Security and Control I
Security and Control I
A Pentagon study released on August 13 expressed government concerns that China is expanding its military forces in ways that “could deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off the coast,” Thom Shanker reports in the New York Times. Off the coast of China, that is; it has yet to be proposed that that the US eliminate military forces that could deny the ability of Chinese warships to operate off American coasts.
Washington is concerned further that “China’s lack of openness about the growth, capabilities and intentions of its military injects instability to a vital region of the globe.” The US, in contrast, is quite open about its intention to operate freely throughout the “vital region of the globe” surrounding China (as elsewhere). It also advertises its vast capacity to do so, with a growing military budget that roughly matches the rest of the world combined, hundreds of military bases worldwide, and a huge lead in the technology of destruction and domination.
China’s lack of understanding of the rules of international civility is illustrated further by its objections to plans for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington to join naval exercises a few miles off China’s coast, with alleged capacity to strike Beijing. In contrast, the West understands that such US operations are all undertaken to defend stability and its own security.
The term “stability” has a technical meaning in discourse on international affairs: domination by the US. The usage is so routine as to pass without notice. Thus no eyebrows are raised when a respected analyst, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explains that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile in 1973, it was necessary to “destabilize” the country -- by overthrowing the elected Allende government and installing the Pinochet dictatorship, which proceeded to slaughter and torture with abandon and to set up an international terror network that helped install similar regimes elsewhere, always with US backing, in the interest of stability and security.
It is also routine to recognize that US security requires absolute control. The premise was given a scholarly imprimatur in the first book on the roots of George W. Bush’s preventive war doctrine, by the noted Yale University historian John Lewis Gaddis. As he explains, the operative principle is that expansion is “the path to security,” a doctrine he traces admiringly to the great grand strategist John Quincy Adams, the intellectual author of Manifest Destiny. When Bush warned “that Americans must `be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives’,” Gaddis observes, “he was echoing an old tradition rather than establishing a new one,” reiterating principles that presidents from Adams to Woodrow Wilson “would all have understood...very well.”
Wilson’s successors have also understood very well; for example, Clinton, whose doctrine was that the US is entitled to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” with no need even to concoct pretexts of the Bush variety. The US therefore must keep huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security” (Defense Secretary William Cohen). This prescription for permanent war is a new strategic doctrine, military historian Andrew Bacevich observes, later amplified by Bush and Obama.
The traditional doctrine is understandable. As every Mafia Don knows, even the slightest loss of control might lead to unraveling of the system of domination as others are encouraged to follow a similar path. This central principle of power is familiarly formulated as the “domino theory,” which translates in practice to the recognition that the “virus” of successful independent development might “spread contagion” elsewhere, and therefore must be destroyed while potential victims of the plague are inoculated, usually by brutal dictatorships.
According to the Pentagon study, China’s military budget is expanding, approaching “one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” a fraction of the US military budget of course. The concerns are understandable, on the virtually unchallenged assumption that the US must maintain “unquestioned power” over much of the world, with “military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty” by states that might interfere with its global designs.
These were the principles established by high-level planners and foreign policy experts during World War II, as they developed the framework for the post-war World, largely implemented. The US was to maintain this dominance in a “Grand Area,” which was to include at a minimum the Western hemisphere, the Far East, and the former British empire, including the crucial energy resources of the Middle East. As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended to as much of Eurasia as possible, at least its economic core in Western Europe. It was always understood that Europe might choose to follow an independent course, perhaps the Gaullist vision of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. NATO was partially intended to counter this threat, and the issue remains very much alive today as NATO is expanded to a US-run intervention force with particular responsibility to control the “crucial infrastructure” of the global energy system on which the West relies.
But world control is no simple matter, even for a state with the historically unprecedented power of the US, a matter to which we return.