The U.S. ruling class plans to destabilize the country, then profit from the chaos
What’s happening to U.S. power right now is exactly what the country’s national security technocrats worried would happen over two decades ago. In a 2000 report titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses, the neoconservative think tank the Project for the New American Century stated that as Washington embraced the zealous war paradigm which the think tank sought (and soon succeeded) to normalize within U.S. foreign policy, an inward turn for the empire’s military apparatus had to be avoided. In discussing this proposed neocon “transformation,” the think tank said that “The process of transformation must proceed from an appreciation of American strategy and political goals. For example, as the leader of a global network of alliances and strategic partnerships, U.S. armed forces cannot retreat into a ‘Fortress America.’”
Yet a Fortress America is exactly what’s going to happen given all of the trends which have appeared since then. U.S. geopolitical hegemony has entered a steep decline since the reckless invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which have contributed to Washington’s loss of international respect amid the rise of a multi-polar world. Due to this decline of U.S. primacy, the dollar is headed for a decline in value that will likely be unprecedented, and which will force a withdrawal of many of Washington’s global military forces. And it’s estimated by the Pentagon itself that by 2040 alone, global warming will force many U.S. forces in Africa and southwest Asia to retreat due to extreme temperatures and water shortages, in addition to the abandonment of many U.S. military bases that sea level rise will prompt.
What does this mean for the lives of we who live within the empire’s borders? It means many of us will be getting the Yugoslavia treatment, and likely also the Libya treatment in many other parts of the country. By this I mean that the imperialists, faced with a situation of global isolation that they themselves once described as a worst-case scenario for their own strategic interests, will bring home the cruel intervention and destabilization tactics they’ve applied to other places.
In Yugoslavia, the imperialists sabotaged the infrastructure and governmental systems through bombings so that they could carve up the nation into a series of Third World, neoliberalized areas which had been successfully pacified by NATO’s enforced propaganda networks. In Libya, they overthrew the existing government without any coherent plan for what would come next, leaving the country an internally warring failed state where slave trades are in operation and the imperialist powers carve up the land for crude resource extractivism. Aside from America’s “smart cities,” the metropolitan areas where the rich will get to enjoy a high-tech bubble of privilege, in the coming decades the country is going to in some parts become like Yugoslavia and in other parts become like Libya.
In other words, unless you’re part of the exploiting class, it’s likely your near future within America (and many other capitalist countries) is going to either be one of refugee-type peril or one of creeping scarcity and destitution. Expanding poverty, growing violence, and shrinking access to essentials like food and water are the logical conclusion of our neoliberal paradigm, which is designed to increase the deprivation of the masses during crises like the ones global warming will bring upon us. And as commentator John C. Whitehead has written, this intensifying paradigm of scarcity is going to incentivize the government to deliberately exacerbate society’s levels of violence:
Be warned: In the future envisioned by the government, we will not be viewed as Republicans or Democrats. Rather, “we the people” will be enemies of the state. For years, the government has been warning against the dangers of domestic terrorism, erecting surveillance systems to monitor its own citizens, creating classification systems to label any viewpoints that challenge the status quo as extremist, and training law-enforcement agencies to equate anyone possessing anti-government views as a domestic terrorist. What the government failed to explain was that the domestic terrorists would be of the government’s own making, and that “we the people” would become enemy #1.
This isn’t hyperbole, it’s simply a description of the implications of how our government is increasingly approaching its relationship with the people: not as a social contract, but as a counterinsurgency. As an operation where the state tries to crush a potential revolution from a population that will grow more inclined towards unrest as living standards decline. Throughout this last year of accelerating capitalist economic implosion and subsequently unprecedented revolts, the counterinsurgency has taken the form of terroristic repression tactics (like the shoving of random demonstrators into unmarked vehicles and the shooting up of people’s front porches) as well as efforts to pacify the protests through pro-police propaganda and Democratic Party co-optation.
In the coming decades, the repression will continue to include these aspects, but it will also take on a scale so massive as to warrant comparisons to Washington’s foreign interventions.
In the parts of the country where extreme weather forces people to migrate — an area so large that 1 in 12 U.S. citizens in the southern half of the country live within it — we’ll be more likely to see something resembling post-intervention Libya. Which is to say a landscape that’s largely been upturned to the point of effective lawlessness, where human trafficking networks and other types of criminal enterprises (including right-wing militias) are unleashed upon what remains of the population. The fact that these southern parts of the country are where the ICE concentration camps have been built, and where state terrorism against immigrants is centered around, makes this a prime location for genocide; remember that the Nazis were able to perpetrate the Holocaust within Poland by making that part of Europe lawless and stateless, letting the death squads operate with impunity. When the extreme right inevitably takes full power within America, such mass extermination tactics will be served by the destabilization campaign that’s already in motion.
In the parts of the country where the climate migrants flee to, things will more resemble Yugoslavia. The rapid urbanization that the migration will create in these places is going to overwhelm their already weak infrastructure and social services, proliferating poverty and furthering social collapse. This “Third Worldization” of much of the country, which will go along with additional natural disasters that make even the relatively “safe” areas rife with deprivation and violence, is going to precede the establishment of U.S. military occupations within America’s borders. The Pentagon and the U.S. Army War College have been laying out plans for such occupations in recent years, made under the rationale that an iron fist is the only way to retain any semblance of stability.
As part of the propaganda campaigns of its future counterinsurgencies, the military will claim that its troops and its partnered militarized police forces are imposing this occupation for the sake of protection and peace. But as long as the U.S. government holds control over this land, peace will grow ever more out of reach for us. The capitalist state’s law enforcement will carry out escalating acts of brutality against the masses, perhaps bringing back tactics like the U.S. government’s 1985 bombing of a Philadelphia city block. The country’s fascist paramilitaries, themselves proxy forces of the state whose members overlap with those of law enforcement and the military, will commit massacres of marginalized groups and the state’s political enemies. The state’s goal is to foster as much bloodshed as is necessary to keep the masses politically demobilized, to make the poor too imperiled and lacking in community connections to be able to organize a revolution.
It’s in this deliberately chaotic environment that corporations will be able to keep up profits, using price gouging of precious water and electricity, reapings of natural resources made available by the easily exploitable political environment of crisis, and proliferations of private military companies within U.S. borders amid demands for domestic troop presences.
What the state wants to prevent is the scenario described by Lenin:
Revolution is impossible without a nation-wide crisis (affecting both the exploited and the exploiters). It follows that, for a revolution to take place, it is essential, first, that a majority of the workers (or at least a majority of the class-conscious, thinking, and politically active workers) should fully realise that revolution is necessary, and that they should be prepared to die for it; second, that the ruling classes should be going through a governmental crisis, which draws even the most backward masses into politics (symptomatic of any genuine revolution is a rapid, tenfold and even hundredfold increase in the size of the working and oppressed masses — hitherto apathetic — who are capable of waging the political struggle), weakens the government, and makes it possible for the revolutionaries to rapidly overthrow it.
If the government can’t prevent a Fortress America, it will try to bypass this scenario where a crisis destroys the state. It aims to do this by manufacturing instability preemptively, by applying the destabilization tactics it’s used abroad — because whether or not the government wants it, destabilization is going to happen, and the government wants to keep as much control as possible in spite of this reality of looming collapse. Bringing home the Yugoslavia treatment or the Libya treatment is how our rulers hope to stop the 21st century’s crises from impacting both the exploited and the exploiters.
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