Subtle and blatant imperialism

Posted on | mei 12, 2011 | No Comments

‘Subtle Imperialism’ is the kind that many private and public institutions carry out daily in order to advance the process of greater economic integration by the developed countries (mainly the G-8) with the rest of the world, especially the underdeveloped and semi-developed nations. The IMF with its austerity measures for example is exercising subtle form of imperialism and it has been doing so for the past sixty years with success for finance capital.

The World Bank providing loans for infrastructural development in Africa, Latin America and Asia so that multinational corporations can exploit mineral resources, timber, etc. is another form of ‘subtle imperialism’, because it can be explained as economic modernization. Any form that involves financial, political, or cultural institutions by the advanced country seeking to gain economic, political, or strategic advantage with the intent to impose some form of hegemony in an underdeveloped or semi-developed country is a form of ‘subtle imperialism’. Not only is there no colonization involved in subtle imperialism, but the subtle imperialist nation makes the case that it is acting for the broader welfare of the nation it is seeking to exploit, impose hegemony and deprive it of its sovereignty.

A blatant form of imperialism is when the aggressor resorts to military force and/or occupation, or some forcible economic action against the country from which it seeks some advantage. The case of Afghanistan and Iraq are good examples in the last ten years, while Libya in 2011 is a good case of where blatant form of imperialism is exercised. A country immersed in a civil war in which the US, UK, and France, reluctantly backed by the other NATO members, Libya is now facing the prospect that the US that has frozen more than $30 billion of its assets may use such assets to support the rebels in the civil war. If there is no other way to steal the wealth of a nation, why not freezing its assets and then appropriating them?

Apparently, this issue came up after the NATO allies realized that the cost of foreign intervention is $3 billion per for military salaries, food, medicine and other basic supplies in the next few months. Because the US is facing an immense budgetary deficit, and opening another costly war with no end in sight may harm Obama’s reelection prospects, Hilary Clinton proposed giving Libya’s frozen assets to the rebels.

This proposal may end up actually helping the NATO allies that could also avail themselves of the same funds – dividing it would be interesting in itself. Unable to determine how long NATO’s intervention in Libya would last – a very long time in the absence of ground troops many strategists believe – the US is opting to use Libya’s own funds to finance what NATO calls the mission to protect Libyan civilians and guarantee humanitarian aid.

This blatant form of imperialism is indeed very old. Europe and the US have practiced in other parts of the world this type of intervention. A somewhat similar situation existed in 1900 during the Chinese Boxers Rebellion. Chinese nationalist rebels carried out against foreigners that had been exploiting the country since the First Opium War. When the foreign troops suppressed the rebellion, they would not leave until the government signed a treaty agreeing to pay $333 million for the cost of the invasion to the foreign powers, including military and commercial concessions that would ensure China’s division into spheres of influence.

The Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi made the following observation about the blatant form of imperialism that China suffered.

“For the past thirty years the foreigners have taken advantage of our country’s benevolence and generosity as well as our wholehearted conciliation to give free reign to their unscrupulous ambitions. They have oppressed our state, encroached upon our territory, trampled upon our people, and exacted our wealth. Every concession made by the Court has caused them day-by-day to rely more upon violence until they shrink from nothing.”

The empress of China lacked the confidence of the people, her government was corrupt, weak, and detrimental to the welfare of the vast majority of people. Imperialism only made the lives of people worse, as the country lapsed into the chaos of the war lords era, sharp regional divisions, and of course the rise of nationalists and communists that eventually fought it out during the civil war of the 1940s. It would take China many decades to reclaim its sovereignty that foreign powers stole along with its assets after the Boxers Rebellion.

Today, the US and its NATO allies are behaving in a blatantly imperialist manner toward Libya. Not that Gaddafi is worth saving, any more than the Chinese empress a century ago. The issue is not the unworthy ruler, but the right to self-determination, national sovereignty and protection from foreign exploitation. NATO powers are intervening in a blatant manner to deprive Libya of any claims to self-determination and sovereignty. Their goal is to reduce it to a satellite that would serve their strategic, political and economic interests. And this in the name of democracy!

AUTHOR: Jon Kofas
E-MAIL: jonkofas [at]


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