[OPE-L:2492] the US military and inter-imperialist relations

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 07 2000 - 05:33:20 EST

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In [2490], Rakesh wrote:

> Jerry didn't think security concerns would be much reason for Germany
> or Japan to hold on to dollars since they could count on the US, acting
> on its own interests, to provide regional security.

If I recall correctly, you were claiming particularly with reference to
Japan (since it was the subject of the Japanese financial crisis that
initiated that thread) that the financial crisis there could be understood
largely but not exclusively in terms of the relationship of the financial
crisis in Japan to the US especially as a consequence of the cost of
paying for the US government to provide "security" in the East Asia
region and other areas that were in the interests of Japan.

As the excerpt that you snipped indicated, I argued that *with or without*
Japanese financial assistance, the US government acting in defense of its
own alleged "security interests" would have acted in much the same way.

The issue that I was concerned about in that thread was in maintaining
some level of "relative autonomy" for the actions of the US state in the
sense that their actions could be motivated not by narrowly economic
reasons alone but by other goals e.g. preserving US military hegemony and

Consider (again) the case of South Korea (which we also discussed in
reference to the East Asian crisis last year). The way I heard your
position was that the reason the US was maintaining a (expensive)
military presence in S. Korea was in defense of Japanese imperialism and
the Japanese government was largely subsidizing US military "protection"
there. I maintain that the US military was in Korea for its own interests
(largely related to its anti-communist goal) and that their concern over a
possible (*highly* unlikely) military threat to Japan was of little
consequence. If that is the case, then the US has little leverage over
Japan in this case since the Japanese government knows that the US
government will act in much the same way with or without Japanese
financial assistance to the US and therefore the US military.

> (snip)--so skimming through Robt Gilpin's The Challenge of
> Global Capitalism (Princeton, 2000), I found that he emphasized that both
> Germany and Japan have feared that a collapse of the dollar would force the
> United States to withdraw its forces from overseas and to retreat into
> political isolation and have thus agreed to hold overvalued dollars.

I don't find this a convincing argument, especially since there was no
reason to believe that the political situation in the US would have
allowed a retreat to political (and military) isolation. For that
perspective to be credible, then one would have to believe that Japanese
and German financial and political leaders had little or no
understanding of US politics, especially the position of the
Democratic and Republican parties on the "proper" role for the US
military including defeating the "communist threat" (you later mentioned
the Reagan years: you will no doubt recall US policy in places like
Grenada and El Salvador re the "evil empire"), insurgency movements,
and terrorism (Ha!) and thereby protecting "vital US economic interests"
and "preserving and extending democracy" (yes, of course, I know that is
not their real aim). *Yet, the fact remains that there is little reason
for Japan and Germany to pay for US military intervention in various
parts of the world if those countries know that the US government will
act in much the same way without that support*.

Nonetheless, it is conceivable in some instances that the US will only use
its military if there is a prior agreement among imperialist allies for at
least partial repayment for US military expense. An example of this might
have been the Gulf War.

In solidarity, Jerry

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