Wetenschap Kunst Politiek

Robert Kaplan versus Naomi Klein over”disaster capitalism”


Robert Kaplan vindt het geen probleem dat veel taken van de moderne oorlogvoering en vredesoperaties aan gespecialiseerde bedrijven worden uitbesteed ( zie Kaplans artikel in Opinio Op wiens gezag schieten zij)

In haar nieuwe boek The Shock Doctrine geeft Naomi Klein een andere en buitengewoon kritische blik op het “Distaster capitalisme“:

“The Bush administration immediately seized upon the fear generated by the [ 9/11]  attacks not only to launch the “War on Terror” but to ensure that it is an almost completely for-profit venture, a booming new industry that has breathed new life into the faltering U.S. economy. Best understood as a “dis­aster capitalism complex,” it has much farther-reaching tentacles than the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned against at the end of his presidency: this is global war fought on every level by private com­panies whose involvement is paid for with public money, with the unending mandate of protecting the United States homeland in perpetuity while elim­inating all “evil” abroad. In only a few short years, the complex has already expanded its market reach from fighting terrorism to international peace­keeping, to municipal policing, to responding to increasingly frequent natu­ral disasters. The ultimate goal for the corporations at the center of the complex is to bring the model of for-profit government, which advances so rapidly in extraordinary circumstances, into the ordinary and day-to-day functioning of the state – in effect, to privatize the government.

To kick-start the disaster capitalism complex, the Bush administration out­sourced, with no public debate, many of the most sensitive and core func­tions of government-from providing health care to soldiers, to interrogating prisoners, to gathering and “data mining” information on all of us.
The role of the government in this unending war is not that of an administrator man­aging a network of contractors but of a deep-pocketed venture capitalist, both providing its seed money for the complex’s creation and becoming the biggest customer for its new services. To cite just three statistics that show the scope of the transformation, in 2003, the U.S. government handed out 3,512 con­tracts to companies to perform security functions; in the twenty-two-month period ending in August 2006, the Department of Homeland Security had issued more than 115,000 such contracts. The global “homeland security industry” -economically insignificant before 2001-is now a $200 billion sector.” In 2006, U.S. government spending on homeland security averaged $545 per household.

And that’s just the home front of the War on Terror; the real money is in fighting wars abroad. Beyond the weapons contractors, who have seen their profits soar thanks to the war in Iraq, maintaining the U.S. military is now one of the fastest-growing service economies in the world. “No two coun­tries that both have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other,” boldly declared the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in De­cember 1996. Not only was he proven wrong two years later, but thanks to the model of for-profit warfare, the U.S. Army goes to war with Burger King and Pizza Hut in tow, contracting them to run franchises for the soldiers on military bases from Iraq to the “mini city” at Cuantanarno Bay.

Then there is humanitarian relief and reconstruction. Pioneered in Iraq, for-profit relief and reconstruction has already become the new global paradigm, regardless of whether the original destruction occurred from a preemptive war, such as Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon, or a hur­ricane. With resource scarcity and climate change providing a steadily in­creasing flow of new disasters, responding to emergencies is simply too hot an emerging market to be left to the nonprofits- why should UNICEF re­build schools when it can be done by Bechtel, one of the largest engineer­ing firms in the U.S.? Why put displaced people from Mississippi in subsidized empty apartments when they can be housed on Carnival cruise ships? Why deploy UN peacekeepers to Darfur when private security com­panies like Blackwater are looking for new clients? And that is the post­September 11 difference: before, wars and disasters provided opportunities for a narrow sector of the economy-the makers of fighter jets, for in­stance, or the construction companies that rebuilt bombed-out bridges. The primary economic role of wars, however, was as a means to open new markets that had been sealed off and to generate postwar peacetime booms. Now wars and disaster responses are so fully privatized that they are themselves the new market; there is no need to wait until after the war for the boom-the medium is the message. One distinct advantage of this postmodern approach is that in market terms, it cannot fail. As a market analyst remarked of a particularly good quarter for the earnings of the energy services company Halliburton, “Iraq better than expected.”!’ That was in October 2006 then the most violent month of the war on record, with 3,709 Iraqi civilian casualties. Still, few shareholders could fail to be impressed by a war that had generated $20 bil­lion in revenues for this one company. Amid the weapons trade, the private soldiers, for-profit reconstruction and the homeland security industry, what has emerged as a result of the Bush ad­ministration’s particular brand of post-September 11 shock therapy is a fully articulated new economy. It was built in the Bush era, but it now exists quite apart from anyone administration and will remain entrenched until the cor­porate supremacist ideology that underpins it is identified, isolated and chal­lenged. The complex is dominated by U.S. firms, but it is global, with British companies bringing their experience in ubiquitous security cameras, Israeli firms their expertise in building high-tech fences and walls, the Canadian lumber industry selling prefab houses that are several times more expensive than those produced locally; and so on. “I don’t think anybody has looked at disaster reconstruction as an actual housing market before,” said Ken Baker, CEO of a Canadian forestry trade group. “It’s a strategy to diversify in the long run.” In scale, the disaster capitalism complex is on a par with the “emerging market” and information technology booms of the nineties. In fact, insiders say that the deals are even better than during the dot-com days and that “the security bubble” picked up the slack when those earlier bubbles popped. Combined with soaring insurance industry profits (projected to have reached a record $60 billion in 2006 in the U.S. alone) as well as super profits for the oil industry (which grow with each new crisis), the disaster economy may well have saved the world market from the full-blown recession it was facing on the eve of 9/11.

In the attempt to relate the history of the ideological crusade that has culmi­nated in the radical privatization of war and disaster, one problem recurs: the ideology is a shape-shifter, forever changing its name and switching identities. Friedman called himself a “liberal,” but his U.S. followers, who associated lib­erals with high taxes and hippies, tended to identify as “conservatives,” “clas­sical economists,” “free marketers,” and, later, as believers in “Reaganomics” or “laissez-Iaire.” In most of the world, their orthodoxy is known as “neoliber­alism,” but it is often called “free trade” or simply “globalization.” Only since the mid-nineties has the intellectual movement, led by the right-wing think tanks with which Friedman had long associations- Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute – called itself “neocon­servative,” a worldview that has harnessed the full force of the U.S. military machine in the service of a corporate agenda.

All these incarnations share a commitment to the policy trinity- the elim­ination of the public sphere, total liberation for corporations and skeletal so­cial spending – but none of the various names for the ideology seem quite adequate. Friedman framed his movement as an attempt to free the market from the state, but the real-world track record of what happens when his purist vision is realized is rather different. In every country where Chicago School policies have been applied over the past three decades, what has emerged is a powerful ruling alliance between a few very large corporations and a class of mostly wealthy politicians-with hazy and ever-shifting lines between the two groups. In Russia the billionaire private players in the al­liance are called “the oligarchs”; in China, “the princelings”; in Chile, “the piranhas”; in the U.S., the Bush-Cheney campaign “Pioneers.” Far from free­ing the market from the state, these political and corporate elites have simply merged, trading favors to secure the right to appropriate precious resources previously held in the public domain-from Russia’s oil fields, to China’s col­lective lands, to the no-bid reconstruction contracts for work in Iraq.

A more accurate term for a system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist but cor­poratist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm be­tween the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive national­ism that justifies bottomless spending on security. For those inside the bubble of extreme wealth created by such an arrangement, there can be no more profitable way to organize a society. But because of the obvious drawbacks for the vast majority of the population left outside the bubble, other features of the corporatist state tend to include aggressive surveillance (once again, with government and large corporations trading favors and contracts), mass incar­ceration, shrinking civil liberties and often, though not always, torture. ” ( p. 12 ff )


Robert Kaplans verdediging van het imperialisme



Robert Kaplan, oorlogscorrespondent en neocon, redacteur van The Atlantic, en medeauteur van het Nederlandse neoconservatieve tijdschrift Opinio, houdt interessante meningen op na. In De Rode Hoed/ De Volkskrant op zondag zong hij vandaag het lof van het Amerikaanse leger en van opofferingsgezindheid, verdedigde hij het Amerikaanse imperialisme, zei dat hij bij compromissen toch gauw aan appeasement en Chamberlain moet denken, en legde hij uit dat hij weliswaar een voorstander is geweest van de Irak-oorlog maar dat hij nooit in heeft geloofd dat men een democratie in Irak zou moeten vestigen. Hij wilde graag een autocratisch regime zoals Mubarak. Dat heb ik nog geen andere neocon horen zeggen!

In een interview in de Groene Amsterdammer van 6-10-2006 had Kaplan hetzelfde al gezegd:

“Toen ik eind 2001 vóór de invasie van Irak was, heb ik hierover flinke botsingen gehad met neoconservatieven rond Bush. Het ging mij juist niet om democratisering, zoals zij wilden.
Natuurlijk wil je in essentie de regimes overal ter wereld vrijheidslievender maken. We kunnen strenger zijn, wat dat betreft, jegens Egypte en Saoedi-Arabië, maar het zou een fout zijn om die landen te dwingen democratisch te worden. Dat zou zwakke, etnisch verdeelde regimes opleveren die ten prooi kunnen vallen aan amokmakers, zoals de Iraniërs of fundamentalisten. Als Egypte, Saoedi-Arabië en Syrië democratieën zouden worden, zou dat uitlopen op een ramp. Laat de zoons de macht overnemen van hun vaders. Die zijn veel moderner en opener van geest. In Syrië is het mislukt omdat Bashir al-Assad niet talentvol genoeg is. Maar de zoon van Kadafi schijnt erg begaafd te zijn, en dat geldt ook voor Jamal Moebarak in Egypte.”


In 2007 heeft Kaplan vier artikelen geschreven in Opinio:

1. De macht van de stammen ( vgl ook de Volkskrant van 5 januari, het betoog)

Citaat: “Toen George W. Bush in 2000 voor het eerst een gooi deed naar het presidentschap, sprak hij over de noodzaak van ‘nederigheid’ in buitenlandse aangelegenheden. Nu onze troepen in praktijk brengen wat hij preekte, zien we na jaren van mislukkingen eindelijk enkele bescheiden resultaten.”

Commentaar MT: O, de nederigheid van Bush is nu pas doorgedrongen tot zijn troepen!?

2. Op wiens gezag schieten zij ( een verdediging van de particuliere bedrijven die het Amerikaanse militair ondersteunen)

Citaat: “Privébedrijven die voor het leger werken zullen er altijd zijn. En ze zullen een belangrijk deel uitmaken van de oorlogvoering in de toekomst.”

Commentaar MT: Logica: wat er is moet er dus zijn. Zoals het is, is het goed???

3. München versus Vietnam

Citaat: “Het fiasco in Irak zegt helemaal niets – in welke zin dan ook – over de wijze waarop we de gevaren van een nucleair Iran zouden moeten aanpakken”

MT: Echt niet?

4. Een historicus voor onze tijd ( over Herodot)

Citaat: “De boodschap van de Historiën [van de door Kaplan aanbevolen Herodot, M.T.]  is dat hoe afzichtelijker en recalcitranter de mensheid zich gedraagt, des te glorieuzer de helden zijn die aan dat soort omstandigheden wisten te ontstijgen.”

Commentaar MT: Brecht: “Unglücklich das Land, das Helden nötig hat.”

Hier nog meer materiaal voor degenen die geïnteresseerd zijn aan een in-depth Kaplan-discussie: Twee hoofdstukken uit het door mij besproken boek ‘Why America’s pundits are wrong’, van HUgh Gusterson, die over Kaplan gaan, geschreven door de antropologen Tone Bringa en Catherine Besteman.
Dan nog een kritisch interview dat Mark Schaevers maakte met Kaplan, afgedrukt in ‘Gevallen torens’.


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