GRI/I.1: “Evolution of geopolitics: from Pax Romana to Pax Americana, via nationalism”


Richard Moore


               Globalization and the Revolutionary Imperative
                             a book in progress

                     Copyright 1998 by Richard K. Moore
                       Latest update: 17 August 1998

Table of Contents

Introduction [5 Aug 98]

Part I - Corporate globalization: what it is, where it came from, where it
is heading

     Chapter 1 - Evolution of geopolitics: from Pax Romana to Pax
     Americana, via nationalism [preliminary, 17 Aug 98]

     Chapter 2 - Evolution of political power: from national kingdoms
     to global corporate rule, via democracy

     Chapter 3 - Economics: capitalism, development, and the finite

Part II - Envisioning a livable world: the necessity of democracy

Part III - The Revolutionary Imperative: a millenia of serfdom or a millenia
of freedom?


Part I, Chapter 1 - Evolution of geopolitics: from Pax Romana to Pax
                    Americana, via nationalism [preliminary, 17 Aug 98]
Pax Romana refers to the relative peace enjoyed within the bounds of the
classical Roman Empire. At the boundaries of empire occurred wars of
expansion, or of defense, but Roman hegemony and administration provided
internal stability. When the empire fell apart, its Western dominions were
largely inherited by the Catholic Church. Once again a Rome-centered
administration -- this time theocratic -- provided a degree of central
administration and coherence to those parts of Europe over which it held

This Vatican-based system was less cohesive than had been its Imperial
Roman predecessor, and by the time of the Protestant Revolution much of
Europe had declared both political and religious independence from the
Vatican. In the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), even the remaining Catholic
areas declared that in political matters, at least, monarchs would have
ultimate sovereignty in their own domains. In Europe, the era of sovereign
nation states was then firmly established.

Europe's Age of Discovery began in 1492, with Columbus, and led eventually
to European hegemony over nearly the entire globe, if we include North
America as part of the "Euro community." To be sure, the affairs of the
Roman Empire can hardly be called "geopolitics" (world-level politics),
given its limited European scope. But it is the European model that
eventually came to dominate the world. For that reason, it is fitting to
trace the structural evolution of today's geopolitics from its European
branch, and hence back to Rome.

Euro powers were fiercely competitive over most of this era of sovereign
nation states. This competition was primarily over colonies, and not about
conquest of one Euro nation by another. There was some shifting of European
borders, but by and large today's map of Western Europe is strikingly
similar to that of 1648. The significant struggles between Euro powers were
not over Euro territory, but were about external territories and the
control of trade routes. The era of sovereign nation states was also the
era of competitive imperialism.

The fierce competition for empires, together with Euro leadership in the
Industrial Revolution, led to the rapid development of superior military
technology and to eventual global Euro hegemony. Most of the world was
partitioned into colonies or spheres of influence, each under the sway of
one or another Euro power. The final great competitive struggle of this era
was known as World War Two (WW2), and this brought an end to the era of
competitive, partitioned imperialism.

By end of WW2 the US was -- on its own -- very close to total global
hegemony. It had the run of the seven seas, an intact military machine and
national infrastructure, a monopoly on nuclear weapons, greatly expanded
influence in the oil-rich Middle East, and the lion's share of the world's
disposable wealth and industrial capacity. Meanwhile, most of the rest of
the world was in shambles, deep debt, and/or under occupation. The US had
the prestige, power, and resources to guide the construction of post-war
arrangements largely according to its own designs.

Under US leadership, and with the fraternal cooperation of the European
powers, a new geopolitical regime was established, replacing centuries of
partitioned imperialism. This regime was structurally similar to the Roman
Empire, with the "Free World" as the Roman domains, the "Communist Block"
as the "barbarian outsiders," and with the US military providing Pax
Americana and pressing the borders of empire against the barbarians.

In this new regime, Euro imperialism did not come to an end, it merely
changed form. What appeared to be an era of decolonization and national
independence was in fact a reorganization of the Euro imperialist system.
Under Pax Americana, partitioning had become outmoded and was replaced by a
system of collective imperialism. Though granted nominal independence, what
was to become known as the "Third World" was kept under collective Euro
control by a variety of mechanisms.

Among these mechanisms were the very borders of the newly independent
nations. Rival ethnic groups, for example, were bundled into single
countries, insuring national instability. Corners were cut off from
national borders, denying access to the sea. Every attempt was made to
leave the new nations in the hands of regimes that were friendly to, or
dependent on, Euro interests. Frequent military intervention, primarily by
the US, was employed to replace regimes by more Euro-friendly ones whenever

The US established regional "defense" treaties to help secure the borders
against the barbarians, and to provide an excuse for ongoing global US
military presence. At the Bretton Woods Conference (1944), an international
financial system was set up to stabilize currencies and to facilitate the
smooth operation of the collective regime. The United Nations was
established, providing what appeared to be evidence that an era of
democratization was underway, but the UN was never allowed to interfere
substantially with the system of collective imperialism.

Perhaps the most significant of the methods of Euro domination during this
era has been debt. Bretton Woods established the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These institutions collectivized credit
policy to the Third World, and guided economic development along lines
advantageous to Euro economic interests. As debt levels grew the power of
the Bretton Woods institutions increased, until today the IMF is able to
dictate the micro-level policies of nations. This power has been used to
"open up" countries to still greater control and exploitation by Euro

Eventually the "barbarians" were largely overcome when the Soviet Union
collapsed in 1991. The Pax Americana system then took in the whole globe,
with the single significant exception being China. China is the last major
vestige of competitive nationalism, the final challenge to the Pax
Americana geopolitical system.

US policy makers articulate two competing approaches to China: engagement,
and confrontation . (See: Foreign Affairs, March/April 1997, "The China
Threat, A Debate.") The goal of engagement is to seduce China into
subservience to the US-managed global system, while the goal of
confrontation is to accomplish the same result through the use of economic
pressure, and if necessary, of military force.

Both China and the US are now embarked on aggressive weapons-development
programs, each aimed at assuring the ability to control the outcome of this
final episode of major national competition. China has said that it sees
its "natural role" as being Asian hegemon, as said Japan in the years
leading up to WW2. The US, meanwhile, has stated that such hegemony would
be "contrary to US strategic interests," and reminds us that the US has
fought three major Asian wars in this century to maintain its "strategic

But US strategic interests are no longer those of narrow national
competition. It is the entire collective global system that China is
actually confronting, with the US playing its traditional postwar policing
role. As China begins to operate aggressively in global markets, and as its
economic and military power grow, the China problem will not go away. How
this question will be resolved cannot be precisely predicted, but there can
be little doubt about the ultimate outcome. It is inconceivable that China
would be allowed to reverse the direction of the collective system, to
return the world to the era of major-power rivalries.

With the Soviet Union dismantled, and acting under the assumption that
China will be neutralized as an independent world power, Euro planners are
already architecting and implementing a new regime of world order. The
postwar regime was oriented around the "Communist Threat," and a new
orientation is needed for the future. The new system of world order is to
be one of regional imperialism, and it has been articulated in some detail
by a darling of US the policy establishment, Samuel P. Huntington, in his
book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (Simon and
Schuster, 1997).

Much of this book is devoted to elaborate rationalization, a brash attempt
to make the case that regionalism is historically inevitable, and even that
it represents a decline of Euro global power. The more informative part of
the book deals with the explicit division of the world into eight
"civilizations," and with a detailed description of the structure and
dynamics planned for the new regime.

Within regions there are to be core states, which are to have a special
role in maintaining order within "their" region. Between regions we are to
expect perpetual "fault-line conflicts," which are to be resolved through
the auspices of "non primary level participants." What this actually means
can be readily understood from the history of postwar interventionism and
especially by looking at recent interventionist episodes.

The new regional scheme represents no departure from the basic Pax
Americana system, but is in fact a consolidation of that system. The
primary role of the Pax Americana regime was and continues to be the
maintenance of Euro dominance, which has increasingly come to mean the
economic exploitation of most of the world, to the benefit of economic
interests based primarily in the Euro nations.

What is changing under regionalism is that the rationale for ongoing
intervention is being being reformulated, and the global policing role is
being opened up to wider Euro (NATO) participation. Huntington's "core"
states are nothing really new, but are simply a renaming of what have been
traditionally been called "Western client" states. Managing "fault line
conflicts" becomes the excuse for intervention, in place of "defending
strategic interests," but maintaining collective Euro domination continues
to be the underlying agenda. The "civilization paradigm" provides a
philosophical rationalization for the Euro powers to engage more openly in
their ongoing business of collective domination.

What also changes under regionalism is that a stable long range basis of
world order is being implemented, in place of the unstable
Cold-War-oriented system. During the Cold War era there was always the
possibility of global armageddon, and an unmaintainable arms race created
ongoing volatility and risk in the relationship between the US and the
USSR. Under the regional regime there is no danger of armageddon, nor is
there any hope of a final peace. Ongoing managed conflict is to be the
order of things, providing dynamic stability, with the price in suffering
to be paid by the people of the non-Euro "civilizations."

Under this scheme the postwar myth of universal democratization is being
explicitly abandoned. Instead each region is expected to exhibit its own
"cultural norms," which "unlike the West" do not necessarily include a
concern for human rights or democracy. What this in fact means is that the
Euro-serving, oppressive Third World regimes which have long been the
embarrassment of the "Free World," are now to be accepted as "normal" for
"those parts of the world."

Huntington's civilizational paradigm thus provides an ideal philosophical
basis for a stable Euro-imperial global system. It gives Euro nations a
plausible justification for acting collectively in their self interest on
the world stage, namely that they are simply playing their natural role as
one of the contending civilizations. It gives Euro forces a "right" to
intervene, as "disinterested parties" adjudicating "fault-line" conflicts
or "disciplining" core states. And it gives everyone reason to believe this
should be the ongoing order of things, that the Euro powers continue to
dominate, and that the "others" deserve whatever fate their "culture" has
in store for them.

In terms of its power relationships, this regional regime can be compared
to the structure of mafia gangs. One can speak of "bosses" (core states)
over territories, and of a "big boss" with the biggest gun (pax Americana /
NATO), and the ultimate authority. These are hierarchical structures, they
thrive on competitive conflict, and they allow the primary oppressor, the
top-dog gang, to take on the public mantle of "peacekeeper."

>From the European perspective, at least, geopolitics have, after a detour
of some two thousand years, come full circle from the Roman Empire to the
"Clash of Civilizations." A central regime is once again in control, only
now on a global scale. Instead of the Roman Legions, there are the US-NATO
"peacekeeping forces," and instead of Roman administration, there are the
corporate-dominated bureaucracies such as the IMF and the World Trade
Organization (WTO).

While Rome was an open empire -- it had borders to contend with -- the Euro
imperial system is a closed empire -- there is no "outside," at least not
once the China Question is settled. Managed regional tension provides the
control dynamic that border-conflicts provided to Rome, and which the Cold
War provided to the immediate postwar era.

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