Monday, October 24, 2011

Imperialism and Democracy: White House or Liberty Square?

By James Petras

"Introduction: The relation between imperialism and democracy has been debated and discussed over 2500 years, from fifth century Athens to Liberty Park in Manhattan. Contemporary critics of imperialism (and capitalism) claim to find a fundamental incompatibility, citing the growing police state measures accompanying colonial wars, from Clinton’s anti-terrorist laws, and Bush’s “Patriot Act” to Obama’s ordering the extrajudicial assassination of overseas US citizens.....

We have argued that empire and democracy have been complementary in times of ascendant imperialism. We have shown that when wars of conquest have been short and inexpensive, and when the results have been lucrative for capital and job-creating for labor the democratic majorities joined in support of imperial elites. Democratic institutions flourished when overseas empires provided markets, cheap resources and raised living standards. Workers voted for imperial parties, held positive opinions of executive and legislative officials, and applauded the colonial war veterans (our troops). Some even volunteered and joined the military. With vast citizen support for empire, the state more or less ‘abided’ by the constitutional guarantees. But the marriage of democracy and imperialism is not ‘structural’. It is contingent on a series of variable conditions, which can cause a profound rupture between the two, as we are witnessing today.....

The present danger is that imperial structures are deeply embedded in all the key political institutions and are backed by an unprecedented vast and sprawling police state apparatus, called Homeland Security. Perhaps it will take a major external political-military shock to ignite the kind of mass democratic uprising needed to transform an imperial police state into a democratic republic. A growing sense of isolation and impotence affects the ruling regime in the face of overseas military defeats and unyielding, deepening domestic economic crisis. The danger is that these fears and frustrations could induce the White House to attempt to regain popular support by attacking Iran under a manufactured pretext. A US/Israeli assault on Iran will result in a world-wide conflagration. Iran could and would retaliate. Saudi and Gulf oil wells would go up in flames. Vital shipping lanes would be blocked. Gas prices would skyrocket while Asian, EU and US economies crash. Iranian troops with their Iraqi allies would lay siege to the US garrisons in Baghdad. Afghanistan, Pakistan and the rest of the Moslem world will take up arms. US forces would surrender or retreat. The war would shatter the US Treasury. Deficits would spiral out of control. Unemployment would double. This likely sequence of events would trigger a massive democratic movement and a decisive struggle between an emerging republic struggling to give birth and a decaying empire threatening to drag the world into the inferno of its own demise. "

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