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War-profiteering and "Parasitic Imperialism"

I posted the following comment in response to a piece by Glenn Greenwald:


War-profiteering is simply more Treasury-raiding by elites – at our cost and our children’s.  An economics professor at Drake (Ismael Hossein-zadeh, an ethnic Kurd from Iran, by the way) has some interesting and relevant thoughts in a well-reviewed book that came out last year called “The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism”, http://www.amazon.com/Political-Economy-U-S-Militarism/dp/0230602282/ref=ed_oe_p/105-9360914-5760441. His web page, with links to recent writings, is here: http://www.cbpa.drake.edu/hossein-zadeh/default.htm

In a recent article at Counterpunch,Parasitic Imperialism, Hossein-zadeh concludes (emphasis added):

“Although immoral, external military operations of past empires often proved profitable, and therefore justifiable on economic grounds. Military actions abroad usually brought economic benefits not only to the imperial ruling classes, but also (through “trickle-down” effects) to their citizens. Thus, for example, imperialism paid significant dividends to Britain, France, the Dutch, and other European powers of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. As the imperial economic gains helped develop their economies, they also helped improve the living conditions of their working people and elevate the standards of living of their citizens.

“This pattern of economic gains flowing from imperial military operations, however, seems to have somewhat changed in the context of the recent U.S. imperial wars of choice, especially in the post-Cold War period. Moralities aside, U.S. military expeditions and operations of late are not justifiable even on economic grounds. Indeed, escalating U.S. military expansions and aggressions have become ever more wasteful, cost-inefficient, and burdensome to the overwhelming majority of its citizens.

“Therefore, recent imperial policies of the United States can be called parasitic imperialism because such policies of aggression are often prompted not so much by a desire to expand the empire’s wealth beyond the existing levels, as did the imperial powers of the past, but by a desire to appropriate the lion’s share of the existing wealth and treasure for the military establishment, especially for the war-profiteering Pentagon contractors. It can also be called dual imperialism because not only does it exploit the conquered and the occupied abroad but also the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens and their resources at home.

“Since imperial policies abroad are widely discussed by others, I will focus here on parasitic military imperialism at home, that is, on what might be called domestic or internal imperialism. Specifically, I will argue that parasitic imperialism (1) redistributes national income or resources in favor of the wealthy; (2) undermines the formation of public capital (both physical and human); (3) weakens national defenses against natural disasters; (4) accumulates national debt and threatens economic/financial stability; (5) spoils external or foreign markets for non-military U.S. transnational capital; (6) undermines civil liberties and democratic values; and (7) fosters a dependence on or addiction to military spending and, therefore, leads to an spiraling vicious circle of war and militarism.

The vast amounts flowing to huge defense contractors in all states is the chief reason that the Dems refuse to stand up to Bush, and politics in Washington has generally become simply a fight over the spoils of the federal budget and other government largess. Because the Dems are not that much different, they have a tough time pretending that they are more responsible. And as the media is itself owned by large conglomerates, they have little interest in rocking the boat by standing up to either politicians, the military establishment or the corporate or Israel lobby, but are content to feed Americans pap, and individual reporters of course have more to gain from sucking up to the power brokers than in offending them.

Increasingly, elites are running the country for their own selfish interests. Wars and the fear they stir up better allows elites to further squeeze and control all of us (via the PATRIOT Act, domestic spying, data mining, a “Real ID” and citizen chipping, etc.).

By the way, Hossein-zadeh also specifically analyzed these factors with respect to Iran last year: “Behind the plan to bomb Iran” (8/31/06), http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article14771.htm.


Greenwald’s piece is here: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/29/iran/index.html; my initial posting is here: http://letters.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/08/29/iran/view/index34.html

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  1. TokyoTom
    November 29th, 2007 at 13:14 | #1

    Todd, of course I’m not offering him to discuss the point that concerns, nor have I don’t the legwork to give you and answer.

    However, if you think about it, I think that you’d agree that he is probably right – that in the past imperialism and aggression were substantially motivated by gains to elites from theft from other countries (and such wars/empires were sustained by resources and spoils from the countries invaded) but now, at least in the case of the US empire, the motivations are much less about spoils abroad than about gains elites get by milking the US state.

  2. Todd Gibson
    November 22nd, 2007 at 16:07 | #2

    While this is tangential to his central theme, Hossein-zadeh is far too generous in that first paragraph you have quoted. Does he offer any evidence to support those claims (of the economic benefits of imperialism in the past)?

    You can’t just say they were experiencing rapid economic growth at the same time they were pursuing imperial policies. Correlation does not imply causation.

    The question is: was the economic growth greater than, the same as, or less than would have occurred in the absence of the imperial policies (all else being equal)?

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