Imperialism Writes a New Political Geography

Jayatilleke de Silva
The Nation

Imperialism, Lenin said, is moribund capitalism. Nevertheless it retains its ruthless character. Outlining the principal characteristics of imperialism he spoke of the political and economic re-division of the World among various imperialist powers.

The aftermath of the Second World War saw the birth of two new phenomena. One was the expansion of the socialist system into all continents. The second was the victory of national liberation revolutions in almost all the colonies.

A new political geography was born. Imperialism never agreed with it and worked day and night without a respite to change it. By the middle of the 1990’s, it had accomplished one objective. That was rolling Communism back. The system of socialist states collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union and European socialist states. This was not through war but by other means. It is not our intention here to debate whether it was due to imperialist manipulations and subversion or an implosion caused by mistakes of the rulers or both.

The attainment of the second objective was also very important for imperialism. It was the change of regimes in newly independent countries to carry on their earlier exploitation by new means. In other words, imperialism wanted to guarantee unfettered neo-colonial exploitation of the former colonies. If this was not possible due to rulers’ anti-imperialist positions, then regime change was considered as a legitimate exercise disregarding international norms of conduct. No means were spared, including covert and overt war.

Looking back a little over a decade, we see that the Middle East has been the area, which has earned the attention of imperialism to achieve this change. No wonder, since it contains the bulk of the world’s oil resources. Beginning with Iraq, regime change has been accomplished in several countries in the region by war. All these wars have been conducted either through the aegis of the United Nations or through coalitions of the willing comprising the United States and its NATO and other allies.

In this they have ignored the United Nations and International Law and resorted more and more to what is termed as R2P or Responsibility to Protect, a policy, which authorizes external intervention in other countries under the pretext of safeguarding human rights. Thus Iraq was invaded to prevent it using ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ though no such weapons were found despite massive bombings and search operations. In Libya too it was the same pretext. The same methodology is being in operation in Syria and Iran.

War is not the only means used. Actually it is the finale in a series of operations beginning with disinformation, covert operations including the use of special forces deep inside the targeted countries and the use of fifth columns.

While President George W. Bush openly declared his intention of confronting by force some several dozen nations who were considered hostile, President Barack Obama promised a different approach of using American soft power to re-write international relations and earn the goodwill of the World to the United States. However, he has used both soft power and hard power to attain the same objectives.

It is also important to see that under President Obama, the United States have been using its NATO allies and friendly regimes in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members in its programme of regime change in selected countries.

For the same purposes it has also used all available means to contain the Arab Spring or the movement of mass uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. The United States have carried out a differentiated approach in the countries affected by the Arab Spring. While it went to open war in Iraq and did the same in Libya in a slightly different manner, it used the GCC in Bahrain and Yemen.

It is also important to understand the role played by the media in these operations. Media was an effective weapon in building up support for utilizing the R2P policy. The media monopoly in the service of imperialism was used shamelessly to spread absolute falsehoods. For example it said that Government forces in Libya bombed civilians but could not substantiate the charge despite visuals shown in TV. The same disinformation campaign is carried out now in Syria. Often bombings by Opposition forces are unreported or blamed on the Governments. Once the media spreads the lie, it is easy to legitimize aggression or intervention.

The principle of State sovereignty is undermined, and international law trampled under the heavy boots of imperialism. The result is a new political geography, one written again by imperialism. So far it is only North Africa and the Middle East. Other regions will also be not spared in future.

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