The Conflict for Power in Transnational Class Theory

By Jerry Harris

“Power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
Mao Tse-tung

(Science & Society, Vol. 67 #3, Fall 2003)

Transnational capitalist class (TCC) theory has largely ignored the
role of the military-industrial complex and has instead concentrated on economic, political and cultural forces. Since coercive power is fundamental for class rule this question cries out for attention. In particular, the nature of the U.S. military-industrial complex must be examined because of its special role in maintaining security for global capitalism.

The military/industrial complex is a separate and independent class fraction split among a number of influential wings. These are mainly divided between transnational globalists, international hegemonists and bureaucratic nationalists. The globalists support a multinational approach to security, nation building and cross-border integration of production; the international hegemonists are for unilateral U.S. leadership and a rebuilt military based on new information technologies; and the bureaucratic nationalists want to limit security to a narrow scope of vital interests and industrial production based in the massive weapon systems of the cold war. As with all categories this presents a general picture ignoring more refined subdivisions and overlaps.

In Leslie Sklair’s The Transnational Capitalist Class, he divides the globalists into four main class fractions: “1) TNC executive and their local affiliates (the corporate fraction); 2) globalizing bureaucrats and politicians (the state fraction); 3) globalizing professionals (the technical fraction); and 4) merchants and media (the consumerist fraction).”  (Sklair, 2001, 17) Sklair argues that the TCC has “economic interests, political organizations, and cultural and ideological formations.” (2001, 21) Absent is an analysis of the miliary/industrial complex as an independent class fraction with its own globalist wing. Perhaps Sklair defines the military/industrial class fraction (MICF) as a state-centric formation. Since such formations have lost relevancy to Sklair he sees no need to investigate the MICF as a force co-determining the direction and development of globalization. As he notes, “The military and political might of the U.S…do provide prima facie evidence for the continuing correctness of state-centric explanations…but this would leave many problems raised by globalization research unanswered.” (2001, 32) This short footnote is the book’s only reference to the military. For Sklair the post 9/11 military hegemonism of the U.S. is just so much sound and fury that will eventually bow to the more powerful force of globalization. But he fails to see two important points, that the MICF is responsible for the emerging global system in the same manner as his four established class fractions, and that its internal contradictions can result in a challenge and temporary reversal of globalization.

William Robinson has also theorized about the TCC in his powerful book Promoting Polyarchy, and in an article we wrote together titled “Towards a Global Ruling Class: Globaization and the Transnational Capitalist Class.” (Robinson/Harris, 2000) In this article we define the TCC as “composed of the transnational corporations (TNCs) and financial institutions, the elites that manage the supranational economic planning agencies, major forces in the dominant political parties, media conglomerates, and the technocratic elites and state managers in both the North and South.” (2000, 12) As with Sklair we also ignore the role of the MICF and so imply that it is subsumed within the state structure rather than being a separate class fraction.

The problem for Robinson and myself is perhaps more serious than for Sklair because we argue that an emerging transnational state has appeared. Although this has no centralized form we see it as an “emerging network that comprises transformed and externally integrated national states, together with the supranational economic and political forums” (2000, 27) such as the IMF, WTO and World Bank. But states also have armies to guarantee their security and power. Robinson has argued that the U.S. military fulfills this role for the TCC. Since the TCC controls the U.S. state, and the state controls the military, the military then must act to further the interests of the TCC globally. In fact, this may explain Clinton’s military engagements in Haiti, Somalia and Kosovo where there were no vital U.S. economic interests. Instead the general interest of global capitalist stability was at stake. It can even be argued that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was mainly an operation for global oil and gas interests shared by a host of players including Russia, Turkmenistan, China, India, Japan, Britain, and Argentina; all of whom have expressed interest in pipe lines through Afghanistan. Therefore the U.S. is not seeking sole hegemony but acts in the interests of the TCC.

The fact that U.S. military involvement often does not coincide with its own economic interests supports the idea that it functions as a global army for capitalism. This is evident in the charts below.


# US owned
(in millions)
# of workers
(in thousands)
(in millions)
Affiliate net
(in millions)
23,611 69.4 1,495 867
S. Korea
20,139 57.7 1,553 57
9,755 70.9 562 633
6,361 37.7 668 364
11,483 53.5 1,329 621
1,824 8.1 57 -114


# of US foreign
(in millions)
# of Workers
(in thousands)
(in millions)
Affiliate Net
(in millions)
(with Hong Kong)
83,524 311.9 4,699 3,597
58,201 112.0 3,052 3,038
114,556 4.8 296 8,374
42,002 106.9 2,751 775
20,139 128.1 1,151 -12

U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA News Release, “International Investment Position in the US 2000.”

The concentration of military presence in countries with minimum U.S. investments is significantly different from industrial age imperialism when empires maintained monopoly control over territorial markets. Also, during the Cold War, containment policies restricted investments in countries with outspoken nationalist governments such as China and Malaysia. But the charts also reflect a conflict between global and nationalist concerns. Conflicts that point to differences within U.S. ruling fractions, each with their own set of interests. Corporate and financial powers have led the process of globalization. They built banking and tax havens such as Bermuda, pushed integration into China and entered any world market that offered opportunities to profit. Globalism is most consolidated within this class fraction.

The MICF is at the opposite end of the scale. It’s the class fraction in which globalism is the least consolidated and still contends with powerful oppositional forces. For example, hegemonists and nationalists seek to contain China from challenging U.S. political hegemony in the Pacific. Keeping troops in S. Korea, supporting Taiwan and sending troops to the Philippines are elements of this grand strategy. (Marti, 2001) It’s also interesting to compare how the U.S. and IMF have handled economic problems in Turkey and Argentina.  Turkey, because of its strategic border with Iraq has received billions in IMF bailouts. But lacking geopolitical significance Argentina has been denied help and turned into a free market experiment for conservatives who criticize the IMF for interfering too deeply in the global economy. Globalists differ in both these areas, seeking to integrate China into the world economy and supporting a financial bail-out of Argentina.

Support for a military solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is particularly important because the policy has such strong ties to the hegemonists. In part this stems from the Christian right and other conservatives who see Israeli as a buffer for Western civilization against the Arab and Muslim challenge. Christian activists are a powerful social base for the hegemonists and President Bush personally identifies with the movement. But there is also a long history between the defense industry, neoconservative hegemonists and the U.S. Zionist movement linked by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) and Center for Security Policy (CSP).  These think tanks have been a haven for right-wing defense intellectuals, many now in influential government positions. For example, JINSA advisors include Richard Perle, head of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, Douglas Feith, third ranking executive in the Pentagon, and Vice President Cheney. In addition, another 22 CSP advisors are in key posts in the national security establishment. Ties to the defense industry are cemented by the membership of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and others on JINSA/CSP boards, mostly represented by former high-ranking admirals and generals.  (Vest, 2002)

Many in the JINSA/CSP circle have long advocated regime change throughout the Middle East, and opposed the Oslo political process favored by globalists. Michael Ledeen, a leading JINSA member and Oliver North’s Iran/contra liaison with Israel, calls for “total war” to sweep away governments throughout the region. Speaking to the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Perle stated: “Those who think Iraq should not be next may want to think about Syria or Iran or Sudan or Yemen or Somalia or North Korea or Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority…if we do it right with respect to one or two…we could deliver a short message, a two-word message. ‘You’re next.’ ” (Perle, 2001)

Hegemonist strategy poses serious a question for transnational state and class theory that assumes military policy is directed by globalist  leadership. TCC theory argues political leadership operates through a transnational state containing globalist fractions from different parts of the world participating, competing and colluding in supranational institutions such as the WTO and IMF. The national state is part of this political network when transnational capitalists transform their local institutions to serve globalist’s aims. But this nation/state transformational process is mainly a local affair between nationalist and globalist fractions within each country. Within this context the U.S. military occupies a singular position. As capitalism’s only global army it operates under sole U.S. leadership subject to a variety of powerful national political influences. This tends to undermine the Robinson/Harris thesis on the TCC and state. At best, globalists outside the U.S. exert some moderate influence on major policy goals such as war with Iraq.

Rather than subsuming the military into the state and making it subject to whoever captures the White House, a more nuance analysis uncovers a globalist wing within an independent MICF that has allied with globalists both inside and outside the U.S. This wing advocates strategic coordination with global allies in the North and South, civic engagement and nation building to establish stability in countries not fully integrated into the global system, and industrial and technological mergers with allied defense manufacturers. In our article Robinson and I stated that the “national/transnational axis cuts across money, commercial and production capital, such that all three are split internally along the axis.” (2000, 25) The military/industrial complex should be included in our analysis because it too is split along the same axis. The difference being MICF globalists have never consolidated their internal leadership and still contend with hegemonists and nationalists.


To understand the military/industrial class fraction we need to investigate its relation to social production.  The military’s industrial base is international not transnational.  Transnational corporations manufacture using global assembly lines and supply chains, are engaged in cross-border merger and acquisitions, participate heavily in foreign direct investments, and their foreign held assets, sales and employment average between 45% to 65% of their corporate totals. International corporations have the majority of their investments, production facilities and employment in their country of origin and mainly access global markets through exports rather than through foreign owned affiliates. The latter pattern is evident in the defense industry that has the majority of its assets, employment and sales inside the U.S. Among the big four defense contractors Lockheed Martin has 939 facilities in 457 cities in 45 states, Northrup Grumman is located in 44 states, Boeing has 61 facilities in 26 states and Raytheon has 79 sites in 26 states. These are the majority of their global production facilities. In terms of international sales the majority are exports and run well below the average for TNCs, just 21% for Boeing and 25% for Lockheed Martin. (Harris, 2002) In terms of political influence 32 Bush appointees have been executives, consultants or major shareholders in the defense industry, 17 of these from the big four. (Ciarrocca, 2002)

International corporations also rely on state protectionism. As Robinson and I have pointed out these corporations are surrounded by a “whole set of traditional national regulatory and protectionist mechanisms.”(Robinson/Harris, 2000, 23)  This perfectly describes the relationship of the state to the defense industry. For example, in 2001 fully 72% of Lockheed Martin’s sales came from U.S. government procurements. In fact, a whole set of laws prevent sharing technologies or accepting foreign investments in key military industries.  While international sales are growing, they are mainly national exports overseen by the Departments of Defense, Commerce and State, all with their own set of rules and restrictions. Furthermore, the Pentagon processes 75% of all U.S. military foreign sales. This means the Department of Defense (DOD) negotiates the terms, collects the funds and disburses them to private U.S. contractors. The main military manufacturer’s organization, The National Defense Industrial Association, has 9,000 corporate affiliates and 26,000 individual members with no foreign membership.  The Association maintains close coordination with the DOD functioning through 34 committees, each with direct access and a working relationship with the military.  Divided up among these contractors is the largest single slice of the federal government’s budget. Current military spending has hit $437 billion with $62 billion for procurement and $51 billion in research and development.

Within this nationally protected economic base globalists are at work. Vance Coffman, Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin has called for an open and integrated transatlantic market in military production. (Coffman, 2000) The powerful Atlantic Council has also advocated military industrial mergers and acquisitions between the EU and U.S., as well as common research and development. (Macomber, 1998) In addition the Cato Institute, an influential conservative think tank, has called for open international investments in military markets. (Eland) On the European side General Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff of the German Federal Armed Forces, has backed industrial coordination in production and research. (Naumann, 2002) These trends are evident in the growing number of transnational contracts in which U.S. allies are demanding a local share of production. In 1994 this resulted in 40% of foreign military sales having offset obligations. (Hitchens, 1996).

Worried about Bush and “growing differences between U.S. and European policies” the Commission of Transatlantic Security and Industrial Cooperation in the Twenty-First Century was recently formed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The parent organization is chaired by former Senator Sam Nunn who oversees a $25 million endowment and a staff of 190 researches. Board members include Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.  Writing for the International Herald Tribune the Commission’s co-chairs, French aviation CEO Jean-Paul Bechat and former U.S. ambassador Felix Rohatyn, argued that national defense regulations have been rendered “obsolete and counterproductive by the internationalization of industrial operations.” Instead they envision a “trans-Atlantic defense market (in which) any unilateral approach would be unrealistic and unwise.”  This market should have a “level play field with equivalent access to each other’s markets, the abandonment of ‘national champion’ industrial policies by governments and cultural norms that amount to ‘Buy American’ or ‘buy European’ practices.” (Bechat, 2002)

Such calls for global production has caused a fierce debate within the MICF. Hegemonists and nationalists see a world where “allies come and go” and the need to maintain an industrial base for national security is of “paramount consideration.” As argued by Lt. Colonel Wayne Johnson “US strategy cannot be based solely on economic issues…we can ill afford to export the means of our future defeat.” (Johnson, 1998, 20, 22, 25) Hegemonists don’t want military production entangled with partners they don’t fully trust, particularly E.U. governments filled with globalists, social democrats and even communists.

Military production has been protected from globalization in two important areas. Financing is protected from speculative capital swings because of guaranteed state funding, and the national market is an unchallenged monopoly. For example, Raytheon is financed by more than 4,000 military funded programs and is included in over 450 major programs in the Defense Appropriations Bill of 2002. (Harris, 2002, 17) With the War on Terrorism defense contractors are now adopting military hardware for police and internal security use deepening the national character of their market. This market and financing is essentially untouched by global competition. After the demise of the Soviet Union the industry was subject to cut-backs and internal competition that led to large-scale mergers, but this centralization was not driven by global competitive pressure because the industrial base was not subject to transnationalized competition. Immersed in a protected national environment military manufacturers did not transform themselves as other TNCs. For obvious economic reasons nationalists want to maintain protections and for political reasons hegemonists desire an independent industrial base. But shrinking defense procurements have driven MICF globalists towards creating a transatlantic market, which aligns with their multilateralist political agenda. This division is one of the major nationalist/globalist fault lines inside the MICF.

The national industrial base is surrounded by a huge military apparatus including all branches of the armed services and the largest single bureaucracy in Washington, the Department of Defense. Not taking into account the men and women in uniform the DOD employs more people than any other part of the federal government. They also write more contracts, buy more goods and spend more money. Forces abroad account for 200,000 servicemen and women in 70 foreign installations in over 30 countries. In addition, there are 40,000 marines and sailors deployed afloat at any given time. (Dombrowski a, 22) This apparatus also includes the space program at NASA, the Department of Energy that oversees nuclear weapons production, the CIA and National Security Agency. The War on Terrorism is also increasing the organizational and governmental influence of the MICF particularly with the passage of the Homeland Securities Act.

In terms of the MICF’s intellectual life there is a large circle of academics situated in private think tanks, governmental strategic studies institutes, and various universities. A number of these schools such as the National Defense University and military war colleges are run by the DOD. These circles have vigorous debates and an intellectual life largely separated from other academic networks. They maintain a wide array of journals, web sites, policy papers, seminars and conferences with a deep pool of researchers and writers. For example, in 1992 the Air Force established the Institute for National Security Studies adding it to several existing internal think tanks. Over the next six years the new Institute conducted 400 projects involving 700 researchers and over 30 universities. Globalist advocates are solidly situated among many think tanks. They have significant influence in the National Strategic Studies Institute at the National Defense University, the Strategic Studies Institute at the Army’s War College, the Strategic Research Department Center for Naval Warfare Studies, and the Air War College. (Dombrowski a, Hasskamp, Kugler a,b, Wass de Czege).

Lastly military culture has deep roots and influence. This covers everything from Civil War reenactments, movies, television, music, video games, comics, national mythology, toys, symbols and dress. Much of this influence is indirect simply affirming that evil exists in the world and that violence offers the best and quickest solution for security and safety. Other objects such as G.I. Joe action figures have specific and direct influence. Some of these cultural icons are used to quickly respond to political events. For example, Marvel’s comic book hero Captain America dresses in red, white and blue and shortly after 9/11 was fighting terrorists lead by “Al-Tariq.” Such mass popular culture helps maintain militarism as an inbeded identity in U.S. society and can transform into widespread political support for aggressive policies during periods of crisis.

The above four circles of influence, industrial, state, intellectual and cultural create a powerful basis for an independent class fraction. Because of its unique private/state symbiotic relationship the MICF cannot be subsumed solely into commercial or production capital or within the state sector. All capitalist class fractions impose upon each other and need to be analyzed independently as well as linked in shifting patterns of influence and competition. In this context the military’s voice was part of an overarching political debate on changing world conditions. As a complex and multifaceted class fraction it does not simply take orders from whoever occupies the White House.  In fact, President Bush was greatly influence by Colin Powell whose criticism of nation building was a crucial part of Bush’s foreign policy strategy.


The same transformational forces that gave rise to different globalist blocs within the capitalist class also swept into the military/industrial complex. Two of the most important changes were the disintegration of the USSR and the revolution in information technology. Each class fraction was affected to a different extent by these emerging opportunities and pressures. Certainly CEOs and managers of transnational corporations and financial institutions were the most completely transformed, their accumulation strategies totally immersed in global production and speculation. Arguments for non-globalist economic strategies are virtually non-existent inside TNCs. Political parties also saw the rise of transnational advocates to leadership, but they still contend with anti-globalist fractions inside their organizations and are subject to populist mass politics from outside.

In terms of the MICF we have already discussed the clash of globalist and nationalist policies in relation to their industrial base. Similar debates also erupted over the role of the armed forces in a post-Soviet world. When the Soviet bloc dissolved the 40-year strategic outlook and mission of the MICF also ended. Containment, nuclear confrontation and support for Third World dictatorships gave way to a new globalist strategy of world “democratization and economic liberalization.”  (Dombrowski, 2000a, 21) This approach began to consolidate under George Bush and then turned into a controversially full-blown globalism under Clinton. Analyzing the move away from an exclusive focus on military threats the Naval War College observed, “Human rights …and commercial interests are used to justify maintaining and using military forces. The U.S. Army, for example, now trains for peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and humanitarian operations as it once prepared to battle Warsaw Pact armies. ” (2000a, 23) Although the globalist strategy downplayed the threat of a major war, it pushed extensive engagement and “‘enlarging’ the community of secure free-market and democratic nations.” (Hasskamp, 1998, 6) In fact, under these new policies Clinton deployed troops more often than any previous president.  As General Reimer explained, the Army was a “rapid reaction force for the global village.” (1998, 17)

Charles Hasskamp from the Air War College sums-up the globalist approach nicely, “without a military threat to the nation’s survival on the horizon, it is now more critical to have the capability to deter war and exercise preventive diplomacy than to have a force unable to react to anything but war. Unfortunately, there are still many who oppose having the military do anything but prepare for total war…Global security now requires efforts on the part of international governmental agencies, private volunteer organizations, private organizations, and other instruments of power from around the world…helping to stabilize the world, promoting social and economic equity, and minimizing or containing the disastrous effects of failed states. Let us not merely pay lip service to warrior diplomacy.”  (1998, 31-32)

These globalist policies were never fully supported within the military, and yet no one else seemed to offer a more comprehensive or convincing vision. One alternative was even positively titled “muddling through.” (Hasskamp, 1998, 20) Those opposed to nation building advocated less involvement limited to traditional military roles. As Samuel Huntington wrote, “A military force is fundamentally antihumanitarian: its purpose is to kill people in the most efficient way possible.” (Huntington, 1993, 43) By Clinton’s last years in office many in the military felt globalization had drawn the armed forces too deeply into civilian affairs. A precautionary prize-winning essay for the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Lt. Colonel Charles Dunlap creates a scenario in which a politicized military stages a coup takes in 2012. In a second essay Dunlap argues that the “armed forces (should) focus exclusively on indisputable military duties” and “not diffuse our energies away from our fundamental responsibilities for war fighting.” (Dunlap, 1996, 6) Others, like Doug Bandow protested that “it is not right to expect 18-year-old Americans to be guardians of a de facto global empire, risking their lives when their own nation’s security is not at stake.” (Bandow, 1996) But hegemonists faced a major problem, in their anti-globalist reaction they were caught advocating a cautious defensive position that lacked a serious superpower threat. On the otherhand, globalists put forward a dynamic and proactive engagement policy set inside a new grand strategy for capitalist global penetration and stability.

So when MICF hegemonists seized upon terrorism to redefine political and military strategy they found a solid base of support. As Rumsfeld notes “In just one year-2001- we adopted a new defense strategy. We replaced the decade-old two-major-theater-of war construct with an approach more appropriate for the twenty-first century.” (Rumsfeld, 2002, 30) This new strategy advocates extensive engagement but on the traditional grounds of warfare, not nation building humanitarianism.  Hegemonists had tied themselves to a self-limiting strategy with a narrow set of interests, but terrorism provided a worldwide threat that let them out of their anti-globalist box and created the long sought post Cold War enemy. As noted by one study,  “from the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 until the attacks on the heart of the American republic on September 11, 2001, the transnational progressives were on the offensive…(but) clearly, in the post-September 11 milieu there is a window of opportunity for those who favor a reaffirmation of the traditional norms of …partriotism.” (Fonte, 2001 465-466)

Harvey Sicherman, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, also points to the sharp turn in policy after 9-11. “The Clinton administration believed that just as economic globalization would transcend borders, so security could be lifted out of the rut of geopolitics…this powerful idea needed as its corollary an international military force (but) globalization had begun to falter even before September 11 when the destruction of the World Trade Center ended the era.  Today geopolitics is back with a vengeance …American military forces are waging a war today in defense of U.S. national security, not to secure the freedoms of Afghanis.  Humanitarian warfare is a doctrine come and gone.” (Sicherman, 2002, 2)


The terrorist attacks created the opportunity for anti-globalists to construct a new ruling class bloc and challenge TCC rule from within the MICF. The globalist base was weakest in the MICF while the military’s patriotic/nationalist ideology and the national character of military manufacturing allowed the hegemonists to maintain a strong overall position and contend successfully for leadership. This acted as a catalyst for anti-globalist forces within broader circles of the ruling class. Their political outlook is tied to the older imperialist model that developed in the international era of industrial production with a mission of world leadership and national greatness.

The hegemonist camp is composed of two major wings, the  geopolitical realists and neoconservatives. Neoconservatives have advocated aggressive unilateral engagement for many years, maintain a strong ideological basis for their policy views and criticize the realists for their pragmatism. As Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon’s number two man has stated, “nothing could be less realistic than the version of the realist view of foreign policy that dismisses human rights as an important tool of American foreign policy.” (Desch, 2001, 25) For neoconservatives ideas still matter and they seek to enshrine foreign policy in the superiority of Western civilization. As imperialists of old they carry the “white man’s burden” of civilizing a Hobbesian world.

More concerned with power than political vision are the realists who dominate Bush’s cabinet. Traditionally they have been more reluctant to engage in operations considered outside vital national interests. As Bush stated in his debate with Al Gore, “I think we’ve got to be careful when we commit our troops.  The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win wars.” (Desch, 2001, 5)  But realists also maintain a classic imperialist vision of the nation/state achieving hegemony by dominating a dangerous and competitive world system through political and military power. This became pronounced after 9-11 because a war to defend vital national interest was now possible. All of this is evident in the unilaterialists and naked hegemonic policies of the Bush administration. The refusal to sign important international agreements, the “with us or against us” bravado and threats of preemptive military strikes are all fundamental weapons in the hegemonist arsenal. It is this approach that establishes a powerful common political bond for both hegemonist wings.

Both wings are also united in their opposition to globalist multilateralism which they feel undermines the central importance of the nation/state. Hegemonists see the key divide “not between globalist and antiglobalist, but instead over the form Western global engagement should take in the coming decades: will it be transnational or internationalist?” (Fonte, 2001, 457) This transnational/international split is linked to the cultural purity and political independence of the nation/state. The hegemonist’s rejection of multilateralism abroad is tied to their opposition to multiculturalism at home.  They fear the deconstruction of an Euro-centric narrative of U.S. history will create a “post-assimilationist society” that will make “American nationhood obsolete.” (2001, 454) For hegemonists “transnationalism is the next stage of multiculturalist ideology – it is multiculturalism with a global face.” (2001, 456)

Perle takes-up the nation-centric argument against multilaterialism stating, “An alliance today is really not essential…the price you end-up paying for an alliance is collective decision making. That was a disaster in Kosovo…We’re not going to let the discussions…the manner in which we do it (and) the targets we select to be decided by a show of hands from countries whose interests cannot be identical to our own and who haven’t suffered what we have suffered.” Continuing on about an U.S. occupation of Iraq, Perle says, “look at what could be created, what could be organized, what could be made cohesive with the power and authority of the United States.” (Perle, 2001) For hegemonists unilateralism is more than a preferred policy, independent political action is a principal pillar of their ideology and a foundation of state power.

When Rumsfeld and Cheney advocated rejecting work with the U.N. they were defending the independence of the U.S. state. This strikes at the heart of powerful interests on both sides of the Atlantic, and centrists like Powell still advocate working within the U.N. framework. But others, like former Reagan U.N. representative Jeanne Kirkpatrick argue that “foreign governments and their leaders, and more than a few activists here at home, seek to constrain and control American power by means of elaborate multilateral processes, global arrangements and U.N. treaties that limit both our capacity to govern ourselves and act abroad.” (Kirkpatrick, 2000) For hegemonists multilateral cooperation is weakness in a world where, from their viewpoint, competitive international blocs still constitute a major source of conflict.  This conflict is given great significance because “transnational progressivism” challenges “traditional American concepts of citizenship, patriotism, assimilation, and at the most basic level, to the meaning of democracy itself.” (Fonte, 2001, 465). Huntington’s thesis on the “clash of civilizations” provides the theoretical basis that ties cultural wars at home to wars with Islam abroad. Western civilization must be defended within and without, something globalists not only fail to do but actively undermine.

From this point-of-view a unilaterial war on terrorism is a strategic link in the battle for class power against the TCC. Establishing the unilateral use of force and violence, ignoring international law, attacking immigrant rights, and promoting a renewed patriotic cultural narrative are all key elements in a broad counteroffensive. John Fonte, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, offers a definition of the social-base for “transnational progressivism” that closely parallels the class analysis of Sklair, Robinson and Harris. Fonte includes corporate executives, Western politicians, the “post-national” intelligentsia, U.N. bureaucrats, E.U. administrators and various NGOs and foundation activists. (2001, 457) This is the line of demarcation in what hegemonists see as an “intracivilization conflict” for the soul of the nation/state.

Multilaterial Foreign PolicyMulticultural National Diversity

Nation Building and Humanitarian Warfare

A Mutual and Stable Global Empire for World Capital

Transnational Corporate Economic Base

Unilaterialists Foreign PolicyEuro-Centric and Christian Nation

Limit Military Actions to Vital National Interest

Geopolitical Competition and Regional Blocs

Military Industry and Oil Petroleum Economic Base

From the start of the Bush administration unilateralism was a key tool to undermine globalist policies. Hegemonists defined a special role for the U.S. as defender of Western civilization.  U.S. interests were above all others because only the U.S. could promote and expand the free market, democracy and the Christian way of life. Other powers may be subjected to toxic weapons inspections, world courts and environmental treaties but the U.S. needs to stand above all these global restraints to carry out its mission as leader successfully.  The goal was to rule over a world system, not participate in it as first among equals.

All this was evident in Bush’s aggressive speech to 25,000 at West Point in June, 2001. Throughout his talk the audience of future military leaders greeted the president with “shouts of approval” and “raucous applause.” (Kemper, 2002) As Bush stated, “the only path to safety is the path of action…we must take the battle to the enemy…and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” Directing criticism at European leaders for being too weak and wedded to globalism to fight against “evil” Bush continued, “Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree.” (2002) This talk of right and wrong is tied to Christian ideology that provides the hegemonists their particular brand of moral leadership and desire for national purity. It also merges with the neoconservative concern for ideology and Huntington’s call to defend Western civilization. As Bush further stated, “We are in a conflict between good and evil… and we will lead the world in opposing it.”  “Civilized nations” fighting “choas” should place the “safety..and peace of the planet” in the hands of the U.S. in the battle against “mad terrorists and tyrants.” (2002) For Bush only the U.S. can lead this war to success and he wants the U.S to determine policy without interference.

With less Christian fervor Rumsfeld put forward the same doctrine in Foreign Affairs a month before Bush’s speech at West Point. As Rumsfeld articulates, “Our challenge in this century is…to defend our nation against the unknown, the uncertain, the unseen, and the unexpected…so we can defeat adversaries that have not yet emerged.” (Rumsfeld, 2002, 23) This preemptive aggression for an endless war against non-existent enemies is repeated throughout Rumsfeld’s article. “Take the war to the enemy…the only defense is a good offense…unhindered access to space…sustain power in distant theaters…rule nothing out,”(2002, 26, 31) Rumsfeld wants permanent war readiness as the overriding policy of the U.S. state.  In Rumsfeld’s world even the shadow of a challenge is not to be tolerated. “We must develop new assets, the mere possession of which discourages adversaries from competing.” (2002, 27) In this scenario the role of global allies is to serve policy determined by the U.S. Thus “the mission must determine the coalition, the coalition must not determine the mission, or else the mission will be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.” (Ibid, 31) “Dumbed down” referring not to Bush, but the political policies and strategies of everyone else.


Lastly we can turn briefly to the impact of information technological (IT) that laid the foundation for another important change, a new military doctrine labeled the “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).” New technology transformed the command, communications and control of military organization in the same manner that information technologies transformed the organization of TNCs. As Rumsfeld has argued, “we must take the leap into the information age, which is the critical foundation of all our transformation efforts.” (Rumsfeld, 2002, 28) Hegemonists believe information technology will provide an unchallenged competitive edge. As pointed out in a study at the Naval Postgraduate School, “RMA proponents argue the United States should take advantage of its current technological edge to accelerate a revolution in warfare that will sustain U.S. power and leadership into the future and that can be exploited in U.S. foreign policy to build an international system to the nation’s liking.” (JCISS, 1999, 1) This is reflected in Rumsfeld’s call for a 125% increase in spending for information technology, a 145% increase in space capabilities, and a 28% increase in programs that can attack enemy information networks. In turn this means cuts to previously important programs like Peacekeeper missles, the F-14 fighter, and the Navy Area Missile Defense program.

These changes create their own debates and divisions within the MICF. One of the primary differences between international hegemonists and bureaucratic nationalists is their battle over the transformation of the military’s weapon systems, or what can be termed their tools of production. As Defense News observed, “Unfortunately, the Pentagon is still dominated by cold warriors, obsessed with big, expensive weapons programs.” (Ciarrocca, 2002, 4) The fight between Rumsfeld and the Army over his attempt to cancel the $11 billion Crusader artillery system is just one very public display of their differences. The struggle over information technology involves hundreds of billions of dollars in weapons production, command organization, the nature of warfare and the personal careers of many elite members of the MICF.

Although microprocessors are thoroughly integrated into the production and products of the defense industry, military organizations are still debating how to expand and integrate their new weapons into warfare and organizational strategy. These weapons are designed to make use of information technologies but are tied to non-informational warfare strategies.  The effort is to switch from platform-centric models of operation that rely on large individual military assets that engage targets head-to-head, to decentralized networks of smaller, faster weapon nodes that self-synchronize and engage more rapidly from all directions. This transformation parallels the period over a decade ago when corporations were tied to large mainframe computers and didn’t understand how to structure themselves around PCs.  Only when corporations learned how to use networked productive capacities did informational capitalism take-off. They had to adopt their business strategies to their new organizational capabilities, not use the new technology with old strategies. This corporate debate was often structured around the transformation from industrial to informational capitalism.

The military faces this same debate today. As Richard Harknett points out, “the growing ubiquity of personal computers and other information technologies is viewed not only as the basis for a new societal age but as the foundation for a new form of warfare as well…the creation, accumulation, and manipulation of information has always been a central part of human activity (warfare in particular).” (Harknett, 1996, 2) Another study states “A particular understanding of the late twentieth-century shift from the industrial age to the information age drives the Networked Centric Warfare vision.” (Dombrowski b, 525)  While some questions whether networked organizational methods can succeed in such a highly bureaucratic and hierarchical institution as the military growing support for RMA is evident.  For example, an important Army project titled ‘Force XXI,’ states its goal “is to create the 21st century army that is ‘digitized and redesigned to harness the power of information-age warfare.’” (Harknett, 1996, 10) Support is also evident in the Navy, as another study notes, “ Every Sailor and Marine has an opportunity to be a part of something significant, since transformations of this magnitude—from an industrial-age Navy to an information-age Navy—rarely occur.” (Kasten 2000, 13)

Part of RMA is to create Networked Centric Operations (NCO) that promoters believe will change “doctrine, platforms, training and culture.” (Kasten, 2000, 2) The core focus is on networked information of “unprecedented pace and intensity.” This would give officers and troops real-time “situational awarenss to rule the battlespace.” (2000, 2) Just-in-time warfare could let commanders coordinate a vast system of troops and machines that rapidly respond to changing conditions and out maneuver their competition. In adopting NCO the military looks towards “applying the lessons learned from the commercial sector…to become a ‘brain-rich organization.” (Hayes, 2002, 8) This IT scenario has obvious links to TNC strategies rooted in speed, creative intellectual capital and greater centralization of command.

But while some advocate “developing human capital” others see removing the “human element” and creating automated cybernetic systems to do much of the fighting. (Dombrowski 2000a, 27) This parallels corporate discussions on how to use intellectual capital to create machines that can minimize human labor and lower the cost of production. For the military IT fighting machines can minimize the cost of war with fewer U.S. casualties.  Some in the military argue that “RMA with its prospect of ‘immaculate’ war-making (will) change the equation between cost and benefit, and make war more bearable in the public eye.” (JCISS, 1999, 1). Such political considerations are important points in the military’s long sought solution to the Vietnam syndrome of extended wars and high causalities undermining popular support. As another study notes, “the technological and organizational innovations springing from the RMA may make US military objectives attainable at lower costs than ever before—a consideration that stands to shape US commitment to military coercion…a President able to control casualties is in a better position to maintain popular support for his own war policy (and) domestic legitimacy for military intervention. ” (Nincic, 1995, 1, 10).


The above analysis reveals the sharp contradictions under which the Bush administration must operate. Their hegemonic strategy rejects the leadership of the TCC in favor of an U.S. led process that reinforces the role of the national state through its monopoly over violence. But anti-war sentiment and globalist’s political differences are creating enough pressures to cause the hegemonists to adopt and moderate their rhetoric and aims. While their bomb-don’t-build strategy is failing in post-Taliban Afghanistan and pushing Bush towards nation building efforts, more evident and explosive has been the visible conflict over Iraq.  A key turn in events occurred in September 2002 when globalists in the Republican

Party launched a counter-offensive. Republican foreign policy heavyweights Henry Kissinger, Brent Scrowcroft, Lawrence Eagleburger and James Baker all hit T.V., print and radio the same week attacking the hegemonist strategy. In turn Cheney ran to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Rumsfeld ordered up an audience of Marines to urge unilateral war on Iraq. Open conflict at such elite levels is rarely seen in public and it led to Bush going to the U.N. to seek an international consensus before attacking Iraq.

Although hegemonists believe a unilateral attack is key to asserting U.S. power, they have been forced to retreat and accept the centrist position represented by Powell.  The Powell doctrine for military involvement developed with Casper Wienberger during the Reagan years advocates having clear national interests, using overwhelming force, gaining public and international support and exhausting all diplomatic means. But one key element of the doctrine is missing for the war on Iraq, an exit strategy.  This may well be because there is no exit strategy, but rather plans for permanent occupation and control of Iraq’s oil. This would mesh with hegemonist’s economic strategies of energy independence as well as threaten Russian and French inroads into Iraq’s oil industry. Hegemonists see transnational economics as a failure with crisis after crisis creating instability in Asia, Turkey and Latin America. Seizing control of the world’s second largest oil reserves puts a vital section of the world economy under greater U.S. domination. Military bases in Iraq would also provide strategic geopolitical power, threatening Iran and Syria while protecting Israel and Saudi Arabia. All this translates into greater stability and order from the hegemonist’s viewpoint. From the globalist’s perspective it is a world ready to explode.

Redefining the U.S. relationship with Europe is also rife with contradictions. The hegemonists want the E.U. to do nation building while the U.S. does carpet-bombing. It’s a division of labor in which “Americans (are) a sort of global mercenary force and the Europeans international social workers.” (Longworth a) Hardly the type of globalism that E.U. leaders expect or desire, relegated to cleaning-up the human disaster created by  U.S. bombs. As French foreign policy expert Gilles Andreani observes, “this is a new attitude, a contempt toward Europeans that we never saw before.”   (Longworth b) Indeed, transnationalists on both sides of the Atlantic are deeply disturbed. The invasion of Iraq may be the first war initiated by a minority fraction of the ruling class, leaving little room for hegemonist’s errors or miscalculations. Whether or not the war is launched their overall strategy is a high stakes gamble that has set the stage for struggle in the U.S. and the world.


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