The Research Apparatus of U.S. Imperialism

September 25, 2007

In order to administer an empire efficiently it is necessary to construct an apparatus for collecting, analyzing, and acting upon information concerning foreign territories. From the Roman to the British empires, ruling elites have found it necessary to create institutions capable of supporting such operations, and to establish a professional caste skilled in the arts of language, foreign trade and international politics to conduct these activities. Without such an apparatus, no empire can deal with the human conflicts inherent in domination and exploitation.

Since 1900, and especially after World War II, the American power elite has become extremely conscious of the need to develop such a research apparatus in order to better manage the burgeoning U.S. empire. The elite's consciousness has been reflected in the organization and operation of every major institution in the United States: the corporations, the agencies of government, and labor unions have all been modified in the interests of overseas expansion. The academic world in particular has been reconstructed to aid in the administration of our new empire.

To meet the demands of empire, the 19th century college was transformed into a multiversity with specialized schools of business, law, diplomacy, journalism, languages, and government. Since World War Two, specialized schools have been set up, like Columbia University's School of International Affairs, to train experts in "international administration" for the government agencies engaged in overseas operations. The need for sophisticated modern weaponry has led to the creation of quasi-autonomous university research installations entirely dependent upon military contracts. And as America's empire has expanded further into the Third World, universities have been called upon to utilize their expertise to gather and interpret information on unfamiliar societies, and to assist in the penetration and manipulation of these societies.

By expanding their "research" activities, universities now perform several functions which are crucial to the maintenance of the empire; these include: technological innovation -- particularly in the area of sophisticated weaponry; the training of highly-skilled managerial personnel; collecting and processing the information needed for policy formulation; the indoctrination of native elites; providing "cover" for secret operations of the CIA and other agencies; and directly administering the government's overseas operations. The modern American university, in fact, constitutes the nucleus of the research apparatus of American imperialism.

This research apparatus was originally constructed during the Second World War, when many universities collaborated with the War Department in the establishment of the large scientific installations which did much of the wartime weapons research. In the interests of security, many of these installations (like MIT's Lincoln Laboratories) were usually administratively as well as geographically remote from their parent Academic institution. Working at such laboratories, university scientists achieved many of the technological advances brought about under the pressure of war, including the atom bomb, modern radar, and the earliest missiles.

By the end of the war, many of these research establishments--originally planned as temporary operations--had developed into sizeable institutions, with extensive facilities and administrative staffs. The scientists and administrators associated with these installations had meanwhile come to enjoy positions of some influence and prestige at the centers of power in Washington and at the Pentagon, positions that they were naturally loathe to abandon. Since these researchers enjoyed the
confidence of the generals, and since for the most part their activities were financed by the government, it is not surprising that after the war many of the larger research establishments were reorganized as permanent institutions.

This postwar development was in full accord with the needs of the American power elite. Following World War II, the American empire was concentrated in Western Europe; threatening this empire was the Soviet Union. University research was therefore geared toward the destruction of industrial societies and was manifest in the policy of massive nuclear retaliation. This research was generally carried on at semi-autonomous research installations like Michigan's Willow Run Labs, the University of California's Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, and Johns Hopkins'Applied Physics Laboratory.

As defense appropriations soared, ambitious researchers--many of them associated with defense contractors as consultants--were able to secure impressive research contracts from the government. As a consequence, some of the research installations
began to approach in size and budget the universities of which they were nominally a part. The University of California at Berkeley, for instance, operates the Atomic Energy Commissions Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and the Los Alamos (N.M.) Scientific Laboratory, installations which together have plant facilities worth over half a billion dollars, and an annual operating budget, in 1966, of $265 million--an amount which exceeds the total educational budget of many states.

When one penetrates into this research nexus, the distinctions between the various academic and non-academic components disappear altogether. The trustee or administrator of a research institute is more than likely an executive of a defense industry located in the nearby industrial park, and at the same time a consultant to the Pentagon bureau which administers contracts in this field. Often the independent "think tanks" like RAND and the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) act as the middleman in this comfortable arrangement. Cathy McAffee, in the current issue of Viet-Report, describes the process as follows: 'Through such a consortium, the government can buy top scientific talent, bypassing low civil service salaries and avoiding accountability to Congress. Defense industry corporations, whose executives usually dominate think tank boards of directors, gain access to classified information and the opportunity to 'evaluate objectively' the projects they are trying to sell to the government." Through their participation in the consortium, universities gain substantial research contracts as well as lucrative leaves of absence and consulting fees for the professors.

This spirit of cooperation that marks the operations of the research aparatus is not surprising when one discovers that the trustees of the universities themselves are more often than not the chairmen of the corporations which stand to profit most from
the university's research activities. These interlocking relationships are characteristic of all major American universities, but they are particularly apparent in cases where large research installations have been erected: the nexus of Stanford University, the Stanford Research Institute and the Stanford Industrial Park; the line of aerospace corporations along Massachusetts Route 128 and MIT's Lincoln Lans; and similar linkages.

Most of the research installations are engaged in research on military "hardware," i.e., the equipment and weaponry needed for waging conventional wars. Increasingly however, the research institutions and the think-tanks are developing programs in military "software"--the mind-control techniques of "special warfare" and counter-insurgency. This new emphasis reflects the changing concerns of the power elite: earlier social science research projects were focused on "deterent strategies" and "war-gaming," reflecting the preoccupation with nuclear defense against the Soviet Union; in the late 1950's and the early 1960's, however, the focus of empire shifted to the Third World, and the universities retooled to provide the necessary material and personnel for the domination of underdeveloped and unfamiliar societies. Massive retaliation gave way to a policy of counterinsurgency as Kennedy took the reins of power, and behavioral scientists at the universities were enlisted in the
effort to channel and control the direction of change in the developing nations.

In the area of software research, as in the case of hardware research, a nexus of institutions has been constructed by the power elite to carry out the research activities needed for the administration of the empire. In this case, the dominant institution is the non-profit foundation, which disburses the bulk of funds available for research in the social sciences. The foundations are directly controlled by the power elite, however, as in the case of the think tanks, interlocking directorships link them to the boards of trustees of universities and to the boards of major corporations. Columbia University's President, Grayson Kirk, for
instance is a Director of the Socony Mobil and IBM Corporations, as well as a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Asia Foundation. The foundations are also closely allied with various government agencies, and the use of such foundations as "conduits, for CIA funds is already well established.

Most of the relationships which link together the components of the research nexus are informal, or the kind that go on behind the doors of closed boards of trustees meetings. Nevertheless, over the years, many of the university research facilities have acquired a special relationship with the government, as permanent military research installations. These are the Federal Contract Research Centers (FCRC's) and the Department of
Defense Information Analysis Centers (DoDIAC's), which concentrate their research activities on problems of particular interest to the government. A table of such centers would include: Applied Physics Laboratory of John Hopkins University (FCRC for systems engineering on missiles, propulsion, and navigational satellites); the Hudson Laboratory of Columbia University (FCRC for research on anti-submarine warfare); the Ordnance Research Laboratory of Penn State University (FCRC for research and development of torpedoes); the Center for Research in Social Systems (CRSS) of the American University (FCRC for research on psychological operations; also DoDIAC for information on counterinsurgency); and the Ballistic Missile Radiation Analysis Center of the University of Michigan (DoDIAC for information on ballistic missile phenomena). (For a complete list of these installations see the current issue of Viet Report).

The overseas operations of this research apparatus are usually cloaked in the guise of humanitarian concern for the welfare of underdeveloped or primitive societies. The ranks of the Peace Corps, of university field-training programs in anthropology and sociology, and of the "cross-cultural" programs of foundations are full of Americans who sincerely believe they are acting in the interests of native peoples. But the people whose interests they are serving are those of the elite which finances and plans the operations.

We cannot understand the operation of American imperialism until we thoroughly expose the activities of the university-dominated research apparatus. Ultimately, this task is akin to that performed by the French paratroop Colonel in the film The Battle of Algiers. The Colonel attempts to destroy the Algerian liberation movement y reconstructing, and then destroying, the "infrastructure" of the National Liberation Front (NLF). This, in essence, is what the U.S. military command seeks to do in Vietnam -- in this case with the South Vietnam NLF. We must turn this process upside-down in order to identify the infrastructure of the U.S. power elite.

Subscribers to the NACLA Newsletter received with their last issue a copy of the VIET-PORT Special Issue on University-Conducted War Research. We hope that this special issue of Viet-Report will provoke new investigations of university ties with the Pentagon. NACLA seeks to publish reports of the results of all such investigations. Consequently, we would like to ask our subscribers, especially those on campuses, to send us copies of all reports on articles in local or student newspapers containing information on university warfare research. Please address this material as follows:
Attention: Michael Klare
P.O. Box 57, Cathedral Station
New York, New York 10025


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