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Neoliberal Geo-Politics

by Jurgen Wagner Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2006 at 1:47 AM

In truth, the war on Iraq is lost. Military com-manders in the field admit this in reports to the Pentagon. In truth, American military power cannot contain the growing violence. War is part of neoliberalism since profit maximization is made the supreme goal.


The European Union and the Military Security of Globalization

By Jurgen Wagner

[This article published in: graswurzelrevolution 208, April 2006 is translated abridged from the German on the World Wide Web,]

Two closely related phenomena have marked international relations since the end of the Cold War, the increasing globalization in an expanded neoliberal world economic order and accelerated western military intervention. This article will show how these two developments imply and reinforce one another.

The growing contradictions of neoliberal policy expressed in increasing conflicts in and with countries of the periphery and increased threats to the global world economic system and the profit interests of large western corporations are causal here. From the view of western “security strategists,” the transition to an increasingly militaristic and openly imperial policy is urgently necessary. Therefore present strategic- and armed forces planning in the European Union is focused on one goal with frightening single-mindedness: the military security of the neoliberal world economic order and maintaining existing exploitative conditions. (1) Since this connection is hardly ever openly named, the legitimation strategies justifying this imperial policy as a selfless undertaking will be emphasized.


That globalization is often understood as an inevitable value-neutral process of increasing international interconnection blurs the real substance of this development. What is really involved is the targeted political strategy intent at a maximum enforcement of market forces in neoliberal globalization. (2) Privatization, deregulation, dismantling state social services and opening markets or free trade are essential means in this strategy. While these steps were long taken by western-dominated organizations like the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, a “new development is now occurring in state-controlled liberalization. The economic axioms of structural adjustment, financial austerity and free trade are now supplemented with the direct use of military force.” (3)

Even though the conversion of neoliberal policy has led to massive impoverishment of vast parts of the world population (4), neoliberalism is the ideological foundation of European strategy papers because it represents a means for exploiting the third world. The World Bank and the IMF are described as “key institutions” for combating poverty in the European Security Strategy (ESS) and the drafted European constitution.


Large western corporations are mostly focused on avoiding conflicts that negatively affect capital investments and profit possibilities. “Globalization under the leadership of international economic institutions opens up new horizons for finance capital and also necessitates protecting and securing 1ownership rights’ to natural resources, land and financial titles (stocks, obligations and debt titles).” (5)

Expanding state-private enterprise interests to be “defended” against threats of all kinds in guaranteeing the stability of the whole system goes along with increasing interdependence in the course of globalization. “Thus globalization changes traditional initiatives in the area of security. As a result, the security of a nation no longer only means the inviolability of a territory as was true for decades but also the viability – smooth functioning – of their global systems.” (6) This requires the military protection of western profit interests, vital resources, trade routes and everything western exploitation policy needs to function as a semi-official EU document, the European Defense Paper, clearly explains.

According to the Austrian Military Journal, “The increasingly globalized world has become weak toward unexpected disturbances. Conflicts and wars in distant places have a spillover potential on the world’s regions of prosperity and peace. Since borders and protective walls were dismantled in globalization, individual actors of world politics must now prevent conflicts slopping over to normally conflict-free zones. The option of resorting to armed forces and violent means whenever necessary is part of this prevention.” (7)

The theory of “new wars” giving a quasi-theoretical foundation to western profit interests has proven to be a very effective legitimation strategy.


In the theory of “new wars” from Herfried Munkler and Mary Kaldor, classic interstate wars largely belong to the past. A series of inner-state violent conflicts with primarily endemic causes replaces interstate wars. Regionally-specific factors, ethnic or religious rivalries, tribal feuds and the greed of individual warlords are their main driving forces that could ultimately lead to the erosion of all order and to “failed states.” (8)

With this working model, causes of war are uncoupled from the interest policy of capitalist powers. These states “depend on the import of stateliness” to settle their allegedly homemade conflicts. (9) Without protective military assistance, many states of the third world could not “successfully” integrate in the world market that is cynically interpreted as a prerequisite for effectively combating poverty.

The statements during the NATO security conference at the beginning of 2005 in Munich pointed the way ahead… The effects of the neoliberal world economic order were distorted. “The basic interest of every functioning state is to grant greater developmental possibilities to private enterprise. Trade is the “best help to self-help,” said Horst Kohler, ex-IMF chief and current president of Germany. “Security and economic development are connected. No lasting economic development is possible without security.” (10)

The NATO security conference made assuring western profit interests and producing an investment-friendly environment into military tasks. “There is a clear connection between economic development and security,” BDI-head Jurgen Thumann declared. “Investments in developing countries create jobs and incomes. […] Where our businesses are active, they strengthen the economic and financial structures. Still the economy needs a secure framework. Deficient legal security and constitutional states discourage investments.” Thumann concludes: “The basic hypothesis `No security without development,’ is also true conversely `No development without security.’” (11)

Militarily guaranteeing profit interests is shamelessly stylized as a development project. Neoliberalism is presented as the solution, not as the problem of the third world. This leads to the “logical” conclusion that military expansion and security, not turning away from this system, is the moral command of the hour elevated to a political security and military task by the European Security Strategy. “Security must be understood more comprehensively in the organization of globalization,” (12) German president Horst Kohler demanded.


The European Security Strategy passed in December 2003 urges militarily countering (preventively) the failure of states. This is justified in that a direct threat to the EU starts from collapsing states since they can be recruitment- and retreat zones for terrorists and often encourage the spread of weapons of mass destruction (an expansive definition of a failed state). Herfried Munkler also argues that the “training camps and retreat areas (of terrorists) mainly arise where state structures collapse in a civil war. Therefore there is no region any more in a globalized world where state structures collapse without momentous effects for the world-political and world-economic order.” (13)

The failure of state systems is seen in the refusal to submit to the rules of the neoliberal world economic order. This is clear in the ESS. (14) The EU delegate Javier Solana has long urged a “liberal imperialism” whose two components are regarded as the foundation of future European foreign policy. Firstly, there is “the spontaneous imperialism of the global economy. An international consortium of international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank normally practices this. […] These institutions aid states that want to find their way back to the global economy and the virtuous circle of investments and prosperity. In a countermove, this consortium makes demands from which they hope to redress the political and economic failures that contributed to the original necessity for support.” (15)

The second ingredient of liberal imperialism complements this callous confession to neoliberal globalization together with its catastrophic consequences. “The challenge of the post-modern world is to manage with the idea of double standards. Among us we relate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But we must fall back to the raw methods of a past era when more traditional states outside the postmodern continent of Europe were involved. Violence, preventive attacks and deception are always necessary to deal with those who still live in the 19th century when every state stood for itself. Among us we hold to the law but we must also apply the law of the jungle when we operate in the jungle.” (16)

Whoever does not want to join becomes a political security problem and thus a case for the military because “uncoupling from the global systems is defined per se as a threat. The answer of neoliberal geo-politics is to force reintegration.” (17)

Cooper’s demand that future states not keeping the capitalist rules be militarily punished under some circumstances is also found in the ESS (p.10). “A series of states has turned away from the international community of states. Some isolate themselves’ others persistently violate international norms. These states should find their way back to the international community and the EU should support them. Those not ready for conversion should realize they must pay a price regarding their relations to the European Union.”

These sentences can be understood as threats to all those countries that do not share Cooper’s enthusiasm for the “spontaneous imperialism of the global economy” for different reasons. Whoever does not dance to the European tune is openly threatened. This is consistent in a certain way. Little remains other than assuring this world economic order by imperial policy to whoever questions the world economic order connected with the present conflicts.


“What would be bad about a new empire?” A columnist of “Welt am Sonntag” poses this question. The expansion of the European sphere of influence is built up to a “modernization project.” “But if Europe realizes its imperial destiny, this extension on one side is firstly a plain condition of its security and secondly a civilized commission that could revive Europe’s weary elites.” (18)

States should be put under western control until they function. Political science professor Ulrich Menzel’s proposal is an example: “In the case of `failed states,’ establishing `liberal protectorates’ can be necessary to produce the fiduciary monopoly of force.” (19) Mary Kaldor agrees: “Fiduciary mandates or protectorates may be vital where no legitimate local authorities exist.” (20) Herfried Munkler summarizes: “In the wake of economic imperialism theories, we customarily identified empires with oppression and exploitation. But empires can also be understood as peace guarantors, guardians of political and cultural values and insurers of extensive trade relations and economic structures.” (21)

Munkler seeks “an imperial order by insuring prosperity zones at the edges. […} The pressure to an increasing politics of intervention is also the reaction to the consequences of globalization at the periphery. The question remains whether order is produced on the surface and the rest are excluded. However war is endemic in these new `imperial barbarian zones,’ namely in the form of pacification war from the center to the periphery and devastation war from the periphery to the center. […] Then these oblique structures typical for empires arise at Europe’s borders. Therefore we must learn to think of the category of empire in the future as an alternative political category, namely as an alternative to the territorial state.” (22) Munkler only expresses openly what is implicit in the European constitutional draft, the Security Strategy and the European Defense Paper.


The West, Munkler says, must “adjust to armed pacifications of whole regions.” (23) This requires a considerable restructuring of the military in two regards. Firstly, “the armed forces should be made flexible and mobile reorganized task forces.” (ESS, p.12) The deployment of EU battle groups in the shortest time follows this logic by combating the spread of globalization-caused poverty conflicts as quickly as possible. “The battle groups concept is the conceptual and structural conversion of the `out-of-area concept of the EU.’ The battle groups concept improves the EU’s capacity of action in crises that threaten to expand and fall out of control – even without a military engagement.” (24)

The second aspect is directly derived from the realization that a great future significance comes to lasting “stabilization” (control) as the military victory and US problems in Afghanistan and Iraq show. The “armed forces must be reoriented so they become capable of mixed military and political actions,” Mary Kaldor proposes. “These actions involving forcing norms are impossible without the use of means of force.” (25) In a study written for Javier Solana, Kaldor presented her ideas about western protectorate troops. Kaldor urges building a civil-military troop of 10,000 soldiers and 5,000 civilians to organize the envisioned future EU protectorate under the leadership of the military.

From the view of the new warriors, the West or the EU has a legitimate monopoly on force similar to the police at home. Only in this way can the order be maintained and “chaos” prevented. War is redefined into a question of inner security. “As a police officer must stand behind every law in the case of an offense in a democratic constitutional state, a multilateral world order of power committed to freedom, democracy and human rights needs to protect or enforce these values.” (27) Thus western wars are no longer the continuance of enforcing interests with other means. Rather western wars seemingly involve “norms” and “values.” They are selfless expressions for “a novel post-national policy of military humanism with the goal of enforcing human rights beyond national borders.” (28) The European Defense Paper envisions military actions to observe “universally accepted norms and values” and as “stability export for assuring and strengthening fundamental norms and freedoms.” European foreign policy generally aims at “strengthening a rule-based international order.”

Since this world order is primarily committed to western profit interests, these demands for increased military actions are nothing but declarations of moral bankruptcy of the self-styled new warriors.


The expansion and assurance of the neoliberal world economic order is elevated to a basic presupposition for combating poverty in the third world and averting threats. Cause and effect are distorted in a perfidious way. The goat is made into the gardener.

The real cause of so-called globalization conflicts, the socio-economic disintegration as a consequence of neoliberal policy, is systematically blocked. In this context, the focus of attention must be the immediate connection of poverty (neoliberalism) and war (failed states). (29) New studies of the World Bank conclude that the extent of poverty represents the most important risk factor for the escalation of conflicts in the third world. (30)

Thus whoever wants to bomb “security” and “stateliness” to make countries into western protectorates until they obey neoliberal rules merely perpetuates the vicious circle of poverty and violence. This praxis is hidden behind the euphemistic term “stability export.” (31) More poverty, more suffering and further conflicts to be “pacified” militarily are exported here. All the drivel that humanitarian considerations underlie western interventions is unmasked as hypocrisy.

Neither the US nor Europe show even the slightest readiness to change the neoliberal rules of globalization – the exploitation of the third word by the industrial states – and consciously deny a life befitting human beings to a large part of the world population. Therefore not surprisingly military means are increasingly needed for maintenance and control to combat the consequences of escalating conflicts. The powers of the capitalist order try to remove the disorder produced by the economy in the reproduction structure of the global system and externalized by the market through political and military power. (32)

Turning upside down the dominant threat analysis is urgently necessary. This is also vital from a political security perspective because the western war and exploitation policy actually lead to increasing attempts to resist through terrorism and/or weapons of mass destruction. An effective solution of globalization-caused conflicts can only be achieved when the causes are attacked and symptoms are not combated militarily. Turning away from the neoliberal project, for example with an unconditional debt cancellation, is a first sensible step and command of the hour in security policy and development policy.

8 “The new wars are kept burning by the inscrutable mishmash of personal striving for power, ideological convictions, ethnic-cultural oppositions, greed and corruption.” (Cf. Munkler, Herfried. Also see Kalder, Mary. New and Old Wars. Violence in the Age of Globalization, Frankfurt 2000).

32 Mahnkopf, Birgit: “Neoliberal Globalization and War” in: Blatter 1/2004, pp.47-57

Translator’s note: Diagram 2 “Alternative Threat Analysis of Neoliberalism and Poverty” is available in the German article in graswurzelrevolution ( The diagram shows how neoliberalism leads to mass impoverishment, violent conflicts and terrorism.

[The numbers refer to footnotes in the German text in graswurzel revolution.]

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