By John Chuckman
We read a lot about a new Cold War, and I think there is truth in the words. Obama’s so-called “pivot” towards Asia is clearly directed at China’s emergence as a great power, at the notion of containing China, to use the very word, coined by the American State Department’s George F. Kennan and used for many years to characterize America’s policy towards the Soviet Union.
Obama’s talk of a “pivot” is extremely revealing. How does a former sandal-wearing lecturer in Constitutional Law come up with such language? It is unmistakably the language of America’s military-security establishment, that group of men glittering with brass buttons, rhodium-plated bits, and cascades of ribbons who, along with stern, close-cropped men in Armani suits, smelling of expensive cologne, periodically sit around a boat-sized polished walnut table with the President. The language, I think, reveals the real balance of power at the table, once again suggesting that it is not an elected official who sets American policy abroad.
So too America’s aggressive efforts to destabilize Russia’s neighbors and friends – Ukraine, Syria – as well as the expansion of NATO, an organization which rightly should have died a natural death following the end of the Soviet era. There’s the placement of anti-missile missiles in Europe, both on land and on ships stationed off some coasts, American officials always unconvincingly claiming that these are intended for Iran. But Iran remains for the foreseeable future no threat to the United States or its interests, nor has it ever set becoming so as a national goal. Russia, however, is the one country on earth capable of obliterating America, China’s intercontinental missile forces being relatively small in number and not yet capable of reaching considerable parts of America. It would, of course, be a great strategic advantage to have enough anti-missile missiles positioned to neutralize Russia’s strategic rocket forces.
Now, in general, anti-missile missiles are a poor defence against thermonuclear warheads hurtling down on their targets at thousands of miles an hour. Even a lucky hit could prove disastrous for those below if the conventional-explosive triggers of a thermonuclear warhead generate an airburst in the encounter. More than one expert has said that genuine protection against ballistic missiles – meaning consistent, close-to-certain encounters with warheads – is virtually impossible, given the physics of the situation and given the many ingenious ways of fooling anti-missile missiles – decoy dummy warheads, radar chaff, maneuverable warheads, stealth technologies, electro-magnetic countermeasures, greater numbers of warheads, and, I am sure, many other technical measures. But long-range missiles are highly vulnerable in the early part of their flight as they struggle mightily to gain speed. They are also very large targets early in their flight compared to the last stage when a fairly compact warhead has cast off its massive, exhausted rocket stages. Even the thin metal skins enclosing a ballistic missile’s sophisticated fuel and engine systems are vulnerable, it having been said with some truth that an ICBM could be crippled by a bow and arrow at liftoff if you could only be in a position to aim at it
Russia of course cannot sit still watching America’s efforts, and there are many counter-measures, including a large siting of unstoppable short-range ballistic missiles to neutralize the anti-missile missiles in and around Europe. So too the placement of short-range ballistic missiles in special ships off America’s coasts or on the territory of friends and allies or even in orbit. The possibilities are many. The point here is to suggest how terribly destabilizing America’s efforts are. In seeking a special advantage, the United States is pushing the world towards greater instability and insecurity.
Just think of the track record of the powerful men around those tables with the President: Vietnam, Cambodia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya – disasters all, unless you count success in large numbers of people killed and mangled.
America’s Frankenstein military and security apparatus puts it in the permanent position of predator. This is so for many reasons, but chiefly the sheer fact that massive military forces tend over time to behave that way and tend to be expected to behave that way by establishment interests controlling them. A war like World War I is credited by analytical historians with having been caused in part by the massive standing armies of 1914. The well-known attitude of a number of America’s founding fathers against standing armies reflected the same understanding.
The recent warning by a former Australian Prime Minister that his country should review its treaties and military base agreements with the United States out of concern for getting dragged into a war with China he believes the United States is leaning towards was eye-opening, to say the least. When I wrote a book some years back about the rise of China, one of my great concerns was the United States pushing for war before China became too powerful a rival. Few people understand that that is exactly what the United States did to Japan as it emerged as a new power on the world scene, Japan never having had any intention of attacking the United States until, after years of punitive American laws and policies and harassment, it decided it had no choice but to disable America’s Pacific Fleet.
Induced wars are a common enough gimmick in history, Israel’s Six Day War having been a classic dark operation with Israel planning to gain, as it did, all of Palestine and even a bit more without giving the appearance of being the aggressor, indeed with maintaining a superficially plausible appearance of heroic resistance to large external forces. But the calculations had been made, and Israel’s generals knew the odds were strongly with them, given their superior weapons, tight advanced planning, and especially given the predictably uncoordinated nature of Arab nations’ responses. It became Israel’s secret policy to provoke its Arab neighbors with a number of extremely high-handed acts while preparing to strike. To this day, a lot of people believe the myth of modern David being attacked by Goliath in 1967. Israeli planning even included an American spy ship sent to the region being deliberately attacked to blind Washington to General Dayan’s turning his armor to head north, after murdering masses of Egyptian prisoners in the Sinai to expedite the turnaround.
America’s history for far more than a century exhibits wave after wave of aggression passed off as fighting imagined enemy aggression – the Mexican War (to seize as much of Mexican territory as possible), the Spanish American War (to seize Cuba and other possessions of a declining Spain), the Vietnam War (to keep a foothold on the opposite shore of the Pacific, regarded by some as “an American lake”), right down to the needless invasion of Iraq (to sweep Israel’s most implacable opponent from the game board). America seems always to require some kind of enemy, some dark opponent regarded as thwarting America’s delusional idea of itself much as the comic book hero, Superman, who was said to stand for “truth, justice, and the American way.”