During the 19th century “The White Man’s Burden,” a poem by Rudyard Kipling, was eagerly taken up by imperialists within the US and UK who misconstrued the title as a characterization for imperialism that justified their foreign policy as a noble enterprise.
The British Empire used this ideological justification as a cover to economically exploit its imperial possessions and dominions. In fact, before WWI, Britain made more money from its overseas investments (50%) than its export trade.
The English liberal economist John A. Hobson, railed against British imperialism, which he saw as the product of one interest group, those connected with certain financial institutions:
It is not too much to say that the modern foreign policy of Great Britain is primarily a struggle for profitable markets of investment. To a larger extent every year Great Britain is becoming a nation living upon tribute from abroad, and the classes who enjoy this tribute have an ever-increasing incentive to employ the public policy, the public purse, and the public force to extend the field of their private investments, and to safeguard and improve their existing investments. This is, perhaps, the most important fact in modern politics, and the obscurity in which it is wrapped constitutes the gravest danger to our State.
The prescient words of Hobson regarding Britain can equally be applied to US imperialism today.
In May, the main anti-occupation figure in Iraq, Moqtada Al-Sadr, warned that his partisans will take up arms again if the US military withdrawal isn’t completed on schedule by December 31.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Hamad Karzai warned the Americans in June that “history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and occupiers,” implying that the US are in Afghanistan for their own gain. Furious US commentators questioned his sanity and suggested that he was “perhaps struggling with a mental illness”. Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul, was especially slighted by the remark and explained how “America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world. We are a good people.”
But this can only be proven if the US does not profit from its interventions. Superficial chants of “No blood for Oil,” reverberating throughout Western capitals every time a developing nation is attacked, does not help to explain the world’s complex economic order and the hidden reason why they are being invaded and occupied in the first place. For that, an eco-political model needs to be used to help explain the US’s foreign policy.
At its simplest, this model shows that the US grand strategy is to maintain its economic supremacy and petrodollar tribute via Henry Kissinger’s petrodollar recycling plan, which traces back to 1973. The US transitioned from a gold-backed dollar, under Bretton Woods, to a black gold-backed floating dollar. The plan relies on the continued control of the Middle Eastern oil producers and petrodollar recycling (investment) of Middle Eastern oil surpluses into the US treasury, banks and assets.
These funds through fractional reserve banking allow the debt-laden US to control the world’s capital flows sharing this “tribute” between the US “world banker” and its allies in the G8 “franchisees,” such as the UK and France. Mercenary nations, such as Australia, multinationals, including media conglomerates, behave as “brokers,” and are rewarded with their share of “tribute” through FTAs or access to cheap petrodollar finance. Its economic supremacy in turn funds the US’s military supremacy.
The US’s tribute gained because of its petrodollar hegemony was detailed in a paper titled, From World Banker to World Venture Capitalist: US External Adjustment and The Exorbitant Privilege, written by Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas and Helene Rey in 2005.
Using the figures presented in this paper, the returns on its assets and the offsetting of its risk to the rest of the world via external adjustment of its liabilities earned it an estimated dividend of $462 billion in 2004 alone. Corporate profits that same year were $1.16 trillion, which means that US earnings from its overseas investments represents around 40% of this total.
In light of this model, the US’s grand strategy is obscure no longer. It becomes apparent why Saddam Hussein’s fate was sealed when he started selling oil in euros. And it becomes clear why Iran attracted the US’s attention when it opened a euro-denominated oil bourse. Gaddafi’s call for an African monetary union using the gold dinar appears to have equally terrified the US “world banker” and its G8 “franchisees.”
The “radicals,” Al-Sadr and Karzai, were simply stating what we have all suspected all along. Just as the US zealously guards its gold supplies at Fort Knox from 1973 onwards the US has increasingly coveted the Middle East’s black gold reserves.
So the US – contrary to the compliant media’s marketing – is not a benevolent, albeit misguided, super-power burdening itself at great personal cost for the betterment of mankind. It is in reality a super Empire, waging wars of aggression and occupation to gain profit and further its corporate interests.
And it is in reality “the Brown Man’s Burden” that he geographically resides atop the US dollar’s black gold backing, making him a continued target of control, invasion and occupation by the debt-laden US super Empire and its allies dependent on continued petrodollar recycling and finance.