This is Part One of an in-depth three-part essay on the possibility and implications of military conscription in America. Part Two is here and Part Three is here.
- by Y. Kleftis
The Necessity of Profit ( Part One of Three)
A Trifocal Lens
Over the last three years, the United States of America has reengaged itself in war, further committing its unparalleled military power to "planetary control" of the world's economic and social life. The U.S. elite's rationale for this upsurge in violence possesses the immediacy that violence demands: whether conservatives shout that the U.S. went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan because terrorists attacked in the fall of 2001, or liberals simper that "neo-conservatives" took over and lied to the population, the chorus of these essentially liberal capitalist positions decry equally the threat to U.S. hegemony and assume that the empire itself is beyond reproach.
Perceptive commentators on the left have acknowledged the warmongers' overall aims, and generally have shown a repugnance to their morality; however, some still suffer mystification about the link between intensified militarism and the systematic reality of U.S. imperialism, especially evident in the Siren's call to sentimental nationalism by most in the "Anybody But Bush" camp. U.S. activists must refocus their energies on this reality in light of the real possibility of conscription after the November 2004 election and prepare now the ground for draft opposition. This three-part essay aims at developing an adequate historical and cultural consciousness to justify resistance to conscription as part of a general program against U.S. imperialism. A concise discussion of crucial features of U.S. capitalism, specifically the relationship between oil, dollars, and the military, will help us clarify the conditions of struggle (I) before considering the possibility of coerced military labor (II) as well as its cultural and political implications (III).
Unveiling the Utopia
The current U.S. wars are most certainly the outcome of militaristic aspirations, but their overwhelming intensity also places, temporarily, a screen between us and the ultimate reasons for mass violent action. We can account for these reasons along an ascending chain of causation, the least important being the psychological motives of the current administration, including a presumed "father complex" by the President, his religiously based libidinal repression, or any other purely individual motivations. Though these causes have some import, they are most certainly overshadowed by political conditions, found in the continued governmental power of capitalist families such as the Bushes and the Gores, the heavy presence of extreme Zionist ideologues, whether fundamentalist Christian or Jewish, in U.S. policy circles, the connections between Saudi elite and U.S. politicians, and so on. Yet these significant political developments presuppose in turn certain economic realities that permit their existence, including oil dependence, the "military-industrial complex", and weakened labor organizations. These compounded layers of causation play a role in every depleted uranium bomb dropped, tortured prisoner raped, or medieval manuscript destroyed.
It is in light of the unequal significance of causes, however, that we must deny the immediate authority of violence and unmask a coherent set of fundamental causes, so that the minor causes of these murderous endeavors scurry into their dens. In this way, the confusions of the immediate will cease and the whole of U.S. society and culture will take on a definite and structured shape. Though these nested causes may only partially enter into our awareness, they nonetheless possess a reality that we cannot simply dream into oblivion. Accordingly, in the interest of objectivity, we will begin by emphasizing socioeconomic causes in their undeniable materiality before treating the political culture which binds them together. By determining the order and relation between this set of fundamental causes, the screen of violence will no longer obstruct the central drama before us.
The "American way of life" ("America" here meaning its restricted sense of "The United States of America", and not the Americas as a whole) has never been merely an imaginary ideal; rather, by virtue of its fast-food sensuality, found in pre-packaged frozen dinners, in leather bucket seats, in spectacular entertainment dissolving the continuities of time and space, this ideal always seeks to realize itself as the perfect modus vivendi. The U.S. economy, the material basis for this emergent utopia, relies intensively on fossil fuels, especially oil and natural gas, which mark almost all aspects of mundane existence. U.S. cities and their extensive "sub-urban" zones, which act like an extension of urban space, cannot feed themselves without fossil fuel, for the fertilization, manufacture, and transportation of food needs oil, to say nothing of the loss of agricultural "know-how" resulting from the destruction of rural life in north America. The automobile and plane-centered transportation system, directly linked to military concerns, means that nearly everyone must own a car to work or buy food, so that U.S. labor becomes more atomized with every new housing development, strip mall, or luxury truck. Accustomed to "creature comforts", the U.S. economy now requires constant electricity for the heap of plastic technological commodities owned by almost every individual, winter heating for wasteful, uninsulated buildings, and summer cooling for inhabitants fearful to venture from flickering screens into leaf-blower lawns and sticky, asphalt streets.
Obviously, this economy's "way of life" has social and natural consequences. The distribution of "suburban" space, which resembles hardly at all that of French banlieues or German Vorstädte, has changed U.S. urban space as well. There is no clearer contemporary example of this phenomenon than in the largest U.S. city of New York, the hub for the suburbanized northeastern United States: the "Great Lawn" in New York's shamefully small "Central Park" has a capacity of less than 80,000 people for a city of more than 8 million, thus creating since 1996 a "fact on the ground" to prevent any large political gathering. Fragmentation and diminution makes policing easier, but even this does not suffice: some states, like Georgia, will declare martial law to prohibit protest and resistance, as they did mid-June this year for the Group of Eight meeting. U.S. inhabitants are often surprised to discover pure water, clean air, and fresh food, as well as pleasant urban open spaces, in so-called "backward" and "underdeveloped" countries, a good number of which have not been penetrated to the same extent by genetically modified plants and animals, an automobile-based logic of habitation, and other poisonings of the natural environment. Other examples, such as the reconstituted sewage used on some farms, the nuclear waste expelled into populated rivers, and the heavy pollution of the atmosphere, only serve to illustrate that the U.S. economy as a whole cannot support itself without expanding parasitically into less degraded and more bountiful regions.
The monstrous might of the United States, the crowning jewel of petrochemical civilization, should not blind us to the historicity of this "way of life", which has only appeared within the last two generations, and can last for probably not more than another generation or two. Its oil-based existence has become the most recent and intensive stage of fossil fuel consumption since the start of 19th century industrialization. Despite evident weakness and immorality, this material and cultural power confronting us has encouraged a variety of abstractions about its true form, all of which are based on the idea that the U.S. presents an ahistorical paradigm worthy of unquestioning emulation. While oil's disappearance or environmental catastrophe from oil burning will certainly reach a natural extent within the coming decades, the natural presence or absence of oil is not the cause for the current multi-theater U.S. war and burgeoning police state. We must constantly guard against the genocidal Malthusians among us, for it is not possible to logically maintain that the U.S. engages in war for basic resources vital to human existence; if anything, the rich countries' consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas through the barrel of the gun will lead to the earth's destruction prior to these fossil fuels' absolute depletion.
In the fury of the moment, we lack the immeasurable benefit of hindsight; yet, we must presuppose that the current violence has an historical basis, if only to grasp the best possibilities for radical change. By beginning with our socioeconomic whole, we can start unraveling our knotted present with a series of focused questions: How did the U.S. come to build an oil-based society? Does the U.S. military support U.S. society as a whole? Why can U.S. society, including the government, the businesses, and the citizens, consume itself into debt without incurring penalty? Why do substantial U.S. trade and debt problems minimally affect the international power of the U.S. economy, especially as represented in its currency, the dollar? In brief, although oil usage is a fundamental reality for the United States, it should also be clear that the oil factor alone does not sufficiently explain important aspects of social and economic life in the U.S. or its possible future trajectory; moreover, we still must account for U.S. power globally to explain how these realities have come to be. A "history of the present" should help us disentangle some of these relationships.
Global Policemen for Global Managers
The decisive rise of U.S. hegemony on a world scale appeared at the end of World War II. The former British colony did not outstrip its erstwhile master until the general weakening of European imperialism, although it had conquered and killed most of the native inhabitants of north America, as well as extended its power across Latin America and parts of southeastern Asia by the late 19th century. Left largely intact from the world wars, the U.S. emerged militarily triumphant, endowed with a strong manufacturing base, plenty of natural resources, and the most valued currency. From this position of strength, the U.S. government set out to reorganize world capitalism, which faced severe political and economic crisis after depression, wars, and reconstituted socialist and social democratic forces opposed to unbounded capitalism and its close relative, fascism.
The U.S. and U.K. understood that a stabilized capitalist economy necessitated a limitation of capitalism along with a shoring up of the pillars of its dynamism. With peripheral participation by their other wartime allies, they set up the Bretton Woods agreements in 1944 to limit the chaotic interwar monetary competition which had caused the destruction of assets and a severe crisis of capitalism when capitalists moved their wealth rapidly from one currency to the next. A strict new regime of currency control meant that only governmental agreement could affect the officially established exchange rate, thus caging to some degree the destructive "animal spirits" of capital's owners. To further contain wildly unreal speculation, the U.S. infused its own currency with a real commodity, gold, such that each dollar was directly convertible into the precious metal, thereby also solidifying the U.S. advantage due to its unsurpassed accumulation of gold reserves, approximately 75% of the total held in the world's central banks.
Furthermore, the U.S. government foresaw that the singular might of the dollar lay on fissured ground without the assistance of at least one other currency to shelter it from the anticipated whirlwinds of the capitalist business cycle and to guarantee a steady rate of profit through the consumption of U.S. goods and services in external markets. The U.S. crafted a new economic zone, first with the British pound, then later with the German mark and Japanese yen. The U.S.S.R., adhering closely to the 1945 Yalta agreements to maintain its own sphere against incursions by the much more powerful U.S., retained a smaller economic zone, weaker, more loosely organized, and about half the size of that under the U.S. The flow of capital, now openly managed internationally, insured that currency values remained within a certain range, even if it seemed that such activity limited the absolute freedom of the market traditionally championed by liberal ideology.
Within a few years after its inception, the Bretton Woods framework, deliberately weakened by the U.S., proved insufficient to stabilize a capitalist world economy, so the U.S. stepped in to fill the void as money manager. Effectively, the U.S. issued money, gold-backed, resting on a strong economy with low debt and profitable trade. Coupled with U.S. superiority in other commodities, such as oil and natural gas products from its southern region, world trade became increasingly conducted in the powerful U.S. dollar. The currency replaced the British pound, which had steadily degenerated in value since the late 19th century as the preferred reserve currency of central banks. In the quarter-century after the wars, the western Europeans and Japanese largely accepted the pax Americana as they rebuilt capitalist economies along social democratic lines to co-opt the appeal of socialism, while the Americans were permitted to inflate or deflate the money supply as they wished, and in turn spend extravagantly without quenching the international demand for the dollar. Crucially, the Americans were also allowed to extend their network of military outposts, especially important in light of their unwillingness to restrain military expenditure, which had lifted American business, although not necessarily the entire society, out of the Great Depression. In defiance of the 'hidden hand', but perfectly in keeping with the actual history of capitalism, the U.S. carefully organized itself and the world to its profitable advantage.
By the late 1960s, this new order began to disintegrate. The United States had suffered short-term losses in trade to retain its long-term position as money manager, but the strengthened western European powers now possessed profitable trade, moderate debt, and stable currencies, while U.S. trade continued to weaken and its debt deepened to finance wars in southeast Asia. Despite the professed political and ideological motive of "containing communism" in Vietnam and Indochina at large, these wars also bore broader economic causes: by building up Japan-centered capitalist economies in the region, the U.S. hoped to relieve trade and debt problems, as well as strengthen another cushioning currency for the dollar's fluctuations in the Japanese yen. Worldwide, peoples and states grew disgusted with U.S. hegemony and Soviet collusion with it, conscious of the rivalry as a means to prevent the creation of a more just order within and between states. Eventually, western European states sought greater independence from the U.S., especially as they became concerned by the imbalance and instability in currencies and haunted by the memories of social and economic catastrophe in the 1930s. They tried to rid themselves of the continually expanding excess of dollars, and increasingly traded their merely representative dollars for the real commodity of gold. Gold drained from the U.S. as the country continued to show internal political tumult as well as an unwillingness to reign in its expensive, debt-financed military aspirations. To stem the flow of gold, the U.S. government refused in 1971 to give gold for dollars, issued "fiat" dollars not directly representative of a commodity, and insisted that currency values internationally become floating, not fixed. Competition among the big capitalist powers had untied the post-war pact, threatening the dollar's special position.
From Gold to "Black Gold"
The destruction of these key elements of the Bretton Woods system provided only temporary relief, for the U.S. found itself mired in a steadily developing crisis. The country required oil, not just preferred it, for its massive cities, disparate suburbs, and an extensive car and plane-based transportation network supported by military-related expenditure. The delusion of "choice" had transformed into essential necessity: the U.S. supply of this "black gold" had been largely exhausted at a time when its entire economy, not just the military, depended on oil in a way that it never had on gold. At the same time, oil producers had created the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (O.P.E.C.) over the previous decade, so that its members, rather than the U.S., were now in the position to establish price. In such conditions, dollar demand continued to erode globally, and the U.S. suffered inflation and economic recession. When political resistance to U.S. support of Israel matured among leading O.P.E.C. countries, especially Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, a supply embargo in 1973 raised oil prices dramatically, causing a general rise in prices for all commodities tied to oil, including food. Though lifted the following year, the event made its mark. A profound need to militarily occupy the region stirred inside U.S. rulers, given that western Asia contains about two-thirds of the world's known petroleum supplies. Previously, oil had often been sold in dollars because of U.S. strength in the post-war political and economic order; by 1975, the U.S. used its military to pressure O.P.E.C., and especially the oil-rich, but politically and militarily weak, Saudi Arabia, to price and sell oil only in dollars. These arrangements became more significant after the popular overthrow in 1979 of the U.S.-installed dictator in Iran. Once backed by gold, now substantially backed by oil through the use of the military, the overarching span of dollar dominance was held together by the keystone of military control over petroleum.
Consequently, dollar demand slowly returned to the world economy over the 1970s, despite the weakening U.S. economic position. A magic circle of profit had crystallized with the U.S. monopoly over valuable natural resources, military technology, and financial markets; each element of oil access, military business, and dollar dominance reinforced one another. Moreover, all other countries had to convert capital stored in their own currencies into dollars and dollar-denominated assets to purchase oil, thus gathering the laborious earnings of nations under the dollar's aegis. The changes appeared also in the realm of economic ideas. The post-war Keynesians who had promoted the "military-industrial complex" gradually succumbed to the ideas of the monetarists, who focused solely on the money supply. Although detached in theory from any social or economic concern other than making money, in practice the ruling monetarists had come to presuppose the existence of the military Keynesians; in this respect, we can identify the formation of what might be termed a "military-financial complex". The military had become not just an end in itself, but also decisively a means to support the dollar, the U.S. economy, and by extension, U.S. society as a whole. Through giving birth to the "petrodollar", the military provided a boon to U.S. capitalism in a time of deepening debt, weakening trade, unregulated capital flows, unstable exchange rates, and rapacious depletion of natural resources; thus, the immense profit in militarily-secured oil would appear as an immense mass of dollars.
By the late 1970s, the necessities of profit led banks to push for investment of this unused weight of dollars, primarily through a frenzy of lending and financial speculation. Domestically, debt-based consumption loosened its belt. U.S. freeways and suburbs sprouted and spread, while wealthy banks and corporations purchased small businesses and farms, reorganizing the domestic economy to suit their needs. The pushing of credit started stagnation in real wages without significantly destroying purchasing power, thus undermining working peoples' independence as they were increasingly maneuvered into handing over to banks rights of property and person for the sake of an avalanche of commodities on credit. More significant, however, were the international consequences of financial speculation in the form of "development" loans, many given to poorer countries recently freed from imperial domination. When these countries proved unable to pay after the heady days of finance capital's delirious gambling, the U.S. raised interest rates dramatically to check the inflation caused by an excess of dollars; by making loans far more expensive, the U.S. sought to retain value for its perpetually eroding currency. As banks scrambled for money after their extravagance, U.S. manufacture, small businesses, and farms suffered, while a series of debt crises compromised the sovereignty of poorer nations. Entire societies and natural environments experienced further penetration by bank loans and corporate ownership of public goods. The professed belief in the conservation of money had provided the mask for radical financial speculation and capital accumulation; as U.S. banks and corporations profited, unionized U.S. workers and working people worldwide suffered from the dollar's dominance and its schemes. The pushing of petrodollar-based credit in an era of unrestrained finance capital drew the world economy even more tightly into the U.S. orbit; in this way, capitalism returned to its imperial roots.
Dollars had become as sticky as "black gold". To further bolster the dollar's might, U.S. banks continued to require loans payable only in dollars to make whole peoples dollar-dependent for payment, while central banks worldwide stored massive amounts of dollars to prevent a sudden, manipulative devaluation of their currencies in the face of unrestrained capital flows and exchange rates. As a result, substantial portions of world trade devolved into a competition to sell commodities for dollars to pay off debt and protect currencies, thus further reinforcing the dollar's position. Eventually, all International Monetary Fund debt, almost 1/2 of all export trade, and approximately 2/3 of all reserve currency worldwide became dollarized. As dollars sprouted dollars, it was inevitable in such conditions that unreal capital generated through financial speculation attracted real capital earned through other, more sustainable economic practices. Moreover, it appeared that the U.S. had secured an absolute freedom to consume itself into debt without discouraging demand for its oil-backed currency.
Collaboration, Competition, and Resistance
Full consideration of the relationships between dollars, debt, and trade in capital accumulation at the world scale falls outside the scope of our concern. The challenge is empirical as well as conceptual: the U.S. lacks specific data on itself, such as detailed statistics on class, which are common for other parts of the world. Nevertheless, we must plot some crucial developments to illuminate the scale of threat to U.S. capitalism the current wars represent. We will see, as we have seen in the previous passage, that the U.S. profit system has worldwide implications.
Now participating for several decades with dollar hegemony, the U.S., the Europeans, and the Japanese had formed a triad of capitalist centers, collaborating in the management of profit globally with the U.S. playing the role of God the Father. U.S. debt consumption proved relatively advantageous, especially in light of capitalist economies' constant tendency to overproduce commodities and depress wages in search of greater profit. The U.S. practiced debt consumption to absorb world overproduction, while producers continued to trade with the voracious U.S. to gain profit for their commodities. The overall worsening of the U.S. trade position had little effect on U.S. banks and corporations, which increasingly moved production to low-wage countries but kept consumption, hence profits, high through issuing credit. As banks continued to benefit through a complex web of unreal capital schemes, U.S. corporations further undermined the material basis for organized U.S. labor by concentrating manufacture in decidedly non-unionized military production and its related sectors. Shell games developed within shell games. For instance, Japanese banks lent money to the U.S. for purchasing Japanese corporations' products, while U.S. banks played a similar game through lending dollars worldwide to guarantee consumption of the oversupply in their primary trade advantage of military commodities. By concentrating on bank and military-related needs, the U.S. ruling class realized political and economic objectives: a second magic circle of profit had congealed, but this wider one at the world scale, consisting of the relationship between dollars, debt, and trade.
Through this precarious but essential set of relationships, the now-privatized U.S. military had almost singularly become the violent face of world capitalism. Always the world's strongest since the world wars, the U.S. military grew into an unsurpassed monopoly. Even though U.S. technology in general had not significantly advanced over other countries, the U.S. heavily emphasized the development of technology for military purposes. Over the 1980s, the U.S. used debt to "compete" in military expenditure with the morally and materially weak Soviet Union. As social programs shrank, U.S. military spending surpassed the next twelve countries combined and grew to approximately half of the federal budget; nevertheless, the overall course of Soviet military spending changed little during this massive handover of wealth to the U.S. military and technology economies. Over the 1990s, technology sectors benefited further from financial speculation and military-related spending until the illusory bubble of profit collapsed spectacularly, with people inside and outside the U.S. enduring further exploitation in the pandemonium. The U.S., a country with only 4% of the world's population, had earned the dubious honor of producing 60% of the world's export trade in military commodities, approximately fifteen times its world population share, while it consumed about 40% of the world's gasoline each year, about ten times its world population share. The U.S. gained first access to societies and economies broken into through war, such as Yugoslavia's and Iraq's; indeed, war prevented the emergence of rivals and advanced world capitalism's particular, nested activities of profit. As U.S.-led liberal capitalism clamored for its version of "globalization", it cemented its gains on the intellectual plane by claiming an "end of history" as significant sectors of the left in wealthy countries abandoned economic analysis and fragmented into an ahistorical and masturbatory "post-modernism".
A catastrophe for everyone else, the system seemed to provide some stability to leading capitalist powers. Accustomed to a daily inflow of billions of dollars in capital and commodities, the U.S. government, banks, and corporations felt free to plunge into unfathomable debt without pressure to pay from international creditors in militarily weak and oil dependent countries. Over time, the U.S. far outstripped its own debtors, despite the incredible fortune in currency, or perhaps because of it, further permitting its trade and significant parts of its real economy to decay. By the 1990s, the U.S. transformed from a creditor into the world's biggest debtor, owing almost as much as that owed by five billion people in poorer parts of the world. At present, the world's most powerful society now stands supreme a top an ever-growing and human-built pyramid of debt.
Yet, a world centered on the "American way of life" still bears a price beyond a bubbly Wall Street utopia. The non-generalizable U.S. system requires others to host it, though they will never share in its questionable benefits. A finite amount of world savings pays for U.S. debt-based consumption, and compels capital in general, the product of arduous labor, to go toward consumption instead of productive use. Everyone must hold dollars, regardless of the real economic strength of the U.S. economy, and even if dollar investments are unprofitable. Most importantly, dollar dominance pays for the U.S. military and focuses the world's social and economic life on the domestic necessities of U.S. capitalism.
Thus, despite deepening weakness and disorder, the dollar's value remains high for artificial reasons; artificial in the sense that concrete human activity crafts its value, and not simply U.S. natural advantages, divine favor, or even real economic power. Some have attempted to squeeze out from underneath the U.S. fist. Oil at least has utility, but the dollar, like all fiat currencies, contains no intrinsic value other than as a socially accepted medium of exchange for commodities. As debt mounts, trade erodes, and politics swing rightward, less and less money flows into the U.S. to offset its consumption. The euro was established as a currency to rival the dollar, and with U.S. dollars more than 2/3 of all reserve holdings and euro holdings less than 1/6, even a relatively small shift away from dollars at the world scale would seriously undermine bank and corporate positions in the overextended U.S. markets, perhaps even leading to a general U.S. market crash. There are also indications that O.P.E.C. countries have already started to calculate their profit in euros even as they continue to sell in dollars, seeking a more stable, less debt-ridden, and less aggressive unit of value. Iran has talked openly about trading oil partially in euros since the late 1990s. Libya advocates euro pricing. Venezuela sells some oil to local partners in their own currencies, thus boosting their regional economy, cutting the dollar out of the process, and inciting the U.S. to threats and coup attempts. Russia has begun selling oil in euros to Europe. And crucially, Iraq, the second largest holder of proven oil reserves and nearly matching "first-world" economies before the U.S./U.K.-led war in the early 1990s, began selling oil in euros immediately after the 2000 election. Many foolish financiers laughed at the time, but the Iraqis not only gained from the subsequent depreciation of the dollar, but also threatened directly the edifice of dollar dominance, enraging the U.S. government.
Consequently, the current set of wars must been seen in light of the interrelationships between oil dependency, bank and corporate military-related businesses, and dollar dominance. Israel has certainly played a crucial conditioning factor, but perhaps one similar to the regional role once played by South Africa, for periodically the needs of U.S. capitalism clash with Israel's priorities; moreover, the particular political relationship with Israel does not explain U.S. military and dollar-related activities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The politics of religious terrorism, contingently concentrated in parts of the Islamic world due to the distribution of oil supplies, initially had the support of U.S. capitalism against the greater evil of socialist and anti-colonial nationalist movements. Such terrorism has now become a shill to bully U.S. domestic opposition and justify the expansion of military bases to control dwindling oil supplies on behalf of the Almighty Dollar.
Due to the necessities of profit, U.S. capitalism does not conform to its prettified self-image, but appears instead in the light of objectivity as a disjointed brute that requires systematic militarism and imperialism to survive. Internal and external developments in capitalism proceed hand-in-hand, defying U.S. isolationist fantasies. If the inner circle of U.S. profit erodes, bound together by dollar-oil-military activities, the outer circle of world capitalism's dollar-debt-trade links will rupture. The privatized and mercenary U.S. military has consistently fought on behalf of this outer circle as well; however, more sustainable economies with less debt, stronger trade, and superior social organization of transportation, education, and health care can retain an upper hand without dollar dominance and develop regional economic zones. By contrast, the weakening U.S., in a self-created world of unbounded capitalism, must enforce its special position through violence alone. Consequently, the crisis for the U.S. is not just about oil or the military, but also the financial markets and the entire U.S. profit method; without an oil-backed currency, U.S. debt and trade problems would become immediately unsustainable, leading to a severe economic and social reckoning.1 Out of liberal capitalist hubris and avarice, U.S. rulers appear to have left themselves little room to maneuver except through intensifying and expanding their current activities.
Y. Kleftis can be reached at email@example.com.
1. A study of U.S. capitalism, as well as capitalism in general, benefits greatly from sustained reading in Monthly Review and its related literature: http://www.monthlyreview.org. An excellent discussion of the current war in Iraq can be found in "Behind the Invasion of Iraq" by the Research Unit on Political Economy in Mumbai, India: http://www.rupe-india.org/34/contents.html. Immanuel Wallerstein explains U.S. weakness and the struggle for hegemony: http://www.monthlyreview.org/0703wallerstein.htm. Philip Golub writes on the world's biggest debtor: http://mondediplo.com/2003/10/09debt. Bulent Gokay examines petrodollars and the Iraq war: http://middleeastinfo.org/article4398.html. A brief description of the links between oil, dollars, and war by Cóilín Nunan: http://www.feasta.org/documents/papers/oil1.htm. A critique of dollar dominance which presupposes some economic theory by Henry C. K. Liu: http://www.atimes.com/global-econ/DD11Dj01.html.