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Iraq War-Capital
February 18, 2003 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Underlying the US drive to war is a thirst to open up new opportunities for surplus capital "In a series of packed lectures in Oxford, Professor David Harvey, one of the world's most distinguished geographers, has provided what may be the first comprehensive explanation of the US government's determination to go to war. His analysis suggests that it has little to do with Iraq, less to do with weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with helping the oppressed. "
posted by thedailygrowl (34 comments total)

 
Mind that this is an opinion column in The Guardian, written by a guy who begins by asking, "Why has the bombing of Iraq, rather than feeding the hungry, providing clean water or preventing disease, become the world's most urgent humanitarian concern? Why has it become so much more pressing than any other that it should command a budget four times the size of America's entire annual spending on overseas aid?"

In the end, the article basically just says that yeah, it's about oil, and by the way, the US controls the UN and IMF for the purpose of, I quote, "daylight robbery".

First of all, there's a tremendous lack of economic understanding here. The 1990's, outside of the US, were one of the greatest Economic booms in history. There are tremendous markets (growing then and still growing now) in East and South Asia. China, the world's largest market, is still putting up very high annual growth numbers. I can't think of any recent time period comparable to now as far as growing foreign markets for American goods are concerned.

So, no, this isn't why we're going to war with Iraq.

As an aside, there's an interesting trend recently in Political Geography. A guy, Immanuel Wallerstein, who is known for his work in sociology, has gained a mass following in PolitGeo with his World Systems theory. It's basically the backbone of neo-Marxism, as the oft-cited Policy Review article last month, and Metafilter, discussed. The theory suggests that the reason the third world isn't developing is not because of Grondona's social differences, or because of differences in resource distribution, but more because the North has been robbing the South.

Because of this, a lot of sociology students (which, not to mince words, is a field that attracts a very, very left-wing crew) have shifted into PolitGeo. The field has yet to go through the statistical/mathematical transformation that most other social sciences have been forced through over the last few decades, and because of this, PolitGeo has had its underlying theories shifted every few years. It'll be interesting to see if the field reemerges or if it continues to shove itself into a far-left corner.
posted by Kevs at 5:13 PM on February 18, 2003


If you're going to make a post related to Iraq and the impending war, please reconsider, as the topic has been discussed previously many times.

I think Matt may need to put add bold tags around that particular posting guideline ... though one would think that putting it against a dark background, and featuring it prominantly on the page would be enough. Clearly not.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:14 PM on February 18, 2003


I see in it a far simpler explanation. Take as an axiom that everything that America does is bad, utterly self-serving, unthinkingly brutal and mindlessly arrogant. Now assume that this is because the leaders of America are consistently Machiavellian, and singularly conspiratorial.

A very simple axiom, from which only a single and simple proposition can be deduced: America must be stopped.

Then and only then can the rest of the world return to peace, harmony, equality, fraternity and prosperity. Just like it used to be in the good old days. Maybe with France in charge.
posted by kablam at 5:20 PM on February 18, 2003


Why doesn't the world just lift the sanctions? Seems a lot easier than war to me.
posted by Bag Man at 5:21 PM on February 18, 2003


I can't help but feel dirty commenting, but ........
It seems to me that if our reasons for war are so indeterminate that almost any one can come up with the real reason, that maybe there isn't a reason at all. Bush says it's about WMD, or maybe Iraqi liberation, or perhaps making the region more secure, oh yeah the war against terrorism, it's about the war on terrorism! Or is it about Euros? Or is it about expanding markets? Or is it some diabolical plan hatched by W (who is really an eight foot bipedal lizard from another dimension) that is phase one of his quest for a global emperorship? Be viligant! Keep shopping! Duct Tape! Duct Tape! Quonsar for President!
*head explodes*
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:31 PM on February 18, 2003


there are ... 57... PolitGeo sociologists in the United States Congress! And let's not even start with Hollywood. Let the witch hunt begin! I know a place that sells vibrating brooms.
posted by condour75 at 5:36 PM on February 18, 2003


Putting the reason for going to war aside, I gotta know... can you really ever have too much money?

OK, I sorta grasped the concept; spend money to create new markets for your products, but honestly, do people really have that kind of foresight? Or maybe since it wasn't actually their money, it doesn't matter? Help me out here please.
posted by LouReedsSon at 5:43 PM on February 18, 2003


That Policy Review article was my link. I didn't know it was "oft-cited". :)

Here's the link to the original post on MeFi for those interested in reading what Kevs is talking about.

As I understand it though, the Baran-Wallerstein thesis is itself a modification of Lenin's theory of imperialism, but I've yet to actually study that in depth and therefore will reserve comment until I have.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 5:44 PM on February 18, 2003


The only peaceful solution is a new New Deal, but that option is blocked by the political class in the US: the only new spending it will permit is military spending.

This is an oversimplification, but there is something to this. The group in question is described exhaustively in this report: "The Role of the Arms Lobby In the Bush Administration's Radical Reversal of Two Decades of U.S. Nuclear Policy."
posted by homunculus at 5:56 PM on February 18, 2003


Along these same lines, one might be interested in this:

Only in the most direct sense is the Bush administration’s Iraq policy directed against Saddam Hussein. In contrast to all the loud talk about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and human rights violations, very little is being said about oil. The administration has been tight-lipped about its plans for a post-Saddam Iraq and has repeatedly disavowed any interest in the country’s oil resources. But press reports indicate that U.S. officials are considering a prolonged occupation of Iraq after their war to topple Saddam Hussein. It is likely that a U.S.-controlled Iraq will be the linchpin of a new order in the world oil industry. Indeed, a war against Iraq may well herald a major realignment of the Middle East power balance.



And this from the commentary:

I think Matt may need to put add bold tags around that particular [Iraqi] posting guideline ... though one would think that putting it against a dark background, and featuring it prominantly on the page would be enough. Clearly not.

I'm always heartened when I see certain posters consistently and objectively call for a moratorium on all "Iraqi" posts. Not just the ones with which they disagree.

~chuckle~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:57 PM on February 18, 2003


I had reaqd this "reason" for war, sent by a friend, and it struck me as not very promising as a reason for attacking Iraq...the budget is driven sky-high; troops killed; Iraquis killed; great instability in the entire region; oil wells possibly closed for a time etc--and all this for some need captalism has to eliminate inventory and expand markets? Does congress know and accept this, since they seem to go along with Bush on a war.
posted by Postroad at 6:33 PM on February 18, 2003


I'm always heartened when I see certain posters consistently and objectively call for a moratorium on all "Iraqi" posts. Not just the ones with which they disagree.

Glad you're heartened. I always enjoy adding light and laughter to your day. Just so happens, however, that I was about to post an FPP on the topic, with a series of links (that you very likely would have "disagreed" with yourself), and saw the guideline for the first time.

Until it was there, a variety of people expressed displeasure in posts from both sides of the aisle ... and different members at different times did call for "moratoriums" on Iraq posts. Matt, however, is not merely a member.

Matt is our host. He runs this blog for us, at his pleasure. I complied with his wishes and did not post the FPP I intended to ... but also noticed that since the overwhelming majority of posts are on the other side of the issue, MeFi will get even more one-sided if the few that would add balance comply with Matt's wishes, and FPP's like this one choose to blow Matt off completely. Which is simply flat-out RUDE.

You may wish to get snarky about it when I bring it up ... but all that does is completely ignore the point. You are certainly free to post the same reminder in any posts you "disagree" with. But in this case I did not call for a moratorium ... MATT DID. He did it with his usual light touch ... not setting an absolute rule, but rather simply strongly suggesting. Perhaps you ought to considering honoring our host - instead of using this as just another excuse to take a little shot at me.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:39 PM on February 18, 2003


Matt's "strong suggestion" reminds me of the UN Security Counsel ... only four violations today ... so far ... hopefully his "serious consequences," if any, will be about as serious and consequential as the UNSC's ...
posted by probablysteve at 6:51 PM on February 18, 2003


Midas, Matt didn't say Iraq was completely off limits. Here's what he said about it a few days ago, regarding this thread.
posted by homunculus at 7:26 PM on February 18, 2003


While opening new markets.... it looks like the bush team is also planning to bulldoze some non-proliferation treaties as well. if lying about blowjobs is grounds for impeachment proceedings - isn't leading the race to armageddon?
posted by specialk420 at 7:59 PM on February 18, 2003


Keith, you don't like my photo?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:21 PM on February 18, 2003


The field has yet to go through the statistical/mathematical transformation that most other social sciences have been forced through over the last few decades, and because of this, PolitGeo has had its underlying theories shifted every few years. It'll be interesting to see if the field reemerges or if it continues to shove itself into a far-left corner.

Non sequitur. A lack of rigorous mathematical analysis has nothing to do with your perception (erroneous or not) that PolitGeo is in "a far left corner". Many extremely rigorous mathematical fields are heavily populated with folks who we might consider "left". Don't make me bring my vast collection of Einstein quotes in here.


Just so happens, however, that I was about to post an FPP on the topic, with a series of links (that you very likely would have "disagreed" with yourself), and saw the guideline for the first time.

Oh, I see. Your inconsistency is the result of ignorance (of course, Matt's Iraqi policy has been mentioned all over MetaFilter...not just the FPP page) and not any desire whatsoever to stifle points of view with which you don't agree. Right. And this particular post "chooses to blow Matt off completely", while the Chirac post I referenced above does not.

Right.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:45 PM on February 18, 2003


Kevs: You mean there aren't a lot of quantitative sociologists out there? Are you joking? Or are you perhaps confusing sociology as a whole with social theory?
posted by raysmj at 8:50 PM on February 18, 2003


My favorite conspiracy theory is still the one form "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco.
posted by MzB at 9:07 PM on February 18, 2003


classic MzB. One of my favorite books.
posted by condour75 at 9:22 PM on February 18, 2003


Ray, yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. The papers that I read coming from sociology look like Econ papers from the 30's and 40's - and in some ways that makes sense, given that sociology doesn't quite have the mathematical and graphical rigor, whatever advantages in accuracy that gives, that guys like Samuelson, say, brought to Econ.

foldy...I agree that the mathematical nature of a field and it's location on the political spectrum are unrelated. Pyschology, for instance, has been used in that nature often to justify ideas on the far right. I agree with you, and I claim no causality between those two arguments.
posted by Kevs at 10:22 PM on February 18, 2003


Keith, why won't you talk to me?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:31 PM on February 18, 2003


But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly-trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. The fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at... In the centres of civilization war means no more than a continuous shortage of consumption goods, and the occasional crash of a rocket bomb which may cause a few scores of deaths.

All of the disputed territories contain valuable minerals ... But above all they contain a bottomless reserve of cheap labour. Whichever power controls equatorial Africa, or the countries of the Middle East, or Southern India, or the Indonesian Archipelago, disposes also of the bodies of scores or hundreds of millions of ill-paid and hard-working coolies.

The primary aim of modern warfare ... is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society.


God how I love 1984.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:54 PM on February 18, 2003


Kevs: Why do you the need the mathematical and graphical rigor of economics in sociology? Most poltical science gets no further than multiple regression either and there's a slight trend toward letting structured qualitative techniques back in. (American Sociology Review may not be quite as mathematical as the American Political Science Review, but the editor of the latter has vowed to make it more of a diverse publication.)

But if you're basing your belief on one or two journals, you may have a wrong impression of either field. Here's an article about diversity in security studies, for instance, which shows that in that PoliSci subfield only 13 percent of published studies featured a formal model.

Speaking of diversity within a field: Have you ever heard of social network analysis? It was pioneered by sociologists, in large part, and is now heavily used in economic sociology. One of the editors of Social Networks is a sociologist. That's not graphically complex enough for you?

Some econ stuff applied to non-economic situations comes off as bizarre, by the way. Try reading Gary Becker's Accounting for Tastes, which tries to explain everything that ever happened or will happen in the world with rational choice theory. Try defining some of the abstract social concepts (social capital, say, which is defined as part of personal capital, which also includes human capital) he bandies about yourself, and using them as variables in quantitative studies. Have fun.
posted by raysmj at 12:12 AM on February 19, 2003


Pretty funny. From the page of the American Sociological Association's section for Mathematical Sociology.
posted by raysmj at 12:19 AM on February 19, 2003


Midas, I think that if code duello ever comes back, you'll be the cognate of Schrodinger's Cat, somewhere between the quick and the dead. But if it's a flesh wound, f&m's a doctor--he could stitch you up.
posted by y2karl at 12:32 AM on February 19, 2003


instead of using this as just another excuse to take a little shot at me.

Uh, despite y2karl's timely warnings, it wasn't a shot at you at all. It's a shot at the position you took. Try and understand the difference.

foldy...I agree that the mathematical nature of a field and it's location on the political spectrum are unrelated. Pyschology, for instance, has been used in that nature often to justify ideas on the far right. I agree with you, and I claim no causality between those two arguments.

Well, on rereading your post I may have misunderstood that you were claiming any such causality. But since you mentioned the mathematical shift that has taken place in many of the social sciences, you may be interested in Mark Davis' article "Mathematics of Financial Markets" (in Mathematics Unlimited: 2001 and Beyond - Engquist et al editors):

Mathematical finance is a child of the 20th century. It was born on 29 March 1900 with the presentation of Louis Bachelier's doctoral dissertation "Theorie de la speculation." Now, one hundred years later it is the basis of a huge industry, at the centre of modern global economic evelopment, and the source of a great deal of interesting mathematics....Bachelier's extraordinary thesis was years, and in some respects decades ahead of its time. For example, it introduces Brownian motion as a model for stock prices five years before Einstein's classic paper on that subject [my emphasis].

Keith, you don't like my photo?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:21 PM PST on February 18
Keith, why won't you talk to me?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:31 PM PST on February 18


Extremely bad form, Steve_at_Linnwood. Is this, your contribution to this thread, the only way you can even attempt to refute (and I use the term loosely) someone's arguments? That kind of nonsense is childish, as well as pretty cowardly, and it just won't work. I emailed you several hours ago (before you made any of your posts in this thread), and you already had other contact information for me. Why not do now what you could have done then, and take whatever personal problem you may have with me off MetaFilter?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:02 AM on February 19, 2003


Perhaps the US drive for war is to open up new markets for surplus capital.......I'm not an ecnomist. But I do know that we have an awful lot of surplus, overheated manichean rhetoric to get rid of.
posted by troutfishing at 7:19 AM on February 19, 2003


Keith, you don't like my photo?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:21 PM PST on February 18
Keith, why won't you talk to me?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:31 PM PST on February 18


As an innocent-party Keith, I protest the unauthorized use of my name and/or likeness. A carload of lawyers and pipe-wielding goons is en route to Linnwood as we speak. May god have mercy on your soul.
posted by COBRA! at 7:20 AM on February 19, 2003


Nah, it's meant specifically for me as I noted above....but then again....there are really NO innocent-party Keiths.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:51 AM on February 19, 2003


Here's an article about diversity in security studies, for instance, which shows that in that PoliSci subfield only 13 percent of published studies featured a formal model.

For the benefit of others, I'll point out that in the poli-sci context "formal model" basically means "game theory." It's not like 87% of polisci articles will lack statistical modeling, even if it's mostly half-assed. And the IR people I know seem to mostly do event-count and duration models, not OLS, but that could just be the crowd I run with.

It's not like sociology is some methodological backwater, either. There's plenty of rigorous work getting done in sociology, and new modeling techniques come out of sociology (the hierarchical models I'm trying to learn now seem to originate in sociology and of all places education schools). Like any of the social sciences except maaaaybe econ, it's a mix of solid scientific work and erudite-conversation-over-coffee level claptrap.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:18 AM on February 19, 2003


the mathematical and graphical rigor of economics

*snorts*
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:35 PM on February 19, 2003


I've always found statistics to be a wonderful way of proving what I thought was the case all along.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 3:57 PM on February 19, 2003


Underlying the US drive to war is a thirst for world shooting-into-the-air supremacy.
posted by homunculus at 6:09 PM on February 19, 2003


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