Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Militarism and U.S. Trade Policy

Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Militarism and U.S. Trade Policy

Article excerpt

It is rare to think about the links between militarism and U.S. "trade" policy. But in recent decades, U.S. global economic policies have increasingly driven U.S. military policy. And under the Presidency of George W. Bush and the "war on terrorism" the trend has rapidly and dangerously accelerated. The results have generated a militarism that is beyond the reach of democratic processes both in the United States and abroad. For this reason, activists who oppose the Iraq War and U.S. militarism generally and those promoting global economic and environmental justice must develop a common agenda.


Though often unseen, U.S. military policy has frequently been influenced by the economic needs of national elites and major corporations. But the role of economic and trade policy on military action and strategy today is occurring in a new context. The large transnational corporations that have successfully pushed the "free trade" regime on much of the world are in need of new forms of military support in order to maintain and enlarge their sphere of influence. As a result, U.S. military strategy has shifted to focus on areas of the world that resist the dominant "free trade" doctrine. U.S. military planners and policymakers are in the process of phasing out the Cold War era strategy that made use of large standing armed forces in strategically located military bases around the world combined with a balance of nuclear terror and the selective clandestine overthrow of "unfriendly" governments.

In place of these Cold War era strategies, U.S. policy makers have defined a new military strategy based upon the notion of regime change through "preventive" warfare. The U.S. military is also moving toward a smaller more mobile strike force in which more and more soldiers are being trained as elite special operations forces (special ops). The United States government is rapidly eliminating traditional civilian control over intelligence (the traditional command of the CIA and FBI) and centralizing all intelligence under the control of the White House and the Pentagon. Under the Bush administration, the military is rapidly developing security alliances with trading partners such as Canada and Mexico that bring their security and military apparatus under the control of the U.S. military, the U.S. National Security Council and the U.S. centralized intelligence apparatus.

These changes are a response to three kinds of problems generated by policies and programs that the Bush administration calls "free trade." These programs, however, involve much more than trade. The first President Bush more aptly called them a "new world order." But instead of order, the policies are resulting in chaos. One problem produced by the new world order is that people in many nations resist the programs because of the pain they inflict. Secondly, some nations have the ability to opt out of new world order programs. They then become part of a "globalization gap" that transnational corporations and the governments that serve them wish to eliminate. Finally the new world order has weakened nation states, that has led to a globalization of resistance both in the form of peaceful multi-state civil society alliances as well as stateless terrorist organizations and cells.

"Free Trade's" Evolution into a New World Order

Free trade as an economic theory and policy means simply eliminating barriers to trade among nations. The policies of the new world order are far more than that. The distinction between free trade and a new world order is critical to understanding of why the onset of this new world order has generated a new set of military priorities. An understanding of the distinction is best derived by looking at their evolution.

The era prior to the new world order began at the end of World War II when the economic and military power of the U.S. was challenged only by the Soviet Union. The U.S. …

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