Thursday, April 5, 2007

Neoliberal globalism and polyarchic governance

1900 Campaign poster for the Republican Party. "The American flag has not been planted in foreign soil to acquire more territory but for humanity's sake.", president William McKinley, July 12, 1900.

Brief overview of Neoliberalism

The "common sense" free trade promotion of the neoliberal argument often ignores the larger issues, the reality that this system actually does impose certain structural problems on the peripheral countries (developing's another term) in an increasingly globalized economy, with ramifications that do not work themselves out nicely in the so called free market that is paradoxically imposed. So I always take the phrase "free market" with a couple of pounds of salt. Besides the positive value laden argument implied in arguments that lean towards the general positive impacts these adjustments have on these peripheral nations, like bringing them into the modernized, so-called "developed" world, the structural adjustment aspects of it have a almost incalculably huge affects on the individuals in these peripheral countries while this takes place. And this generally has gone on without a by your leave from them. As the policies that had promoted this process have revealed these problems, foreign policy itself went through a transformation since the Reagan era, and the institution of a government sponsored NGO known as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). In conjunction with this new policy supporting tool, we've witnessed the revival of a Wilsonian era-like policy of sharing the benefits of U.S. exceptionalism with the under priveleged of the planet as it's come about over the past twenty some years. Polyarchy, a word for this form of democracy promoting policy, has been described by number of scholars, prominent among them is William I. Robinson. His 1996 book: Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony offers an extensive and scholarly analysis.

For instance, the conveniently structured conditionalities of the so called "modernization" loans by the policy making elites of the globalized economy have certain logical requirements, and it's through them that this economic ideology is designed to implement free market programs and policies (privatization and deregulations). In the process one major characteristic emerges, and that's a national debt, which occurs through loans from the World Bank and the IMF, and which must be paid in equivalent dollars. That monetary part is one of the keys to getting this globalized free market transformation to work in peripheral countries.

Note that the the U.S. manufactures the dollars, world trade is not accidently based on those dollars, and the loans are made in dollars. The countries in debt don't manufacture dollars, so they have to get the dollars to pay off their debt some other way.

How do they get those dollars to pay off their debt? That's where the conveniently available multinational corporations come in. Among the processes that begin are privitization of national resources, including water and so forth. Industrial agriculture is implemented, peasants move off the lands to clutter the hillsides of growing cities with their shacks, and maybe some get lucky and become laborers so their country can sell products on the global market for dollars.

How does that affect the social organizations in place? In fairly dramatic ways -- socially and stucturally. That's why it's called "structural adjustment." None of that has much to do with individual initiative among the human baggage these nations contain, and all the rest of this crap about free choice and market forces acting like rewards in our big rat maze here in the U.S., that supposedly stimulates people to improve themselves through education and entrepreneurial innovation in this giant ponzi scheme that now has ever more wealth accumulating to ever fewer. In other words, everything that's involved in the "common sense" of this "integrated" and "sociological" propaganda that goes along with globalization.

So I was doing a little research the other night into this polyarchic version of democracy promotion that William I. Robinson has introduced in respect the geopolitical strategy that's been developed in the U.S. since the Truman Doctrine. Though I'd consider the policy a much larger continuum, I pick the Truman Doctrine as a significant point because it is a historical marker for the beginning of the Cold War, and the U.S. Foreign policy that evolved from there with a marked growth of the military industrial complex, the much more energetically pursued strategic use of the military bases in the world that formed the basis for the current U.S. empire of seven hundred plus bases with our forty to fifty different intelligence agencies designed to keep track of almost everything of significance both domestically and internationally to these policies.

I've been aware that democracy promotion was an element of foreign policy, but I'd never looked closely at what that entailed, and now that I have, it's been quite revealing about the details of this general notion I've been developing about U.S. geopolitical strategising. It of course relates to the current notion of democracy promotion going on in Iraq, and I discovered a number of studies generated by these polyarchically oriented NGOs about democratizing the Middle East done not too long before 911.

As I see it, this democratizing project is like the proverbial ether that connects the universe together, in that these combined projects connect the formal structural strategies of U.S. geopolitics and economic globalization represented by the multinational arm, with the human beings in the countries, all of them including the baggage that gets disrupted when their little plots of farmland get commercialized and they go to collect in the cities, and so forth. It's much more involved than military support of an autocratic regime (coercive tactic) or diplomatic relations. What it boils down to is developing the much more effective hegemonic layer of control needed to stabilize the necessarily disruptive globalization process by setting up the needed institutions that the population will engage in once they've been disrupted, and thus through group participation, become behaviorally adapted to the globalized version of neoliberal economic. When that doesn't work they groups can always be labeled "terrorists" and dealt with in that prescribed manner. Very interesting polyarchic strategy. Especially in light of the notion of a revolving door of elites at the upper echelons of government, which revolves between corporations, top posts in the Executive Branch directed bureaucracy, and the military. And of course whenever possible, they get themselves elected. Both Bushes are examples, and of course Cheney with his own revolving door connection to Haliburton. Cheney and Rumsfeld are a kind of team, but that's for a later discussion perhaps.

A Proliferation of NGO's

Here is a brief description of Robinson's book from Amazon (see the above link to the book), I offer it as a way of connecting what I found in my search just as a way to emphasize the elements of this change in foreign policy from CIA undercover coercion to NGO based persuasion since the Reagan era, because I argue that it underlies and interconnects a lot of layers in this very complex effort I am undertaking to understand our world today, and offers some of the basic structural reasons for making sense of how our very own government has the U.S. military in Iraq, in the Middle East and why it may not be so easy for our elected officials to find a way out:

Promoting Polyarchy is an exciting, detailed and controversial work on the apparent change in US foreign policy from supporting dictatorships to promoting "democratic" regimes. William I. Robinson argues that behind this facade, US policy upholds the undemocratic status quo of Third World countries. He addresses the theoretical and historical issues at stake, and uncovers a wealth of information from field work and hitherto unpublished government documents. Promoting Polyarchy is an essential book for anyone concerned with democracy, globalization and international affairs.

In my search I came across something initiated by Reagan in the eighties called: The National Endowment for Democracy: Supporting freedom around the world. Here's their slogan:

The Endowment is guided by the belief that freedom is a universal human aspiration that can be realized through the development of democratic institutions, procedures, and values. Governed by an independent, nonpartisan board of directors, the NED makes hundreds of grants each year to support prodemocracy groups in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Not everybody sees it in such rosy terms, of course, but the efforts to portray those who criticise it in the worst light also harkens back over the past twenty years or so to a remarkable new era of "character assassination" against all other forms of liberalism other than this neoliberalistic project, and we find this defamatory assault in all sorts of forms that came out of that era marking its reaction to the peace loving participatory democracy folks of the Sixties and Seventies. Here is something that caught my eye in one search, mainly because of its title:

Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy

How many Americans could identify the National Endowment for Democracy? An organization which often does exactly the opposite of what its name implies. The NED was set up in the early 1980s under President Reagan in the wake of all the negative revelations about the CIA in the second half of the 1970s. The latter was a remarkable period. Spurred by Watergate-the Church Committee of the Senate, the Pike Committee of the House and the Rockefeller Commission, created by the president, were all busy investigating the CIA. Seemingly every other day there was a new headline about the discovery of some awful thing, even criminal conduct, the CIA had been mixed up in for years. The Agency was getting an exceedingly bad name, and it was causing the powers-that-be much embarrassment.

Something had to be done. What was done was not to stop doing these awful things. Of course not. What was done was to shift many of these awful things to a new organization, with a nice sounding name-the National Endowment for Democracy. The idea was that the NED would do somewhat overtly what the CIA had been doing covertly for decades, and thus, hopefully, eliminate the stigma associated with CIA covert activities.

It was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations and of cynicism. Thus it was that in 1983, the National Endowment for Democracy was set up to "support democratic institutions throughout the world through private, nongovernmental efforts". Notice the "nongovernmental"-part of the image, part of the myth. In actuality, virtually every penny of its funding comes from the federal government, as is clearly indicated in the financial statement in each issue of its annual report. NED likes to refer to itself as an NGO (non-governmental organization) because this helps to maintain a certain credibility abroad that an official US government agency might not have. But NGO is the wrong category. NED is a GO.

So a number of NGO's worth mentioning, and I'll start with the most recently created I could find (2000), the Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD).

Here's what I find interesting. Walter Raymond Jr. joined the CIA in 1952. He was in the CIA throughout it's period of covert operations, some of which got so far out of hand by the seventies that the CIA had nearly discredited itself as a legitimate foreign policy tool of our very own polyarchic democracy in the international community. Beginning in the 1980s, policymakers under Reagan began experimenting with strategies of "promoting democracy." It started with a propaganda campaign called Project Truth, which evolved into Project Democracy, and Walter Raymond, the CIA man, was involved in the first steps of that, out of which emerged The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and its sub foundations, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Center for International Private Enteprise (CIPE), and lo and behold, the AFl-CIO's Solidarity Center (ACILS). Pretty much the same elites revolve through the upper echelons of all of them. When the CCD was created in 2000, Walter Raymond was put in charge of that. He died of cancer in 2003, or he may still be in charge. Of the first five top people on its staff I looked at, four were in the upper echelons of the NED.

Here's a brief description of this latest democracy promoting NGO from a site that tries to keep tabs on all these NGOs:

The Council for a Community of Democracies (CCD) is one of a number of neoconish organizations that touts U.S. exceptionalism while it urges global cooperation in toppling undemocratic regimes across the globe. (Right Web: exposingthe architecture of power that's changing our world)

And then yet another level of organization emerged in my search:

World Movement for Democracy (WMD) (?!! so that's where they are)

It calls itself the Big Tent.


The Inaugural Assembly of the World Movement-New Delhi, India
In February 1999, the Washington, D.C.-based National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in cooperation with two Indian partner organizations (the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Centre for Policy Research, both based in New Delhi), brought together leading democratic activists, practitioners, and thinkers from every region of the world to explore the possibilities of networking with each other across borders, cultures, and professional backgrounds. The 400 participants from more than 80 countries who gathered in New Delhi represented nongovernmental organizations, civic education groups, business associations, anti-corruption institutes, trade unions, political parties, democracy think tanks, and democracy-support foundations, as well as parliamentarians and government officials specially engaged in the advancement of democracy.

At the conclusion of the Assembly, participants adopted, by consensus, a Founding Statement creating the World Movement for Democracy as a "pro-active network of democrats." Emphasizing that the World Movement is not a new centralized organization, the statement declares that the resulting network "will meet periodically (not less than once every two years) to exchange ideas and experiences and to foster collaboration among democratic forces around the world." The World Movement would also make use of different levels of technology to ensure the continuation of the networking begun in New Delhi.

All nice and tidy looking, and oh, so democratic.

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