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March 08, 2008

A Racketeer for Capitalism

To me, the most interesting part of the Esquire article about Admiral William Fallon, head of U.S. Central Command, isn't the claims he may be fired to pave the way for an attack on Iran. Instead, it's this presentation of Fallon's view of his role:

Unlike his Arabic-speaking predecessor, Army General John Abizaid, Fox Fallon wasn't selected to lead U. S. Central Command for his regional knowledge or cultural sensitivity, but because he is, says Secretary of Defense Gates, "one of the best strategic thinkers in uniform today."

If anything has been sorely missing to date in America's choices in the Middle East and Central Asia, it has been a strategic mind-set that consistently keeps its eyes on the real prize: connecting these isolated regions in a far more broadband fashion to the global economy. Instead of effectively countering the efforts of others (e.g., the radical Salafis, Saudi Arabia's Wahhabists, Russia's security services, China's energy sector) who would fashion such connectivity to their selfish ends...

Waiting on perfect security or perfect politics to forge economic relationships is a fool's errand. By the time those fantastic conditions are met in this dangerous, unstable part of the world, somebody less idealistic will be running the place--the Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Turks, Iranians, Saudis...

The Persian Gulf right now is booming economically, and Fallon wants to harness that power to connect the failed states that pockmark the landscape to the outside world. In this choice, he sees no alternative.

"What I learned in the Pacific is that after a while the tableau of failed, failing, or dysfunctional states becomes a real burden on the functional countries and a problem for their neighborhood, because they breed unrest and insecurities and attract troublemakers very well. They're like sewers, and they begin to fester. It's bad for business. And when it's bad for business, people tend to start restricting their investments, and they restrict their thinking, and it allows more barriers, so we're back to building walls again instead of breaking them down. If you have to build walls, it means you're moving backward."

I love the stuff about the horrible, "selfish" people out there who are "less idealistic" than us. It's a good thing we're so nice, or we'd have to feel bad about running the world!

Beyond that, it's bracing to find out the highest levels of the US military view their role the same way Lenin did. It's all about cracking down on anything bad for business, anything that involves people "restricting their investments."

Or as Smedley Butler said:

I spent 33 years and 4 months In active service as a member of our country's most agile military force -- the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at March 8, 2008 01:30 PM

Hmm. I like this blog a lot. But here you sound like an anthropologist marvelling at the weird (= different from his) beliefs of some exotic group. Uh, yes, people tend to think their group's values are somehow better, more noble than the values of other groups.

Posted by: Seth Roberts at March 8, 2008 03:30 PM

In the sixties, when I was in the Corps, Smedley Butler was still an ironic hero to many of the 'lifer' NCO's. I wonder if the new 'career' enlisted even know his name.

Posted by: john in california at March 8, 2008 05:08 PM

But Seth, there's so much more here than "people tend to think their group's values are somehow better, more noble than the values of other groups."

For starters, let's recall this famous Thomas Friedman quote:

For globalism to work, America can't be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is ... The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist - McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

For Friedman's "hidden fist" to work, you need military men who see their role as more than simply a military one. You need military men who understand their role is to bring, by force if necessary, every single country in the world into a single, US-dominated economic program. In service of the greater goal of world peace, of course. In order to "lift people out of poverty", of course. And, to rise to the level that Fallon has, you have to really believe this.

You might argue that people in power always develop some line of self-justifying bullshit, so why bother with the specifics of this or any other particular line of bullshit? But the bullshit is an essential part of the program, needed to maintain support back home for a massive misallocation of resources. To undermine the empire, we have to understand, first of all, what the people in charge of it actually believe, and then why so many Americans find these beliefs appealing.

Posted by: SteveB at March 8, 2008 06:02 PM

SteveB: I've never been one fotr American exceptionalism, but I think a world run along US Capitalist lines would be better than Russian domination or Salafiism. If those are iundeed the only choices!

Posted by: Brian at March 8, 2008 09:09 PM

But the thing is, there's a very obvious third choice -- the default choice, in fact, which is easiest to obtain. The entire world doesn't NEED to be "run" by anyone; glossing over this simple truth is what starts a faction on the road to being a global threat. E.g. Communism, in and of itself, isn't a problem; communists who see themselves as obligated to start a "world revolution" is a problem. Capitalists with the same drive -- and let's call it what it is: world conquest -- are also problem. Really, the same problem.

Posted by: Burai at March 8, 2008 09:22 PM

eh. "universal broadband" says the hidden fist's commander; "unilateral trade arrangements" says the invisible hand's negotiating team.

Posted by: hapa at March 8, 2008 09:27 PM

oh brother, so you're shocked that people who produce goods and services vital to the lives of every preson on earth i.e. businessmen actually have a lot to say about how the earth is run? and that the US military are smart enough to figure out that having realtively well functioning economies across the globe, tied together by that wonderful force for good i.e. trade reduces conflict and makes the world more secure? God you people are morons. Thankfully, the world *is* run by people very much like me, and certainly not you : ) Oh, and my new GF? Practically comes upon penetration. Man, why anyone would date a chubby boring American chick is beyond me.

Posted by: xyz at March 9, 2008 06:12 AM

oh, a good story about how our little Viet brothers are getting with the program:

Eh, I predict in my lifetime we'll see a OBL golf course near Tora Bora. I bet those Pashtuns would much prefer having a nice drink after a round than blowing up Buddas and all.

Posted by: xyz at March 9, 2008 06:43 AM

The entire world doesn't NEED to be "run" by anyone...

Exactly. And why should we care if a Chinese oil company gets a contract to develop the oil resources of Central Asia instead of an "American" multinational? How is shifting the odds in favor of Exxon-Mobil worth the investment of hundreds of billions of our tax dollars?

The question isn't why businessmen have so much to say about how the world is run, the question is why American businessmen seem to need so much help from the US military, paid for by you and me.

Posted by: SteveB at March 9, 2008 09:18 AM

Practically comes upon penetration.

I will share this news with members on

Posted by: SteveB at March 9, 2008 09:23 AM

Witty crushing rejoinders to trolls are troll food. You're making him happy.

Posted by: Troll biologist at March 9, 2008 09:55 AM

Sorry. Maybe we should all leave, so the troll and the spambot can be alone together.

Posted by: SteveB at March 9, 2008 10:04 AM

Sure the Chinese are doing business in Kazakhstan. Everybody is. But what on earth are you blathering about re "hundreds of billions?" And the Chinese, the Kazakhs, everybody is basically playing by the rules of the game, even if your hero Chavez gets on TV and jabbers on about imperialism, even he has to play by our rules, by and large. Oh and Cuba and NK enjoy fruitcake nationalism and poverty. Oh, and some big (and scary!) chunks of Africa, but they don't really count.

Posted by: xyz at March 9, 2008 10:28 AM

Which one is the troll, and which one is the spambot?

Posted by: buermann at March 9, 2008 11:57 AM

we're not "running the world" we are "ruining the world" - but I am pretty sure all this greed (that drives this violence to control other "economies" - that is foreigners) will come crashing down soon.

The greater depression is just around the corner here in USA land, and boy, then things are going to get ugly on the home front. I guess the US military will have to bring our own country in line with the overall global objectives - making the world safe for the wealthy so they can steal even more from the poor.

Posted by: at March 9, 2008 12:08 PM

The top three WORST countries for women are:


DR Congo


What a co-inky-dink.

Posted by: Susan - NC at March 9, 2008 12:12 PM

capitalism = expanded women's rights
trade = greater wealth for everyone
rich people = people who actually pay most of the taxes, so deadbeat poor people don't have too
businessmen = the people who lifted a billion or so poor people in BRIC Brazil, Russia, India, China and rest of 3rd world out of poverty
this site = silly jerk-off parlor intellectuals
me = brilliant mind, great fuck : )

Posted by: xyz at March 9, 2008 12:22 PM

is the email address fake? is there no way to talk about this, privately?

Posted by: hapa at March 9, 2008 12:47 PM

ah. no email required.

Posted by: hapa at March 9, 2008 12:48 PM

One admires Gen Butler's forthrightness, even if he does miss the MAIN point: that ALL 'kapitalism' is always already a corrupt racket.

Posted by: konopelli/wgg at March 9, 2008 01:31 PM

Yeah, I know we shouldn't respond. Anyway, considering that his credentials are fake, it's more than possible that his beliefs are too. Check out the "equations" and tell me you still think this guy's for real.

Posted by: StO at March 9, 2008 03:23 PM

It doesn't matter who he is, what he says, whether any of it is true, or what people say in reply. He says things to get reactions, and make the thread about him and it works. He gets the attention he wants and is happy. If people wish to reward him for his efforts, keep replying.

Even this post I'm typing is about him, so that probably inflates his bloated ego further, like some black hole which just absorbs anything you throw at it and grows larger. So I won't type any more like it.

Posted by: Troll biologist at March 9, 2008 04:31 PM