Yesterday, while channel-surfing, I saw a pundit on one of the news channels’ talking head shows pontificating on the internal contradictions inherent in U.S. government policy toward the new “Twitter Revolutions” in Tunisia and Egypt.
He said that, no matter how unpopular and authoritarian autocratic regimes like Mubarak’s are at home, the United States unfortunately has an interest in preserving their stability because such regimes “support our interests” in the Middle East.
Note the unintended irony there. When I hear a reference to “our interests,” or what “we” are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, my automatic response is “Are you carrying a friend in your pocket?”
The clear assumption is that there is some commonality of interest between the American people and the state that claims to represent them. But in reality, we’ve got about as many interests in common with “our” government as the Egyptian people have in common with Hosni Mubarak.
The U.S. government may pursue “interests” in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world, but they’re the interests of the coalition of class forces that controls the American state. The interests promoted by the U.S. government are those at the commanding heights of the corporate economy.
U.S. copyright policy is written by the RIAA, MPAA and Microsoft — Joe Biden’s “IP task force” actually operated out of Disney headquarters. Agricultural policy is made by ADM, Cargill and Monsanto, as indicated by the revolving door through which vice presidents and CEOs of those companies walk to become deputy and assistant secretaries at USDA or vice versa.
If the U.S. government is an executive committee of the corporate ruling class when it comes to domestic affairs, and policy reflects the interests of the corporations that control the state, why would we expect it to be any different when it comes to foreign policy? What — because “politics stops at the water’s edge?” Come on, pull the other one! Show me the special race of angels — so different from the regular mortal ward-heeling hacks who make domestic policy — from which the foreign policy establishment is recruited. Or show me the magic potion which effects the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation that takes place every time those ward-heelers put on or take off their foreign policy hats.
American foreign policy is aimed at guaranteeing American corporations a supply of “safe, reliable and affordable” fuel from the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea oil basins.
It’s aimed at making sure foreign governments recognize and enforce the “intellectual property rights” of the proprietary content companies who make up the bulk of the corporate global economy (“rights” which also comprise the primary means by which American corporate headquarters retain control of outsourced job-shops all over the Pacific Rim and charge a 1000% brand-name markup to American consumers).
It’s aimed at preventing peasants from regaining control of expropriated land which landed elites use to grow cash crops for the export market, in collusion with Western agribusiness corporations and domestic authoritarian governments.
American foreign policy, in short, is a continuation of the old-style gunboat diplomacy of the colonial powers, aimed at keeping the world safe for corporate power.
About the only time American policy doesn’t reflect such corporate interests is when it irrationally deviates from them to pander to the Zionist colonial project in Israel. The one case in which American foreign policy seems to reflect some principled ideological imperative, even at the expense of promoting energy policy through stable relations with autocratic regional regimes, is America’s “special relationship.” Not that that’s got anything more to do with “our interests” than the rest of it.
So when you hear a pundit talk about “our interests,” ask yourself who he’s got riding along in his pocket — or rather, whose pocket he’s riding in.