by Robert Abele
December 19, 2015
from GlobalResearch Website


Dr. Robert Abele holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Marquette University and M.A. degrees in Theology and Divinity. He is a professor of philosophy at Diablo Valley College, in California in the San Francisco Bay area. He is the author of four books, including A User's Guide to the USA PATRIOT Act, and The Anatomy of a Deception: A Logical and Ethical Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq, along with numerous articles. His new book, Rationality and Justice, is forthcoming (2016).







There seems to be a formula for a superpower's intent to dominate the world:

massive surveillance + use of military might in foreign wars and domestic control of citizens (e.g. armored cops; packed prisons, etc.) + control of each method by elites for their own interests = international and domestic dominance by fear and force.

Domestically this is called the National Security State. It is a state which is now in place in the U.S. government.

The National Security State is a state that has the following characteristics (from Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Brave New World Order; Gary Wills, Bomb Power; and Andrew Bacevich, Washington Rules):

  1. It is fixated on alleged foreign enemies and the "threat" they pose to the homeland;

  2. It uses the "threat" for the justification of any military solutions to "pacifying" those enemies.

  3. It maintains political and economic power not primarily in the people, but in the military (and defense contractors).

  4. It uses propaganda methods to narrow the parameters of political debate and to put fear in the populace regarding perceived state enemies (e.g. the Truman Doctrine speech of 1947: "Totalitarian regimes" anywhere in the world "undermine… the security of the United States").

  5. It uses many appeals to "national security" as a rationale for its drive toward more expansive hegemony.

Here is how the formula works.



1) Make hegemony the goal of the state, whether domestic or foreign

(Chomsky calls it "the imperial grand strategy" - see Hegemony or Survival, Ch. 2)


It is the "We must rule" syndrome (see Andrew Bacevich, Washington Rules).


Dominance is generally defined as forcing others to live by ruler-chosen patterns, and that is what hegemony is about: Washington determining the rule of other nations.


This, in my view, is part of the new understanding of the doctrine of "American Exceptionalism" that started after WWII and is culminating in the Bush and Obama years.


It implies that the U.S. is not just qualitatively different from other nations, but "better" or "above" others, and thus "naturally" suited to dominate others.



2) Observe

(i.e. by clandestine and electronic surveillance) and eliminate any potential competition for hegemony


The practice arguably began in 1945 with the organization of the Strategic Services Unit, a secret intelligence and counter-espionage unit of the U.S. government, which was gradually absorbed by the CIA, starting in 1947, culminating in the creation of National Security Agency (NSA) organization.


By 1952, a full National Security State was already in place, ready for any alleged threat to the U.S.

The rhetoric of the National Security State slants the rationale for this action as "a threat to our national interests," when really it is only a threat to the interests of the agents doing the bidding of the state complex. Examples of it abound in U.S. history.


In just recent history, we can see it in President Reagan's "War on Terror" in Central America in the 1980's, to the U.S. war on Iraq, Libya, and Syria, to the government and media's rhetoric concerning those who question U.S. foreign policy as "anti-American" or even "terrorist."


Add to that the fact that the U.S. has approximately 755 U.S. military bases around the world, that they attempt to topple national leaders, from Iran to Cuba to Venezuela. When they are not toppling, they are spying on world leaders, such as Angela Merkel of Germany and Dilma Vanna Rousseff of Brazil.


We see it all in Obama's alarming widening of Bush's "war on terror," by rebranding the "war on terror" as "challenges to America's interest," while maintaining Bush-era policies of the war on terror.



3) Use domestic terror

i.e. appeal to the idea of "Supreme Emergency" by an "ongoing threat" - e.g. Communism; al Qaeda; terrorism; Isil; Isis

Defined by political scientist Michael Walzer (in Just and Unjust Wars) as a threat that causes a fear beyond the ordinary fears of war.


This threat and the fear it generates may "require" certain measures that the war convention bars. The "war convention" is the set of norms, customs, professional codes, legal precepts, religious and philosophical principles, and reciprocal arrangements that shape our judgments of military conduct - set forth most explicitly in international law.

The problem here is that most of what governments classify as "Supreme Emergency" is not only a permanent or ongoing state, but is at root only an expression of institutional self-interest or expediency, the direct result of the impetus toward hegemony.


Further, under this category, "Supreme Emergency" becomes the rule rather than the exception, and then the institutional mindset of the government becomes a "State of Exception" (see Georgio Agamben, States of Exception) rather than a "State of Emergency."





For example, we now know that during WWII, when Winston Churchill used the term of "Supreme Emergency" to describe Britain's situation in 1939, it was a rhetorical phrase designed to weaken the resistance of the British people and government to maintaining the war convention's proscription of extreme brutality.

This very practice of using Supreme Emergency to justify draconian government policies has continued today.


Some examples under President Bush include,

  • Bush's claim to have the power to detain, without charge, any person - including U.S. citizens - he declared to be "enemy combatants" or "suspected terrorists"

  • his claim to power of preventive war and indefinite detention

  • the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," which empowers the state to rescind one's citizenship for providing any type of "material support" to an organization that the state has deemed to be involved with terrorism

The practice of Supreme Emergency has continued under President Obama.


For a few examples:

  • Obama's claim to have the executive power to order the assassination of U.S. citizens

  • his continuing the concentration camps in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan

  • his failure to halt all practice of torture

  • his escalating drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen,

...all of which are done under the banner of "responding to terrorist threats," or more directly, "preventing attacks against America".


And as ever, the U.S. mainstream media act as enablers of all of this.


Glenn Greenwald and the reporters for The Intercept present regular and substantive examples of this, as does Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. For one of the latest excellent analyses, see Greenwald, "The Greatest Obstacle to Anti-Muslim Fearmongering and Bigotry: Reality" (6/24/15).

Thus we can see that the point of "Supreme Emergency" is to keep the citizens in fear, and thus in hatred of the "different other," whether it be a "foreign threat" or a racial threat (e.g. fear of African-Americans, Muslims, etc.) to enable foreign and domestic dominance.


Any "threat" will do. The method here is to build up the "threat" while in fact, the government and its agencies see citizens and their power as enemies - i.e. as threats to State dominance.

Because this practice has now been established, U.S. citizens have grown numb to it.


As a result, the government no longer even appeals to specific threats. Rather, government officials now only appeal to a vague "threat" intended to serve the purpose of keeping fear alive.


For example, the FBI continues to make statements to the effect that they have "prevented x number of terrorist attacks" through surveillance, while detailing none of them.


The last such "terrorist threat" was the July 4 weekend (see, "Got to be Thwarting Something," 7/11/15).



4) Regular, unannounced, non-Congressionally-approved wars

Use the following two-step mechanism:

  1. "The National Security State has automatic Just Cause for any military action"


    The National Security State sees any state that does not cater to its dictates as an enemy, thus creating a casus belli.


    This is precisely the opposite of the ethical and legal concept of "Just Cause," which means that an attack from another nation is either occurring or imminent.

    For example, consider recent Mideast military actions, done directly or by proxy. From whence comes the oil of the future, and where is the greatest potential anti-U.S. unrest that threatens U.S. hegemony?


    Experts generally agree upon the following list:

    • Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Angola, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, the Caspian Sea area (consisting of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), and Latin America (consisting of Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador).

    What are the U.S. global strategies for securing its dominance in these regions for the 21st century?


    Among other actions, the U.S. and NATO now have troops and military bases established in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and now, critically, in Ukraine.


    The first four of these countries have agreed to supply oil and natural gas to NATO countries, thus undermining agreements and sought-after agreements involving these countries and Russia, China, and Iran. In conjunction with this, the U.S. is directly undermining the attempts of Russia, China, and Iran to continue their agreements with Central Asian countries for oil and natural gas.


    This is especially true with the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline to run from the Caspian Sea to India, which killed the Iranian-Pakistan-India deal to run a pipeline between them (IPI).


    In sum, TAPI is the finished product of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.


    NATO will be expected to use military power to protect the pipeline, and thus consolidates Western power in the region (see Rick Rozoff, "Wars Without Borders: Washington Intensifies Push into Central Asia," Global Research, January 30, 2011).

    Similar U.S. machinations were undertaken with West Africa and even Latin America. For example, the U.S. has established smaller-type military bases - what the Defense Department refers to as "lily pads" - in an arc running from the Andes in South America through North Africa and across the Middle East, to the Philippines and Indonesia.


    These locations are consummate with the fact that the bases are located in or near the oil-producing states of the world.


    In Latin America, the U.S. military uses bases in Paraguay to monitor, and to be in position to move against the Bolivian and Venezuelan governments, since both countries nationalized their oil companies.

    Furthermore, according to The London Guardian, the April, 2002 military coup in Venezuela was clandestinely supported and organized by the U.S. in response to President Hugo Chavez's nationalizing Venezuela's oil company, PDVSA.

    Don't be fooled by the recent U.S. agreement with Iran. The U.S. still has military eyes targeting Iran. It is widely known that the Bush administration nearly went to war with Iran twice during Bush's tenure.


    Also, Obama himself attempted to foment a coup within Iran through proxy, through "The Green Revolution" in 2009.


    The role of Iran is dual: geographic and geologic.


    Geographically, Iran sits between three important sea shipping lanes: the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Sea of Oman, and is the geographical point of intersection for the Middle East, Asia, and the steppes of Russia.


    Geologically, next to Saudi Arabia (264.3 billion barrels), Iran has the largest oil reserves in the world (132.5 billion barrels).


    That the U.S. wants control of Iran is beyond doubt. Iran is completely surrounded by U.S. military bases, in the Persian Gulf, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Turkey, in Iraq, in Cyprus, in Israel, in Oman, and in Diego Garcia.


    Iran itself has become an "Observer State" (along with India and Pakistan) to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).


    Created by China in 2001, and with members including Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, these members and have pledged mutual economic and military aid.


  2. "The National Security State is its own Proper Authority"

    The U.S. has a long history of doing what it wants, regardless of U.N. resolutions or International Law.


    But if one begins with the Bush administration and the American writers who supported the war in Iraq, they made it clear that they did not believe that the U.S. needed U.N. authorization to pursue "preventive war."


    However, simultaneously and in contradictory fashion, they all likewise stated that in attacking Iraq they were enforcing UNSCR 687 and 1441.

    Contradictory to the U.S. position stands international law. The Nuremberg Tribunal concluded:

    • "preventive action in foreign territory is justified only in case of ‘an instant and overwhelming necessity for self-defense, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation'."

    By this definition attacks on Iraq, Libya, and Syria were all unjustified.

    Further, the idea that the U.S. can bypass international bodies and use only its own authority to send its military into another country presumes that unilateralism trumps international law by allowing one dominant nation to determine what is best for both itself and the world and then to act on it, whether or not it is in concert with the rest of the world.


    Because it excludes dialogue and more importantly the demands of universality of principle required by ethical thinking, the idea of any nation being its own proper authority to wage war has no place in a moral or legal analysis of war.

    Finally, a violation of the U.N. Charter is concomitantly a violation of Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, which says that,

    • "all Treaties made… under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land…"

    Therefore, the proper authority criterion is not met by U.S. and NATO incursions in other countries today.


    Further, it risks setting the world on fire with war, possibly even using nuclear weapons. (For more on this point, see Michel Chossudovsky, Toward a WWIII Scenario, and The Globalization of War)


5) Do not count (foreign or domestic) civilians as important to State functioning

First, abroad, civilians are "collateral damage," like destroyed property.

The Bush administration and its generals did not consider the category of discrimination to be of importance. The Obama administration has continued this policy.


This is demonstrated by two facts:

  • First, the U.S. military spokespersons have stated directly and consistently that the U.S. does not count the civilian dead in Iraq and Afghanistan.


  • Second, the U.S. government either does not release or downplays civilian casualties in Libya, Syria, Yemen, or from U.S. drone attacks.

If it was truly U.S. policy to protect noncombatants from a brutal dictator (e.g. Saddam Hussein; Muammar Gaddafi, Bashir al Assad, etc.) and to avoid injuring or killing them, one would think that knowing how many they have killed or for whose deaths they are at least partly responsible would be something the military would want to know and engage, not suppress.

Contradictory to that practice, by a long and time-honored tradition in ethics and in international law, when the practice of either ignoring (by not taking into account) or intending civilian deaths becomes commonplace, whether proportional or not to the good intention of defeating the enemy, any military action may be said to be conducted unjustly.


How the civilians came to be killed is critical, because it tells us directly about the conduct of the war.

Second, the State becomes repressive of citizens domestically. When Supreme Emergency becomes the order of the day, it uses its force against its citizens. For example, Hitler's February 28 "Decree for the Protection of the People" suspended the articles of the Weimar Constitution concerning personal liberties, and was never repealed.

We are witnessing a similar movement in the U.S. Beginning in 2001 with the USA PATRIOT Act, civil liberties have been deliberately and systematically eroded, while elite privilege has expanded.





There are particular issues concerning due process rights and habeas corpus that were eroded under this model.


This can be seen in the arrests of both Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi, both of which concern due process and habeas corpus rights, denied by the government. Both are U.S. citizens.


Hamdi was arrested in 2001, and held without charge by the U.S. government in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was only with the Supreme Court decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that Hamdi was released. Padilla was arrested in 2002 and held without charge until 2006.


For most of their period of detention without charge, neither was permitted legal counsel, or a hearing. It was only due to the pressure of civil liberty groups that each was finally given a hearing.

For Obama's contribution to this, note his deepening of unchecked surveillance powers (including warrantless wiretapping of citizens, accessing personal records, monitoring financial transactions, and tracking email, internet and cell phone use), his position that the federal government cannot be sued for illegal spying on U.S. citizens, his claims of Executive privilege to order assassinations of U.S. citizens, and his continuation of torture and Guantanamo Bay prison.

All of these actions and others are instances of the direct legislative erasing of any legal status of the individual, in some cases individual U.S. citizens.


As if to underscore this point, witness General Wesley Clark stated on MSNBC, on July 17, that dissident citizens should be put in internment camps "for the duration" of the U.S. war on terrorism - i.e. forever.

Kevin Phillips (Wealth and Democracy) and Chalmers Johnson (The Sorrows of Empire) have eloquently traced how these structural mechanisms of government in,

  • Rome

  • Spain

  • Portugal

  • Britain,

...all led to repressive governments which fell quickly when they began to govern through a structure of repression.


Today we see the similar structures in place in the U.S., not only in such draconian pieces of legislation as the USA PATRIOT Act, but most chillingly in "continuity of government" (COG) plans, prepared twenty years ago by elite government insiders, which calls for,

  • warrantless surveillance

  • warrantless detention

  • militarizing domestic security, keep dissent nonexistent (see Peter Dale Scott, "The Doomsday Project, Deep Events, and the Shrinking of American Democracy" The Asia-Pacific Journal, January 24, 2011).



Conclusion - Three steps for making change

The obvious question is:

how can we stop this and make the critical changes needed to and in our government apparatus?

I would conclude this essay by suggestion three actions that may be taken.


  • First, recognize that U.S. citizens themselves must make the changes required to and in government.


    With the foundational mode of state structure and purpose being to achieve and maintain complete state hegemony in the world, radical change of state structure is required.


    This can only be done with some kind of people's push to return the power to themselves, as we saw in Egypt and Tunisia, and now see in Greece.


    It will come slowly and painstakingly, but without it, state mechanisms will continue to be structured as hegemonic agencies, and perpetual war and continued assault upon citizen rights will be the ongoing and deepening modus operandi of the state.


  • Second, focus objective analysis on ethical and legal prescriptions as well as empirical facts and consequences.


    Too often political analysis revolves around a theme of "this move, that consequence" by our political leaders. However, ethically speaking, objective analysis can be done by analyzing how government actions fit or do not fit universal ethical norms.


    A good norm would be, as the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas puts it, to recognize that for authentic communication between parties to take place, all affected must be able to accept the consequences of any proposed norm.

    This strategy does two things: it pre-empts the charge from opponents that one believes only according to one's ideology; and it allows one to see and show the pattern of a movement from democracy to fascism.

    Here is an application of such analysis.


    Let us examine the crime of aggression of Obama's drone strikes, specifically the U.S. use of drones in Yemen and Pakistan. The U.S. first said it used targeted killing in November 2002, with the cooperation and approval of the government of Yemen.


    But as of 2013, the U.S. had more than 6,000 drones, more than 160 of which were Predator drones controlled by the U.S. Air Force.


    These drones are being used in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, but most of all in Pakistan, where in eight years the drones killed close to 4,000 people (see Gregoire Chamayou, A Theory of the Drone).

    On June 3, 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) delivered a report sharply critical of US tactics.


    The report asserted that the US government has failed to keep track of civilian casualties of its military operations, including the drone attacks, and to provide means for citizens of affected nations to obtain information about the casualties and any legal inquests regarding them.

    Obama's response:

ignore the U.N. report, and increase the drone attacks, thus instantiating what neocon architect Francis Fukuyama stated: the U.N. is,

"perfectly serviceable as an instrument of American unilateralism",

When it isn't, the National Security State can and does ignore them. (see Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival).

Contradictory to that, we would have a solid ethical and legal analysis of U.S. drone actions by quoting a tentative definition of aggression which was adopted by the U.N. International Law Commission on June 4, 1951.


It stated:

"Aggression is the use of force by a State or Government against another State or Government, in any manner, whatever the weapons used and whether openly or otherwise, for any reason or for any purpose other than individual or collective self-defence or in pursuance of a decision or recommendation by a competent organ of the United Nations."

Further, in 1950, the Nuremberg Tribunal defined Crimes against Peace, in Principle VI, specifically Principle VI (a), submitted to the United Nations General Assembly, as:

  1. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

  2. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

Again, we should apply the Geneva Conventions against Attacking Civilians.


Article 51, Section 2 proscribes "indiscriminate attacks:"

those not directed at specifically military targets; those attacks or weapons that cannot be limited to military objectives and that strike civilians or civilian objects as well as military ones; and attacking military targets that the belligerent has reason to believe in advance will cause excessive and disproportionate damage to civilians or civilian objects, the latter defined simply as non-military objects.

Protocol II,

"relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts," specifically calls upon all nations to refrain from all "violence to the life, health, and physical and mental well-being of [noncombatant] persons."

Finally, the Hague Conventions of 1899 ban the attacking of towns and cities that are undefended, and collective punishment.


Prescriptions to limit the conduct of war include the requirements to warn towns of impending attacks, to protect cultural, religious, and health institutions, and to insure public order and safety.


  • Third, understand that civil disobedience is the only weapon citizens have to fight such overwhelming methods of force that are now in place.


    The state - on both federal and local government levels - now possesses so much military-level force and political-economic power that they can fairly easily respond to any type of violent action.


    Nonviolence is the only option, especially since, to work, nonviolence requires a force in numbers. When that happens, the fear moves from the people to the government officials and their economic elite controllers who currently rule the country.

    The motivating factor for such disobedience is often said to be economic hardship, such as the citizens of Greece are undergoing. That is certainly true, but in addition to that, U.S. citizens are used to a more developed and robust conception of human and civil rights, and the practice of limited government in terms of such rights.


    This assumption of most citizens makes a full-blown totalitarian state such as Hitler's or Mussolini's unlikely.


    Nonetheless, it is certainly conceivable and possible that a totalitarian-light state can exist while leaving in place the main skeleton of a republican democracy that has long since been reduced to a minimal democracy, virtually without most citizens seeing it and without angering citizens too much.


    This is especially true if the citizens live in fear and are willing to grant the government significant leeway in its responses to the trumped-up fear of terrorists. That is precisely what has happened since 9/11, and precisely what civil disobedience attempts to overcome.

    Objective, public analysis and civil nonviolent action are our best weapons against government power.


    They are, in fact, not just our best hope; they are all we have left with which to fight.