[S]uffice it to state that the U.S. Guardian Elite are very much of and for the overworld of private wealth. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. Guardian Elite have functioned most decisively as executors of dark power.
— Aaron Good, American Exception, p 107
Aaron Good, who received his PhD in political science at Temple University, has written an exceptional book: American Exception: Empire and the Deep State (Skyhorse, 2022). The title of the first chapter broadly lays out the thesis of the book: “Empire, Hegemony, and the State.”
Good develops two terms, exceptionism(institutionalized lawlessness) and the tripartite state (which includes the public state, security state, and the deep state), that he fleshes out throughout American Exception.
The author identifies the U.S. as exceptionist in that it serially violates its own constitution. The United Nations Charter forbids warmaking and covert operations, and since the United States government has ratified the UN Charter it is legally applicable as per the U.S. Constitution. Thus, the launching of wars and CIA cloak-and-dagger missions are in contravention of the U.S. Constitution, adducing the exceptionism of the U.S.
Anti-communism, the boogeyman of the American establishment, used to serve as a pretext for U.S. exceptionism, but as Good points out, with the fall of the Soviet Union this pretext has vanished. Since the military-industrial complex needs a boogeyman, the Global War on Terror, Russophobia, and the China Threat have been reified to keep the war machine cranking along for imperial hegemony, what Good defines as hegemony in the pursuit of empire. (p 15)
The U.S. hegemon demands that all nation states, excluding itself, must adhere to the rules based order, which is not the same as the rule of law. In this rules based international order, elitists in the periphery benefit themselves by subordinating their nation states to the U.S. hegemon.
The author asks, “Can the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] manage and constrain these forces [of its billionaire class], or will Chinese elites increasingly identify more with the transnational corporate class and less with Chinese nationalist or socialist aims?” (p 270) Today, many in the periphery are now standing up against U.S. hegemony with Russia and China at the forefront. They are bypassing and ignoring U.S.-NATO sanctions and are challenging the financial basis of the imperial empire by de-dollarizing.
A recent case in point is that of Chinese business magnate Ma Yun, known in the West as Jack Ma. Ma was planning to expand his monopolistic business empire whereupon he criticized Chinese regulators. The Chinese government stepped in, broke up Ma’s Ant Group and laid heavy fines on Ma’s rapacious business interests causing Ma to keep a low profile afterwards. China is a nation state that has demonstrated that it will not allow 1%-ers to undermine the domestic national good. This speaks to the threat that China poses to U.S. elitists. China has ended extreme poverty and is focused on creating a xiaokang (moderately prosperous) society, not a state wherein the billionaires can plunder the national wealth. Moreover, contrary to the U.S., China also touts multipolarity, peace, and win-win trade relations.
American Exception questions the notion of the United States as a democracy, as the state does not serve the masses, rather it serves the interests of the “elites,” what politicians call the national interest. What the term elite denotes is apparent when Good discusses “Socioeconomic elite criminality (i.e., crimes of the superrich)…” (p 3. Elite is a term Good uses throughout the book; I refrain from using the word elite–“a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society”–preferring instead the noun elitist–“a person who believes that a society or system should be led by an elite,” as per Google dictionary). When discussing institutionalized democracy, it is important to note that merely claiming to be such does not make an entity democratic. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and Good produces the proof throughout his opus.
The criminality of the imperial hegemon is striking in its blatant disregard to the well-being for the American masses, especially the downtrodden, and its insouciance to the carnage it inflicts on peoples elsewhere. Good finds such egregious behavior by American policymakers to be sociopathic. (p 70) This should not be a surprise given that the U.S. economy is built on permanent war and organized around the private corporation. (p 81) Neither should it surprise that the U.S. is currently behind the proxy war in support of a Ukrainian government and its military brimming with neo-Nazis (a fact now elided by compliant U.S.-aligned media) despite American soldiers having sacrificed their lives during World War II fighting the Nazi-German war machine paradoxically built up by U.S. elitists. (p 83)
If institutions are themselves corrupting, the men who people them are corrupted as a matter of course. The higher immorality has become a systematic feature of the U.S. elite; its widespread acceptance has become a key aspect of the mass society. (Good, p 86. Cited in C Wright Mills, The Power Elite, 1956, p 343)
This corrupting effect may well be so, but the people who are attracted to work in such corrupt(ing) institutions may well already be corrupted or leaning that way–hence, the attraction. Fortunately, there are plenty of people who refuse to work in potentially corrupting institutions such as the police, espionage agencies, and military.
To maintain an elitist-led society, egalitarianism must be eschewed. Good cites George Orwell who wrote “… a hierarchical society was only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance.” (p 128) The job of the poor as perspicacious comedian George Carlin noted was “to scare the shit out of the middle class” for their job security. (p 130)
American Exception is a tome that sifts through history, basically from the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt until Donald Trump. It sifts through so-called democracy; the security apparatus: CIA, FBI, NSA; deep state involvement in drug running and assassinations, such as of John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr; parapolitics (the unaccountability of power); the U.S. dollar as a fiat and world reserve currency; how Watergate–“the historical fact of conspiratorial high criminality in the US” (p 203)–led to Richard Nixon’s impeachment and eventually paved the way for Ronald Reagan and the advent of the exceptionist tripartite state “comprised of (1) a feckless public state, (2) a sprawling security state, and (3) the anti-democractic deep state”–a top-down hierarchy; how elitists, academia, the media, the military-industrial complex, and the oil market have undergirded imperial hegemony.
Good has done extensive research, cited experts, and covered a lot of ground. That ground provides essential background information and independent, insightful analysis that makes one sit up and seriously reflect on the counterposed depictions of historical events by academia and legacy media. American Exception is a must read to develop a deeper understanding of what U.S. hegemony is about.
Since the publication of American Exception, Russia has responded to U.S.-NATO expansionist provocations by launching a special military operation against Ukraine to secure the motherland. The U.S. is stepping up its provocations against China by stirring up separatist elements in the province of Taiwan, thus violating the One-China policy set down in the Shanghai Communiqué of 1972. Iran is seeking to join BRICS with Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and Venezuela is inquiring about joining as well. Biden seeks to shut China out of chip technology (so much for the US’s much ballyhooed “free trade“) and China just develops its own technology and becomes a competitor for export of the technology. De-dollarization is proceeding apace as the Joe Biden presidency continues to shoot itself in the foot.
There is plenty of grist for a future edition of American Exception. A documentary version of Good’s book is currently being produced by film director Scott Noble of Metanoia Films.
Kim Petersen is an independent writer.