From Hemispheric Police to Global Managers

September 25, 2007

With the end of World War II dawned what Time magazine called the American Century. Europe and Japan a bombed-out shambles, the United States emerged from the war a strapping giant of a power, and quickly maneuvered itself and its dollar to the center of a radically altered world power structure. This new position brought new responsibili- ties. The United States became the protector of the capitalist order and the imposer of a new sta- bility. The chief threat was seen as the anti- capitalist Soviet Union, with its new sphere of influence in Europe and the growing potential to challenge U.S. global power militarily. Another threat was the stirring in the col- onies, as they strove to take advantage of the power shift to press for greater self-determina- tion. The United States encouraged decoloniza- tion to facilitate its own access to these markets, but was determined to control the process. At the beginning of this century, President Theodore Roosevelt, in his blunt style, had defined the already existing relationship bet- ween the United States and its hemispheric third world neighbors: the United States had the right to exercise "international police power" to pre- vent "chronic wrongdoing or impotence."* With its new postwar responsibilities, the United States' role as hemispheric policeman extended to the entire world. The countries of Latin America, though not in an institutional sense colonies of the United States, shared the anti-imperialist sentiment that accompanied the independence movements in Asia and Africa. To cloak its domination of supposedly independent countries (Puerto Rico, Panama Canal, etc. excepted), the United States had assisted the elites in these countries to politically and militarily consolidate their own internal class rule. "Stability" was assured less through direct military intervention and more through the use of U.S. trained and supplied domestic standing armies. Economic dependence was nurtured through unequal terms of trade, investment and lending policies and the control of modern technology.**Suffer- *By the time of Roosevelt's corollary to the Monroe Doc- trine, the United States had intervened militarily in Latin America and the Caribbean more than 50 times. By the in- vasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, that number had nearly doubled. **U.S. investments in Latin America in 1965-$10 billion -were higher than in any other region of the world. (Lieuwen, U S. Policy in Latin America) b4~ 2 NACLA ReportJulylAugust 3 ing an almost total political and economic de- pendence on the northern giant, their skewed distribution of wealth, distorted economies and appalling rates of illiteracy and infant mortality made such distinctions between Latin America and the colonies of Africa and Asia virtually semantic. I helped make Mexico and especially Tam- pico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a de- cent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in.... I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916 [occu- pied officially until 1924, unoffically until 1934]. I helped make Honduras 'right' for American fruit companies in 1903.... -Major General Smedley D. Butler, United States Marine Corps. Intervention with a Touch of Subtlety To institutionalize U.S presence in the region, multi-country mechanisms of coordina- tion and control were set up, ranging from the Organization of American States (OAS), founded in 1948, to regional common markets and joint military pacts. All functioned in the shadow of U.S. influence. This institutionalization has produced a pre- dictable dialectic. It has reduced the frequency with which the United States must resort to "Big Stick" or "Gunboat" diplomacy, by providing more elaborate options for political maneuver. Conversely, the uses made of that presence have contributed mightily to the growth of nationalist and revolutionary movements which threaten the continued potency of those very institutions. Though the Latin American revolutionary movements in the early postwar decades were often nationalist or populist in character (Arbenz in Guatemala, Goulart in Brazil, Peron in Argentina), they were refracted in the United States through the prism of cold war anti- communism. To U.S. policy makers, the world appeared as a bipolar clash of forces with the United States and its allies on one side and the communist world on the other. This world view produced the conclusion that if a country was not securely bound to one camp it must be in cahoots with the other. Such a vision permitted no subtle complexities. It also, ironically, forced precisely that choice on the struggling nations, by sabotaging the possibility of genuine non- alignment. The Sino-Soviet split in 1961 and the resur- gence of European and Japanese capital made the bi-polar analysis less and less useful. It was inadequate to explain the inexorable growth of third world nationalism (over 100 newly inde- pendent nations have joined the United Nations since its founding in 1945), much less the con- comitant rise of the Non-Aligned Movement. But the loss of ideological justification in no way lessened the objective of the United States to preserve its hegemony in the unruly third world, particularly Latin America. Hence the seeming contradiction of opening trade rela- tions with China and the Soviet Union while undermining Allende's Chile. To contain or eliminate opposition to imperi- alist rule in these countries, any of the prevailing means of intervention may be brought to bear. The assessed demands of the situation, political acceptability at home and abroad, and the stra- tegic leanings of a given administration all play a part in determining the scope and nature of the response. The particular mix of these factors led in their turn to the use of puppet invaders in Guatemala (1954) and Cuba (1961), Marines in the Dominican Republic (1965), economic destabilization and the CIA in Chile (1973), IMF "stabilization" in Jamaica (1977-80), fail- ed back room bargaining and appeals to the OAS in Nicaragua (1979) and, thus far, military advisers and a flood of aid in El Salvador (1981). The Short-lived Century Today, the American Century is in trouble. The world no longer resembles that of the 1950s, for which the instruments of U.S. dominance were designed. As Ronald Reagan himself has acknowledged, the United States is in crisis. The toll has been high at the locus of U.S. government power. Each year recently elected members of Congress retire, overwhelmed by their powerlessness, and longstanding members are defeated. No president since 1960 has served two full terms of office. The crudity of Reagan's rhetoric and, in part, JulylAugust 34 NACLA Report the very fact of his election, are measures of the crisis. There is, in the current view, little time for subtle intervention. The empire is at stake, not only in Latin America but throughout the world. The American people and their political system have destroyed every president but one since Dwight Eisenhower because U.S. leaders failed to discover a foreign policy that reconciled national ambition and re- sponsibility with the constraints of an evolving international system. Only assas- sination saved President Kennedy from a similar fate. -Michael Harrison, Associate Professor of European Studies, Johns Hopkins University The Vietnam war is the touchstone of the crisis. It produced massive protests against the U.S. role of international policeman and shat- tered the bipartisan elite consensus about its foreign policy. Financed by public debt, the war fueled the inflation and recession from which there is still no respite. To control the crisis, Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, had to come to terms with a changing world. A new rapprochement with the Soviet Union was achieved and deals were renegotiated to guar- antee U.S. spheres of influence. China was rec- ognized. In an effort to put the economic crisis on the shoulders of its allies, the U.S. Govern- ment unilaterally suspended the Bretton Woods Agreements which had governed international currency and trade. Nixon acknowledged Vietnam was unwin- nable and withdrew U.S. troops, relying instead on the local army and continuing U.S. military supplies. While that decision failed to "save" Vietnam, similar action brought Uruguay, Chile, and, later, Argentina back under control. With the stakes so high and events running well ahead of control, abuses of power reached visible new proportions: burglaries inspired by government officials, repression of dissidents, the systematic subversion of opposition movements, Watergate, political trials, Cointel- pro (the FBI's counter-intelligence program). The general crisis only deepened with the oil embargo of 1973 and Nixon's fall from power in 1974. Trade rivalry among the western powers grew more fierce, ignited by Nixon's unex- pected suspension of the Bretton Woods Agree- ments. David Rockefeller, then chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, responding to the economic repercussions of the Bretton Woods suspen- sions, brought together a group of "influentials and intellectuals" in 1973 to discuss the crisis. They would develop a more comprehensive plan while Henry Kissinger, providing con- tinuity for the caretaker government of Gerald Ford, struggled with the new realities on a day to day basis. Under Rockefeller's tutelage, a super-elite and supra-national organization called the Tri- lateral Commission was formed, composed of business leaders, professionals, academics and politicians from the United States, Canada, Japan and Western Europe (Britain, France, West Germany and Italy). There was little dis- agreement that the political and economic crisis was the worst since the Great Depression. Over the course of several years, the Commission's scholars-directed initially by Zbigniew Brzezinski, later to be Jimmy Carter's national security adviser-addressed the major problems facing the capitalist world.' They tried desper- ately to find a way to solve the mystery of stagfla- tion and restabilize the international monetary system. They also were concerned that the de- clining U.S. economy was threatening the mechanisms of control of the working class which had averted serious conflict for thirty years-a concern shared as well by other coun- tries. They tackled the increasingly destructive rivalry among the major capitalist nations, the new oil cartel and the economic and political challenge from the socialist bloc and third world movements. Who's Making Policy? Elite planning through private commissions, research institutes and special governmental committees was not initiated with the Trilateral Commission. It has become the principal mode through which the distinct interest groups, or factions, of the U.S. ruling class present and debate various positions and proposals, with the prospect of molding sufficient coherence and consensus to be able to unify behind candidates, provide blueprints for developing policy and in- 4 NACLAReportJulylAugust 5 fluence legislation and diplomacy. 3 The complexity and pressure of both foreign and domestic issues have encouraged the growth of institutes, or "think tanks," and strengthened their role as forums in which new ideas can be "dispassionately" studied and analyzed. Ulti- mately, they are an early link in the chain of in- stitutions whose role is to legitimize ruling class strategy. The think tanks prepare studies, generally paid for by foundations representing the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country. They hold seminars to which they in- vite "opinion leaders" like journalists, academics, professionals. They publish their findings in journals, permitting a wider dissemination of their ideas and encouraging public debate. Some critics of both the left and right view these institutions as conspiracies and cabals. They are not. Disagreements exist, often quite heated. Most operate in a quasi-public manner and superficially are as sinister as a tea party. Their task, by definition, is a difficult one. The debate among special interests and the shaping of a coherent ruling class strategy out of this debate all must be articulated within a political system which resolutely hides the existence of that ruling class under the cloak of "democracy" and "national interest.'"4 But a ruling class there is. It is composed of' the major stockholders, corporate managers and bankers who control the means of creating the wealth of the society (and, in some cases, of numerous other societies as well). Allied with them are those at the top of the professional and political structures who shape the rules and con- sciousness by which the system is run. Their dif- ferent special interests-at bottom economic, but often taking a political, social or even re- gional form-are not necessarily competitive. On occasion, however, they are profoundly so. What is good for the apparel industry in New York (say, cheap immigrant labor) may not be of interest to a politician representing the defense establishment in southern California. Or what's acceptable to the international oil industry (ris- ing consumer fuel prices, for example) can be anathema to the National Retailers' Associa- tion. Thus, these interests become coalesced in- to temporary or permanent blocs which argue and negotiate among themselves. Ultimately, the agreements that result must unite enough of them to guarantee the rule of the entire class. Since World War II, this process has increas- ingly been presided over by those representing the interests of the giant transnational banks and corporations. Their most important planning center for foreign policy has been the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, which publishes the journal, Foreign Affairs. Other key centers in- clude Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, with its journal, Foreign Policy; the Atlan- tic Council, which publishes Atlantic Community Quarterly, and, in more recent years, George- town University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, whose publication is the Washington Quarterly. Dealing with contradictions and con- flicts is a tricky business, and if foreign policy objectives are to succeed, there has to be a global view of the world and an un- derlying steadiness and coherence to foreign policy. -Thomas Hughes, President of the Carnegie En- dowment for International Peace, 1978 When the Trilateral Commission was formed in 1973, its U.S. con.ponent drew heavily from the membership of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), although other institutes were represented as well. CFR trilateralists included Kissinger, Brzezinski, George Bush, Lane Kirk- land and Cyrus Vance.* 5 Trilateral Solutions Recognizing that the "world of separate na- tions" was becoming an anachronistic concept, the Trilateral Commission's aims were "to nur- ture habits and practices of working together" among the political and economic elites and governments of the United States, Western Europe, Japan and Canada. Hoping that detente would curb what they saw as Soviet ag- gression, the Commission emphasized the new- er and touchier north-south issues over tra- ditional east-west ones, brought home by the *Another international body, the Bilderberg Group, formed in the early postwar period, is also very important. It is an annual private meeting of some of the world's poli- tical and business leaders, many of them now in the Trilateral Commission. Members deny its existence. Memos and papers prepared for meetings are marked per- sonal and confidential. JulylAugust 56 NACLA Report struggle over OPEC oil. Over them all it cast the net of a single global economy. The concept put forward by these enlightened prophets of the brave new universe was that the Commission's member nations "remain the vital center of management, finance and technology...for a world economy which [in Brzezinski's words] would 'embrace' and 'coopt' the third world and gradually reintegrate the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China."6 In this new collec- tive management scheme, the United States would be first among equals. The public and leaders of most countries continue to live in a mental universe which no longer existe-a world of separate na- tions-and have great difficulties thinking in terms of global perspectives and in- terdependence. -Trilateral Commission Task Force Report, "Toward a Renovated International System," January, 1977 The policy suggestions and programs that the Commission evolved became a kind of creed for those "whose locus of power is the multinational corporation," and became the master plan of the Carter Administration. 7 Carter and Trilateralism Jimmy Carter was offered as a candidate to clean up the mess Nixon had left behind. His pietistic honesty was to wipe away the corrup- tion of Watergate and, after Vietnam, Chile and Angola, to refurbish the U.S. image abroad. In an era of great doubt and uncertainty, he had to define and implement new strategies that would protect and extend U.S. capitalist interests. Twenty-six members of the Trilateral Com- mission served in the Carter Administration, in- cluding President Carter himself. 8 Their ideas affected domestic, economic, social and foreign policy. As regards the latter, there were unusual constraints. In the revulsion against Vietnam and Chile, Congress had already limited the use of many of the weapons that had maintained U.S. predominance since World War II. The Central Intelligence Agency-that sower of in- stability and toppler of governments-now had to abide by a charter; many of its senior agents were purged. A law was passed cutting off assis- tance to guerrillas opposing the revolutionary government in Angola. Congressionally ap- proved foreign aid required guarantees of respect for human rights by recipient nations. To win back lost prestige, Carter tried to con- duct policy with more carrots and fewer sticks. How many carrots, how many sticks and when to use which-that became the running battle of the Carter Administration. Trilateralism of- fered, if not a complete formula, then at least a general conception-what it modestly called a "broad global strategy for the management of interdependence."' (We must not forget that Vance favored more carrots and Brzezinski more sticks; both were Trilateralists.) Recasting the initiatives of Nixon and Kiss- inger to alter the bipolar view of the world, President Carter sounded the new trilateralist call in a major speech at Notre Dame University in May 1977, four months after taking office, an- nouncing an end to America's fear of communism. To restore harmony with the nations of the south, the Carter Administration sought to fur- ther integrate their fledgling economies into the world economy through such mechanisms as the International Monetary Fund, while paying lip service to their demands for a "new interna- tional economic order." It avoided confronta- tion, looking first for ways to accommodate. Recognizing that hunger and poverty created discontent and repression bred rebellion, it urg- ed reforms on client governments and backed reformist alternatives (Dominican Republic). It urged that the more affluent countries of the third world be given a greater stake in managing the affairs of their poorer cousins (Saudi Arabia). It raised the banner of human rights to force governments to end practices that fed rev- olutionary unrest (Guatemala), although it allowed some governments greater leeway where "important" security interests had to be protected (South Korea). About Latin America in particular, the Carter Administration relied heavily on the Lin- owitz Report, prepared in 1974 by a special commission funded by the Ford Foundation and chaired by superlawyer Sol Linowitz. 1 0 The re- port was further elaborated in 1976, in prepara- tion for the incoming president. Of the 20 com- mission members, six were Trilateralists."1 Those six and most of the rest were also 6 NACLA ReportJuly/August 7 members of the Council on Foreign Relations. 1 2 The Linowitz Report urged that a policy be adopted toward the Americas that was "respect- ful of the sovereignty of the countries of the region and tolerant of a wide range of political and economic forms." It recommended a com- mitment "not to undertake unilateral military intervention or covert intervention" in their in- ternal affairs. To avoid unnecessary confronta- tion, stalemated renegotiations should be con- cluded on that "most vexing symbol of U.S. col- onialism," the treaty governing the Panama Canal. Linowitz himself undertook the job. "Latin America is suffering from a plague of repression," said the report. 1 3 It was a plague fed by the unrestricted flow of weapons and money to the new protectors of the empire, the armies of Latin America. Its cure was to condi- tion arms shipments on an ending of human rights violations, to disassociate the United States from repressive regimes and to support moves to strengthen the Inter-American Com- mission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States and the United Nations Human Rights Commission as well as non-gov- ernmental organizations like Amnesty Interna- tional. On Cuba, the report urged the establishment of friendly relations, emphasizing economic ties: Cuban sugar for U.S. medical supplies to wean Castro from the Soviet Union. 1 4 Throughout the region, economic assistance was to be emphasized over military aid as the best long-run solution to regional and U.S. security. Trade and tariff policies would offer hemispheric friends preferential treatment. And aid would go through multilateral lending insti- tutions like the Inter-American Development Bank, where the countries would also have a voice, albeit not an equal one, in how it would be spent. 1 " (As an added benefit, this latter ar- rangement, in which the United States has veto power, would sidestep possible conflicts with Congress over the application of human rights criteria to bilateral aid.) Carter Stumbles over the Obstacles But Trilateralism was not without its own contradictions. The most obvious was the con- flict between the dictates of "global capitalism" and those of a given country. For example, the countries of western Europe, much more depen- dent on OPEC oil than the United States, resolved to pressure OPEC in unison; Carter did not commit the United States to the bloc. Despite such contradictions and Carter's own ambivalence, the trilateralist approach was tried. But pressure within the Democratic Party from unrepentant cold warriors, and poorly managed public battles over the Panama Canal, Rhodesia and SALT II weakened the Adminis- tration's political base both among the elites and at the mass level. Worsening inflation further debilitated Carter's support and made generous foreign aid harder to defend. His inept handling of Congress and troubled relations with key Trilateralist ally Helmut Schmidt of West Ger- many gave his Administration more problems than it could handle. By mid-term, Cold War II was underway. 1 6 The initial willingness of the elites to test accom- modation and detente began to shred with the pressure of daily crises in Iran and Nicaragua and with the growing perception of Soviet ad- vances. Afghanistan provided the golden oppor- tunity to justify resurgent militarism. Key accommodationists Andrew Young and Cyrus Vance left the Administration, prompted by controversy and conflict about Middle East af- fairs. Falling monthly in the opinion polls, Carter yielded more frequently to pressure from the right. But the economy continued to falter, the hostages stayed captive and Carter headed for early retirement. In Latin America, human rights gave way to counterinsurgency as the prospects of Carter's defeat and a Salvadorean revolutionary victory seemed more and more certain. One revolution during a term of office might be forgivable, par- ticularly if it's seen as potentially "manageable," like Nicaragua. But not Iran, the strategic lynchpin of the Middle East oil- fields. And El Salvador followed by Guatemala would be too much. The president-makers with- drew their support. An unusually high number of candidates of- fered their services; none could offer a new con- sensus. With the populace decidedly uninter- ested in any of the candidates and preoccupied with the economic pinch above all, Ronald Reagan convinced 25% of the electorate that he would save their declining prosperity and in some way "make America great again." Exit Jimmy Carter, accommodation and cooptation.

references FROM HEMISPHERIC POLICE TO GLOBAL MANAGERS 1. Holly Sklar, Trilateralism, the Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management (Boston: South End Press, 1980), p. 1. 2. "Overview," Ibid. 3. G. William Domhoff, The Powers That Be: Processes of Ruling Class Domination in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), pp. 61-128. 4. Sklar, Trilateralism, especially Chapter 3. 5. Ibid., pp. 90-131. 6. Ibid., p. 8 . 7. Ibid., p. 199. 8. Ibid., p. 91. 9. Ibid., p. 8. 10. The Commission on United States--Latin American Relations, the United States and Latin America: Next Steps (New York: Center for Inter-American Relations, 1976), p. 7. 11. Sklar, Trilateralism, pp. 90-131. 12. Ibid. 13. The Commission on United States-Latin Americans Relations, The United States and Latin America, p. 7. 14. Ibid., p. 10. 15. Ibid., p. 14 ff. 16. Draft speech by Holly Sklar for presentation at "Sur- vival Conference," Santa Rosa, California, July 14, 1981 and University of California, Berkeley, July 23, 1981. A revised version will appear in Appeal to Reason.

Tags: US foreign policy, Cold War, Imperialism, Jimmy Carter

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