West's Aim: Turn the Entire Global South into a Failed State

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Jun 20 11:04:06 BST 2012

The West Aims to Turn the Entire Global South into a Failed State
by Dan Glazebrook / December 8th, 2011

The economic collapse that began in 2008, that 
was duly declared unpredictable and thoroughly 
unforeseen across the entire Western media, was, 
in fact, anything but. Indeed, the capitalist 
cycle of expansion and collapse has repeated 
itself so often, over hundreds of years, that its 
existence is openly accepted across the whole 
spectrum of economic thought, including in the 
mainstream – which refers to it, in deliberately 
understated terms, as the “business cycle”. Only 
those who profit from our ignorance of this 
dynamic – the billionaire profiteers and their 
paid stooges in media and government – try to deny it.

A slump occurs when “capacity outstrips demand” – 
that is to say, when people can no longer afford 
to buy all that is being produced. This is 
inevitable in a capitalist system, where 
productive capacity is privately owned, because 
the global working class as a whole are never 
paid enough to purchase all that they 
collectively produce. As a result, unsold goods 
begin to pile up, and production facilities – 
factories and the like – are closed down. People 
are thrown out of work as a result, their incomes 
decline, and the problem gets worse. This is 
exactly what we are seeing happen today.

In these circumstances, avenues for profitable 
investment dry up – the holders of capital can 
find nowhere safe to invest their money. For 
them, this is the crisis – not the unemployment, 
the famine, the poverty etc (which, after all, 
remain an endemic feature of the global 
capitalist economy even during the ‘boom times’, 
albeit on a somewhat reduced scale). The 
governments under their control – through 
ownership of the media, currency manipulation and 
control of the economy – must then set to work 
creating new profitable investment opportunities.

One way they do this is by killing off public 
services, and thus creating opportunities for 
investment in the private companies that replace 
them. In 1980s Britain, Margaret Thatcher 
privatised steel, coal, gas, electricity, water, 
and much else besides. In the short term, this 
plunged millions into unemployment, as factories 
and mines were closed down, and in the long term 
it resulted in massive price rises for basic 
services. But it had its intended effect – it 
provided valuable investment opportunities (for 
those with capital to spare) at a time when such 
opportunities were scarce, and created a long 
term source of fabulous profits. This summer, for 
example, saw the formerly publicly owned gas 
company Centrica hiking its prices by another 18% 
to bring in a £1.3billion profit. The raised 
prices will see many thousands more pensioners 
than usual die from the cold this winter as a 
result, but gas – like all commodities in 
capitalist society – is not there to provide heat, but to increase capital.

In the global South, privatisation was harsher 
still. Bodies like the IMF and the World Bank 
used the leverage provided by the debt-extortion 
mechanism (whereby interest rates were hiked on 
unpayable loans that had rarely benefited the 
population, often taken out by corrupt rulers 
imposed by Western governments in the first 
place) to force governments across Asia, Africa 
and Latin America to cut public spending on even 
basics such as health and education, along with 
agricultural subsidies. This contributed 
massively to the staggering rates of infant 
mortality and deaths from preventable disease, as 
well as to the AIDS epidemic now raging across 
Africa. But again the desired end for those 
imposing the policies was achieved, as new 
markets were created and holders of giant capital 
reserves could now invest in private companies to 
provide the services no longer available from the 
state. The profit system was given a new lease of 
life, its collapse staved off once again.

The World Bank’s closure of the Indian 
government’s grain rationing and distribution 
service, for example, meant that a scheme 
providing affordable grain to all Indian citizens 
was closed down, allowing private companies to 
come in and sell grain at massively increased 
prices (sometimes up to ten times higher). Whilst 
this has led to huge numbers of Indians being 
priced out of the market, and a resulting 200 
million people now facing starvation in India, it 
has also led to record profits for the giant 
private companies now holding the world’s grain 
stocks – which is the whole point.

This round of global privatisation from the 1980s 
onwards, however, was so thorough that when the 
2008 crisis hit, there were few state functions 
left to privatise. Creating investment 
opportunities now is much trickier than it was 
thirty years ago, because so much of what is 
potentially profitable is already being thoroughly exploited as it is.

In Europe, what is left of public services is 
hastily being dismantled, as right wing political 
leaders happily privatise what is left of the 
public sector, and currency speculators use their 
firepower to pick off any country that attempts 
to resist. David Cameron, following the path 
forced on the global South over recent decades, 
for example, is busy opening up Britain’s 
National Health Service to private companies, and 
massively cutting back on public service 
provision for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and the jobless.

In the global South, however, there is little 
left for the West to privatise, as successive IMF 
policies have long ago forced those countries in 
their grip to strip their public services to the bone (and beyond) already.

But there is one state function which, if fully 
privatised across the world, would make the 
profits made even from essentials such as health 
care and education look like peanuts. That is the 
most basic and essential state function of all, 
indeed the whole raison d’etre for the state: security.

Private security companies are one of the few 
growth areas during times of global recession, as 
growing unemployment and poverty leads to 
increased social unrest and chaos, and those with 
wealth become more nervous about protecting both 
themselves, and their assets. Furthermore, as the 
Chinese economy advances at a rate of knots, 
military superiority is fast becoming the West’s 
only “competitive advantage” – the one area in 
which it’s expertise remains significantly ahead 
of its rivals. Turning this advantage, therefore, 
into an opportunity for investment and profit on 
a large-scale is now one of the chief tasks 
facing the rulers of Western economies.

A recent article in the Guardian noted that 
British private security firm Group 4 is now 
“Europe’s largest private sector employer”, 
employing 600,000 people – 50% more than make up 
the total armed forces of Britain and France 
combined. With growth last year of 9% in their 
“new markets” division, the company have “already 
benefited from the unrest in north Africa and the 
Middle East.” Group 4 are set to make a killing 
in Libya, following the total breakdown of 
security, likely to last for decades, resulting 
from NATO’s incineration of the country’s armed 
forces and wholesale destruction of its state 
apparatus. With the rule of law replaced by 
warfare between rival gangs of rebels, and no 
realistic prospect of a functioning police force 
for the foreseeable future, those Libyans able to 
manoeuvre themselves into positions of wealth and 
power will likely have to rely on private security for many years to come.

When Philip Hammond, Britain’s new Defence 
Secretary and a multi-millionaire businessman 
himself, suggested that British companies “pack 
their suitcases and head to Libya”, it was not 
only oil and construction companies he had in 
mind, but private security companies.

Private military companies are also becoming huge 
business – most famously, the US company 
Blackwater, renamed Xe Services after its 
original name became synonymous with the 
massacres committed by its forces in Iraq. In the 
USA, Blackwater has already taken over many of 
the security functions of the state – charging 
the Department of Homeland Security $1000 per day 
per head in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, 
for example. “When you ship overnight, do you use 
the postal service or do you use FedEx?” asked 
Erik Prince, founder and chairman of Blackwater. 
“Our corporate goal is to do for the national 
security apparatus what FedEx did to the postal 
service”. Another Blackwater official commented 
that “None of us loves the idea that devastation 
became a business opportunity. It’s a distasteful 
fact. But that’s what it is. Doctors, lawyers, 
funeral directors, even newspapers – they all 
make a living off of bad things happening. So do 
we, because somebody’s got to handle it.”

The danger comes when the economic climate is 
such that the world’s most powerful governments 
feel they must do all they can to create such 
business opportunities. During the Cold War, the 
US military acted (as indeed it still does) to 
keep the global South in a state of poverty by 
attacking any government that seriously sought to 
challenge this poverty, and imposing governments 
that would crush trade unions and keep the 
population cowed. This created investment 
opportunities because it kept the majority of the 
world’s labour force in conditions so desperate 
they were willing to work for peanuts. But now 
this is not enough. In slump conditions, it 
doesn’t matter how cheap your workforce is if 
nobody is buying your products. To create the 
requisite business opportunities today – a large 
global market for its military expertise – 
Western governments must impose not only poverty, 
but also devastation. Devastation is the quickest 
route to converting the West’s military prowess 
into a genuine business opportunity that can 
create a huge new avenue for investment when all 
others are drying up. And this is precisely what 
is happening.  David Cameron is, for once, 
telling the truth, when he says “Whatever it 
takes to help our businesses take on the world – we’ll do it.”

As The Times put it recently, “In Iraq, the 
postwar business boom is not oil. It is 
security.” In both Iraq and Afghanistan, a 
situation of chronic and enduring instability and 
civil war has been created by a very precise 
method. Firstly, the existing state power is 
totally destroyed. Next, the possibility of 
utilising the country’s domestic expertise to 
rebuild state capacity is undermined against by 
barring former officials from working for the new 
government (a process known in Iraq as 
“de-Ba’athification”). Linked to this, the former 
ruling party is banned from playing any part in 
the political process, effectively ensuring that 
the largest and most organised political 
formation in each country has no option but to 
resort to armed struggle to gain influence, and 
thereby condemning the country to civil war. 
Next, vicious sectarianism is encouraged along 
whatever religious, ethnic and tribal divisions 
are available, often goaded by the covert actions 
of Western intelligence services. Finally, the 
wholesale privatisation of resources ensures 
chronically destabilising levels of unemployment 
and inequality.  The whole process is 
self-perpetuating, as the skilled and 
professional sections of the workforce – those 
with the means and connections – emigrate, 
leaving behind a dire skills shortage and even 
less chance of a functioning society emerging from the chaos.

This instability is not confined to the borders 
of the state which has been destroyed. In a 
masterfully cynical domino effect, for example, 
the aggression against Iraq has also helped to 
destabilise Syria. Three quarters of the 2 
million Iraqi refugees fleeing the war in their 
own country have ended up in Syria, thus 
contributing to the pressure on the Syrian 
economy which is a major factor in the current unrest there.

The destruction of Libya will also have far 
reaching destabilising consequences across the 
region. As the recent United Nations Support 
Mission in Libya stated, “Libya had accumulated 
the largest known stockpile of Manpads 
[surface-to-air missiles] of any 
non-Manpad-producing country. Although thousands 
were destroyed during the seven-month Nato 
operations, there are increasing concerns over 
the looting and likely proliferation of these 
portable defence systems, as well as munitions 
and mines, highlighting the potential risk to 
local and regional stability.” Furthermore, a 
large number of volatile African countries are 
currently experiencing a fragile peace secured by 
peacekeeping forces in which Libyan troops had 
been playing a vital role. The withdrawal of 
these troops may well be damaging to the 
maintenance of the peace. Similarly, Libya, under 
Gaddafi’s rule, had contributed generously to 
African development projects; a policy which will 
certainly be ended under the NTC – again, with 
potentially destabilising consequences.

Clearly, a policy of devastation and 
destabilisation fuels not only the market for 
private security, but also for arms sales – 
where, again, the US, Britain and France remain 
market leaders. And a policy of devastation 
through blitzkrieg fits in clearly with the big 
three current long term strategic objectives of Western policy planners:
To corner as large a share as possible of the 
world’s diminishing resources, most importantly 
oil, gas and water. A government of a devastated 
country is at the mercy of the occupying country 
when it comes to contracts. Gaddafi’s Libya, for 
example, drove a notoriously hard bargain with 
the Western powers over oil contracts – acting as 
a key force in the 1973 oil price spike, and 
still in 2009 being accused by the Financial 
Times of “resource nationalism”. But the new NTC 
government in Libya have been hand picked for 
their subservience to foreign interests – and 
know that their continued positions depend on 
their willingness to continue in this role.
To prevent the rise of the global South, 
primarily through the destruction of any 
independent regional powers (such as Iran, Libya, 
Syria etc) and the destabilisation, isolation and 
encirclement of the rising global powers (in particular China and Russia).
To overcome or limit the impact of economic 
collapse by using superior military force to 
create and conquer new markets through the 
destruction and rebuilding of infrastructure and 
the elimination of competition.

This policy of total devastation represents a 
departure from the Cold War policies of the 
Western powers. During the Cold War, whilst the 
major strategic aims remained the same, the 
methods were different. Independent regional 
powers in the global South were still 
destabilised and invaded – and regularly – but 
generally with the aim of installing ‘compliant 
dictatorships’. Thus, Lumumba was overthrown and 
replaced with Mobutu; Sukarno with Suharto; 
Allende with Pinochet; etc, etc. But the danger 
with this ‘imposed strongmen’ policy was that 
strongmen can become defiant. Saddam Hussein 
illustrated this perfectly. After having been 
backed for over a decade by the West, he turned 
on their stooge monarchy in Kuwait. Governments 
that are in control can easily get out of 
control. However, for as long as these strongmen 
were needed for the services provided by their 
armies (protecting investments, repressing 
workers struggles, etc), they were supported. The 
crisis now underway in the economies of the West, 
however, calls for more drastic measures. And the 
development of private security and private 
mercenary companies mean that the armies provided 
by these strongmen are starting to be deemed no longer necessary.

Congo is a case in point. For three decades, the 
Western powers had supported Mobutu Sese-Seko’s 
iron rule of the Congo. But then, in the mid-90s, 
they allowed him to be overthrown. However, 
rather than allowing the Congolese resistance 
forces to take power and establish an effective 
government, they then sponsored an invasion of 
the country by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. 
Although these countries have now largely 
withdrawn their militias, they continue to 
sponsor proxy militias which have prevented the 
country seeing a moment’s peace for nearly 
fifteen years, resulting in the biggest slaughter 
since the end of the Second World War, with over 
5 million killed. One result of this total 
breakdown of functioning government has been that 
the Western companies that loot Congo’s resources 
have been able to do so virtually for free. 
Despite being the world’s largest supplier of 
both coltan and copper, amongst many other 
precious minerals, the total tax revenue on these 
products in 2006-7 amounted to a puny £32 
million. This is surely far less than what even 
the most useless neo-colonial puppet would have demanded.

This completely changes the meaning of the word 
‘government’. In the Congo, the government’s best 
efforts to stabilise and develop the country have 
so far proved no match for the destabilisation 
strategies of the West and its stooges. In 
Afghanistan, it is well known that the 
government’s writ has no authority outside of 
Kabul, if there. But then, that is the point. The 
role of the governments imposed on Afghanistan, 
Iraq and Libya, like the one they are trying to 
impose on Syria, is not to govern or provide for 
the population at all – even that most basic of 
functions, security. It is simply to provide a 
fig leaf of legitimacy for the occupation of the 
country and to award business contracts to the 
colonial powers. They literally have no other 
function, as far as their sponsors are concerned.

It goes without saying that this policy of 
devastation is turning the victimised countries 
into a living hell. After now more than thirty 
years of Western destabilisation, and ten years 
of outright occupation, Afghanistan is at or very 
hear the bottom of nearly every human development 
indicator available, with life expectancy at 44 
years and an under-five mortality rate of over 
one in four. Mathew White, a history professor 
who has recently completed a detailed survey of 
the humanity’s worst atrocities throughout 
history, concluded that, without doubt, “chaos is 
far deadlier than tyranny”. It is a truth to which many Iraqis can testify.
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