how things will go on for them.
Although the leading capitalist states have given the money and credit traders the power to speculatively check the suitability of the nation’s capitalist base, they have in no way ceded their sovereign decision-making. They maintain control over the global course of business — just as they have always kept it going. So had the United States, within its part of the wasteland left behind by World War II, seen to the re-establishment of a worldwide capitalism, on the basis of the dollar, with the export of capital and the crediting of new currencies; a quarter of a century later, in dispute and consultation with its allied rivals, it gave up the fiction of a gold backing distinguishing its banknotes as world money, and conceded to the other, now successful national moneys an equal status, in principle, with its greenback. From the beginning, the political initiators of the newly established world market have made allowances for the division of the nations into winners and losers: in their downplayed version, “liquidity shortages” in international payments and with certain participants are to be reckoned with time and time again, and provisions for the unimpeded progress of cross-border money-making are to be made; this is how the International Monetary Fund came about as a supranational political guarantee for honoring national payment obligations beyond the affected nations’ ability to pay, as well as the World Bank as an authority for the awarding of political credit for restoring the world-market capability of such countries. The creditworthiness — guaranteed in this way — of all states in which there is money for capitalists to make, and the flooding of the world market with reliable world money, especially from America, have enabled the international finance industry to achieve the colossal scale of business so marveled at today. Whenever this trade ruins states with its speculative investments and exposes them as insolvent and actually not creditworthy, and thereby brings up the question for the winners on the world market, too, as to how this fine global business is to go on, the political masters of this arrangement — with all due respect for the “verdict of the markets,” whose importance is no more and no less than what they attach to it — always find a way to ensure its continuation or new beginning with credit guarantees, and prevent world market participants from dropping out. In their rescue maneuvers, the international financial institutions carry out their resolve that the competition of nations is not to be terminated, even all the way down to candidates for debt relief. Hence, under the supervision of the debts of nations — organized by the great homelands of good, hard money — the institutionalized prolongation of accumulating obligations and unrecoverable claims has led to an outcome that finance capital keeps track of in its own practical way: to a hierarchy of currencies, in which the global economic status of nations is reflected and finds its summarized expression, and is so thoroughly established that it — as long as the prevailing world order is respected — can only be revised with difficulty, or, as far as the great beneficiaries are concerned, has a rather crisis-proof existence.
- The devastating result for most members of the modern community of nations is that they have no money — even if their national currency is, from a financial-technical point of view, convertible and even exchanged. The money they themselves create is not used as a fully accepted means of business, nor does it count as world money, and therefore does not provide any financial freedom for its creator; as soon as one of these states credits itself in its own currency in order to use its own power to promote growth and finance its own budget — doing as a matter of course what any sovereign enlightened in the ways of the market economy does — the devaluation of its money disrupts and ruins the businesses so credited and damages state finances, to the point where it faces disclosure of its own currency being basically good for nothing. These countries are thrown back on the earning of the world money of other nations, preferably the U.S. dollar, to pay for necessary imports and their accumulated financial obligations — no easy task in view of their lack of capital and the uselessness of their money as a means of crediting capitalist growth. Even with the help of massive and successful imports of capital, only a few hopefuls can reasonably expect — and scattered few can possibly manage — to bring about such a positive trade balance that their accumulated foreign reserves provide them some measure of financial freedom, without their currency having moved up to the status of a world money that gives a push to successful business activities at home and abroad, and whose successes would confirm it as means of credit.
- With the beginning of the 21st century, there is but a handful of states that can chalk up such success. As global financial powers, they serve not only their domestic business community with their means of payment and credit, but the money and credit needs of the entire capitalist world. Conversely, they enlist the business activities of the whole world for attesting the monetary quality of their printed material and their debts: for recognizing them as genuine capitalist wealth, as if each banknote and every national debt were backed by actually produced and realized value, not just by the authority of the responsible state. These states alone enjoy the freedom to credit themselves in their own currency and make the entire capitalistic world, with all its means of business and currency reserves, responsible for the value of this money, however much it might represent nothing but national debts. This is what constitutes their financial power; and the rulers in charge use it to the best of their ability. When they stand by another state — one without world money in the proper sense — with credit, they preserve the world as a sphere of business for their multinationals, while at the same time binding the foreign ruler to all sorts of economic constraints; and respecting these constraints includes the recognition of the hierarchy of global economic status and their own dominating role. Accordingly, they claim the authority and the right to see to good governance all over the world. Whenever there loom significant shifts in the global power structure and in the order of standing of nations — in unexpected places, perhaps unchecked, perhaps as a result of international conditions of use they have promoted — they are affected and alarmed. Then they feel challenged to use their financial power — and if that doesn’t suffice, to influence the security calculations of the problem states (discussed below in the next section) — to again make themselves masters and beneficiaries of these developments. On the other hand, the capitalist world-powers themselves cross paths, not just in this regard, but with their monetary and credit policies overall. For them, too, the competition over the wealth of the world has become all-consuming; and especially between them, it plays out decisively as a competition to drive out each other’s currencies. Wherever credit is needed and money used as means of business, for speculation, and as reserve, i.e., everywhere and on all “fronts,” the great world-money creators try hard for their currency to be in demand at the expense of the others. Especially for this purpose, the partners of the euro-zone have, in view of all circumstances, rescinded a crucial part of their financial autonomy and economic competition with one another, pooling the quintessence of their national economic might, their currencies — some successful, others threatened with weakening and degradation — into a collective means of payment and credit. They intend to make an unbeatable offer to the global financial industry in its never-ending speculative quest for safety, and to make a convincing case for their world-money to the guardians of national currency reserves all over the world, in order thereby to challenge the present preeminence of the U.S. dollar — an attack on the “American way of life,” not just in the sense of the private lifestyle in the motherland of world capitalism, but on the world power’s economic conditions for success and existence.
Capitalist states compete for the wealth of the world; and they do it in the absurd way of competing for the confidence of, and popularity among, the class of property owners, which on its part works worldwide on increasing the power of access and control that state power gives to property. In order to make an impression on this class of investors and speculators — which they have empowered, by no means irrevocably, to decide about the value and usability of their money — states go to every length to turn their country into a lucrative source of money, and their money into a universally used and demanded means of business, or at least one that is acknowledged by the wealthy elite and their managers. With all due respect for the “verdict of the market” — which no government submits to if it does not jibe with the nation’s ambitions for wealth and power — capitalist states become as brutal against their own people and one another as they deem necessary to secure the international business world as the material base of their rule.
Domestically, in the management of their own society, all states — according to the position of the nation in international competition — unerringly come back again and again to the banal quintessence of all political-economic wisdom: profitable labor, and as much of it as possible. The ones that compete for the money of other nations subject their masses, in accordance with the crude state of development of their average national productive forces, to a regime of exploitation that reminds disputatious First World observers of “Manchester capitalism,” a stage their own homeland has fortunately outgrown. Of course, these observers do not intend to criticize capitalism in the least, but instead — under headings such as “wage dumping” or “environmental dumping” — to denounce what they deem to be unfair competitive advantages. And when they have complained long enough about obstinate exploiters elsewhere in the world, i.e., until it is clear that the latter won’t give up their bad habits, they go on to encourage the business community at home to do what it always does anyway, even apart from Third World competition: it is to make full use of the superiority of its long-standing capitalism, not just in the field of labor productivity in a technical sense, but also in the treatment and payment of the workforce. Unlike countries where exploitation is at its most extreme, in more advanced nations it is possible to strip away a great many traditional “vested rights,” which, in the face of low-price foreign competition, jeopardize, in the end, the only really important “vested right”—permanently endangered anyway — that a modern employee has: his job. In this regard, everything that left-wing critics of the capitalist mode of production have denounced as techniques of exploitation is propagated and practiced as the secret to success, and everything that social-democratic and Christian social reformers have come up with for making capitalist exploitation endurable for its useful victims is rejected and combated as a weakening in international competition and the germ of national decline. This is how the wage-earning masses get their fair share the of their nation’s money-imperialism.
Internationally, as regards cross-border money-making, states are all the more determined not to leave the entrepreneurial class — their own as well as those active worldwide — to their own devices, nor to abandon them to their competitive fate. They tirelessly fight for one-sidedly advantageous business conditions, not simply in dealings with individual partners, but, in general, for regulations, the interpretation of rules, and the development of a set of rules for international business that they expect will benefit the competitive position of their capitalist base, as well as their credit and currency. And like every such lofty kind of dispute between states, the struggle over individual stipulations is accompanied by a fight of the mighty for influence and positions of power, which allow them to determine the framework of the global economic order as a whole, and to be responsible for pushing it through. The objections of the great economic powers to the breaking of regulations on dumping, especially by certain all-too ambitious “emerging markets,” are also very much a part of these disputes, as are — the other way around — the complaints of the latter about trade-distorting subsidies by the wealthier nations. Each of them accuses the others of not acting in conformity with the capitalist system, of contravening the elementary rules of harmonious dealings between world-market participants, and thus of ultimately offending against the basic consensus between all sovereigns on their global-economic coexistence. Depending on which power raises the accusation and with what emphasis, it is not merely part of the realm of moral rhetoric, but that of diplomatic threats: a government announces that it considers the behavior of one or more partners to be a violation of the premises and essential purpose of their reciprocal recognition as reliable players committed to market economy in the peaceful world of international business. Such things are no longer so easily settled at the level of, and by means of, diplomatic blackmail in matters of trade, because in this case, what is called into question is the will of certain partners to comply with the rules of procedure and to respect the basic political stipulations of world order, without which the economic constraints and a system of peaceful blackmail wouldn’t work at all. In fact, this transition to the fundamentals is always close at hand, because in their disputes over export conditions, debt problems, and the like, the competing states tend not simply to argue about relative advantages and disadvantages, but to see their very authority over their economic basis, their sovereignty over their own conditions of existence, weakened — which, to a certain extent, is always the case. Indeed, some states have already all but lost their political-economic sovereignty — as creators of money for, and providers of credit to, their national capitalism — to the global financial powers, and they see themselves hindered in their profoundly justified efforts to gain some economic autonomy by accumulating a reserve of honestly earned foreign currency. Others consider it a tremendously generous concession on their part if the rest of the world tries everything possible to earn their money; and, from this, they derive the right to control how others use this money, and see their sovereignty as global financial powers jeopardized by other states’ political-economic high-handedness. And to the extent that a state so affected acts on its conviction that others are profaning the rights it regards as fundamental to the peaceful dealings of states with one another, it views — as ultimate power — its own will for peace challenged by a hostile will.
II. The Competition of Nations for Predominant Power
1. War and Peace
Along with their economic competition, capitalist states big and small, past and present, act to secure the beneficial relations of competition and use that they have established between states. During times of peace, they maintain standing armies, procure modern and increasingly formidable weapons, and forge military alliances in order to prepare for war — against states like themselves, of course. They consider other states, their economic partners, as threats to themselves and their interests, and that goes for all of them. Though in theory they reject this, in practice they assume that they are all a source of danger for each other, against which each party claims only to be defending itself. Prior to, and regardless of, any specific conflicts, states are certain that they are in danger. They regard the building up of their own capacity to threaten others as defense and reaction to it. Each thus combats in others what it itself pursues: capitalist states compete with each other as pure state powers.
The security policy of states engaged in international trade refutes the slogans extolling the all-round benefit, brought about by economic exchange, of the balanced give-and-take in their economic cooperation, and of the beneficial necessity for compromise. They admit how little they trust in the contractual relationships they have entered into with their partners, how little they regard the advantage they and their treaty partners seek to gain from treaties to be a reliable basis of their relations, and thus how familiar they are with the exclusionary antagonism that marks their relations with the states they economically cooperate with. They deal with each other so that by making use of the sources of wealth of foreign sovereignty, they strengthen themselves as the political power they are, and, as a power, to gain — at the expense of others, of course. To this end, they demand that their partner use its power over its society to benefit and stand up for a foreign state — regardless, and even to the detriment, of its own economic advantage. Because they are demanding the unacceptable, states regard access to foreign sources of wealth as an extremely problematical, indeed dangerous dependence of the basis of their national existence on the egoism of foreign powers, which naturally exploit this reliance. With defensive euphemisms — one should not become susceptible to “blackmail” and must preserve one’s “freedom of action” — they state the condition under which they can at best tolerate this truly unbearable dependence: namely, when their perpetual intervention in the policymaking of another sovereign is ensured, when they control it and can hold it accountable for guaranteeing their own advantage. Only then do they have no fear of their dependence on foreign powers being exploited. The entire three-step imperialist process is contained in the talk, as terse as it is brazen, of “our oil” or “our supply routes.” First of all, “we” buy and consume the oil that is, for instance, pumped out of Arab soil and thus initially belongs to the local sovereigns and not to “us” at all. Secondly, because it benefits “us” and “we” can further “our” growth with it, “we” are dependent upon the punctual, reliable, sufficient, and cheap delivery of petroleum, which is why thirdly, “we” have to take control of the region and its sovereigns, as well as the transport routes, so that “we” cannot be politically or economically blackmailed by the oil sheiks. One hears a reverse complaint concerning the big energy supplier Russia: it is succeeding in reclaiming its position as a world power because “we” depend upon its oil and gas and, due to this handicap, we cannot act indiscriminately against its world power interests.
The extensive utilization of other markets and countries has, along with the internationalization of capital, in no way impeded the states involved; rather, it has forced new forms and a new harshness on the exclusion that has forever defined their relationship. Political rule over a territory and its inhabitants, certainly a good deal older than capitalism, consists just in being exclusive, in excluding another rule from disposal over one’s assets. This exclusion is not simply a fact given once and for all, but rather an act of force: both parties, the sovereign on its territory and the other sovereign barred from it, set boundaries for each other that both only put up with if they have to. For centuries, the so-called “game of kings” consisted in finding out if they really had to, since the ambitions of not only today’s rulers, but also of those of the past, always extend beyond the bounds of the reach of their power. In the days when communities had little contact and exchange with each other, the covetous glances of foreign potentates were directed at the essentials of a state, at the command over land and people, as well as at whatever could be taken as booty or imposed as tribute. After many wars, modern states have actually figured out that other countries and their resources can be exploited for national wealth without even having to conquer them and annex them to one’s own territory. Their relations have not become more peaceable as a consequence. On the contrary: as they no longer only sporadically have contact, but rather deal with each other on a large scale, the stuff of their antagonism has multiplied. The one-time plundering of conquered countries, the imposition of ruinous, hence momentary tribute, or if adapted to the surpluses of a static mode of production, then meager tribute — for all this, modern states substitute the mutually conceded, continual utilization of foreign sources of wealth and growth, which consequently represent their means of existence. They compete for success in exploiting the world market, appropriate the world’s capitalist wealth for the nation, and thereby exclude other nations from the power of capital to accrue wealth. Because their economic relations are all about this appropriation and expropriation, and what is required for this is the assured will to cooperation of the partner they face with their demands, the conquests of earlier times are superseded by the no less violent effort to continually control the will of the sovereign partner. This essence of modern imperialism is inherent to the reason of state of all capitalistic societies, regardless of the fact that they quite quickly separate out into those controlling and those being controlled. For the same holds true for all of them: the economic utilization of other states stands and falls with the balance of power between them.
Ultimately, states carry out their competition for domination over their own kind with war: they mobilize their people and devote their national wealth to the elimination of an adversary deemed positively intolerable — the enemy — by destroying its instruments of power and ruining the sources of its power. With war, they are getting down to the essentials: their self-assertion as an ultimate power — and therefore to much more than the wealth and power for which modern states otherwise compete. What is at stake is their existence as masters of all competition and enrichment. In order to assert themselves and predominate, states make the bold and not entirely consistent transition to employing their power and wealth as a means of destruction — “whatever the cost,” i.e., in absolute disregard of the consequences not only for the enemy, but also for the means and the utilized and burdened sources of their own power.
This applies to their external relations: in war, states ruin, on the enemy’s territory — and elsewhere, too, if it happens to lie on the march to the enemy — sources for building up wealth and power that they otherwise endeavor to open up and use for themselves, and that they hope to gain sure access to through their military campaign. For the sake of their unquestioned power of disposal, they destroy what matters to them in the use of their power, in their practical control over other states — and exceedingly rarely do they check their destructive work by well-meaning considerations, such as already having to think about reconstruction while laying waste. And this heedlessness does not restrict itself to the immediate victims of the campaign. With a war, states disrupt the course of world commerce with everything they’ve got, as far as and wherever their enemy benefits from it, even if they stand to benefit from it themselves — that, as is generally known, raises all sorts of moral dilemmas. And not only that: they risk the disruption of their own foreign relations, disturb and endanger global trading, and jeopardize their own benefit from the worldwide course of business — and that of “uninvolved” third parties, who nowadays rarely remain completely uninvolved. At the same time, a warring state insists more than ever, and uncompromisingly, on the continuation of its foreign trade, but for reasons far more important than commercial ones: the nation’s business life no longer takes absolute priority, but rather the supply of strategic goods. It mercilessly strains its own capacity to make international payments in order to avoid any rupture whatsoever in the supply of necessary use-values, which then can no longer be left up to the business calculations of the parties involved. In their trade with third countries that make their own commercial calculations, supplemented by their own security calculations that weigh up the entire situation, a warring state is always on the brink of making the transition from purchase to confiscation. Everything that world trade accomplishes for states, what it ultimately has been instituted for, is militarized, i.e., is subsumed under the completely uncapitalistic requirements of the warring parties — and therefore disrupted or even ruined depending on the extent of warfare, while at the same time being strained to the utmost.
The same goes for the internal life of warring nations. It is endangered, even put outright at stake depending on the extent of the venture. In any case, it must stand up to impending or actually occurring ruination, and pull through. At the same time, it is called on in the toughest manner for the overriding aim of forceful national self-assertion; it must deliver whatever means of power the national supreme command requires.
First of all, this means that the nation’s business life is transformed into a war economy. Capital’s license for free disposal over work and wealth is revoked: no longer is everything that brings in a profit financed, produced, and traded, as in peacetime, but rather whatever the war front requires in the way of weapons and other equipment, and whatever necessities arise on the home front — shelters, repairs, emergency management, basic provisions… The supplying of goods is no longer what ultimately comes out of the competition between commodity producers, but becomes instead the guideline for the use of labor according to sovereignly decreed priorities. Not even the use of labor remains subject to the calculations of employers as is otherwise the case: when their profit calculations fail to deliver the services that the war machine requires, the state itself takes command. Yet with all this, as much as the authorities over a capitalist society in wartime revoke the freedom of civil profit maximization in principle and restrict it in particular cases, they do not suspend profit maximization itself. Everything the nation needs is paid for, corresponding to the bills that enterprising businessmen present to the state, and which — with the strain on all trades to meet the literally exploding needs of the government — significantly eases the pressures of competition, and opens up all kinds of opportunities for driving up prices, by which the business community compensates itself for the risk of property losses from successful enemy attacks the war exposes them to. The buying power of the people may go to the dogs as a consequence; but for the state, its money proves itself, even amidst the greatest slaughter, as the means for commanding the national economy, whose owners and managers continue to command the labor of society with it — and proves itself all the better, the more mature the capitalist conditions in the country, the more massive the accumulated and further accumulating wealth, and the more successful the course of war. At the same time, the state has no problem providing itself with the financial means it requires. It draws on credit that it simultaneously creates according to the rules of sovereign money creation — after all, it cannot let its war efforts depend on the level of tax revenue. It also has no problem conscientiously posting the costs of its destructive activities in its budget alongside the expenditures still necessary for health and culture, nor with paying interest that causes the total war debt to further increase.
There is, however, really something peculiar about this credit. It is, after all, a warring state that creates and guarantees it, a sovereign power recklessly focused on itself: reckless not only towards the material foundation of its national economic life, which it jeopardizes and strains with war, but just as much towards the heavy economic “necessity” of the money — created by the state and put into circulation as a means and token of credit — having to prove itself as a source of capitalist accumulation in order to ultimately count as real wealth, and not lose as a measure of wealth what it gains in mass. Formally, the state’s guarantee that its debts represent genuine property that really increases by paying interest remains in force — and those who earn enough from it become richer, even in the middle of a war and with money spent solely on destruction. That’s what the competition of capitalists is all about in times of war: emerging as war profiteers from the acts of destruction. But that does not alter the fact that war loans remain an uncapitalistic way for the state to use money. And this means on the one hand that when it comes to the financial means with which a state pays for the necessities of war, the state’s power of command that is exercised with money dissociates in principle from the state guarantee of property and enrichment embodied in the same money; its increase ruins the suitability of money for its use as a means of capitalist accumulation. On the other hand, however, that just plays no role in times of war. Then, the state refuses to tolerate any doubts concerning its power of command or the quality of its money. It categorically refuses to make its forcible self-assertion in any way contingent on whether it pays off economically. As uncompromisingly as it forces its society to serve profit-making — i.e., surplus-generating capitalistic wealth and its accumulation — as purpose and means of existence, so adamantly does it repudiate its demeaning itself to an appendage of the surpluses that its nation’s capitalism is able to produce. During times of war, when an ultimate power is concerned completely and existentially with itself, it also vouches for itself economically, insisting that the money it creates is perfectly good for enlisting capitalist property for the procurement of the means of violence it needs for victory. It adopts the standpoint that it is not the state that lives on the money its economy earns and accumulates, but that business must make do with the money that the state uses to finance itself and allows its capitalists to earn. Not until the war is over and the authorities are once again nailing down their national economy to profitability and stable monetary value; when, after the state, following the military’s script, has forcibly secured its power of disposal over the sources of its power, and their utilization according to the textbook of capitalism regains its rightful place; when the bourgeois state itself reimposes the criterion that its self-created monetary substance be suitable for capitalism — not until then does the world of business indeed raise its doubts. For then it is entitled, and considers itself entitled, to critically ascertain how much that money has “suffered” by being used as a means to wage war, and to what extent the state’s guarantee of property — represented in the money frittered away for the war — has expropriated society. It is then that the depreciation of the nation’s means of credit caused by the war loans is carried out in practice; the state notes not only the material losses incurred, but also a crisis in the value of money; and if the war was fierce and the debts heavy, then the state takes its war debts out of circulation with a ‘currency reform’ that actually reforms nothing, but instead annuls the measure of value and means of wealth of society that has been in force up till now. A victory in itself does not necessarily protect against such consequences, even if it indeed opens up bright prospects for large-scale holders of government credit instruments to successfully go into newly opened peacetime global business in a big way, and therefore creates the best preconditions for a global accumulation based on such financial means to actually confirm in retrospect their genuine capital qualities. Either way, a capitalistic war economy is — for better or worse — the practical subsumption of society’s wealth, the private power of property, under the vicissitudes of the state that makes capital the means of existence of the nation.
The subsumption of the people under war and war economy bestows it with a lot of new jobs, some directly in government service, others in the government-contracted business of private employers. And that means that the people’s habitual sacrifices are altered a bit and, depending on the course of the war, quite new ones are added on.
In the interest of waging war and for its necessities, the state directs the national economy, organizes labor services itself, and assigns the fittest of the workforce to military service; and for the wage-earning masses and the rest of the rank-and-file of society, this has the effect that, first of all, more work has to be done. Under the absurd circumstances of the political economy of capital, this is in fact something like a blessing for the unemployed segment of the exploited population; the long-term memory of the people, whose subservience is indestructible, gives its warlords outright credit for this, and many a critical social historian all at once understands well why the Germans felt so comfortable with Hitler. The extra work does not bring about the prosperity of those having to shoulder it — how could it, when it only produces the state’s destructive capacity — and this is, following the same logic, okay with the people as well: the state needs its money in times of war for more important things than rewarding its workforce with handsome pay and social benefits. The same goes for the capitalist employers, who at the same time make living more expensive. And because war is really not the appropriate time for unions to fight for an adjustment in the altered relation between pay and productivity — unions prefer to help organize the nation’s extra deployment of labor and collect instead the idealized wages of public and official acknowledgement — the wage level and the standard of living drop. Depending on circumstances, a food shortage also occurs, making obvious what decent workers are never willing to admit to themselves: that their labor does not exist for them and their leisure consumption, but rather their esteemed person exists to serve higher purposes — in this case the highest of all, ranking even above economic growth: the might of the ultimate power itself. Enemy bombs, which — depending on the course of war — a people has to cope with without weakening its willingness to work or reducing its productivity, ultimately leave no doubt about the relation between means and ends, but are as a rule also not able to set the masses against their leadership. Sustained war damage only confirms the image of the evil enemy the state offers its people as good reason for war. And sovereignly decreed restrictions, extra shifts, surtaxes, and sundry other deprivations of war all provide a decent people with practical proof, not so much that its entire existence constitutes the dependent variable of the power over it, but rather that things just have to be that way and everyone is obligated to close ranks. In war, by the way, both outrage at the enemy as well as solidarity of the people are not just opinions that a free citizen may share or maybe not; they are obligatory convictions. Whoever shows some reservations or even voices misgivings is guilty of undermining military morale, and in any event insults the young national comrades “on the field of battle” who “risk their lives” — surely not for the brutal fundamentalism of an ultimate power, but “for us all.”
Armed public servants, unabashedly prized as “our boys” in the public opinion of the people, from whom they are recruited, have, on their part, the double duty of suffering casualties and causing them. They must put their lives at risk and kill complete strangers as effectively as possible and on a huge scale: deeds that are absolutely forbidden in civilian life and, for a halfway normal person, offend against fairly elementary stirrings of practical feeling — not to mention reason — even when the command comes from high up. And yet soldiers — contrary to the opinion of peace moralists, who call them “murderers” — are not licensed to commit murder, which some people, in all the conflicts of bourgeois life, resort to out of “base motives” when someone is standing in the way of their happiness. Soldiers have no personal reason to kill in war — it is their duty; they have to turn against people with whom they have no relationship whatsoever besides the fact that all wear the uniform of their fatherland, only the others wear one of another state. The brutality of blotting out the life of a stranger obviously doesn’t go without an image of an evil enemy that kills comrades and therefore deserves death — in fact war itself produces any bad experience with the enemy required for a soldier to be able to find reason for legitimate hostility. A soldier has to get himself fired up to fulfill his mission out of that ideologically generated motive, but not to commit acts of personal revenge or unauthorized atrocities. He has to manage the trick of being, and then again of not being, exactly the incited and coarse brute his job requires. He is supposed to carry out the most impersonal thing in the world with the devotion of his entire person and the accompanying fear for his own life; and if he doesn’t manage it in a businesslike manner but instead lets himself be led to excesses by his indispensable hatred of the enemy, then he is a criminal. Eventually, when the excesses can no longer be hushed up, the revealed acts of violence do not result in medals for valor, but rather in proceedings before a court-martial. As long as a soldier kills as ordered, however, he displays not just any civic morality, not just one different from what is demanded in civilian life, but the highest one of all. The fact that being ordered into action leads many of his kind to die is appreciated as the voluntarily rendered ultimate sacrifice of an individual for society, to whom the country owes thanks and posthumous honor.
When the bourgeois state deals with its foreign emergency by employing and exhausting its entire domestic life, material riches, cities, and basis of existence of the population as well as lots of lives as means of its self-assertion, it is placing the highest goods in their proper order, one that is always in effect but all too easily forgotten. Freedom, property, life, and the private sphere are granted by the power that establishes and upholds domestic order. The state ties its subjects down to the roles marked out by freedom and property, because that is how they fulfill their civic duty toward capitalist growth and the state. When the power establishing this order sees its sovereignty, i.e., itself, endangered, it posits itself and its continued existence as the essence of all social life, reducing, on the other hand, everything else — from the forms of domestic political intercourse to the bare lives of its citizens — to means of its self-preservation. War also straightens out moral questions considerably: all that talk of humanity, consideration for others, responsibility, and of the public interest preceding self-interest does not have its point of reference in mankind or other abstractions, but rather in the society that really exists and the authority that holds it together by force. To contribute to the success of its violent nature is the greatest of social achievements; to risk one’s life for that is the highest devotion and greatest virtue; to die for that is the utmost attestation of the fact that human beings are destined for loftier purposes than a good living. “War is the state of affairs that deals seriously with the vanity of temporal goods and concerns (which at other times tends to be an edifying turn of phrase).” So writes Hegel with enthusiasm about the moral heights of a people ready for war.
War is the exception to the rule of international competition. The heedless, forcible securing of the sources of national power stands as an extreme case to the normal case of utilizing resources as one-sidedly as possible, in which case, however, reasons for the extreme case accumulate on a regular basis. Because that is so, the modern state always reckons with war even in the midst of the most deep-seated peace, and makes provisions for it: it maintains trained forces, and arms and equips them appropriately. And because in the exceptional case of war, the most important thing of all, the ultimate power itself, its very existence, is at stake, for which none other than the state itself has to take responsibility, strong states act to arm themselves as if they intended to bring to life the stupid adage that “war is the father of all things”: it is their list of priorities, at the very top of which stand they themselves and the means of their forcible self-assertion, that makes the military the client and motor of cutting-edge research in all possible fields — from materials to brain research and from solid-state physics to microbiology — and gives rise to the enormous “military-industrial complex.”
In setting up and building up their arsenals, states take into account their own ambitions to control their surroundings both near and far, as well as the caliber of the other military powers with which their ambitions directly get them into disputes, or by which they see themselves indirectly confronted. In the process of offensive planning, interesting military-strategic categories come into play, such as “continental power” or “naval power,” “opposite coast” and “island position,” “bridgehead” and “power projection,” as well as an interest in well-situated bases. To the extent that invasion by others has to be reckoned with, things never envisaged in geography play a decisive role, things like “strategic depth” or the suitability of river courses or mountain ranges as “natural borders.” Those responsible for military planning look at their country and the rest of the world altogether as an ensemble of potential war scenarios, and select those by which they propose to go after their adversary in case of emergency; they arm themselves for that. In the process, the complementary efforts of potential — and naturally even more their actual — adversaries lead them to harbor suspicions as a matter of principle that the latter might perhaps object to being vanquished; they then enter into an ‘arms race’ with them.
For the provision of indispensable military equipment, states allow themselves financial expenditures that point up the logic of their war economy, namely, by testifying to the fact that the ultimate power of bourgeois society is here completely focused on itself and its ability to prevail over others as its paramount task. When their security is at stake, states as a matter of principle do not content themselves with the surpluses that their national capitalism yields and from which they siphon off their budgetary funds. They adopt the standpoint that their sovereignty over their national economy, realized in money, with which they outfit their business community, must yield up whatever is necessary to satisfy the requirements of force. The fundamentalism of the question of power wins out over the political-economic rigorism of monetary policy — already in the case of armament. During periods of peaceful preparation for war, the bourgeois state admittedly allows both “viewpoints” to compete. It does not merely and coolly enter its military expenditures as just one budget item among others — after all, it does that even in the midst of war; it lets its department ministers fight among each other, and its supreme commander with the finance minister, over budget items, economizing, and debt, and takes into consideration the imperative of a “sound budget policy,” i.e., the capabilities of the nation’s profit producers. But all that changes when a state deems an “arms race” the order of the day. And when “things” are headed towards war and “the times” become “uncertain,” then the armaments budget is no longer accompanied by reminders of “our children and grandchildren” who will have to “pay off” today’s debts “someday”…
States employ their capacity and readiness for war not only in case of emergency, but also constantly during times of peace. Their means of military force are, after all, the basis for their engaging in foreign policy as a matter of principle, not merely as a party that pursues its interests in and against other nations, but always, at the same time, functioning as monitors and arbiters of their commercial intercourse and material entanglements with foreign countries — as sovereign guardians and guarantee powers of the interests they pursue. Just as a state’s monopoly on force relates people’s antagonistic interests within bourgeois society to itself, transforming them into enforceable rights by way of restricting and empowering them, just so does the force that a state is able to mobilize against its equals turn its own interests into rights whose validity all other ultimate powers have to recognize. A ‘right’ is here nothing other than the compulsory nature a state wants to obtain for its concerns: the demand for respect by its rivals based on force and certified by the capacity and readiness for war. This is the one and only basis on which states deal with each other: they shape peace with the credible threat to start shooting if necessary.
Every single sovereign ruler insists in an extremely touchy manner on the rights it grants itself being respected, and thus — one level higher — on respect for its authority to grant its own interests the quality of being rights. This shapes the dealings of states with one another in a comprehensive and drastic way. Everything they arrange and pursue with each other doesn’t just involve the substantive matters at hand, but has a higher and more explosive substance: it is in fact an indicator for whether and how far and how conditionally rivals are willing to respect each other as supreme powers. This overriding and actually decisive “aspect” finds its obvious expression in the diplomatic forms of reciprocal deference — easily overstepping the bounds of the Theatre of the Absurd — in which it is no coincidence that the military plays a prominent role: the flag, marching music, and the presenting of arms are in fact fitting symbols of a state’s military might being omnipresent in its foreign relations, and of foreign policy being nothing other than the influencing of the will of another state on the basis of military threats. Even at the level of pretense and boasting, “signals” are constantly being exchanged between states — unambiguously encoded or even quite overt and drastic clarifications about the all-decisive question that is invariably the central issue between them: how a state stands with others concerning its claim to act as the author and guarantee power of its own rights, and its demand to be respected as such. Every bit of foreign policy, from the smallest customs or visa dispute to the big questions of a common global policy standpoint, is always also a contribution — and for that reason is unerringly understood and recognized as such by the other side — to an ongoing reciprocal test: how conditionally does the partner recognize one’s own rights and respect one’s own power to assume rights, and which barely acceptable or intolerable conditions does it attach to its approval.
This permanent test allows all relations entered into or refused, all business agreed on or denied, all reciprocal services whether rendered or withheld, to be summarized and culminated in a “state of relations”: the basic trust or distrust that states show each other as a machinery of force for asserting and establishing their own rights. In diplomatic appraisals of this “state of relations,” from “friendly” to “tense” to “troubled,” states inform each other of their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the respect the opposite side shows for their rights. When dissatisfied, a state gives its partner the opportunity to correct “unfriendly acts” or “misunderstandings” and to return to the fundamental recognition of the claims of the offended power. Of course, the partner spoken to in this manner also appraises its own and others’ means of power and therefore has its own notion of what it is entitled to. Diplomacy is the business of presenting others with demands and seeking ways of making the others comply with them. On the one hand, this often results in customary cross-border interaction that can develop a certain fixity — common positions on rights that are not easily shaken by smaller disputes. Just as often, the struggle over the assertion of national interests that a state, in light of its own capabilities, presents to others as its right, ends up time and again with the finding that the other is unwilling to cooperate, and its acts have to be understood as intentional, i.e., hostile attacks on one’s own rights. So that no one gets it wrong, a modern state preventively explains to its partners where its “vital” interests lie, meaning where it is not prepared to compromise. A neighbor, near or far, that considers minimizing or ignoring them then knows right away they are worth a war. A strong power is even nice enough to spell out to other states which of their interests it is willing to accept and respect as being vital.
In all these critical assessments and pertinent hints concerning the status of states as guarantee powers of the rights they grant themselves and intend to have respected by all others, their military power — as mentioned — gets to play a role, namely as their permanent peacekeeping operation. That is why military policy is itself an especially important and delicate area in the fostering of relations between states. After all, states — for better or worse in the view of those affected — shift the premises of mutual regard or disdain, the foundations of the always conditional respect reflected in the “state of relations.” These premises may be shifted in the sense of strengthening “mutual trust” already achieved, or toward terminating mutual recognition and special status existing up till now, or with the prospect of a greater freedom of one state to flout the rights of others, treating these rights as mere one-sided presumptuousness, i.e., in the sense of an intensified or new hostility. In any case, once a rival arms itself, it signals its will to continue or sever normal relations, to stabilize or revise established relations of domination and subordination — the players affected all around ascertain which is the case, and to what extent, in incorporating the others’ security policies into their view of the general strategic situation. To this end, every foreign ministry maintains a team of experts that “analyzes” all incoming diplomatic “data” and compares them to the “findings” of the intelligence agency that every state likewise maintains — even multiple agencies, depending on the depth and breadth of its involvement — for, after all, a state wants to know, and a foreign affairs policymaker has to know, what the others are keeping secret and where they are bluffing, what they really have and plan as opposed to what they show or lie about for purposes of deterring or placating; one needs insight into the formation of political policy whose results one gets involved in; and if one succeeds in spying out a few items not yet available — for good reason — on the arms market or on the Internet, then that’s all right, even if the goods are gotten illegally from friends. The findings are interpreted and one’s own people are sent out once again to verify the results of an interest-driven art of interpretation and to put to the test the respect one otherwise enjoys.
That is how states form a judgment about the others’ weapons, namely, about what their arming themselves reveals about their will to position themselves in a friendly, hostile, or neutral manner vis-à-vis one’s own claims to rights and to more effectively assert their demands for respect. With their arms diplomacy, states check to what degree the others are willing to cooperate or have to be forced into compliance. They critically sort the states of the world into friends, enemies, problem cases, and whatever other categories there might be for the state of relations between states.
And no state does that to leave it at that.
It is in other states’ equipping themselves with weapons and sources of money, in the good relations their colleagues maintain, and in the hostilities they cultivate, that every political leadership sees the barriers that stand in the way of its need for wealth and security. And no state is satisfied: success leads to new demands; defeats cry out for revision; and if you don't go forwards, you go backwards. Change is necessary everywhere: an alignment of the world of states that guarantees the protagonist in question more benefit and more respect — at others’ expense. Every protagonist of global politics endeavors to do this — during peacetime and for peace, meaning, so as to avoid the risk of having to interrupt the peaceful competition for a better world with a forceful revision of the course of the world not achievable otherwise; but also in order to be in a better position in such a case. It therefore endeavors to weaken and isolate states that are blatantly lacking in accommodation, to strengthen other states in which it finds an active advocate and promoter of its legitimate interests and to encourage their policies, to draw indifferent states to its side, etc.
In the course of, and for the purposes of, these endeavors, states use all their foreign relations as a means of leverage. Vis-à-vis their partners in the trade of goods, currencies, and capital, they insist upon a “dual use” of exchange: it is firstly made contingent on enriching their own country, and secondly, in addition, on the partners’ committing themselves to performing thereby a strategic role. Economic relations are suitable as an instrument for making friends and harming enemies because, once established, they become a means of the partners’ national existence, which they can ignore only to their own detriment. Hence they pay doubly for all economic benefits — first of all, the economic price, i.e., the purchase price for commodities; interest and repayment of principal, etc., for loans. Secondly, they have to pay a political price in the currency of loyalty in matters of foreign policy and alliance policy vis-à-vis the powerful partner that can bring its market and monetary power to bear in this way. An economically mighty, imperialistically demanding power denies normal exchange to states that make deals with the enemy or simply evade being strategically pigeonholed. It makes it hard for them to access technology and energy, keeps them from earning money in its markets, and punishes and weakens them wherever it can. The entire circus that is peaceful capitalistic competition is subject to the proviso of permission: the only states authorized are those that let themselves be integrated into one’s own camp and accept its separation of friend from foe.
What is true for the means and sources of capitalist wealth is true to an even greater extent for the means of sovereignty itself: weapons. A state is prepared to boost the power of others if it comes to the conclusion that it can functionalize their security interests for its own strategic calculus. It then makes available weapons systems that they cannot produce themselves. The power of other states thereby becomes itself dependent on the arms supplier, and, through their being provided arms, is incorporated into the supplier’s strategic calculations — which, by the way, provides it with a not unimportant further source of capitalist business and inflow of money from abroad. Here, business turns into a collateral benefit of strategically sorting out the world. The imperialist functionalization of other states in military alliances goes one step further. In this case, states — for the most part a big one and several smaller ones — agree to serve the security interests of others in order that the others in turn serve their own. The dominant power aligns the others with itself, making their display of power abroad contingent upon its serving its might, i.e., making its strategic interests take priority in their security policy. The dominant power creates friendly vassals within the alliance, and, through it, augments its power to deter third parties.
That is how the world of states becomes strategically partitioned — into the zones of influence of competing great powers, which seek to dominate, as exclusively as possible, as many other nations as possible, each with their own economic interests and security needs. And this is done, not necessarily with the aim of building a front against another power, but always with the goal of removing newly acquired partners from the influence of others, and therefore certainly also with the prospect of forming a brotherhood-in-arms against rivals that do not tolerate being excluded in this way and must therefore be classified as enemies. An instrument, as well as result, of this struggle for zones of influence is the partitioning of the world into alliances: into compacts of states that pursue the goal of acquiring more rights for their members, allotting limited rights and duties to other states, and denying or taking away rights claimed by yet other states. The members thus collectively amass the power of deterrence, in order to dictate guidelines to other states for their reason of state, from which it follows that they are in no way strangers to the prospect of subordinating the entire world of states to their regime. Their efforts to this effect give rise to a hierarchy of military powers, which is determined primarily by the amount and quality of their weapons — and which corresponds in the main with the hierarchy of the global financial powers, for the simple reason that in capitalism, the best arsenal of destructive devices is a question of price, too — but which, in addition, reflects their successful coercive use for gaining willing helpers or strategically well-selected stationing bases for one’s own military forces as well as for isolating enemies. None of this is ever finished. Every partitioning of the world into zones of influence and systems of alliances is contested and is itself precarious, because the pooling of national interests — even when at times seeming irrevocable — makes these interests coincide only partially and conditionally, and is subject to the provisos of the sovereigns involved, which do not thereby cease to calculate their advantages and disadvantages, and their security; it can never be ruled out that an alliance partner uses the power acquired through the pact in a high-handed manner that the others take as a blatant abuse. And every hierarchy of powers is not only the endpoint, but also the starting point and at the same time a growing accumulation of reasons for all those involved to fight for its alteration, to make it even more lopsided, or to topple it; even if this causes sacrifices in the first place — not only for the others, but also for oneself.
In their peaceful dealings with each other, states work on increasing their power — in comparison, and in opposition, to their own kind. They compete over the acquiring, utilizing, and securing of sources of power — at their partners’ expense. They create and discover opportunities for advancement that they dare not miss out on, but for the realization of which other states are standing in the way; they suffer losses they classify as threats to their continued existence, and for which they hold other states responsible. In their day-to-day global politics, they accumulate reasons for war and — apart from all ideology — don’t fool themselves about it: they arm themselves, thus taxing the economic strength of their nation all the same, in order to be prepared to use force against other rulers. They constantly check how far another sovereign will go in obstructing their own path to success, and how much danger to their own right to exist as a rising power comes from that sovereign; and they test how far in this respect they can go themselves. And if they are really not in a position to create fronts, forge alliances, and confront other states like themselves with “facts” — i.e., with strategically significant acts of violence — then they put all the more effort into participating in the right security alliances, namely, those which promise the greatest possible success; into aligning themselves wisely with the given strategic fronts; and into receiving military backing from the truly mighty.
The step from the accumulated reasons for war to war itself is a matter of a calculation that, on the one hand, weighs up how highly one is to estimate the interest obstructed, the damage incurred, the ensuing jeopardizing of the standing of one’s own nation in the strategic test of strength, and the threat posed by the foreign state being held responsible for it. On the other hand, in its critical examination of its own and opposing means of force, the constellation of alliances, the interests of third parties, and the general “situation,” in other words, the balance of power in the full sense, a state weighs up whether the deployment of how much and what sort of military force is necessary to clear a path for the further success of the nation, for its self-assertion against the opponents of its global political advancement, and whether one thinks oneself capable of a victory. Accordingly, it either again plays down the damage incurred or the opportunity for success blocked, and admits that it does not — yet — trust itself to “stand up” to the danger and “teach the enemy a lesson.” Or it declares a damaged interest, in utter seriousness, to be “vital,” a threat to be “completely unbearable,” the self-defined and self-proclaimed necessity for military action to be “irrefutable,” and its troops to be strong enough — and so the war begins.
What then starts is, at any rate, the complete subordination of civilian dealings between states, and also within the nations involved, to the sole purpose of developing a maximum of terror against the enemy, and of withstanding the enemy’s terror: ‘civil society’ must serve in both respects, in other words, continue to function effectively and, at the same time, annul all the usual calculations of civil competition. What this actually looks like and effects, what sort of operational military objectives a state sets, how it goes to work and when it stops, all this depends crucially on the strategic caliber of the warring parties: on their ranking in the hierarchy and system of states, on their power to define military objectives and the theater of war, and to freely plan the deployment of their troops.
What every state is capable of — what none of them is too small or weak for, but what even the very biggest does not do without — is waging war by having other parties do the fighting, namely, parties to a civil war in a country one disapproves of, either generally or with regard to its policies, or with which one still has “a score to settle.” The deployment of one’s own forces can be limited to the supplying of consultants, propaganda material, and arms. The returns can still be quite substantial:
- If the right separatists dismantle a country, the massacre can lead to the acquisition of land and people — a look back to what a state or a people once was, an ethnically selective consciousness of a common bond across borders, history and culture in general, are not just legitimizing ideology, but rather a powerful spur to the preparation of forward-looking projects that a dissatisfied nation or ethnic group pursues as its right, and for which it becomes violent if necessary; when successful, the outcome is termed “liberation” from an authority alien to the people, or “reunification” under one entirely one’s own.
- Access to mineral resources that earn real world money can even succeed when the struggle for a new state or for the establishment of “autonomous regions” ends up in nothing further than control by “warlords.”
- Even when no boundaries are shifted nor new ones drawn up, a foreign warmonger, expecting to achieve the weakening of a far too powerful and threatening neighbor, can push a civil war forward with this in mind — regardless of which party wages it with whatever objectives.
- And in the same manner, more distant powers with complex demands on the alignment of the world of states and good governance have toppled wrong regimes, or instead decimated irksome insurgent movements with accordingly sponsored counterinsurgency forces.
Of course, there is always a risk involved with this kind of indirect warfare: the danger of a direct confrontation with a regular military power, be it of the country being plunged into internal turmoil, or of interested foreign parties that never fail to appear on the spot if they are not in fact already “pulling the strings” of their own party to the civil war. Then a “real” war threatens.
In principle, no state considers itself too small or weak for a regular war against another state. The fact that most of them get no further by their own efforts than to border disputes is no consolation for those affected; even those skirmishes are bloody enough in view of the force of arms with which even states without any of their own arms factories are equipped. A real military campaign with the goal of destroying a foreign rule or forcing it into capitulation, of decisively weakening a hostile state, or of securing a significant increase in territory — all that, in fact, remains reserved for bigger military powers, which regularly pursue a further-reaching purpose with it. They, like every modern commander-in-chief, realize that their undertaking is never solely a conflict with their enemy, but that it also affects the interests of all possible third parties. Their war is always also about revising the balance of power between neighbors — both near and more distant — that are not at all directly affected; it is about placing the competition with them on a new footing, about upsetting the security calculation of quite a few third countries and re-aligning it with the dominant power, which naturally also has — and is supposed to have — an impact on their economic calculations of advantage and disadvantage. A state that actively marches into battle against an enemy intends, by striking it down, to be seen and acknowledged by other powers as a threat of a higher caliber, thereby reaching a point where the obligatory nature of its claims is granted to a greater extent and its words are obeyed: it wants to assert itself at least as an undisputed regional power. By doing so, however, it does not just take on its immediate and distant neighbors. It draws a completely different set of permanently action-ready military powers into the arena.
An extremely small minority of militarily extremely powerful states wages war for the purpose of deterrence, that is, in order to bring into line or eliminate a declared enemy that disturbs their worldwide interests, and — in this way or in general — fails to respect the global standing they claim, hence calling it into question. With their military interventions, such world powers always pursue, at the same time, the goal of intimidating all the other sovereigns in the world and making them obedient. The sort of military operations they conduct leaves no doubt about this. They direct the wars that others wage — insofar as the latter put up with it; and if not, this is one of those cases in which they wage war themselves, in order to establish a balance of power, or defend or revise a strategic parity, as it fits in with their program of controlling and making decisions for the world of states. To this end, they not only exercise their military superiority, but also showcase it; that is part of the program. For purposes of establishing themselves as the world’s arbiters in this sense, no conflict is so easily too insignificant for such powers: if it fits in as a building block with their policy of supervision and due revision of the test of strength between states, they will use massacres between exotic warlords as an opportunity to “take on responsibility” and to intervene, as far they deem it worthwhile for the overriding objective of an effective deterrence, and as far as they owe it to themselves once they have gotten involved. They are constantly on the lookout for “regimes” that have to be confronted with the choice of either allowing themselves to be “integrated” a bit differently than they have been up till now, or of being forcibly replaced. This war objective sounds civil, but it demands nothing less than the unconditional surrender of the problematic case, to be brought about by the total destruction of its means of power if necessary. Remorseless and devastating blows against a state that provokes such treatment with its stubbornness are also necessary as a precedent in order to make the claimed regime of deterrence credible, because otherwise it simply doesn’t function. Nonetheless, world powers of this caliber are themselves the last to rely on the intimidating effect that is so important to them: their surveillance activity encompasses the discovery of not yet real danger areas and, if need be, their precautionary elimination by means of carefully targeted preemptive strikes. This is the “language of force” that ultimate powers everywhere are nevertheless supposed to understand.
The danger that their authority as arbiter is called into question through recalcitrant resistance by warlords from an inferior league, is, however, only one problem that powers of the upper echelon have to deal with, and in the end even the least. Conflicts that involve inferior belligerent parties and get out of hand are really explosive if, and as long as, there is more than one “superpower” that deems itself powerful enough and therefore justified in holding, and obligated to hold, the other states with their competitive conduct and their military conflicts under control. For such a power, the very existence of a rival of equal status is not just one security problem, but the ultimate, since it calls into question its power to sort out the rest of the world under its own regime: a reason for war of the highest order. Then either a regime of super- and subordination among the competing world powers succeeds — possibly organized and dressed up as consensus. Or their military calculations have to seriously consider the question of how to manage the forceful elimination of an otherwise unbeatable rival for the status of final authority as arbiter over war and peace — in other words, how to win a world war.
2. World peace After the World War: A ‘Cold War’
Since the middle of the twentieth century, the nations of the world declare themselves to be “United.” They maintain a ‘world organization’; in regular ‘general assemblies,’ representatives of all states discuss and decide about incidents of violence and questions of order between states; special institutions continuously concern themselves with political problems of all sorts and from every region of the world, try to come up with resolutions and even pass some, take measures, authorize interventions, or even organize them themselves. The official ideal of a workable unity of all ultimate powers on earth for regulating their dealings with one another in a legally binding way, and for amicably solving the most important world problems by agreement within the family of nations, has in fact remained just that: the ideal of a reality consisting in messy clashes of interests and unresolved conflicts. Nevertheless, this much has at any rate become reality: all states — some more, others less, some very actively, others more on the receiving end — engage in world politics. In principle, they all deal with each other in an organized form, intervening diplomatically and, if need be, with force, in the politics of other sovereigns in accordance with generally acknowledged, if not always respected, rules; and for this, they can claim to have mutually conceded themselves every right.
They have good reason for dealing with each other in this way, too. In their pursuit of material success, they have left the standpoint of merely selective, in principle terminable foreign relations, and the status of even only potentially autarkic communities, far behind. From the outset, nearly all — and by now essentially all — nations have committed themselves to the cross-border private power of capital as their means of existence, defining themselves and operating as locations for capital; they are components of a system of reciprocal utilization, and depend on the progress of their competition with and against each other. For this reason alone, they cannot, for the sake of their self-preservation, avoid acting as participants and, at the same time, as organizers and supervisors of their great competitive arrangement called ‘world market.’ They struggle over the wealth of the world, wage this battle in accordance with rules, see that the rules are adhered to, and worry about the reliability of their co-actors, who they constantly tax with heavy demands. At the same time, it remains beyond question that they can only be sure of the good will of their competitors if they have the means to force them to it. With this, they admittedly present, all the more, a big challenge for each other — and have decided that the best way to make this uncomfortable “situation” compatible with their rivaling interests is, in principle and as far as possible, to collectively deal with the power and security problems they cause each other in accordance with definite rules, at the same time watching from a superior standpoint to see that these rules, too, are abided by. They have thus — as mentioned: some more actively and powerfully, others more from a position of weakness — obligated themselves and each other, and institutionalized the official right of the community of states, to subject the use of military force against each other to a collectively supervised proviso and — in case of need — to a proper authorization procedure.
Of course on the decisive level of the UN’s ‘Security Council,’ it is clear that a really small elite of great powers play a more substantial role in these matters than does the entire rest of the world of states, which are consulted only through a few representatives. And there is a tangible reason for this, too. This entire, legally constituted arrangement exists only partly on the free resolve of all participants to take part in supervising the world’s violence-ridden affairs in exchange for subjecting their own use of force to collective oversight; for that reason, it is also only partly based on the respect that the members of the ‘international community’ show each other as free and equal legal state entities and as club members with a right to a say. On this basis alone, even modern states — with all their reasons for peace politics — would have hardly gotten further than to the classical formalities of international law, to a codex for dealing with their disputes that sets no effective limits on them whatsoever. But some elements of an actually effective regime over the cooperation and conflicts of sovereign rulers, of an official ruling on the admissibility of wars, some elements of a power to impose sanctions against governments that have been found guilty of transgressions against official peace terms in accordance with established rules: something like this is definitely present in the institutions that have kept the political intercourse between states under surveillance for some decades. And this is not due to a common desire for peace within the family of nations. Rather, the reason lies in the far-reaching power to control and interfere, the interest in domination and the will to intervene, of some few nations that have joined together for some form of common supervision over world affairs in order to position themselves as leading overseers. These states have, in fact, achieved a hierarchy of sovereign states, at the top of which they compete for really, and really globally, asserting themselves as the most influential ‘leading power’ — with the result at present that the United States has established itself as the superior imperialist nation.
This American global success is based on two victorious world wars, the second one “Cold”; for it to endure, it requires the continual intimidation of the world of states: a regime of deterrence that forces the world into the “state” between the threat of war and active war known as ‘world peace.’
The United States, after the victory of its worldwide alliance over Nazi Germany and the Japanese empire, does its best to carry over the solidarity — owing to the necessities of war — of the American-led ‘United Nations’ into an equally solid, global peace order aligned with America as the leading power as before. The preconditions for this undertaking are most favorable from its point of view: its enemies striving for world power are destroyed and have unconditionally surrendered; the allied imperialist powers of Europe are ruined, and economically and militarily overextended, in their attempt to reclaim their colonial empires. By contrast, a victorious America has a functioning capitalism — without competition from other nations — at its disposal as a profitable basis of a might that is nearly without competition; with the resoundingly successful deployment of its new miracle weapon, the atomic bomb, it has demonstrated its military superiority and given proof of its competence to supervise and control all the ultimate powers on earth. Being certain of its ability to enforce some kind of universal alliance discipline if need be, and self-confidently convinced of its ability to make an unbeatable offer to the world of states that now have to line up, America organizes agreements on worldwide free trade and movement of capital. It creates the IMF and World Bank as supranational institutions for a global capitalism in which purely sovereign states have to participate on their own account and at their own risk, and especially at their own expense as concerns the ‘faux frais,’ the incidental expenses of their expedient exercise of sovereignty. Washington supplies the terms and conditions for this, puts U.S. dollars into circulation as world money, monopolizes the countries around the globe as an investment sphere for American capital, and deals with their governments on the basis of their having to accept all this as some kind of advance and to honor it with unswervingly good political behavior. There is no place in this new world order for old-style colonial empires, with which Europe’s great powers again seek to secure themselves exclusive access to their “own” world regions and to restore their status as autonomous first-rate great powers; the order of the day is general competition for capitalist wealth, military might, and political standing, a competition purely between free sovereigns responsible for themselves and their success. But America doesn’t have to force the corresponding insight on its big allies itself: wars between colonial masters and liberation movements — which cost one side a considerable number of victims, and are ultimately given up for lost by the other side — take care of carving up the earth’s solid surface into national states, out of which sovereign rulers attempt to eek out the means for their rule.
This “development” — the construction of a functioning world market and a regulated competition of nations, including the political emancipation of colonies and protectorates as well as their transformation into independent ‘developing countries’ — is, however, severely overshadowed by the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, America’s project fails. Its Soviet ally, the second victor of the world war, eludes Washington's global political guidelines and the economic rule of its world money. The ruling Communist Party has its own anticapitalist ideas for the economic reconstruction of its country and the part of Europe conquered by the Red Army; it spurns the offer to win a place for itself, with the help of American loan assistance, in the system of worldwide capitalist exploitation and competition of nations for capitalistic wealth, and obstructs the reopening of free market commerce across the external borders of its socialist camp. It resists the offer to continue the successful military alliance in the form of a mainly American regime of control over the postwar world. At the same time, the Soviet government is naturally mindful of the danger that sole possession of the atomic bomb by the Americans represents for its autonomy, but also of the opportunity that lies in the possession of its own atomic bomb. It procures the thing, manages the further development to the hydrogen bomb, and in this manner forces the world power to respect the liberties it takes in inaugurating its own multinational system of rule.
With that, from the viewpoint of the United States, the world is divided — by an “Iron Curtain.” This diagnosis characterizes the ambition of the leading capitalistic nation to economically and strategically align the entire world of states with itself, and documents its resolve not to tolerate the existence of a bloc of states outside its supervision and controlling power. It takes the self-assertion of Soviet rule as a declaration of war against the freedom of the world of states to submit to the American world order, and against the right of the United States to make the world have an order; the vain phrases cultivated by the hostile official parties concerning an inevitable proletarian world revolution are taken as the self-exposure of the “self-appointed” socialist “peace power.” In fact, America sees itself compelled to organize its regime of force over the newly emerging world of states as a counteroffensive against the Soviet “continental power” — and of course this means anything other than restricting itself to defense against, or deterrence of, a hostile offensive. The free-world power does not settle for the possession of a nuclear weapons arsenal that the Soviet Union chalks up and celebrates as a great breakthrough, namely, as a guarantee of its invulnerability and freedom to pursue its own cause without hindrance. For America, the hostile nuclear state is a defeat, the “nuclear stalemate” an unacceptable endangerment of its freedom. The deterrence it needs to be sure of its own security, and that of its world, only appears credible to America if the enemy cannot oppose it on an equal basis, in which case every military risk can be run, because a victorious outcome, the “checkmating” of the adversary, is certain in the last instance. This security is ruined by Soviet “counterdeterrence” capability — and America sets out to (re)establish it.
The richest nation of the world arms itself and does not refrain from including its ultimate ‘weapon of mass destruction’ in its war planning. And this means not merely as an “ultima ratio,” a last resort to foil a victory by the adversary and to avoid a possibly looming surrender — at any rate, a worse evil from the standpoint of a state than the annihilation of the masses — but as an integral part of warfare aimed at disarming the enemy. The annoying circumstance that the enemy is, on its part, capable of defending itself with devastating counterstrikes — the missile technology with which the Russians at times achieve a certain lead guarantees this — becomes the starting point for developing a complete nuclear war strategy with a “first strike” aimed at the enemy’s atomic weapons, and a “second strike capacity” that cannot be hit by the enemy’s possibly still serviceable weapons. The necessary technological means to this end are invented, the arsenals enlarged by solid-fuel rockets of global reach and ready for launch at any time with multiple warheads to overcome the enemy’s defense efforts, by submarine cruisers with the same rockets for nuclear strikes from all directions and distances, by underground and mobile launch platforms, by satellite-based missile guidance systems, of course, and by other accomplishments of military rationality: splendid testimony to the unconditionally destructive will of a world power whose world-order project has failed. After decades of “arms race” with offensive weapons — the Soviet side is quick and eager to learn and follows as well as it can — the U.S. government finally tackles the great open problem of lacking means to repel incoming enemy missiles: in order to escape the militarily most unsatisfactory scenario of an exchange of blows with unavoidable and considerable losses on one’s own side, and to really sharpen up its fine offensive weapons, the government demands from its armament industry the invention and production of a functional defensive system. It sinks sizeable sums of dollars into this project: debts whose quality as world money also is the liability of the entire rest of the capitalist world of states, which now all the more recognize the absolutely most solid substance of their abstract wealth in the means of credit of a relentless world power. In all this large-scale strategic planning, the equally innovative buildup and development of armaments with the downplayed heading of “conventional” is not neglected; after all, it is precisely the really big war that needs a continuum of options for assured victories all the way down to the smallest battlefield.
The United States accompanies its strategic planning and technological preparation for a nuclear war by a new type of diplomacy with the enemy. As a first step, it informs the Soviet leadership that their notion of deploying the atomic bomb in the event of war — so as to be able to put an end to the slaughter and thus have a security guarantee at their disposal with the possession of the atomic bomb — is completely misplaced: they have to recognize and concede that the deployment of this weapon is entirely irresponsible because it only results in all-the-more massive counterstrikes. American strategists make the advances in their own armament — which refute the first half of this lesson and all-the-more drastically attest the second half — the object of broader negotiations. They work hard on the project of a militarily useful nuclear superiority and on the long-term goal of an effective defense, but are still a long way from this goal and hence very interested in having control over the corresponding efforts of the opposing side — which on its part is keen on “peaceful coexistence” and a guarantee for its existence secured by treaty. So they come to an agreement with their enemy on the “doctrine” of “mutually assured destruction”: through all the strategic contradictions and advances in their nuclear war planning and preparations, they make certain of the continuing will of their enemy to consider this same war unworkable; at the same time, they compel it to restrain its arming, which is expected to eventually work out favorably for their own options. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — besides its role in an effective deterrence regime over the entire ‘community of states,’ a regime the United States never loses sight of in all its enmity to the Soviets — is also part of this strategy. The treaty intends to integrate all the other states, too, and only a few refuse, for different reasons and with entirely different consequences. The possession of atomic weapons is to be restricted to those states that already have some — restricted, namely, besides to the two “superpowers” themselves, to America’s NATO partners Great Britain and France, as well as to the People’s Republic of China, which is just about to fall out with the Soviet Union, not least over the significance of atomic weapons, of all things, with whose possession and use as a deterrent China expects to guarantee its survival, as did the Soviet Union originally…
The United States draws the remaining war-damaged, traditional great powers into its big confrontation with the Soviet power — its defeated enemies on the western and eastern borders of the “Eastern bloc” as well as its democratic capitalist allies — and the rest of the world of states to the extent that they let themselves be included. It forges systems of alliances; the most important of which is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which — even without pressing military operations — functions just as in the exceptional circumstances of war: the allied armies, or at least crucial parts of them, are placed under a common, American-led supreme command. All military planning and arming takes place in consultation, and under a sharing of responsibilities, with Washington, and targets the ‘communist’ world power as the main enemy — the moral orientation of the troops, as that of the home front, follows the same directive. For the sake of the big common cause, which overtaxes every single one of them by far, America’s partners — including France of course, but also Great Britain, only partially and under proviso — refrain from unauthorized calculations and autonomously calculated capabilities in the basic questions of their national security, in the truly inviolable holy of holies of national sovereignty, in that respect flatly relinquishing their sovereignty. As such a cohesive bloc, NATO proves its worth in the war of the capitalist world power against the socialist deviant, even without any direct clashes: at the crucial point, it achieves the “containment” of the hostile power, driving it back and isolating it; it effects a weakening and subverting of the hostile forces through its multiplying of war options, by which Moscow feels compelled to multiply its own armament efforts, increasingly beyond the capacity of its ‘socialist planned economy’; NATO members contribute to the worldwide rollback of real or presumed Soviet positions of power. NATO wages the “cold” world war with its hotter periods, its diplomatic “ice ages,” and its phases of “détente.”
For America’s partners, the subsumption of their national security and military efforts under the enormous purpose of jointly destroying the Soviet Union, and, if need be, getting through a nuclear world war, brings with it problems of competition and self-assertion of the most peculiar kind. Their relation to the leading power — with which they make common cause, on its terms, out of their own anticommunist self-interest, and on which they depend for their security — is marked by doubts as to whether they can really rely on its “nuclear umbrella” in a military crisis situation, i.e., on America’s deploying its atomic arsenal for its allies, since it thereby risks a devastating exchange of nuclear strikes for itself. Hence the Federal Republic of (West) Germany in particular, as the most forward frontline state, insists on the presence of American troops right up against the “Iron Curtain” as a guarantee for prompt escalation, which, on the other hand, would then mainly take place on German soil, inclusive of the territory of the (East) German Democratic Republic, which it claims as actually its own. This awkward situation for West Germany requires the greatest of efforts in armament, with the twin goals of firstly being able to shift the war quickly into Soviet enemy territory — “forward defense” is the frankly contradictory slogan for that — and secondly becoming such an important and valuable alliance partner as to gain pivotal influence over allied strategic planning and, in the event of war, over the military command. On the other hand, such efforts are dangerous, because they lead the enemy to concentrate its means of force on the especially aggressive front; they are expensive; and, in the end, they really never suffice for feeling secure about one’s national security. For that reason, an interest in burden sharing and in a more vigorous arming of the partners is added to the demand for a prominent place in the alliance; the allies remind each other of their duties and suspect each other of “freeloading.” On the other hand, the demanded sharing of duties is a sound argument for the rich members to give material support to the others, and for all to show consideration for one another in their competition. In addition, the massive superiority of the leading power causes America’s partners to desire to reduce their economic disadvantage vis-à-vis their U.S. competitor through a joint endeavor that they otherwise don’t manage as national sovereigns: they found the European Economic Community (EEC) and develop it further into the European Union (EU). Moreover, France, with its force de frappe, takes it upon itself, if not actually to emancipate itself from the leading power, then at least to provide for the ability to escalate a possible war such that the United States is bound not to avoid deploying its “nuclear umbrella.” The United States on its part offers its own proof of its trustworthiness and equips West Germany with medium-range nuclear missiles: the option of an additional disarming strike against the Soviet power in a matter of minutes. This is how the NATO partners compete for rank and status in the alliance, by serving the common war aim as much as by withholding contributions. They compete against each other, and in various constellations, against the leading power, over the continuation, shape, the concrete formulation of the allied mission in general and for individual members in particular, as well as for alternative ways of establishing subversive contact with, and influence on, the main enemy and its “satellites.” They compete for national liberties within the framework of alliance discipline, and for the ability to enforce their own interests and desires for control alongside the paramount purpose of the alliance. Competition and dispute, however, are based on the subsumption of the allies under the U.S.-specified general military line; they constitute the form of development of a cooperation they all accept as being without alternative. The alliance is the premise of their reason of state. Under American leadership, they form an imperialist collective: the West, which for offensive purposes gives itself the honorary title, “the Free…”.
The unity of the important capitalistic nations — and of some less important ones — under America’s aegis has far-reaching consequences. In fact, it is between these countries that the rules for the capitalistic competition of nations come into force — and develop the impacts indicated in chapter I — rules that America, since its victory in the world war, seeks to prescribe for the entire world as the basis for business and has, along with its most willing allies, already institutionalized. Between each other, the leading nations dismantle provisos against cross-border competition, provisos that stem from the fundamentalism of national security considerations. As a result, they become more alike in their economic workings and social constitution — and European patriots find occasion to bemoan the “Americanization” of their magnificent national culture; they ultimately accept, as defining political-economic characteristic for themselves and for each other, nothing other than the category of competition, “location for capital.” The rest of the globe, to the extent it is not occupied by the enemy, is gradually populated with autonomous state powers; they are sold whatever an up-to-date rule needs in terms of means of power and other means to make a state, military instructors and other advisers help them to a proper use of their power; their countries, including their natural resources and inhabitants, are run capitalistically in a rather free competition of those powers that are up to it and their multinational corporations. For sorting these autonomous states into the Western “camp,” and even more for “integrating” into the world economy and correct sphere of influence those ‘nonaligned’ ones among them that seek to elude clear and complete subsumption under America’s world war front, the pluralism of imperialist traditions within the West proves of value. The various Western powers, in competition with each other or in an arranged division of labor, pull the various candidates about; when one power is rejected, another one gets somewhere with its demands and supplies, not least being supplies of weapons needed by Third World sovereigns, weapons that can only be provided by the ‘industrial nations’ that set the standards for modern killing devices. Much too often, it is Russian suppliers that clinch the deal, making for estrangement from the West. Conversely, even the ‘Eastern Bloc’ itself can be “opened up” bit by bit for access by Western business acumen and democratic influence, with a combination of ostracism and recognition, marginalization and accommodation, boycott and utilization. In this way, the military alliance of the capitalist powers effects an actually very far-reaching and remarkably durable imperialist peace order.
Where this order comes up against its limits — because aspiring nationalists disappointed with the West, or socialist popular liberation movements, take a lesson from the Soviet Union and its alternative path to economic development and “social modernization,” preferring to cooperate with Moscow instead of with Washington, Paris, or Bonn, and are integrated by the Soviet government as assets into its global political calculus —there the West does not hesitate to apply its motto, “Better dead than red!” to foreign peoples. It wages real war; in the extreme case of Indochina, where decolonialization takes a communist turn, the world power itself engages in battle, deterrently enough, until the renegade countries are “bombed back to the stone age” and the danger of a “domino effect” in favor of the socialist camp appears to be averted due to its splitting up — the irreversible falling out of the Soviet and the Chinese Communist Parties — so that really nothing more of importance in world politics remains at stake. Preferably, wars are allowed to be waged, be it in the form of a putsch by useful “guerrillas” against socialist experiments, be it by lining up, equipping, and supporting a civil war party under the leadership of types whose kindred successors are nowadays called “warlords,” against all-too left-wing attempts at “nation building” by friends of the people. For countering militant pan-Arab attempts at emancipation, America likes to rely on the struggle of the Jewish state for its right to exist in the former British mandate. Where Moscow gets mixed up in such “proxy wars” — in order to break through the West’s “containment,” to procure itself positions of power against America’s global ambition to control and its “cold” world war front, and to force “coexistence” with the Soviet alternative on the West as well as a peaceful “competition of systems” (lastly in Afghanistan) — there, Moscow’s protégés are fought, and the socialist “superpower” is in practice shown to be incapable of guaranteeing the survival of its allies outside its Warsaw Pact, the few exceptions proving the rule.
For all that, the “division of the world” remains. This is reflected not least in the ‘world body,’ which neglects its intended service as guardian of a pro-American world peace order because “the Russians” say “nyet” over and over again at crucial junctures in the Security Council, and many a vote even gets lost in plenary sessions. At any rate, America’s original project of a global alliance with a world-ordering power at the top and a reduced sovereignty for all others continues on in the form of the ‘United Nations.’ There too, and not without success, the United States works on pushing the Soviet Union into the role of splitter and outsider of the one world. In addition to this, it uses its adversary’s ceaseless striving after recognition and “coexistence” to attempt to isolate and peacefully undermine the adversary: it tangles up the Soviet Union in negotiations named after the Finnish capital Helsinki, negotiations that combine an incremental retraction of the Western declaration of hostility with the demand that the Soviet side implement “reforms” that amount to a thorough revision of its alternative system of rule, and that thus aim at getting the governing Communist Party to admit that its deviant state program is to blame for the West’s declaration of war. This unreasonable demand shows some effect, because the Soviet Union — under the pressure of Western arming that explicitly follows the imperative, “arm the enemy to death!” — deems its economic system all in all to be inadequate, confesses to the necessity for reforms according to the superior system, and wants to have this readiness to alter itself be appreciated as a decisive contribution to overcoming the world war–laden “East-West conflict,” i.e., the relentless hostility against it by the capitalist world powers, all this being entirely in line with the diplomatic offensive with which the West accompanies its armament offensive. Understanding its material inferiority and fearing the military destruction of its state, the Soviet leadership, in the end, realizes that in the interest of survival, it is absolutely essential to defuse the Free World’s hostility through political “reforms”: through recantation of its anti-imperialism and through a political blockbuster sale that directly amounts to the liquidation of the way it makes a state, to the disbandment of its bloc of states and the release of its “satellites” into the successful Western world order, and finally to the self-abandonment of the Soviet Union as a unitary state, period.
In this way, America wins its “cold” world war without having to wage it in its “hot” form, as a devastating nuclear war. That this alone would ever secure an everlasting world peace is, however, something the “only remaining superpower” doesn’t assume for a single moment.
3. America’s ‘New World Order’: a permanent ‘war against terrorism’
The “nuclear stalemate” is overcome, the big world war taken off the peace-policy agenda, the world of states “re-united” in terms of political economy — and for the United States, nothing is really in order. A ‘new world order’ is needed. And it won’t come by itself; this is clear to those in charge in Washington. The order must be established. The “last remaining superpower” won’t be robbed of this big task. It is going to carry it out itself. It just has to be like this, because such an order consists above all, or in general, in nothing other than in the irrefutable answer to the question as to who in the world of states is “the boss,” namely, has the authority, the necessary might, and the right, acknowledged by all others, to supervise the use of force between nations and to decide on war and peace. It is about a convincing response to a question of force that amounts to a demand for a worldwide monopoly on the use of force.
For a good decade, the United States has been working to clarify that it alone is worth considering for the role of supreme world-order authority, when it is thunderstruck: by the massive attack of September 11, 2001, perpetrated by an enemy that does not even rule a proper state, but nevertheless manages to attack the heart of the American homeland — two, not merely symbolic, centers of U.S. imperialism. This “second Pearl Harbor” is not followed by any real war against a heavily armed power that on its part would have imperialist ambitions such as ruling over East Asia and the Pacific. But the reminder, invoked on all sides, of the start of the world war against Japan, is anyway not supposed to point to any historical truth, but to the weight and dimensions of the challenge that America is faced with, according to its own assessment. After all, the country finds nothing less than its belief in its own invulnerability destroyed. And this is not merely a matter of patriotic ideology. What the United States sees as attacked is its ambition to be a global power beyond all global conflicts, outside of competition, and to function as the unquestionably superior, final authority beyond reach. All of a sudden, the “superpower” is itself merely a party, and damaged by an NGO to boot, a pious, terrorist, non-governmental organization. This utmost challenge requires a response that will straighten out the benchmarks again, thoroughly and irrevocably.
Hence the attack is also an opportunity: to take drastic and extreme measures for ratcheting up and hurrying along what is on the global-political agenda anyway — and nobody will ever know how the United States would have dealt with it without Al Qaeda and 9/11. America has to prove itself as world power. To this end, ever since its most recent historical date, it wages its new, admittedly also very peculiar, world war: against ‘terrorism.’
Ever since the ‘Cold War’ was won, since the Soviet Union gave up, the United States wages one war after another. There are special reasons for each of them. The Iraqi army conquers Kuwait; the president of Iraq thereby seeks to turn his country into a much greater, richer, and more important oil exporter, and to enhance its status to that of a regional power with the proven capability of successfully waging war on its own authority, and thus with the unquestionable right to war; this muddles up the entire security-relevant balance of power in a region which is so tremendously important in terms of political economy, and especially threatens the most important crude-oil supplier of the world market; this is why Iraq’s forceful “reunification” with its nineteenth province cannot be tolerated, why Kuwait must be ‘liberated.’ In the Balkans, ambitious leaders of ethnic groups forcibly break the Yugoslavian federal state into its sub-republics; the wars waged to sort land and people into new states do not go off in accordance with the demands of the ‘world community’; in the end, the president of the Serbian remnants of Yugoslavia fights Albanian separatists, even though NATO has declared itself their protecting power; action must be taken against this, and after several smaller interventions, Belgrade is bombed into surrender. Then comes the massive act of terror: in the motherland of freedom itself, on age-old American soil, disappointed and insulted fanatics of Arabia’s rebirth in the spirit of Islam — or else the spearhead of a Kingdom of God on Arabian soil, God only knows for certain or cares — attack selected centers of America’s political-economic and military might; the government of the United States follows their trail right to Afghanistan, crushes the ruling power there, and conquers the entire country for the sake of security. Then Iraq again attracts unpleasant attention: although largely deprived of power, the country’s president maintains his rule, endures the embargoes and boycotts of the ‘world community’ for the tenth year already, thereby withdrawing his territory, together with its tempting mineral resources, from a proper commerce, and in general disturbs law and order, which is summarized in the accusation that he is procuring weapons of mass destruction for the purpose of unsettling his neighbors and the entire world; all this is no longer to be tolerated; hence Iraq is conquered by American and British troops, the dictator arrested, and an occupation regime installed.
Taken by themselves, these are nothing but different cases. But they have in common one crucial point, and the warring world power attaches the greatest importance to their being seen like this: if threats or even acts of violence come from the soil of other states, it takes their military undertakings, as well as their internal affairs, personally; it reserves for itself the decision as to how the use of force is to be judged, whether and in what respect it is to be taken as a declaration of war; if necessary, it declares war itself and also wages it: with a destructive potential that guarantees absolute superiority, and in a fashion that makes this clear — “shock and awe” is the explicit maxim for the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. No state is to be able to write off the wars America resolves to wage as an affair simply of Washington and its enemy of the day; all ultimate powers as well as all unofficial rulers have, on their part, to take America’s warfare personally, and to “learn” and heed the “lessons” that the U.S. military teaches them in no uncertain terms, in the “language of force.” Namely:
- Enemies of the United States are destroyed. “Negotiated solutions” are out of the question: anyone that the government in Washington determines to be an enemy is thereby disqualified as a negotiating partner. At best, the only alternative to annihilation is unconditional surrender; the decision as to whether it is accepted is up to the U.S. president alone.
- It is solely the business of the U.S. to identify the enemies against whom war has to be waged. What is crucial is its assessment of the likelihood that a hostilely minded power, be it a state or a gang of political criminals, might procure threatening weapons, or that a potential for violence that threatens U.S. interests might arise somewhere in the world. Therefore, the U.S. government continually focuses on the whole world and doesn’t wait for a new danger to actually emerge — after all, this would mean: sit back and watch until it’s too late! Instead, it strikes preventively with complete freedom according to its own requirements and judgment, better umpteen times too many than just one time too few.
- Once America is determined to wage war, then nothing holds it back, neither humanitarian considerations, nor well-meant admonitions that one should know how to decently finish a war before starting it, and not least by doubts that the use of force might possibly in the individual case not be the optimal means for more security — what else would work after all?! Even less should anyone try to block American military power diplomatically with declarations of solidarity with the wrong party, or with guarantees of protection and survival for the wrong side. Anyone not siding with the United States is wrong, and is shown to be wrong, by being disgraced as the powerless supporter of a loser; this is all ensured by America’s superior weapons, its unwavering will to win and destroy, as does its ruthlessness in deploying military force.
Hence the United States does not simply wage war. It confronts the world with a towering war machinery and its ambition — backed by capability and attested by deed — to have the sole and uncontested authority to wage war. Every nation has to take note of its ability to wage war and its readiness for war at any time, every state has to respect this, and every commonwealth has to incorporate it in their reason of state as a premise of all their own foreign policy plans and undertakings; whether this war footing is to be taken more as a threat or more as a promise depends solely on a country’s position towards America and the respect it gets from the U.S. government. America’s wars serve to establish a universal regime of deterrence. The special reasons for war act as mere immediate causes for this war aim. And the world power also makes it clear that there is never a lack of them, because the demand creates its own supply of causes in each case. With reference to the terrorist attacks of September 11, it expressly declares both of its recent operations — even the one against the rule of Saddam Hussein, who really has nothing to do with Al Qaeda — to be the first battles of a new world war of unforeseeable duration against terrorism as such, and in general. Coming episodes of this war are already announced: North Korea is targeted as a case for America’s’ globally scaled cleaning-up operations with reference to its efforts vis-à-vis the nuclear bomb and a missile force, as is Syria as wire-puller and sponsor of Middle East terrorist groups, and Iran with the same accusation and because of its nuclear energy program, which is suspected of serving military purposes. And even in advance, the world power licenses its Middle East ally to fight on its own initiative, and on its own account, the next battle in America’s world war: Israel, on its virtually internal Palestinian front and with its campaign against Lebanon, takes action against militias that are also on America’s list of terror groups to be eliminated, in fact at the top of the list — besides the “irregular combatants” and suicide bombers who cause the occupying troops in Afghanistan and Iraq all the more trouble the longer and more brutal the course of the ‘war against terror.’ Moreover, the Israeli government does not varnish its advances as quasi-police military action, but explicitly declares and stages them as war on the American model, thereby seeking to intensify its confrontations with Syria and Iran to the point where the U.S. government, if need be, can at any time declare the “situation” to be “intolerable” and take the next steps announced long ago. In this case, America allows fighting. And it doesn’t leave its eager vassal to its own devices: Israel, as an independent subcontractor in America’s new world war, gets every possible support in terms of financing, weapons technology, and especially diplomacy.
The United States sets the facts straight with its wars; in order to familiarize states with their global political importance, it uses the United Nations, among others. There, it officially clarifies to the ‘peoples of the world’ the morality of its military interventions, which are aimed solely at the victory of the civilized way of life over the evil of terror. With that, America is really making a fundamental political determination: by designating the anti-American assassins of September 11 as terrorists per se, and subsuming all the opponents it trains its sights on under the same label, or, as the case may be, under the terrifying impact of the weapons they really or allegedly seek to procure — “weapons of mass destruction” is the slogan — the United States from the outset denies its enemies any political aims, about which the various nations might in fact have completely differing opinions. In this way, it demands wholesale and unconditional partisanship for itself, and pushes through resolutions that make this standpoint obligatory, and that contain provisions for implementation that intervene in the internal affairs of nations, not least with their financial flows. The homeland of the dollar is of the opinion that anti-American evil can be effectively dealt with not least by drying it up financially.
What is most important for the United States, of course, is the uppermost decision-making body of the United Nations. There, in the Security Council, it has to deal with its big rivals: with the other great powers, that have nuclear weapons at their disposal as well as a formal veto right in establishing and enforcing regulations and conditions for world peace. If its ambition for a monopoly on war is to mean something in the way of world-order policy, if its regime of deterrence is to achieve something, then America needs their consent. Not so much because of the quasi-legal authority it thereby gains for its decisions: what America really needs and wants to have is for the other important states in the global balance of power to formally admit that they, too, can’t avoid granting the world power the freedom it demands to identify and exterminate enemies. Exactly this is the political substance of the choices with which the United States — in an exemplary fashion and with all its toughness in the course of the diplomatic preparation for its second war on Iraq — blackmails the illustrious body and, with that, the entire ‘world organization.’ Consent or irrelevance are the American alternatives — a tough test on the willingness of the other powers, keen on being “relevant,” to admit that they can’t fight the facts that America creates, nor the guidelines it thereby sets for state compliance, and that they are not in a position to stage something along the lines of a “relevant” world order without, let alone against, the United States. The blackmail works: in return for America turning to the U.N. and the Security Council, attaching importance to the resolutions passed there, and thus admitting that, for its world-peace guidelines, it needs the willingness of its big rivals to bow to them, they bow. They acknowledge America’s actual authority to establish guidelines, and in return, preserve their status as formal coauthors of the guidelines to which they give their blessing.
This business is not over with a one-shot bit of blackmail of this sort, of course. The diplomatic recognition of the American regime of deterrence is just as endless a business as is the forceful establishment of the regime. It is continued in the “case” of Iran: for its declaration of war against the Mullah regime, the United States demands the consent of the remaining great powers by invoking the Nuclear “Non-Proliferation” Treaty (NPT). It thereby makes emphatically clear what such an accord — and the formal, legal agreement of the other parties to the treaty — is good for and worth within the framework of its ‘new world order.’ The NPT distinguishes between the prohibited military use of nuclear energy, and the permitted commercial use, which is even worthy of support; and, mindful of the dubious nature of such a distinction, it installs a regime of control under the International Atomic Energy Agency that is supposed to guarantee the restriction of the nuclear-industrial capabilities of non-nuclear states to civilian use, and that regulates how possible breaches are investigated and their occurrence established and what the consequences will be should the situation arise. Despite all this, the United States declares, in the case of Iran, that even the attempt to master the first stages of the nuclear fuel cycle — uranium enrichment — is a breach of the treaty, and justifies this with nothing further than its firmly held, hostile opinion of the hostile attitude of the Iranian state toward America and Israel, as well as America’s irrefutable suspicion, deduced from the opinion, that the Iranians really are only interested in the nuclear bomb. This is supposed to be enough for the treaty guarantee powers to threaten tough sanctions if Iran cannot prove to have abandoned all activities that might also serve to prepare nuclear armaments, and even to legitimize in advance a preventive strike in self-defense against Iran —following the example of the attack on Saddam Hussein’s non-existing weapons of mass-destruction. The United States expressly makes its political hostility against a government the guideline for how to interpret and apply an international agreement. It reads the NPT as if the treaty codified, in a generally binding way, its freedom to determine areas of danger in the world and to eliminate them as a preventive measure. America seeks to get this version, i.e., — one more time — its regime of deterrence, recognized by its colleagues in the Security Council, as well as, in this case, by Germany as a European leading power with great interest in Iran. With its decent hint that it is not prepared to take “military options off the table,” it unambiguously reminds its partners of the basis of the treaty implicit in its demand, and, in case they refuse to consent, reminds them of the alternative: America thinks it is capable of executing its regime of control over the world of states by military means in this case, too, and to thereby disgrace anyone not willing to approve and support this action. Nobody is to doubt America’s will to use this power as a credible deterrent.
But this isn’t the case. On the one hand, the veto powers together with Germany, the Europeans with their readiness to negotiate as well as Iran-friendly Russia and the People’s Republic of China: all in principle endorse the verdict that Iran cannot be allowed a nuclear industry that masters the complete nuclear fuel cycle; with that, they once again take the first step on the diplomatic path that has already led to the Iraq war years ago. On the other hand, America is told by all sides that its belligerent world peace policy is failing: not one of its military operations has yet been brought to a proper conclusion; wherever the U.S. government has begun to make the world “a better place,” terror and political instability really gain ground. Nor does its rigorism make friends; even America cannot manage without allies. In many cases, such comments express the extremely well-meaning, critical point of view that the world power ought, virtually at the touch of a button, to succeed at what it resolves to do, or at what it promises the world in an idealized version of its plans. Just as often, the father of the thought is the wish that failures might restrain the “arrogant” actions of the Americans: a very popular viewpoint in countries that consider themselves victims of U.S. imperialism, but especially where one would like to see one’s own state in a leading global policy role, whether as important ally of the United States, as rival of equal status, or as both. Whatever the case, such skeptical diagnoses testify less to a failure than to the strong impression America’s actions make. Of course its policy creates victims; there is no other way for an effective deterrence. Of course it is a challenge for competing imperialists; this is how it is meant. And if the deployment of force doesn’t lead to victory as planned, then there is only one solution for a world power: more force, in order to more speedily eliminate the enemy, raise the consternation of all those who feel themselves called on to order the world, and satisfy all disappointed sympathizers.
For successful world peace, won wars are simply the essential precondition; and for overcoming the “shock” of September 11, the intimidation of the rest of the world is a good — and anyway the only — remedy. But even on the solid basis of making all other states fundamentally uncertain, there nonetheless remain some things to be done for sorting the various powers and state formations into a world order that procures and secures for America the status of an effective supervising authority.
A first special problematic case is and remains none other than the main heir to the instruments of power of the former main enemy. True, a first and crucial step forward is achieved with the Soviet Communists’ abandoning their anti-imperialistic program and dissolving the accumulated powers of the former Soviet state; the liquidation of the hostile bloc and the disintegration of the Union into sovereign nation-states cannot be undone. The first president of a democratized Russia proves himself — beyond every rightful expectation — as the West’s accomplice in scrapping the rapidly decaying weaponry of the former “superpower,” in destroying the economic basis of state power, and in ruining its monopoly on force virtually to the point of self-dissolution. America’s first war in Iraq for a ‘new world order’ during the final stage of the Soviet Union no longer runs into any objection from Moscow. The second war, in the Balkans, is calculated to repulse all Russian ambitions to participate in decisions regarding new borders in Southeast Europe, to oust Russia’s influence from Europe in general, and ends as planned with a combination of formal respect and practical disgrace of all Russian attempts at meddling. But with that, the matter is not yet settled.
As is not seriously to be expected otherwise, the United States does indeed get into trouble with a state that stops and reverses its decline. A national economy is reconstructed, one with which the country achieves a new existence as essential energy-supplying part of the capitalistic world market. A new government reminds itself and the rest of the world, in particular the West, of the fact that, even with the remnants of the former Soviet weapons arsenal and capacity for armament, it still has at its disposal the second most powerful nuclear force in the world, as well as impressive military technology. Of course, the Russian president’s explicit self-authorization to deploy his nuclear weapons in case of emergency, even as the first one — as the United States and France have long since officially decided to do for themselves, and made an integral part of their deterrence-oriented military doctrine — is not meant to be taken personally by the American world power as a direct declaration of war in the sense of a renewed “nuclear stalemate.” But America takes Russia’s intentions — as regards military autonomy and freedom to decide in matters of global policy — seriously enough to get Russia involved in a rather exclusive political deal.
On the one hand, America deems its adversary worthy of a special agreement: they declare each other to be nuclear states in a class by themselves, stay in touch about their still existing missile arsenals, and assure each other that they irreversibly renounce their threatening the other side with weapons of mass destruction that still exist in abundance — even if only more partly operational on the Russian side. As a sign of this agreement at the highest strategic level, and as diplomatic guarantee for the permanent end of previous enmity, the United States admits Russia into the exclusive club of capitalistic world powers as Number 8. This elite of Western imperialism, the G7, has anyway long since not contented itself with coming to informal arrangements on the progress of the world economy and their civilized competition against each other: with their annual meetings, the seven Greats demonstrate and maintain, in a purely formal fashion, their continuing will to deal peacefully with one another apart from all disagreements, and to present themselves to the rest of the world of states — as well as to the critical business world — as an imperialist collective. Russia now is included in this peculiar consensus.
On the other hand, Number 8 has to pay a price for this, and not just that it does its best to abstain from putting obstacles in the way of America’s deterrence policy within the United Nations. Number 1 — still acting here as the leading Western power — takes every opportunity to counteract and undermine Russia’s influence on its “near abroad,” i.e., the former Soviet republics. It fights the use of Russia’s most important civilian means of power, the energy business, as a political weapon. Under the heading of “promoting civil society,” America encourages and supports all internal opposition to an advancing consolidation of state power. It even fosters contact with separatists in the Caucasus whom Moscow wants to have outlawed as terrorists in the same sense that the ‘global war against terror’ defines the enemy. Russia has to accept all this. And even the formal acknowledgement of Russia as strategic world power, still conceded by the United States, is materially undermined and practically revoked through the termination of the ABM Treaty — the agreement with the Soviet Union on renouncing defensive systems against nuclear ballistic missiles. Integration without substantial concessions, as well as progressive restriction and containment of Russian power: this is more or less what the world power plans for its problem case, Moscow.
India and China require a special looking after. Merely due to the mass of their population and their increasingly successful capitalist exploitation, they are, in America’s estimation, inevitably “upcoming” world powers. Currently, they already strongly influence the increase and distribution of global wealth and the political power based on it. And both nations take the liberty of massively profiting from the world market and its American center, only to deal quite high-handedly with their acquired means of power, and to elude America’s stipulations and guidelines, even to repudiate them. China, an already recognized nuclear power and present in the Security Council with the right of veto, pushes ahead against America’s will with its “reunification” with Taiwan and, with that, seeks not only a considerable increase in national assets, in sources of growth, and in foreign economic influence, but challenges the drawing-up of borders in its vicinity for which the United States takes responsibility, and thus challenges America’s status as ordering power of the Western Pacific; the People’s Republic arms itself with the goal of fetching home its “renegade province,” if need be by force, i.e., it intends to procure the ability to wage war at its own discretion, and just by that offending against the peace conditions prescribed for the region by the United States. India is at loggerheads with Pakistan — despite the fact that America needs and uses the Pakistani state for its war against the hiding places of terrorism in Central Asia — and even invokes this war, saying it has to deal with the same terrorists on its northwestern border as does the world power; moreover, the country develops its own nuclear weapon without American license, and withstands American sanctions. Both great nations separate what America, with its ‘new world order,’ seeks to unconditionally and completely unify, namely, successful participation in capitalist world commerce, and recognition of U.S. control over the sovereign world-commerce participants and their use of force. And not only that: they use their accumulated dollars to build up their own positions of power against America’s surveillance regime and leading role. This must change. And America is going to change it.
With India, the United States concludes an interesting global-political deal. It revokes the boycott measures imposed due to India’s unauthorized nuclear armament and frees the country from the restrictive conditions of the Nuclear “Non-Proliferation” Treaty, thereby recognizing it as a nuclear power and assigning this to India as its new global political status. With this, though, the United States decides quite a few things about this status, as well as about itself as the power that confers this status — and that denies it in the parallel case of Pakistan. For it obviously makes a considerable difference — not so much militarily, more so in weapons technology, and especially in global politics — whether one “merely” possesses nuclear bombs, or is from now on undoubtedly one of the six official, recognized nuclear powers. The difference lies in the importance attached to the political ambitions of such a nation, its interests against others, its plans for world-order politics: they deserve respect, in any event far more than if no extravagant capability for mass extermination were behind them, but clearly more than if the established nuclear powers — and the rest of the community of states under their guidance — declared the annihilation capabilities of a country to be illegal and thus politically irrelevant, and treated them with disrespect. The United States now decrees such a respect for the Indian state. It does so without having to, i.e., not as a prior concession for a political deal. And at any rate, it is immediately and completely clear that it does this not because it sees its security threatened or a “nuclear stalemate” with India looming. It decides that India should — to a qualitatively higher degree — be taken more seriously in global political matters in the future. And this is then what also goes to make up India’s new status: the right to respect that the world power grants the country. With that — this being the other point — the United States places itself over the status it confers on India; it acts as a power outside of competition. It emphasizes this even more by not consulting any of the other official nuclear powers about this, let alone allowing them to have a say. It confronts its four rivals — and in addition the “Nuclear Suppliers Group,” a group of states with a mature nuclear industry active in export but obliged to counteract the proliferation of nuclear weapons potential — with more or less established facts, explicitly demanding, to crown it all, that they should wait a while for definite resolutions of the American Congress, but only to comply with them as a strict guideline. The United States assumes a leading role vis-à-vis the other recognized nuclear powers, acting as if their status, too, were nothing more than an American concession, and, at any rate, subordinated to the arrangements it makes with complete freedom — and, indeed, no member of the exclusive club of five raises any effective objection. America successfully goes about its business, and confirms itself as absolute head of that imperialist hierarchy in which the acknowledged capability of a state for mass annihilation decides on the right to respect.
For this act of recognition, the United States exacts a price of its Indian partner. It demands a certain degree of control over India’s nuclear industry and the amount of weapons-grade material accumulated in India’s self-declared civilian sector — all of which remains in dispute among both parties to the agreement. America is apparently less interested in an exhaustive regime of control — nuclear plants explicitly classified as military are exempted — than in the principle: it recognizes India as nuclear power in order to get a general picture of, and a certain access to, the country’s nuclear armament potential; it concedes India’s actually illegal high-handedness in order, not to leave it entirely uncontrolled, but to integrate it into, and functionalize it for, America’s world order policy. After all, the United States has its own constructive use for India’s global political ambitions, which India seeks to underpin militarily with its own nuclear armaments: the U.S. offers the country the role of regional power over the Indian Ocean, which certainly means not only control over the sea routes, but also the power — certified by acknowledged deterrent capabilities — to control the countries bordering this sea. America approves India’s corresponding ambitions, even promises military support. It asks nothing more, but also nothing less, than that India act in the sense of America’s global policy in exchange for the respect shown by the world power, and that the country take and play the role of a regional power in the sense specified by American world-order interests — therefore especially in constant consultation with the United States. The global political substance of the diplomatic deal pressed on the country by Washington is that India earn the world power’s recognition by recognizing, on its part, the United States as its leading neighbor and leading power over the Indo-Pacific.
The restricting of China, its might and its influence, is part and one purpose of this unequal mutual acknowledgement deal, this being in turn part of the policy that America deems necessary for making Beijing — whose People’s Republic has become all-too rich and strong all-too quickly — fit in with its world order. What is at stake there, too — in principle — is that this state come to terms with the United States as the power that also decides on borders and conditions for peace in East Asia, and accepts its strategic second-class rank. According to America’s own assessment, the proclamation of the new ‘global war against terrorism’ is not sufficient for this. And America also has no offers to make to the Chinese in return: so limits have to be put on Chinese might. Therefore, Washington mobilizes its Japanese partner’s new world-ordering and military ambitions, and now even those of the “world’s biggest democracy ”; it tightens its guarantee for Taiwan’s continued existence. And in the dispute with, and about, North Korea — for the elimination of which America tries to oblige China on the diplomatic field — a war-laden “trouble spot” remains in play, which reminds even the great People’s Republic of the world power’s deterrent capability for unleashing military terror.
Over wide parts of the world of states, the United States sees itself confronted with a rather virulent Anti-Americanism. To this day, there are veterans of the Soviet era still in power, or even similar-minded successors, who still, or once again, keep their distance from the world power and try — not even unsuccessfully — to survive economically and politically by aligning with Russia and China. There are disappointed nationalists who are bothered by the vast impoverishment of their people, and find the reason for this in Washington’s economic policy guidelines and world-order directives. In Latin America, such figures even come to power here and there, and try to establish a common market bypassing the leading power and against its declared interests. In other cases, especially so in the Islamic world, pious educators of the people diagnose a moral decline of their society as the basic evil and the cause of their nation’s powerlessness, holding the West’s disastrous influence responsible for the moral corruption; the kind of devastating effects such an attitude of mind produces is all-too clearly revealed by the large-scale attacks that not only wounded America, but uncovered its vulnerability, thus unmasking the relativity of its global power. Finally, there are more and more countries whose rulers no longer manage to hold the local poverty at bay in any way, hence neglecting to serve the global rules of procedure as local agencies and governors, which in itself certainly does not yet constitute hostility towards America; but there is a yawning gap in the system of order-creating power; and that this opens up a refuge and chance of survival for organized terrorism has, with the attacks of September 11, also become clear to those in charge. All these cases make a drastic revision of world order necessary.
America lays the foundation for this with its various wars, thereby establishing a regime of deterrence that primarily targets all kinds of anti-American machinations. But there is more to be done to bring all these problematic cases of governance into line (again), something constructive. To this end, America has developed a general remedy: “regime change” of the democratic sort, i.e., the civilian counterpart to depriving unpleasant regimes of power by military means. All sorts of expedient variations are used — a ‘Tulip,’ ‘Orange,’ or ‘Cedar’ revolution, for instance — to correct wrong results of elections in countries whose rulers indeed put their power at stake in elections, and whose reason of state depends upon a correct outcome of the election. The most important arena for this intervention into the internal national constitution of problematic nations is the West-designated ‘Middle East,’ the “Islamic arc of crisis,” where the United States has already in two cases chased off hostile rulers with demonstrative force. It has gotten to the bottom of the widespread anti-Americanism there in order to completely cure the people of it; and it has struck it rich. Quite obviously, the people there are ruled the wrong way, that is, not successfully, not committed efficiently enough to esteem the one and only politically correct, democratic-capitalistic, pro-American “way of life” that seems to make sense to the peoples of the world everywhere else. And yet in many cases, the intentions of rulers definitely point in the right direction. As desired, most potentates, presidents, and kings in the region connect the weal and woe of their countries, and the fate of their own rule, with the commercial interests and security needs of the world power, and endeavor to keep their people under control in this sense. When this nevertheless meets with insufficient success, or none at all, then it is obvious to the democratic world-reformers that the methods of shaping political perceptions — namely, of forming a people’s political will by their rulers — fail. This is no wonder, because these are the wrong methods, i.e., not democratic. The proof: in an established democracy, it would just not happen that terrorists arise from a quagmire of anti-Western attitudes and morals. What is needed to produce unity between leadership and people along the right lines, i.e., unanimous consent to the nation’s status within the American peace order, is therefore democratization — whose self-confident propagandists are not in the least confused that they thereby recommend their system of political freedom as the superior means of ruling a people because it’s the most effective conceivable. That is, not only nations with wrong authority, but also those with a government that knows its global political duties but doesn’t get anti-American public opinion under control: they, too, need 1) freedom of speech — excluding Anti-western propaganda, for which one’s attitude towards Israel, America’s militant outpost in the region, serves as a touchstone; 2) multi-party pluralism — for which Western political foundations, freelance experts, and financiers stand by as midwives; and 3) fair elections — no liability assumed for the recognition of wrong outcomes. “Regime change” is meant in a radical, qualitative, sense: the techniques of rule must be transformed so that those ruled function as required.
This change — ordered neither by the rulers nor the people in the target countries of America’s world-improvement initiative — of course needs a massive impulse from abroad to get off the ground, a fundamental disruption of the society and destabilization of the state. America has both in mind with its wars and constant war threats: “shock and awe” à la Rumsfeld as a prelude to democratic persuasion. Moreover, Israel’s military actions teach the lesson that pro-Americanism put into practice is, in the long run, the only chance for the peoples in the region to avoid a violent correction of their bad habits. This is how both coincide: war for more democracy, and democratization as the continuation of the ‘global war against terror’ by civilian means.
The toughest nuts to crack for America’s ‘new world order’ are the allies. The West still organizes the victory over the Soviet Union in concert: the allies agree on helping the members of the Warsaw Pact achieve new pro-Western governments, with discreet assistance for a violent coup if necessary. Even the greatest shift in the balance of power among the allies — the expansion of West Germany over East Germany — goes off by mutual consent. They are also in agreement over the prompt recognition of former Soviet republics as independent nation-states, and the nonrecognition of Russian claims to a certain hegemony over integral parts of the extinct Union that have become its “near abroad.” With Europe’s “reunification,” however, the standpoints of the leading power and its allies diverge. Both sides still share — in principle —– the need for a new deterrence regime over the world of states; but their particular interests in a renewed world order do not coincide. And with each war that America considers necessary, it compels its partners — who on their part compel the dominant transatlantic power with their actions and reactions — to balance “differences of opinion” and chumminess in a new way.
With their collective efforts to integrate the Eastern European ‘transition states’ into the West, the United States and the Western European leading powers open up a dispute over priorities, over the precedence of NATO or the European Union in gaining control over the former Soviet “satellites.” This dispute is no longer about the relation between the European Economic Union and a transatlantic security “architecture,” a relation that earlier was indeed contentious, but lately has been based on a division of labor; nor is it about a new conflict between pan-European capitalism and collective Western military power. In the discussions on who has overall charge of ‘integrating’ Middle and Eastern Europe, namely, on the political guardianship over the membership candidates, the European powers themselves are active as ordering powers, as strategic entities in competition with the world-war alliance in which America is the boss. Canceling their NATO membership is far from their mind; they still cannot do without America’s presence as the greatest military power on their continent as reinsurance against Russia’s nuclear weapons. But they no longer split themselves up into a double existence as military accomplices and insured parties of the United States on the one hand, and as its European allied competitors on the other. Rather, they allow themselves an absurdity of a tougher caliber: they supplement the military alliance they still maintain with the U.S. on its terms with their own EU world-order and security policy targeting Eastern Europe, claiming precedence for themselves — as an independently operating, collective great power — over the United States, as well as demanding their own part within the North Atlantic collective world power.
This dispute becomes acute and advances decisively through the West’s interference in the state-founding wars of the nationalities of former Yugoslavia that are stirred up against the erstwhile communist federal state and each other. Under the slogan of “Europe for Europeans,” the EU’s rivaling leading powers — with their policy of conditional recognition tied to conditions — set themselves up as continental authority for licensing war and war outcomes, border demarcation, and new sovereignties. In the process, however, they experience that in order to establish themselves as supreme ordering power, it is not enough to let the — partially encouraged and supported, partially restrained — war parties fight. The slaughter does not comply with their permissions and prohibitions. In order not to be disgraced as powerless, they need to take forceful and vigorous action for positioning themselves as powerful decision-making arbiter. Of course, this directs the great Europeans back to their traditional war alliance with America, and sets off a struggle over the meaning, object, benefit, and especially command of the alliance. Germany, France and Great Britain, in dispute over overall charge of the development of a common peacemaking policy for the Balkans, try — each alliance partner in its own way — by means of NATO, to use America’s superior force of arms for themselves, i.e., to functionalize it for a European peacekeeping power that they determine themselves. The United States doesn’t have to be asked twice. It takes the initiative with the goal of strengthening its own supremacy over war and peace with a military revision of the local balance of power, in this way establishing itself once again as Europe’s leading power with indisputable responsibility for the new, as well as all future, intra-European power struggles. With this in mind, it leads the alliance to war against the remnants of Yugoslavia under president Milošević. The Europeans manage the results, and note a rather mixed success, of their contradictory undertaking of emancipating themselves from their leading power without renouncing the alliance’s benefits.
One preliminary result is certain: NATO gets a new meaning. It officially declares itself responsible for combat missions all over the world, even out of the “area” whose “defense” has been its military mandate until now. By invoking the collective defense clause after September 11, NATO confirms not only the U.S. government’s decision to use this misdeed as an opportunity to declare a world war, but at the same time also confirms its own raison d’être as an instrument of America’s deterrent ‘new world order.’ The old dispute over alliance policy in regard to responsibility for leadership and rights of codetermination now revolves around the question as to how this new responsibility is to be exercised, and most importantly, as to who is to have the last say in defining the case for intervention, and determining plans of action and the conduct of war. America asserts the right of the strongest to sole responsibility and its authority to have command over its junior partners’ military as well. The Europeans don’t have much with which to counter this claim, and on which they could justify their competence to be supreme commander. It becomes all the more urgent for them to more closely band together, jointly bringing their capitalist wealth up to the level enjoyed by the leading power and their military power to the level of their capitalist capabilities — by which America’s paramount position as world peace power would indeed be relativized, i.e., eliminated.
Admittedly, such a breakthrough cannot be considered for the time being. But Western European global policymakers are experienced in dealing politically with their relative weakness: once again, they take up the old NATO custom of making their own dissenting, pointedly civilian offers of utilization and supervision — which have at least the official appearance of accommodation — to the world of states, on the basis of American deterrence policy. Exploiting the terror that the leading power unleashes, i.e., on the one hand trusting in its intimidating effect, on the other hand conveniently distancing themselves from America’s intransigence and acts of violence, they offer to the world of states — starting with Russia and China all the way down to the regimes Washington plans to “change” — opportunities to earn good money even apart from the U.S. dollar, as well as the chance to stay in business in the global-political arena without having to abide by all of Washington’s guidelines. During the Cold War era, this policy — parasitic towards the U.S., deceitful vis-à-vis its targets — paid off handsomely overall, namely, worked as an intra-Western division of responsibilities in subverting the enemy. Without this overriding common purpose, the same policy has a different effect: with their offers to states that Washington counts among its anti-American problem cases or even outlaws as enemies, the Europeans interfere with the deterrent effect of the ‘world war against terrorism’ that matters to the United States. Instead of taking part in the intimidation of the world of states by isolating and ruining some of its members, the Europeans distinguish, and enable others to make the distinction, between participating in the world economy and global politics, and submitting to the world power — just when the latter risks everything to enforce the identity of participation and compliance.
This European policy is a challenge for the United States; and all the more so, as the American disciplinary instrument from the ancient days of the Cold War no longer works, namely, the cautionary allusion to the vital “nuclear umbrella” of the “superpower,” which only willing participants are allowed to rely on. On the other hand, America is certain that at least several of its allies, in particular the new NATO partners from Eastern Europe, consider their security requirements at any rate in better hands with it than with a European Union that is far from being militarily emancipated. The United States is likewise certain about its “special relationship” with Great Britain. Moreover, it is also experienced in tying individual partners to itself with especially good or exceptionally bad treatment. It uses all this to split the EU, just when the latter intends to establish itself as rival in security policy, and to work towards foiling Europe’s ever resolving its fundamental contradiction of collectively gaining in power by relinquishing national sovereignty. And as long as this is the case, the Europeans, with their alternative imperialism, very quickly come up against a limiting factor: whenever Washington puts its war threats into action — which, in one case after another, it proves not to shy away from — the attempt at a global policy of passing America by, or even of going against its directives, is wrecked.
The wars that the world power wages ‘against terrorism’ develop their effects within the West in this sense. The United States leaves no chance even and especially for its allies to effectively raise objections to a declaration of war, or even only to codetermine war aims and the way they are realized. When important European partners elude alliance discipline — as do the Germans and the French in the war, long past due, to completely remove the Saddam regime from power in Iraq — the United States does not hesitate to assemble a ‘coalition of the willing,’ preferably from among the circle of remaining EU members. And it categorically represents this procedure as setting a precedent and constituting a new paradigm. Fixed alliances for every contingency, which open up the opportunity for all partners to meddle in the leading power’s decisions and to muddle up its belligerent inclinations, are no longer relevant. Though this does not by a long shot dissolve NATO, its significance for America’s ‘new world order’ of monopolized deterrence is decisively revised. The alternative — either willing or irrelevant — holds true for the big imperialist military alliance, too. The world power frankly gathers its vassals in accordance with the principle that the particular operation creates its own alliance, which makes very clear that such allies have nothing to decide about as far as what constitutes a case for the alliance, and how it is to be completed: whoever is in goes along with what the “case” requires. Whether this joining in is rewarded, and how, is debatable, but anyhow lies entirely at the leading power’s discretion. By contrast, whoever refuses has, at any rate, to count on bad treatment at the hands of the world power, on offensive nonconsideration of their interests in that region of the world being made a “better place,” and on exclusion as far as further use of the region is concerned.
Of course, even an insubordinate ally can completely rehabilitate itself with lots of constructive commitment to managing the chaos and strife that America’s anti-terrorist campaigns leave behind for the time being, and even assert or regain its own standing in the framework of a regime of deterrence that is pushed ever onwards. For it is at any rate not true that the United States, in its worldwide ‘war on terror,’ would or could do without the help of its rivals. To be sure, it does not cut back on its policy because of this; it is far from conceding any real consensual decision-making to even its most valued allies and important rivals. It finds it quite right, and offers support, when Israel, with its relentless warfare, degrades all other interested great powers to the status of powerless bystanders — especially the EU with its ambition to play a substantial role in establishing and controlling the balance of power in the Middle East — and when Israel demonstrates in practice that their entire will to intervene is worth only as much as Israel and its protecting power, i.e., ultimately the United States, allow. And with its project to democratize the entire region, America shows its completely determined and aggressive disregard for allied and other ‘third’ powers, which, on their part, have an imperialistic interest in the same states, and which might find themselves quite well served by the existing system of rule in difference to the U.S. — or perhaps rather differently disturbed and restricted, or which are even outright damaged by the ‘democratic revolutions’ that America seeks to get going there. But it is precisely because America stirs up, and, in its productive intention, destroys so much, that it needs and demands the help of others, in fact, not that of the most willing, but of the economically and militarily most powerful nations, at the latest for damage management; and it also needs and compels them to take precautionary measures to limit the damage when it comes to the next offensive against the next candidate for an involuntary “regime change.” For after all, the world power will not be dissuaded from pursuing its general line — the relentless ordering of the world — not by the terrible consequences already incurred nor the prospect of further devastation: it intends to make its line the common and binding mission.
This is how the United States and its allied rivals struggle with each other: America strives to fit its imperialistic rivals into functional roles in its ‘new world order,’ while the latter fight for independence within, and also a bit above, the revised system of world war and world peace, with the long-term goal of achieving equal status with their huge partner and wresting its leading power from it. The demands of the world power on its ancient Western “community of values” provoke the will of its allies to emancipate themselves; they in turn use the demands of their superior rival for high-handed interference in its plans, and provoke America in their dogged pursuit of more imperialism on their own terms. Both sides thereby ruin their traditional alliance, whose implicit contractual basis — the perforce voluntary submission of NATO’s vassals to the transatlantic “superpower” for the purpose of waging a world war that is only to be won jointly — has long since gotten lost. Expressions of unbroken unity in the essential matters of world politics thereby become increasingly important, the festivities that the great world-ordering powers organize to demonstrate their unchanged intention to stay together as a G7 become increasingly demonstrative. They balance their eyeing one another, their acute disagreements, with a calculating chumminess. This is how solidarity among imperialists functions.
American politicians are clear enough about what America’s pre-eminence as the decisive, fact-creating, world-ordering power is based on. For that reason, they are not bothered by reproaches and admonitions such as “military force alone is no solution” for the great problems and conflicts of today: since the end of the Soviet Union, they have been busy creating the really future-shaping global problems and conflicts, and intimidating the world with and through force as their universal condition for peace. Besides, they’ve suffered September 11, and drawn the enormous conclusion of actually being at war — even a world war — in the midst of peace. So if they let this declaration of war take practical effect within their country, and transform the civil day-to-day life of their nation into an internal security front, how much more then must they make rest of the world feel the situation! And how else is the world to be shifted into a state of war than by force!
Hence in order to prove itself as world power in accordance with the new, self-defined “situation,” the United States still needs the one thing of most importance by far: means of violence. In the size, and especially in the stage of development, of its arsenal of weapons, it needs an insurmountable lead over all its rivals and potential victims. Depending on the possibilities offered by the progress of weapons technology, it thinks up ever new scenarios and escalation steps for military operations, and commissions equipment suitable for the most demanding strategic and tactical problems. To this end, U.S. governments take advantage of the nation’s gigantic capitalistic wealth, excessively and heedlessly exploiting its sources within, and particularly outside, the country: they finance their armament with debts that the rest of the world — not least of all its big rivals in East Asia — acknowledge and use as a stable, material embodiment of their abstract wealth. Conversely, America takes on huge projects in the patriotic certainty that anything can be done with enough money: a missile defense system, for instance, that realizes the dreams of that unforgettable conqueror of the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan; for that, it directly monopolizes several distant countries around the globe as stationing locations for system components. The order of the day for the consolidation of its own offensive missile system is to make absolutely sure that every spot on the earth’s surface — inclusive of the bunkers potentially hidden underneath, and together with all the terrorists suspected there — can reliably be destroyed at the push of a button within an hour of target acquisition, if possible even without nuclear explosive devices. And anyway, it must be possible to win several wars at the same time, with or even without NATO; this is what the world power is working on.
Its bosses will know why.
 Of course, the monetary quality of such a material, even if this material itself is of the purest kind, is nothing but a social convention brought into force by power. It differs from a modern paper money only in that in the conventional use of gold and silver as general equivalent, whose origin in the exchange of goods is more obvious, the state’s control over money and credit is not yet completed.
 The political science of international relations believes every word of their government sponsors’ rationalizing interpretation of security and defense policy as a reaction that only responds to external threat, and from this they draw one of two conclusions: either they join in the official criminalization of the enemy, declaring it a troublemaker and aggressor, and rehash the theory of just war. Or they really turn this information, generalized to the entire world of states, into the point of departure for an explanation of foreign policy, in which case they argue in a complete circle: if each state arms itself only to react and not to act, then it’s reacting only to hypothetical, not real aggressiveness of other states, so that purely erroneously assumed threats turn into real ones. In the end, they destroy each other in war because they cannot be sure of the well-meaning intentions of their opponents. “States can never be certain about the intentions of other states”— so declares John Mearsheimer, one of the gurus of discipline, as to why states face each other prepared for war (“The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security, Winter 1994/95, Vol. 19, No. 3). It has to be said, unfortunately, that there are far more solid reasons for the display of power in the foreign relations of modern states than a stupid, stupid misunderstanding.
 It is a joke of the moralizing nomenclature of political science that it doesn’t like to apply the well-known category “imperialism” to, of all things, the fundamentally antagonistic relation of modern states. The term is reserved for the relations of power and domination of past eras. An Imperium Romanum, a British Empire — these are well known; and the period of transition to the modern order, during which the European powers engaged in a competition to carve up the world into colonial empires — this too is known as an “age of imperialism” in this science. But when a state’s will to dominate leads not to abolishing an opposing sovereignty and swallowing up its assets, but in fact leads rather to sovereign states dominating sovereign states, then political theory doesn’t find any relation of domination at all — at least not in those cases where they approve these relations. After all, the term “imperialism” is definitely not obsolete as an invective against the wrongs of an enemy: an imperialistic foreign policy was attributed to the noncapitalist Soviet Union; its system of alliances constituted a “red empire”; Putin’s domestic and foreign tests of strength, with which he maintains the unity of the Russian Federation and seeks to preserve its influence on the “near abroad” —the former Soviet republics surrounding Russia — are denounced as a “return to imperialist politics.” Meanwhile, the United States is also no longer immune to suspicions of imperialism. Ever since it, under President Bush, declared the entire world a potential battlefield, and now attacks and occupies countries whose governments aren’t suitable, intellectual anti-Americans occupy themselves with the question of whether this might not herald the “return of imperialism,” whether America might not indeed be an empire. Because they don’t concede the role of world-dominating power to the Americans, they condemn the methods for achieving it — all with the tone and certainty that they are charging a breach of the customary and just relations between sovereign powers.
 The great philosopher dispenses, in general, with conciliatory or downplayed thoughts on the military and war, and clearly explicates the barbarism upon which modern civilization rests, but without any hint of criticism. That is exactly the moral relation of ruler to ruled that he esteems as the highest form of existence of the human species: it is the “substantial duty” of the citizen “to maintain this substantive ethical individuality — i.e., the independence and sovereignty of the state — at the risk and the sacrifice of property and life, as well as of opinion and everything else encompassed in the concept of life. An entirely skewed account of the demand for this sacrifice results from regarding the state as a mere civil society and from regarding its final aim as only the security of life and property. This security cannot possibly be attained by the sacrifice of what is to be secured — on the contrary.” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, §324, White translation, 2002.)
 The arms race has acquired considerable notoriety as a circular explanation of the violent antagonisms between modern states. Instead of inferring from it the will to predominance and military extortion of both parties, or at least of one party, the arms race was elevated to the status of independent agency, to an automatism referred to as an ‘arms spiral,’ by which states are propelled into disaster. That is how they leave the straight and narrow and slide into a war that, in hindsight, once again no one had wanted.
 The accusation that money frittered away for purposes of armament could be better spent for other functions for the public good completely misses the mark. Aside from the fact that this money would not even exist were it not “created” by a power-seeking sovereign for its self-preservation, this is no “senseless squandering” of the precious national product. Rather, this expenditure shows what the successful realization of this national product rests upon and what it exists for in the last analysis: the strengthening of political power. Conversely, a globally competitive national power is the permanent foundation of a capitalist society’s internal order; in external affairs, it is indispensable for the capitalistic utilization of other states and even a productive force. In that sense, expenditures for destruction fall in the category of ‘faux frais,’ incidental but necessary expenses.
 In this sense, even the cynical pearl of wisdom of the old Romans cited at the beginning, or at least its modern interpretation, entails some glossing over of things: politicians pushing military buildup tell citizens and war opponents that whoever wants peace has to prepare for war, always intimating that war is prevented by consistent preparations for war; weapons are only acquired to threaten, not to actually use them. Some even maintain that politics has failed when it actually comes to pass that weapons do the talking. On the one hand, this is intrinsically false: if military capabilities really place a state in the position of engaging in politics without having to shoot, then only because its will to wage war is undeniable, i.e., it is by no means judged to intend only to threaten and not to shoot. On the other hand, this soothing message debunks the noble meaning of peace. If it only blossoms under the threat of war, then it is no positive alternative to that horrible killing and dying — it is just virtual war.
 Such a policy is represented by everything that went on during the forty years of the Cold War under the slogan of development aid for African, Asian, and South American countries. The aid consisted of loans with which nations in need of capital, and colonies released into independence, were to be developed into suitable spheres of investment and suppliers of raw materials. Of course, interest had to be paid on the loans, which also had to be paid back; but they were only granted under the condition that these states let themselves be incorporated into the world war front of the East-West conflict, that they do without business deals and especially refuse military cooperation with the Soviet Union and its allies, and that they participate in the fighting against neighboring states that sympathized with the Socialist camp.
© GegenStandpunkt 2009