How America will get Europe to finance its 2002-03 Oil War with Iraq
Last time around, in the 1991 Gulf War, America got its allies to bear most of the costs voluntarily. After all, U.S. diplomats claimed, wasn’t the war fought to protect Kuwait and the next petro-domino, Saudi Arabia, from Iraqi attack – and in the process to protect Europe’s oil and gas supplies from an aggressive grabber? Wasn’t it therefore fair to ask the Saudis and Kuwaitis, along with the Germans, British and other countries to bear the lion’s share of the cost of the oil war fought for their own benefit? Europe and the Near East agreed to pay, and their central banks turned over some of the excess U.S. Treasury bonds they had accumulated by running year after year of trade and payments surpluses with America. And almost immediately, these central banks’ dollar holdings filled up again with dollars that were unspendable and had little value, except to give back to the United States or let accumulate for no real purpose.
This Treasury-bond standard of international finance has enabled the United States to obtain the largest free lunch ever achieved in history. America has turned the international financial system upside down. Whereas formerly it rested on gold, central bank reserves are now held in the form of U.S. Government IOUs that can be run up without limit. In effect, America has been buying up Europe, Asia and other regions with paper credit – U.S. Treasury IOUs that it has informed the world it has little intention of ever paying off.
And there is little Europe or Asia can do about it, except to abandon the dollar and create their own financial system.
Michael Hudson’s Super Imperialism: The Origins and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance explains how the dollar’s being forced off gold in 1971 led to a new international financial system in which the world’s central banks are obliged to finance the U.S. balance of payments deficit by using their surplus dollars in the only way that central banks are allowed to use them: to buy U.S. Treasury bonds. In the process, they finance the U.S. Government’s domestic budget deficit as well.
The larger America’s balance-of-payments deficit becomes, the more dollars end up in the hands of European, Asian and Near Eastern central banks, and the more money they must recycle back to the United States by buying U.S. Treasury bonds. Over the past decade American savers have been net sellers of government bonds, putting their own money into the stock market, corporate bonds and real estate. Foreign governments have been obliged to hold U.S. bonds whose interest rates have fallen steadily, while their volume now exceeds America’s ability or willingness to pay.