American imperialism, a major factor in capitalist chaos

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As Russian troops poured into Ukraine, President Biden, in his speech on February 24, stated that “Putin has committed an attack against the very principles which protect world peace.” The world is thus confronted with the tragedy of a new war due to the due to the madness of a single man. This propaganda, presenting Ukraine and the "Westerners” as victims working only for "peace", is a lie.

In reality, this murderous conflict is a pure product of the contradictions of a capitalist world in crisis, of a society rotting on its feet and subject to the reign of militarism. The current war, like all wars in the decadence of capitalism, is the result of a permanent imperialist balance of power, affecting all the protagonists, small or large, whether they are directly or indirectly involved in this conflict[1]. In the cynical struggle within this planetary bucket of crabs, the United States is, as the only superpower, at the forefront of the barbarism, not hesitating to propagate chaos and misery to defend its sordid interests and to slow down the inevitable decline of its leadership.

Maintaining NATO, the Gulf War: the bringing to heel of the ex-allies after the Cold War

After the Cold War, in parallel with their desire to keep a grip on its former allies in the Western bloc, the United States never abandoned their strategy of absorbing the countries that had been part of the bloc led by the USSR. Thus, as early as 15 February 1991, the Visegrad Group was formed, composed of former Eastern European countries (Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia), in order to promote their integration into NATO and Europe. Such pressure led the European powers to express their great concern not to "humiliate Russia". This tone already revealed a latent challenge towards the United States.

While the collapse of the Berlin Wall symbolically announced the end of the Cold War, a new war, the first Gulf War, initiated by the United States[2], would foreshadow the chaos of the century to come. Far from being a "war for oil", it was a question of American power, following the bankruptcy of the common enemy (the USSR), putting pressure directly on its most powerful ex-allies, in order to keep them under its yoke by dragging them into this barbaric military adventure.

As the world had ceased to be divided into two disciplined imperialist camps, a country like Iraq thought it possible to take over a former ally of the same bloc, Kuwait. The United States, at the head of a coalition of 35 countries, launched a deadly offensive aimed at discouraging any future temptation to imitate the actions of Saddam Hussein.

Thus, the operation "Desert Storm", undertaken by an "international coalition" against Iraq, was in reality an exercise of American imperialism intended to "bring to heel" their former allies who might challenge its leadership, by asserting itself as the only "world policeman". All this at the cost of several hundred thousand deaths.

Of course, the victory of President Bush Sr, which promised "peace, prosperity and democracy" would not sustain the illusion for very long. The apparent stability, won at the price of iron and blood, was momentary, confirming the United States as the "world's policeman", but containing the seeds of growing contradictions and tensions.

Yugoslavia: a permanent struggle against the decline of American leadership

If the Gulf War had momentarily stifled the first attempts at open opposition to the American policy, they were then expressed soon after, notably with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia (from 1991 to 2001). In the early 1990s, the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl, pushing and supporting the independence of Croatia and Slovenia in order to give Germany access to the Mediterranean, was in direct opposition to the American power, but also to the interests of France and the United Kingdom. Through its bold initiatives, Germany initiated the process that would lead to the explosion of Yugoslavia.

Faced with the open challenge to their authority, the United States did not stand idle. As early as the summer of 1995, it launched a vast counter offensive, relying on its major asset: military power. The United States got its own armed force, the Implementation Force (IFOR) by ousting the UN and European troops, thus showing its overwhelming superiority and its impressive logistics. This demonstration of force, diplomatically piloted under the authority of Bill Clinton, compelled the Europeans, in November 1995, to sign the Dayton Agreement. Here again, the conflict left thousands of victims.

Of course, these agreements, signed under conditions imposed by the United States, through the pressure of arms and of an aggressive diplomacy, playing especially on the divisions between the European states, continued to be sabotaged by these same states. Germany, for example, never stopped putting the brakes on the wheels of the United States in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia, and it also favoured diplomatic rapprochements that tended to anger Washington, concretised especially by its links with the Turkish and Iranian chancelleries.

Even in the Middle East, a traditional preserve of Uncle Sam, European rivals have gradually been able to hinder the American policy. Such a challenge also reached the United States' most loyal lieutenants, starting with Israel, especially after Netanyahu took power in 1996, when the White House was banking on Labour’s Shimon Peres. Likewise, Saudi Arabia more and more openly displayed its resistance to American diktats in the region.

Successive setbacks for Uncle Sam arrived only a few months after its successful counter-offensive in the former Yugoslavia. In all the strategic zones of the planet, American interests were thwarted more and more. Faced with the growing development of every man for himself, the ICC wrote:

"In some respects, even if the United States, thanks to its economic and financial power, a strength that the leader of the Eastern bloc never had, a parallel can be drawn between the current situation of the United States and that of the situation of the defunct USSR in the days of the Eastern bloc. Like the USSR, they have nothing to preserve their domination but the repeated use of brute force and this always expresses a historic weakness. This exacerbation of the ‘every man for himself’ and the impasse in which the ‘world policeman’ finds itself is but a reflection of the historical impasse of the capitalist mode of production. In this context, the imperialist tensions between the great powers can only escalate, bringing destruction and death on ever larger areas of the planet and further aggravate the appalling chaos which is already the lot of entire continents"[3]

Afghanistan, Iraq: The United States' headlong rush into chaos

At the dawn of the new century, what we declared in the mid-1990s had largely been confirmed. The United States was even to be hit for the first time in its history on its own soil during the deadly attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York. The horrific and symbolic collapse of the Twin Towers marked a new dimension in the development of capitalist horror and chaos. But these attacks also represented for the United States an excellent opportunity to defend its imperialist interests with a rush to war. Here again, American policy was going to engage more and more in massive retaliation and murderous military operations to try to attempt to maintain its authority, in the name of the "fight against terrorism". The administration of George W. Bush Junior's, with its armed forces, quickly launched air strikes against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, an undertaking supported at the time by its former allies.

But very quickly, the new crusade envisaged by Washington, in Iraq, against the "Axis of Evil", was to be the object of virulent and growing criticism. In 2003, encouraging the propagation of false information about Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction”, in order to rally the support of his population and that of his former partners, the United States found itself increasingly isolated in its new war operation[4]. France, this time, openly defied the United States, even using its right of veto in the UN Security Council.

Supposed to eliminate terrorism and halt the decline of American leadership, this new show of force instead opened a Pandora’s Box, and the attacks that were to follow over the world could only underline the irrationality of these military undertakings which, in reality, fed this same infernal spiral, increasing the contestation, chaos and barbarism.

The United States also continued its determined policy towards the East, with the trips of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to promote “change" and "democracy". Her work would bear fruit. By 2003, American imperialism was clearly advancing its pawns in the Caucasus by supporting the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia, which was to precipitate the ousting of the pro-Russian Shevardnadze and replaced him with a pro-American clique. The "Tulip Revolution" in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 was also part of the same strategy. Russia's centrepiece, Ukraine was already in the grip of political tensions. With respect to the "Orange Revolution" of 2004, like that of 2014, the major issue was not about a so-called "struggle for democracy", but a strategic objective in the games of NATO and the great powers to gain influence[5].

But massive military force and the growing use of arms would not enable American imperialism to eradicate the challenge to their leadership. Far from ensuring "peace and prosperity", the United States has become bogged down in all the major strategic points that it sought to stabilise and defend for its own benefit.

The American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 further accentuated the development of every man for himself, the same year that the civil war in Syria contributed to the explosion of chaos in a region of the world that had become totally uncontrollable. The withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 has also been accompanied by an irresolvable disorder, bringing the Taliban to power. Each of these operations, designed to impose the "order" of the Pax Americana, has only reinforced the chaos and barbarism, forcing the United States to continue its military rampages.

"Strategic pivot" towards Asia, war in Ukraine: a new stage in world-wide chaos

These failures alone are not the reason for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan[6]. Indeed, in 2011, matching words with actions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the adoption of a "strategic pivot to Asia". Far from a supposed "disengagement" from world affairs, this political orientation of Barack Obama's mandate was taken forward by Donald Trump with the slogan "America First". While, in the past, China occupied a secondary position in the world arena, it has gradually taken on the character of a true challenger, worrying and threatening more and more openly an American bourgeoisie which is determined to maintain its status as world leader. Faced with the rise in power of China, the objective was clearly announced: "to place Asia at the heart of American policy," which the faction around Joe Biden has had to pursue and strengthen. But far from having "deserted" the other major hot spots, this repositioning gave a new breath of life to American imperialism. The impression of "disengagement” led some of the USA’s rivals to embark on imperialist ventures of their own, where Uncle Sam was no longer present. Many, like Russia, are paying a high price for this underestimation! By sending its troops forth in a ridiculous military invasion of Ukraine, Russia was planning to weaken the chokehold which is now suffocating it more and more. It thus fell into a trap set by the American bourgeoisie[7]. In reality, the American disengagement from Afghanistan corresponds to a global vision, a longer term view, dictated by the desire to contain China, which has become a major imperialist power threatening its vital interests. As a result, the current offensive of the United States, through the pressure it is exerting on European countries, through Ukraine’s spectacular counter-offensive following from the sophisticated logistical and material support, or the maintenance of diplomatic pressure on Iran (regarding the nuclear programme) and on the African continent with the trips of its chief diplomat Antony Blinken in the face of the appetites of Russia and China, are all part of America’s fight against the historical decline of its leadership.

By thwarting China's "silk roads" to Europe through the war in Ukraine and by further control of the maritime routes of the South Pacific, the United States has succeeded, for the time being, in forcing China to expand its ambitions only by land and within a limited sphere. Aware that China is far from being able to match its military power, the United States aims to capitalise on this weakness, to maintain the pressure and even to allow itself to engage in provocations like the very political and symbolic trip to Taiwan by Democrat Nancy Pelosi. This unprecedented affront, revealing China's relative powerlessness, may be repeated in the future, perhaps pushing Beijing into dangerous military adventures.

From these developments linked to the efforts of American imperialism, we may draw some lessons:

- far from being based on rational factors or even on the simple search for immediate economic profit, the motive for the action of American imperialism, like that of all the other great powers, is to defend its position in a world that is becoming more and more chaotic, thus reinforcing the grip of chaos and destruction;

- in order to ensure this increasingly irrational objective, the United States does not hesitate to sow chaos in Europe, as we can see with the trap set for Russia, the sophisticated weapons and military aid it is giving to Ukraine to keep the war going in order to exhaust its Russian rival;

- to defend its position, the only reliable force is plain to see: that of arms. This is what is shown by Uncle Sam’s whole journey in recent decades, in which it has become the spearhead of militarism, every man for himself and warlike chaos. Already, we are experiencing the greatest chaos in the history of human societies.

In its ultimate phase of decomposition, capitalism plunges the world into barbarism and leads inexorably towards mass devastation. This terrible situation and the horror brought to everyday life show us how much is at stake and how much responsibility the world working class bears. Today, the survival of the human species is at stake.



[1] For more explanation see Militarism and Decomposition (May 2022), International Review 168

[2] See War in the Gulf: Capitalist massacres and chaos, International Review 65 (1992)

[4] Apart from Britain's support, no major military power participated in this conflict alongside American troops.

[5] The masses who supported Viktor Yushchenko or lined up behind Viktor Yanukovych, were mere pawns, manipulated and lined up behind one or other of the rival bourgeois factions on behalf of this or that imperialist orientation.

[6] Moreover, as demonstrated by the assassination of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri on July 31, 2022, the United States has by no means given up on influencing the situation in that country.

The claims of the USA to be the standard bearer of peace and a rule-based world order are nothing but lies to hide its real imperialist designs.[7]  See The significance and impact of the war in Ukraine, International Review 168



Imperialist rivalries