Throughout its era as the “world police” that overthrows governments for the benefit of corporate interests, the U.S. has perfected a strategy for destroying societies and remaking them according to its own preferences. To varying degrees, this playbook for regime change has consisted of a basic formula: destabilize a society, then use propaganda and violence to impose Americanism onto its culture and governmental system. We’ve seen this carried out in Iran with the 1953 CIA coup that overthrew the country’s democracy and replaced it with the Shah, in Chile with the 1973 CIA coup that overthrew the country’s socialist president Allende and installed the Pinochet dictatorship in his place, and so on.
As America’s descent into economic ruin and imperial decline goes on, I study these imperialist machinations abroad and keep seeing parallels to how the American ruling class is trying to maintain order in the imperial core. People have often observed in recent years that America’s wars are coming home amid the collapse of its global empire, and the same applies to America’s attempts at engineering destabilization and then exploiting this instability.
Look at the parallels between the economic deprivation that U.S. imperialism created throughout the Global South in the 20th century, and the economic deprivation that those within the imperial core have increasingly come to experience in recent decades. Before neoliberalism came to the core imperialist countries, the corporatocracy worked to massively overexploit the proletariat within America’s neo-colonies. It was no coincidence that neoliberalism was first implemented in Chile before being brought to America and America’s allied imperialist countries; countries like Chile functioned as experimenting grounds for the new pro-corporate policies that would be implemented within the imperial core.
Neoliberalism had become necessary for the ruling class to implement because this was how they could keep profits up amid the economic obstacles that the 1970s recession had presented. These obstacles arose because of early cracks in U.S. imperial hegemony; namely the failed U.S. attempt to subdue Vietnam that led to economically costly military expenses, and the oil embargo that OPEC countries imposed upon the U.S. in response to Washington’s support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The people of America, who had formerly benefited from a prosperous post-war economy, paid for this imperial setback through lowered wages, mass privatization, the shipping out of millions of jobs, a shifting of the tax burden onto the poor, and a shrunken social safety net.
The ever-rising inequality that’s afflicted the country since then has represented a destabilization process within the imperial core, similarly to the engineered destabilizations that have driven Washington’s external regime change projects. The U.S. overthrew the Soviet Union by launching relentless economic attacks against it, and by using propaganda and covert CIA operations to bend its society to the will of the imperialists. In the last decade or so of the Cold War, the U.S. used similar propaganda methods and internal policing tactics to defeat opposition to neoliberalism’s implementation. For the people in both Russia and the U.S., the result was that living standards were massively reduced by the mid-90s.
When additional cracks in America’s dominance appeared, those within America paid for it even more. The deregulatory consequences of neoliberalism led to the 2008 financial crisis, creating an economic downturn that became exacerbated by the Iraq War—which was yet another drastic move that the U.S. carried out in order to try to preserve its threatened hegemony. Before and after the crash, the neoliberal policies that the U.S. imposed upon Iraq after Hussein was ousted paralleled the policies that were being imposed upon the American population; the privatization measures from after Hurricane Katrina, as well as the massive austerity measures from after the 2008 crash, further brought down the livelihoods of those in the imperial core.
Since the crash, the destabilization of America has further facilitated the enrichment of the ruling class, as well as measures for social control which mirror those from America’s conquests abroad. The militarization of U.S. police in the last decade or so has made the country’s law enforcement take on a role similar to those of U.S. soldiers, U.S.-backed paramilitaries, or the police forces of U.S.-installed dictators. The 2013 legalization of covert U.S. government propaganda on American citizens, and all the pro-war media disinformation that’s resulted from this, has mirrored Washington’s tactics for taking control of the media within foreign territories that it’s destabilized.
The more the U.S. has taken on the attributes of a failed state—like an inability to provide public services, widespread corruption within bureaucratic institutions, and a failure by the government to respond to crises like an opioid epidemic or a virus—the more it’s resembled the failed states that Washington has created as part of its imperialist exploits.
In the former Yugoslavia, where U.S. economic warfare and bombings dismembered the old socialist government, living standards dropped drastically due to neoliberal policies and Washington’s destruction of the nation’s crucial infrastructure. In Ukraine, where the U.S. installed a fascist regime in 2014 to carry out its imperialist proxy war against Russia, the country’s internal conflict displaced around 1.5 million people, and food shortages quickly became a pressing issue after the U.S. coup.
Like the U.S., both of these places are now experiencing an especially deadly series of Covid-19 waves. Ukraine is now at a relatively high Covid-19 death rate of over 1,200, and the former Yugoslavian territory of Kosovo is undergoing a new U.S.-created political crisis that’s worsening its exposure to the pandemic. Ukraine has especially shown what the U.S. will have to expect as it continues to become more of a failed state; with Washington’s help, Ukrainian neo-Nazi militias have been taking advantage of the country’s unstable situation by operating as rogue and out-of-control units. Fascists love a failed state, and the U.S. is evidently willing to assist their campaigns for violence when this suits Washington’s interests abroad.
What about when similar measures become necessary at home? How will Washington respond as America’s current economic upheavals and civil unrest escalates in the coming years?
The Pentagon has long been preparing for a scenario where poverty, unemployment, and failed infrastructure turn the U.S. into the kind of war zone that the U.S. has created in many other countries, a hellscape where the lower class urban centers will require military intervention. In the future that these military strategists anticipate, the U.S. will be using counterinsurgency tactics to fight off gangs and “extremist” groups in the poor neighborhoods, all while the rich maintain comfortable lifestyles within their heavily protected enclaves.
Such a scenario has already come into being now that Trump has sent in the military to put down the George Floyd protests, and now that police have responded to the protests with the same tactics as an occupying army. Next might come an internal version of the Colombian death squads. It would be a logical step after the internal version of Chilean neoliberalism, and the internal version of the U.S.-imposed propaganda network in the Balkans, and the internal version of the military mobilizations from Bolivia’s fascist U.S.-installed regime.
We were complicit as our government destroyed so many societies abroad. Now our government is slowly destroying our own society.
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