Will the World Finance the Imperium Americanum?

The US could come out of the war in Iraq to establish a new, modern form of colonialism

The initial preparations by the US for post-war Iraq leave no doubt that American taxpayers will be footing the bill for the war, or that the UN will be footing the bill for the reconstruction of the country. While this outcome might not have been planned from the outset, it is a logical further development of the colonial concept of empire, in which private companies rake in the benefits, with the state covering the administrative costs.

Do colonies make economic sense? This was the question many Frenchmen, among others, were asking themselves at the end of Europe's colonial age. For instance, in the mid-1960s the editor of Paris-Match, Raymond Cartier, argued in a series of articles entitled "Attention! La France dilapide son argent" ("Warning! France is wasting its money") that other European countries that did not have any colonies - such as Sweden and Switzerland - were much better off than Britain and France were with their colonies. Some of his fellow countrymen took his theory to its logical conclusion and called on the French to invest only in France, not in the colonies in Africa and Asia.

Today, the prevalent opinion is probably closer to that of French historian Marc Ferro: the colonizers profited handsomely from their colonies. In his exhaustive "Histoire des colonisation", Ferro succinctly sums the matter up when he explains how the British successfully shifted from colonialism to globalization after 1960: "The colonies spread all across the world no longer had to be maintained within the old political system. Multinational firms were now able to replace the state structures"" He puts it even more precisely when writing of French colonialism: "It cost the state, but brought profits to private firms."

America's "colonies"

Starting back in the late 19th century, the US began to develop a different way of ensuring overseas resources for itself. The Philippines were not made into a colony, nor a state in the union, but relations between the Philippines and the US are now very close. Filipinos can even serve in the US military today. In return, the US can take whatever it wants out of the country:

"The Philippines is rich in natural gas, oil and geothermal supplies. Mindanao has long been exploited for its natural resources by local and overseas power elites. Creating a stable environment for foreign investment - at any social or environmental cost - has been the aim of successive Philippine governments."

Long ago, the US realized that the kind of state-building that the French and British were involved in overseas was not required for secure access to a foreign country's resources. A willing local government that could be bought and paid for was enough. European colonialism was a system of state subsidies for the first multinationals. But the US government realized that this expensive bureaucracy that the French and British were committed to could largely be done away with. And when these expenses are eliminated, the only thing that remains is the revenue of the multinationals.

The birth of a new kind of subsidy?

But what if the local government does not do the bidding of the colonizer? Then the state has to intervene after all. In addition to the more or less subtle, subversive ways that the US has employed for decades in Latin America, the Gulf War between the US and Iraq in 1991 showed that a war can itself be sold:

"In the first Gulf War, about 90% of the $61 billion tab was picked up by U.S. allies, which included Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, Germany and South Korea."

Now, we might be facing a situation in which the world - represented by the UN - will be financing the reconstruction of post-war Iraq. This would eliminate the only remaining costs for this imperialist intervention, for US firms will be the ones performing these tasks - and getting paid for them. This process has already begun. In addition, oil contracts with Russian and French firms could be renegotiated - possibly with US firms. Anyone who doubts that this business will pay for itself, should take a good look at these figures:

GDP of Germany (2001): $ 1.9 trillion
GDP of USA (2001): $ 9.9 trillion
Oil reserves in Iraq (2003): $ 3.4 trillion1

These subsidies are by no means necessarily part of a master plan; after all, the division in the EU over US policy towards Iraq was not in any Pentagon roadmap either. But nothing could come at a better time for the Pentagon than a divided EU that lacks the wherewithal not only to stop the US from its preemptive strike against Iraq, but also to declare this aggression a breach of international law. And yet, experts in international law have no trouble condemning the aggression against Iraq. Former Secretary-General of the UN, Boutros-Boutros Ghali, stated in an interview with the European TV channel 3Sat on April 5th: "The war against Iraq is illegal. It runs contrary to the Charter of the United Nations".

Now, Bush & Co. can not only do as they please to get at foreign resources without any fear of reprisal from other governments; they can even hand over the bill for the operation to the people who were against the whole affair.

While the American people will end up paying for the war, oil companies, weapons manufacturers, arms dealers, and corporations involved in 'reconstruction' work will make direct gains from the war.

Arundahti Roy in the Guardian

What will happen when the United States not only manages to depose Saddam Hussein and install a government friendly to the interests of US firms (as it has done in Afghanistan), but also manages to have anti-war parties pay for the war damage? After all, the world doesn't want to leave post-war Iraq up to the US alone. But even with UN participation, military interventions would really start to make economic sense for the US. And as the US has long had a large trade deficit - $ 550 billion dollars in 2002 (just under $2000 per capita), with oil making up almost a third of this amount - one has to agree with French historian Emmanuel Todd, who told the German press: "Increasingly, the world produces so that America can consume."

Today, the first voices are being heard calling for greater participation by the UN in the rebuilding of Iraq, as opposed to merely leaving the whole matter up to the US, which would seem to suit Colin Powell just fine:

"We didn't take on this huge burden with our coalition partners not to be able to have a significant, dominating control over how it unfolds."

In the process, how can we prevent a situation in which the world pays the US for a war it did not want by an overwhelming majority? Apparently, the only way out of this predicament is for Iraq II to become a Vietnam II for the US military. Then, the Baath party would remain in power, and no one would build up the country. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. So how do we get out of this mess? (Craig Morris)