Since the beginning of the new People’s Grants for the Book Project, I have committed myself to writing four chapters on the history of the American empire for a grant of $800.00. Kindly, some have donated on top of that amount, which is also very helpful considering paypal always cuts off a percentage.
This week, I have finished the chapter on the American Empire in Latin America following World War II, going up to the mid-1960s, with another one to later follow bringing the Latin American imperial experience with the United States up to the present. However, I felt it was a good transition point to stop there (at least for now), as the chapter is over 50 pages single-spaced. Through the editing process, I will separate, condense, amalgamate, and cut out a significant portion, but that is for another time.
I think it’s quite clear to me that for future grants, I will need more money and lessen the amount of chapters to complete to about 1 or 2, depending on the scope and how much work/research has been done on the subject thus far. This was the first grant, so I under-estimated the amount, and over-estimated the objectives. I am still continuing with it, but it’s definitely a lesson I will keep in mind for the next grant.
The chapter on Latin America has a great deal of information, and with some documentation that I have not seen anywhere else. I am making really extensive use of declassified material, going to the original sources of internal documents from the State Department, National Security Council, Pentagon, CIA, and White House. The information flowing from these sources is truly impressive. While there are literally thousands of documents, and on any one issue, one must sift through hundreds upon hundreds, you emerge with a couple worth quoting. So the research is quite extensive, drawing from original documents, academic journals, historical studies, critical studies, and a plethora of other avenues. I am sure that once the chapter is cleaned up, edited, cut down, and re-worked it will surely be a memorable contribution to the book project.
The chapter I am currently now working on is on the Middle East and American imperialism, beginning with the end of World War II. I briefly examine the expanded interests of American oil companies in the region (particularly the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil, which had a monopoly over Saudi oil), and the development of Pan-Arabism and Arab Nationalism as the driving political and social force in the region with which the Western imperial powers had to confront, and seek to destroy. This intertwines with the formation of Israel as a western outpost in the region, the rise of Nasser in Egypt as the symbol of Arab nationalism and non-alignment, and leading to the Suez Crisis. This chapter also includes a look at North Africa, of which the central focus will be the Algerian war of independence, in which France sought to crush the liberation struggle. Egypt, with Nasser at the helm, was identified in the internal documents as the greatest threat to Western interests in the region, even surpassing the rhetoric regarding the Soviet Union. Why was this so? Well the documents explain it quite plainly, and so will I: Egypt is at the strategic centre between the West and the East, between the Middle East and Africa, between empires and expansion. To have a nationalist espousing ideas of Arab nationalism, Arab unity, and non-alignment (meaning creating a way for a “third force” between the West and the Soviet Union), Nasser sought to unite the “Third World” as a “third force” instead of a battleground and resource supply for the “great powers.” The notion of the Third World uniting against the imperial powers was a far more real and dangerous threat to the West than the convenient scapegoating of the USSR.
I am doing all the research for this discussion at the moment, and will be hoping to get ahead in writing it. The chapter, of course, will go much further, aiming to reach up to the 1973 October War. Then two more chapters to complete following this one: Sub-Saharan Africa, of which the main focus will be the Congo, but also taking a look at the wider process of “decolonization” and European efforts to maintain dominance over the continent. Then, of course, I must move to East and Southeast Asia. Here, I have been collecting and doing extensive research. There will be several main facets which are important to explore: (1) The modernization of Japan as an outlet and extension of Western hegemony in East Asia, in line with the building up of several powerful East Asian economies, (2) the Indochina War in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos designed to crush indigenous liberation struggles, maintain dominance over the region and its resources (which were vital to the growth of the Japanese economy), and (3) the coup and control of Indonesia, perhaps the most resource-rich nation in the region, what Nixon referred to as “the greatest prize” in Asia. All of these are related and intertwined, and I may include a brief look at the development of Communist China, which is a necessary factor in the wider geopolitical context (not to mention, the Korean War). That will be quite an extensive chapter it seems (as will they all).
I am hoping to finish these as soon as possible, so I can move on to the next grant and chapter(s), of which I already have a plan for what I will be writing about. I have collected a great deal of resources and research for those chapters, and I am sure they will be of great interest to readers.
I will be posting little unedited extracts from my chapter on Latin America so that people may see some of the results made possible through their support to the Grant program and the Project in general.
Thanks to all the supporters and donators!
Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project.