Global Power Elites and the New Wars
"A representative republic was transformed into a plutocracy. Privitizing public property was a continuous tendence during the whole modern age. Vast public spaces remained only material for legends everywhere in the world.. The extent of private wealth in the US had reached staggering dimensions by 1999." The average net worthy of the 400 richest Americans rose tenfold by 1999. Translated from German
Global Power Elites and the New Wars
By Hans Jurgen Krysmanski
[This article originally published in: Utopie kreativ, June 2003 is translated abridged from the German on the World Wide Web.]
The structures in which the current war and militarization of the globalization process occur are more complex than the capacities of the main actors (governments, capital groups, politicians etc.) for adequately dealing with this complexity. Leftists in our countries are also overstrained. Attempts at reducing current events to an opposition between Europe and the US are very problematic. The US-American ideologist Robert Kagan ridiculously contrasts Europe's "feminine Venus culture" with America's "harsh Mars culture". Some "good Europeans" wish to make something clear to the "evil Americans". With these polemics, one quickly lands in the wrong boat.
Americans, leftist Americans and good democrats best describe America's fate. Norman Mailer (1) speaks of a pre-fascist atmosphere in the US and Sen. Robert Byrd of "ruthlessness and arrogance".(2). Kurt Vonnegut, the old master of science fiction, says the present US administration is in the hands of mediocre Yale students without knowledge of history and geography, of white supremacists in Christian garments and "most dreadfully by psychopathic personalities who know the suffering caused by their actions but don't give a damn"(3).
Defining the actors of the new world order process with models like US vs. Europe, civilization vs. barbarism, good vs. evil, dollar vs. Euro and so forth may have a certain meaning for rival power elites (4). The Bush group would like nothing more than to be completely identified with the US. However that agreement would be disastrous for globalization critics and the peace movement. We don't hope for a hegemonial war between the US and Europe. Our field isn't the consensus politics of power elites but the diverse "cultures of globalization" with equal rights. (5)
"The fact that a new empire has formed against Europe's old powers can only be welcomes", Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri write. Who still remembers anything about Europe's sickening parasitic ruling class that passed directly from the ancien regime to nationalism, from populism to fascism and presses today to a generalized neo-liberalism? Who knows these ideologies and bureaucratic machines from which the decadent European elite lived so well? Who still endures these systems of work organization and businesses that have lost all vitality?" (6) Aren't the structures, the "US", "Europe", capital groups, state institutions, stable transnational organizations and "hegemony", subject to a dramatic process of integration? Isn't capitalism beginning to abandon itself in the moment of globalization? Is this new geo-politics of destruction still "capitalism"? Doesn't unrestricted, highly concentrated private property "govern" in the late Roman style of boundless unfettered corruption?
In any case, information about the real actors of the new discord comes to light from the concrete preparations for the Iraq war and the later wars. The strangest figures are encountered, many under structurally uncertain conditions like a presidential election manipulated from above. Most knowledge about these power elites comes from the heart of the empire itself, from the media, organizations and think tanks of the traditional American establishment..
Enormous uncertainty prevailed at the last World Economic Forum in Davos when the masters in their dark suits no longer knew where they were going given the new Washington. This also explains the franticness and brutality of the clique around Bush who want to make the "best" out of what was robbed them.
John Pilger, the well-known British journalist (his latest book is "The New Rulers of the World") writes that the ascent of Runsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, his co-worker Richard Perle and Eliot Abrams means "that a large part of the world is threatened today by a geo-political fascism". This Washington gang consists of "authentic American fundamentalists, the heirs of John Foster Dulles and Alan Dulles, those Baptist fanatics who controlling the Secretary of State or rather the CIA in the fifties smashed reform governments in one country after another - Iran, Iraq, Guatemala -, tore to pieces international agreements and caused the catastrophe of the Vietnam war with its five million dead. (10, New Statesman, November 23, 2001). Johan Galtung describes the foreign policy of the Bush administration as simply "geo-fascist". (11) What appears simplistic here has an analytical background in the dragon's den itself.
The Push for War
The following analysis comes from the center of the American establishment. Anatol Lieven, senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (one of the most important and oldest think tanks of the east coast elite) wrote under the title "The Push for War" (12): To understand the motivation of the Bush administration, the fundamental plan within this group consists in installing a unilateral world hegemony through abso0lute military superiority. This was advocated and worked out with great constancy by a group of intellectuals who banded around Dick Cheney and Richard Pearl after the collapse of the Soviet Union. (13)
To understand the genesis of this very ambitious plan, Lieven continues, one must understand the moral, cultural and intellectual milieu of the American nationalism in which it materialized. This nationalism was aroused by September 11, 2001 though it existed long before. Its alliance with the nationalism of the Israeli rightwing is also ominous. Winning support of the general public for more far-reaching projects is the first geo-political goal, namely a free hand for American and Israeli interventions in the whole Middle East. For the group around Cheney, guaranteed and unhindered access to cheap oil increases the importance of the sources. All this is joined with the belief that democracy can only be spread with the help of America's power. This belief is not consciously dishonest, Kieven writes, but is inseparably connected with American messianism and an "American worldview".
Then there is China. Initially the Bush administration was not fixated on the Middle East. "The greatest fear of rightwing-nationalist gurus like Robert Kagan involved China's future role as a rival superpower, plausible in view of its size and the growth rates of its economy." Preventing all competition at eye level was the core of that famous strategy manifesto written by Paul Wolfowitz of the first Bush administration in the last year of its term in office. What the radical US nationalists intend, Lieven says, is a policy of containment toward China either by military superiority or for the real radicals among them, a destruction campaign according to the model of the destabilization of the Soviet Union. The National Missile Defense is also one of these plans. Future military hegemony will include outer space.
As things stand, the American people would never knowingly support such a program of geo-political ambition. This is also true for the US military. "Even after September 11, this country measured by an historical standard is not a militarist country. Neither our military nor our population understand themselves as imperialistic, however striking may be the increasingly open imperialism of the nationalist think tank class."
However the real danger begins here, according to Lieven. Two strategies of the republicans for perpetuating their power are marked out. The first is the classic modern strategy of every endangered rightwing oligarchy: changing mass displeasure into nationalism. The second specifically American strategy is to make Jewish voters turn against the Democratic party by "demonstrating a categorical commitment of republicans to Israel and its regional ambitions."
When this alliance arose a few years ago, many regarded it as an unlikely combination given the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the Christian rightwing and so forth. On the other hand, the Old Testament aspects of Christian fundamentalism always existed. In the meantime, with the turn of the millennium, the existence of the state of Israel for fundamentalist Christians has become a necessary precondition for the arrival of the Anti-Christ, the apocalypse and the rule of Christ. Moreover the Christian rightwing and Zionism have the same hate objects according to Lieven: the United Nations, the possibility of a world government, the old Europe and east coast American elites. Both have an instinctive predilection for the use of military power. However the conviction that they are the defenders of "civilization" against "barbarians" has very racist undertones. This conviction is most dangerous.
To understand the radical national rightwing in the US, Lieven argues, the dominant forces in the Bush administration, one must comprehend the absolute (and absolutely honest) identification of this group with the United States so the presence of any other group in the government is regarded as a usurping, extremely illegitimate and "un-American" act. In addition, the authoritative "hardline elements" of the US security establishment and the military-industrial complex are marked by the Cold War. Their whole thinking emphasizes powerful nation-state adversaries. On the other hand, Lieven says, the roots for the hysteria of the rightwing are much deeper than nationalism and national security. The "pathological hatred of the rightwing for the Clinton administration" was aroused "more by the personal style of the Clintons and their milieu, the remembrances of the counter-culture of the sixties and seventies". The Gingrich-republicans, the hardline republicans, above all the religious rightwing, underscored the classical nationalist longing for the return of a golden age, in their case the pre-Vietnam time of the fifties.
None of these fantasies characterize the American people as a whole, Lieven writes. Still the intensive solipsism of this people, the widespread ignorance about the course of the world beyond America's shores and the shock of September 11 "have left behind an enormous public void in which groups attempt to live out their fantasies". "All real knowledge of the outside world is missed by younger intellectuals through the neglect of historical and regional studies in favor of disciplines that are often nothing but a rough projection of American assumptions and prejudices (with the rational-choice theory as the worst example)... Thus this intelligentsia is susceptible for nationalist messianism under the seemingly beneficent mantle of "democratization".
Aspects of Plutocracy
"The most important change of our time is the upgrading of the role of money in the question how America should be governed. This role was never insignificant but gained a new dimension when the Supreme Court decided that money spent for the election of candidates and promoting private and commercial interests in Washington represents a form of constitutionally protected freedom of speech. In this way a representative republic was transformed into a plutocracy" (14) - "Privatizing public property was a continuous tendency during the whole modern age. Vast public spaces remained only material for legends everywhere in the world... Common property once regarded as the foundation for the term general public is expropriated for private advantage and no one can oppose this. The general public dissolves and is privatized even as a term. The immanence relation between the public and the communal is replaced by the transcendent power of private property." (15)
a) Wealth and Democracy
Kevin Phillips, once an important advisor of the Republican party, thematicized the growing inequality in American society in a new book on "Wealth and Democracy" (2002). The present growth of private wealth can only be compared with the Golden Age of the turn of the century and the twenties. In all these periods, Phillips concludes, mammoth assets undermined democratic values and institutions and ultimately ruined the economy.
The extent of private wealth in the US had already reached staggering dimensions by 1999. If the 400 richest Americans had an average net worth of $230 million in 1982, their average assets rose tenfold by 1999, namely $2.6 billion by 1999. Among the well-known asset holders were newcomers like Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Bill Gates (Microsoft), the Fisher family (Gap), the investor Warren Buffet and Ted Turner. However the Rockefellers, duPonts, Mellons, Phippses and Hearsts also profited in the boom and were ten times richer than in the thirties. These assets also did not diminish after the bursting of the New Economy bubble. The number of super-rich who are politicians has increased.
Phillips' greatest moral and political anxiety is that extreme wealth infiltrates and undermines democracy. Courts and the Senate were dominated by economic interests at the end of the 19th century. The same thing happened in the twenties. Today it is much worse. Three-quarters of political campaign contributions in presidential and congressional elections come from families with an annual income over $200,000. The alarming decline of election participation goes back to the voting abstinence of the lower income groups. In this environment, tax relief not surprisingly favors the receivers of high incomes. In addition, extreme inequalities exist in the educational system. A few super-rich dominate in the mass media. Phillips takes aim at the growing political power of unelected office holders in the federal courts and the Federal Reserve Bank as examples. The power of institutions outside the election process has led to the loss of national sovereignty in the theoretical sense of democracy.
On this background, Phillips doesn't exclude that the American voting public will be "radicalized" again sometime or other, though not in the sense of the class struggle. However an elite forms in this supposedly egalitarian society that has excessive political influence and can bequeath its wealth unhindered to its descendents. Cutting these elites down to size by property taxes and the like is part of American tradition. This occurred under Franklin D. Roosevelt in the New Deal. On the other hand, Phillips fears that the power of money, Wall-Street power and Wall-Street values have entrenched themselves structurally this time so that resistance in the historical sense is hardly possible.
b) The Global Super-Rich
A group of British political commentators (Beaverstock et.al, http://www.lboro.ac.uk/gawc/rb/rb93.html) asks: "Are They Getting Away With It?" That little group of "high net-worth individuals is targeted who together have more financial resources than the bottom three-fifths of the world population. Investigation of the role of the power- and knowledge elites promoting the hegemony of the capitalist world system is still only beginning. Sklair (1997) emphasizes the following groups: CEOs of transnational corporations and their local investors, globalizing bureaucrats, globalizing politicians, experts and elites in consumption (trade and media)...
Who are these cosmopolitan, hegemonialized, highly privileged service classes? The authors insist that the decisive "class distinctions" must be between a super-rich elite on one side and the rest of the world on the other side..
The global managers look after movement in the globalization process and guide the capital flows through the networks of the global economy. The super-rich move in very different dimensions and completely overshadow the first group with their financial power... In the long term, social and economic policies could check the excessive wealth, arbitrariness, wastefulness and extravagance of the super-rich to benefit a socially more just world.
c) Privatization of Warfare
The plutocracy is militarizing itself. Leslie Wayne reports in the New York Times under the title "Private contractors step in for Pentagon) how a very old war praxis is refurbished in the Pentagon with the war against terror and the possible new Iraq war in hiring mercenaries. Today they are called "private military contractors". Some of these mercenary firms are subcontractors of corporations from the Fortune 500 list. "The Pentagon cannot wage war without them" according to Wayne. Often they are directed by pensioned officers, three- and four-star generals. "Private military contractors are the new social face of the war." They blur the dividing line between the military and civilian areas and supply everything from logistic support to combat training and military consultation at home and abroad.
These private entrepreneurs carry out military contracts in the dark corners of the world where the pentagon doesn't like to be seen. They send their people to Bosnia, Nigeria, Macedonia, Colombia and other focal points. Profit motivates them more than politics or policy. Nevertheless these businesses - approximately 35 in number in the US - need government permission for their activity. Some have relatively well-known names like Kellogg Brown Root, a subcontractor of Halliburton Co. active for the US government in Cuba and Central Asia. Others have names that are less well-known: Dyn-Corp Inc., Vinnell, a subcontractor of TRW Inc., SAIC, ICI of Oregon, Logicon Inc., a division of Northrop Grumman Corp. One of the best-known businesses MPRI boasts of "having more generals per square foot than the Pentagon"...
d) Wall Street and the Pentagon
The privatization of warfare is connected with the militarization of the globalization process that on its side is defined by the privatization principle. Right after the attacks of September 11, Thomas P.M. Barnettt, professor of military analysis at the US Naval War College, pleaded for increased dialogue between Wall Street and the Pentagon, according to Mark Siemon's report in the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung. Rising to advisor of the Defense Department, Barnett sees "the mission of the American military in closing the gap between the countries joined to the international financial streams and the rest. All regions not allied with the globalization dominated by the American economy represent a clear security risk and a case for `our armed services'."
Thus the US-American military-industrial complex assumes the global role of a "full time Leviathan" (Barnett). Still there are dissenting voices in the American establishment. One director of the Council of Foreign Relations, Robert Orr, urged that a civilian force govern after the end of the Iraq war. (19) Isn't the military itself mutating into the private army of Wall Street? Can it become "civilized" in a completely perverse sense through assumption of this civilian function?...
In the new post-war scenarios, this privatization may extend to police- and surveillance functions with enormous profit opportunities. This is also true for other post-war functions identified by Orr, the creation of paid-work possibilities for the civilian population, the attraction of experts for the reconstruction from the US itself (in the form of re-migrants). Stunned and helpless Europeans faced the global effects of this privatization wave of public functions starting from the US. There is no Marshall plan; militant market plans follow the militarist practices.
Actors of the New Wars
a) A systematic of the power elites
A taxonomy of the power elites in the globalization process is still in its infancy and faces great empirical and theoretical problems. The empirical "nature" of these groups is not operating under publically accessible conditions. Considering the entanglement of class theory in the modernization trap, making class struggle knowledge fruitful for "post-modern" conditions is difficult. Still the actors of the new wars can be concretely identified. Four groups can be distinguished in four concentric circles.
1. The super-rich, the innermost core: this group of billionaires (400 in the US and 2000 worldwide plus a much larger group of asset holders) is supported by the mass media through mythization and trivialization. Their influence on politics, culture and science is partly well-known in Rupert Murdoch and George Soros... The power of "old money" condenses into a genuine plutocracy in the US... with trans-capitalist forms of "capital destruction" to prevent power competition... Only this group is sovereign!
2. The CEO complex (20), the first ring around the super-rich. The chief executive officers from industry and finance are focused on increasing and managing the assets of the super-rich... In 1960 Dwight D. Eisenhower warned: "The connection of an enormous military establishment with a powerful armament industry is a new phenomenon in America's history. The economic, political and intellectual influence can be felt in every city, every state and every government office." (21)
In the sixties there were protests against the military-industrial complex. In the seventies after the Vietnam defeat, protest was perfected. In the nineties protest was electronically upgraded. Now there is no holding them back any more. This group of corporate elites can be understood as a capitalist class in which capital groups play a role.
3. The political class forms the second ring around the core of "private wealth". This service class is responsible for social consensus and maintaining an appearance of distributive justice. Other groups occupied with politics include lobbyists, association functionaries, spokespersons, lawyers, political officials and media people.
"Globalizing bureaucrats, globalizing politicians and globalizing professionals" come with the globalization process (Sklair 1997). Above these groups are structures that C. Wright Mills described as the "political directorate" of US society. In the meantime a "Unified Global Command" (Hardt/ Negri) has emerged. Mills' old description is still structurally valid. The directorate consists of a small group of men who make the executive decisions, the president, vice-president, cabinet members, the heads of the most important ministries, agencies and commissions as well as members of the advisory staff of the president. Ultimately the election campaigns only involve the filling of these positions. Conflicts of interests between the different groups of the money- and power elite are fought to the death.
4. The class of technocrats and service providers is the outer ring. This host of advisors, experts and workers from all areas of society (science, media, culture, technology and so fort6h) is in the millions. Globalization-critical intellectuals also move in this class and meet their opponents from the "think tank class". Here the rank and file of the foundations operate, the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, the spokespersons of the NGOs and the hordes of media workers. The term "directorate" may have a more fleeting character here than in the political system. In this group, exact knowledge about the functioning of the capitalist world system and its subsystems mixes with critical and partly subversive tendencies allowing contradictions to harden.
b) War elites in the globalization process
Within the structure of the power elites, certain groups of CEOs, the military, politicians, members of a "nationalistic think tank class" (Lieven), communications- and weapons experts and "ultra-high net worth individuals" (Beaverstock et.al) can be identified. They offensively pursue the war business inside and outside politically fixed and fluid structures. Paul Krugman says of the Bush administration: "This administration has martial plans, not a Marshall plan: billions for the offensive and not a cent for rebuilding". (22, These American statesmen prefer the martial plan, International Herald Tribune, February 22, 2003).
The Bush administration can be described as an elite war "micro-network" (Beaverstock et.al.) with CEOs, ex-members of the "political directorate" of the USA, purchasable members of the political class like John Major, Saudi-Arabian potentates and other billionaires. I think especially of the Carlyle Group, an international investment group active in the arms business and the oil business. (23)
The "Fourth World War" will be the greatest "business opportunity" of all times. Former top politicians, Washington insiders and so forth unscrupulously enrich themselves in the war against terrorism. These businesses will also make George W. Bush into a billionaire in a very simple way through inheritance. His father is the strategic head of the Carlyle group. He made his former secretary of defense Frank Carlucci the CEO of the company, his former secretary of state James Baker into the top advisor and his former director of the budget in the White House into the managing director. Alongside John Major, Carlyle chairman for Europe, is the former president of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos as Carlyle chairman for Asia and so forth.
"It is hard to imagine an address that is closer to the heart of American power. The offices of the Carlyle Group are on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., half-way between the White House and the capitol, a stone's throw from the FBI headquarters and numerous government agencies. This address mirrors the role of Carlyle in the heart of the Washington establishment. This firm worth $13.5 billion according to unofficial estimates has gained importance since the beginning of the "war against terrorism"... Carlyle was entangled in very curious ways in the backgrounds of terrorism. The family of Osama bin Laden was one of the multi-millionaires who invested in this enterprise. With the approval of the Bush administration, 24 members of the bin Laden family were flown out of the US on a Saudi-Arabian jet after September 11 to evade questioning by the FBI. (26). Michael Moore, the director of "Bowling for Columbine" and author of the devastating Bush criticism "Stupid White Men" announced his next documentary film will be devoted to this micro-billionaire-network, the Bush-bin-Laden connection.
Figures like Silvio Berlusconi and lawyers like Jose Maria Aznar and Tony Blair romp around in this corrupt network. Their megalomaniac ambition clearly transcends the structures within which they arose. Blair and Aznar after withdrawing from politics are rumored for director positions with Carlyle. Although the international corruption is manifest, all these domestic servants like Bush pull out the national map on the media stage. All this happens under the conditions of a monopolistic control of communication allowing people like Rupert Murdoch to impudently and brazenly trumpet their support of the US attack on Iraq. (27)
How all this is connected beyond the external plane is a question to many disciplines, a process of "cognitive mapping" (Frederic Jameson) of the globalization process. Franz Neumann's analysis of the structures of the national socialist rule system published in the US in 1942 under the title "Behemoth" showed the America of the New Deal that the formation of mammoth monopolies, bureaucratization of all areas, influencing the parliamentary system by career politicians and politization of the military were the presuppositions for the genesis of the national-socialist system in Germany.
At that time American intellectuals had to face the question whether or not a similar constellation existed in the New Deal during the War. The new teamwork of the top brass of big industry and Washington bureaucracy with a new class of career politicians and "political generals" aroused mistrust after the end of the war. The sociologist C. Wright Mills emphasized these fears in his famous book The Power Elite (1956). In the US a power elite "arose out of men of the economy, politics and the military" that represented "something new in the political system of the US". The Power Structure Research keeps open the question of the possibility of fascism. German national socialism was a special horror within the fascist way of development of the modern age. However fascist rule patters were in no way a matter of the past but a permanent potential of so-called modern societies based on unscrupulous corruption and complete control of communication.
We face a post-modern global fascism marked by the virtuality of the "global space of flows" or as Canadian writers Arthur Kroker and Michael Weinstein said in 1995: a "retro-fascism" produced by "pan-capitalism". Reality has overtaken the virtuality in a certain way. "This is the material situation: over-indebtedness crises lead to trade wars and to something very new: pan capitalism and its inevitable murderous alternative - fascism. This capitalism must resist fascism without the help of socialism. This is the political-economic conflict of the present, permeated at every point by the process of virtualization. Is there a virtual fascism? Pan capitalism that starts up virtualization produces a murderous double with effective fascism. "We are confronted with fictions, for example with a `fictional president' as Michael Moore said at the Oscar awards.
An interplay of private wealth with "directorates" from the corporate world, politics, military, culture and so forth condenses today in a black hole, a center of gravity of power that threatens to absorb the institutions of democracy and the checks and balances of civil society with sinister force not only in the US. The corrupted nationalists around Bush and their partners in Europe and worldwide are on a path of development that to speak with Al Pacino recalls Arturo Ui. (29). The dupery attempts are no longer directed at a particular city like Chicago or Munich or to a particular country. They refer to the global space altogether and ultimately to world history. The US-American and European movements against offensive wars and private pillage meet. This new dimension must be defined positively as the new world of the cultures of globalization.
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