A Critique of American Imperialism1
By Frank W. Elwell

John Bellamy Foster’s Ecological-Marxism goes beyond immediate concerns of capitalist firms within nation-states that exploit both environment and workers; like Wallerstein, Foster offers a Marxian analysis of the relations between core and peripheral nations that have grave consequences for environmental depletion and pollution, global inequality between and within nation-states, as well as nuclear proliferation and the likelihood of nuclear war.2 In his analysis Foster examines details of historical and contemporary foreign policy of the United States of America and finds that much of that foreign policy, particularly since World War II, has been aimed at strengthening American political, military, and economic power around the world. Many of these actions have been taken in the name of spreading freedom and democracy around the globe, or of protecting American citizens or allies, or more recently, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Foster asserts, these actions are primarily taken to serve the needs of American capital; they are aimed at securing access to raw materials, markets, and labor—to further expand investment opportunities of American corporations. The United States of America, according to Foster, remains the hegemonic power at the core of the world system, and uses its military, political, and economic power in an imperialistic manner; a manner consistent with such historical empires as Britain and Rome. The roots of American imperialism lie in capitalism and the capitalist world system. “From its beginning in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,” Foster writes, “and even more so in the monopoly stage, capital within each nation-state at the center of the system is driven by a need to control access to raw materials and the labor in the periphery.”3 While the specific mechanisms of imperialism vary historically, the goal of American imperialism today is the same