Afghanistan and the Neoliberal Empire

In his groundbreaking treatise Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, Kevin Carson argues that we are living in a world created by the “neoliberal revolution,” the present-day successor to the policies of the “Open Door Empire” era beginning at the close of the nineteenth century. That revolution, conditional on military might and its warped version of “free trade,” has “created a ‘de facto world government’ on behalf of global corporations.”

Like all empires, the American version, which involves shipping our Big Business economy abroad, depends on bludgeoning susceptible states into discreet subservience. To fill the role of underboss to the United States’ kingpin of course requires a certain temperament, a cupidity and lack of moral scruples found mostly in tin pot dictators wearing funny costumes. And but for his occasional teary outburst, Afghanistan’s President Karzai pretty well fits the bill.

This week, though, Karzai piped up to spurn the tepid apologies of General David Patraeus, the red-handed butcher who currently occupies the post of Commander in the war-torn country. Patraeus’ half-hearted apology, a gauche case of damage-control PR, comes after “an error in the handoff” of intelligence ended in the death of nine children. By now even the most offhand observation of the decade-long war in Afghanistan reveals countless civilian deaths, and from wedding receptions to kids the “insurgency” has become more and more ill-defined.

In another timely episode of American Empire Media, Defense Secretary Gates, alongside faithful underling Karzai, parroted the American state’s stock apology and foretold of a schedule for leaving Afghanistan. Well, Patraeus can issue as many apologies as he likes — with Karzai’s muted objections and Gates’ announcements of troop draw-downs in the background — but the reality is that, no matter what happens in Afghanistan, there’s no draw-down planned for the Empire in general.

For the economic program of the American ruling class to function, governments amenable to its hierarchical, corporate framework are a practical imperative. Today, the Big Business economic blueprint, created by and for the state’s elites, is so ubiquitous that no one of its vavasour states — be it Afghanistan or any other — is necessary by itself. The investments of the American state converge with nearly every building block of the “flat world” of neoliberalism, which, by concentrating wealth in a tiny sliver at the top, is anything but true to its metaphorical namesake.

Intimidatory international agreements, conceived and executed by corporate interests, ensure the dominance of a very specific business modality, one completely severed or insulated from the corollaries of genuine free markets. Market regions covering entire hemispheres, whatever one thinks of them, simply would not have been possible at their commencement but for the wars and other, less noticeable deeds of state coercion.

States like Afghanistan may be the citadels of American imperialism, but its ideological strongholds exists in the intangible space of faith in the state. To the proponents of “free trade” who see it as a force for peace in the world: Are we really to believe that the American state, with all of its warlike foreign meddling, isn’t also engaged in global, economic intervention?

Quoting Christopher Layne and Benjamin Schwarz, Carson observes that, in today’s global economy, “U.S. security commitments are viewed as the indispensable precondition for economic interdependence.” The one doesn’t exist without the other, and defenders of a real liberty need not pretend they are independent phenomena.

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory