American Ambivalence Towards Empire

soldiers

(The 3rd of 8 posts about my decision to emigrate to New Zealand)

I had to move overseas before it sank in that Americans owe their high standard of living to US military domination of third world resources. The concept of economic imperialism isn’t new to me. I have known for years that the US maintains a monopoly on cheap third world labor and resources via military support of puppet dictators, CIA destabilization campaigns, currency manipulation and Wall Street and IMF/World Bank debt slavery schemes.

Yet for some reason, I placed the entire blame on the bloated US military-industrial complex and the immense power defense contractors wield via their campaign contributions and ownership of US media outlets. I conveniently overlooked the financial advantages ordinary Americans enjoy as a result of world military domination – namely low priced consumer goods. It took the physical reality of living in a smaller, poorer, non military nation and paying higher prices for for gasoline, books, meat, fish and other products – on a much lower income.

Americans Love Cheap Gasoline, Coffee, Sugar and Chocolate

I think most Americans are profoundly ambivalent about the concept of empire. In public opinion polls, Americans consistently oppose foreign wars, except where “US interests” are at stake. And policy makers and the mainstream media are deliberately vague in defining “US interests.” Prior to 1980, a threat to American interests meant a clear threat to America’s democratic system of government or the lives of individual Americans. When Ronald Reagan invaded Grenada in 1984, the official pretext was to evacuate American students at the medical school at St George University (the real reason was to oust pro-Cuban prime minister Bernard Coard).

With the current wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, “US interests” have expanded to include the millions of barrels of cheap foreign oil required for the health of the US economy. Americans love their cheap gasoline, coffee, sugar and chocolate. Few are consciously aware that they owe these cheap luxuries to covert and overt military operations. If they did know, I believe the percentages supporting war would rise significantly.

What Americans Sacrifice for a Bloated Military

I like to think I would be willing to make the sacrifice. In essence I have, by moving to a much smaller, poorer country where tax dollars are used to fund universal health care, subsidized child care and housing and long term unemployment benefits. Because New Zealand feels no compulsion to invade and occupy other countries, they still provide a fairly generous safety net for unemployed, disabled and elderly Kiwis.

Social services were never quite so robust in the US. However prior to Reagan’ election in 1980 and the ballooning of US military expenditures, I could rely on federally funded jobs, vocational rehabilitation and subsidized housing to assist my clients into employment. By 1990 this was no longer possible. The great majority were desperate to get jobs, which would have been far more cost effective for taxpayers. However in the absence of any state or federal support, prospective employers refused to take a chance on hiring them. Thus most remained trapped on Social Security disability.

The systematic dismantling of the American safety net began under Reagan and Bush, as they cut taxes on the rich and redirected tax revenues  toward military priorities – a phenomenally expensive missile defense system (aka the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars) and military interventions in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Grenada, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia and Iraq.

Instead of restoring the social safety net programs his Republican predecessors abolished, Clinton continued to shred the safety net by ending the welfare entitlement for single mothers Franklyn Roosevelt introduced in 1935. Meanwhile he cut taxes even further, continued the SDI and declared war against Serbia – presumably to assist US oil companies to access oil and gas in the Caspian Sea basin.

(To be continued)

photo credit: DVIDSHUB via photopin cc

3 thoughts on “American Ambivalence Towards Empire

  1. Am enjoying your work here. Tubularsock could give up his gasoline (I ride a bike) and his cheap tech shit BUT send out the army to keep my little brown brothers picking that coffee! Ok. Tubularsock buys only “fair-trade” coffee but I do wonder about the “fair” part.

    New Zealand always seemed like a great place to live but they seldom blow shit up. So just what would Tubularsock do in his spare time?

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  2. Well, the US corporations trying to colonize NZ keep us pretty busy. Right now I’m off to a hikoi (Maori word loosely translated as protest march) to stop Anadarko from sinking some deep sea oil rigs off our coast.

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  3. I was wondering when the U.S. would get around to occupying New Zealand…they’ve had it easy for far too long.

    Seriously, love this series and hearing your perspectives of life outside of the American fish bowl. This is one of the vital character traits that many Americans lack…the appreciation (which goes beyond mere tolerance) of others. This is a big planet and the U.S. is not the only game in town.

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