Recent policy directives raise concerns over new U.S. postures towards great power conflicts and developing “tactical” nuclear weapons, underlining the need for a revival of the U.S. antiwar movement, write Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers.
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
Following the recent announcement of a new National Defense Strategy that places a greater focus on conflicts with great powers, last week the Pentagon unveiled its Nuclear Posture Review, which announced an escalation of nuclear weapons development. With the NPR describing new U.S. efforts to develop “tactical” nukes, Russia responded by calling the proposals “anti-Russian” and “confrontational.”
The U.S. policy statements come at a time when the United States’ military is engaged in several dangerous conflict areas that could develop into an all-out war, possibly in conflict with China or Russia. It comes at a time when U.S. empire is fading, something the Pentagon also recognizes and the United States is falling behind China economically.
New National Defense Strategy Means More War, More Spending
The new National Defense Strategy moves from a focus on the “war on terror” toward conflict with great powers as its primary concern. Michael Whitney, writing about the conflict in Syria, puts it in context:
“Washington’s biggest problem is the absence of a coherent policy. While the recently released National Defense Strategy articulated a change in the way the imperial strategy would be implemented, (by jettisoning the ‘war on terror’ pretext to a ‘great power’ confrontation) the changes amount to nothing more than a tweaking of the public relations ‘messaging.’ Washington’s global ambitions remain the same albeit with more emphasis on raw military power.”
The move from military conflict against non-state actors, i.e. terrorists, to great power conflict means more military hardware, massive spending on weapons and a new arms race. Andrew Bacevich writes in American Conservative that war profiteers are popping open the champagne.
Bacevich notes that the ‘new’ strategy is placed in the false claim that the U.S. is “emerging from a period of strategic atrophy.” The claim is laughable as the U.S. has been in never ending war with massive military spending throughout the century:
“Under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump, U.S. forces have been constantly on the go. I’m prepared to argue that no nation in recorded history has ever deployed its troops to more places than has the United States since 2001. American bombs and missiles have rained down on a remarkable array of countries. We’ve killed an astonishing number of people.”
The new strategy means more spending on weapons to prepare for conflict with Russia and China. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis claimed, “Our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare—air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. And it is continually eroding.” He described the Pentagon’s plans for accelerated ‘procurement and modernization,’ likely spiking an arms race that would include nuclear, space and traditional weapons, cyber defense and more surveillance.
The Pentagon announced its Nuclear Posture Review on February 2, with calls for updating and expanding the nuclear arsenal in order to respond to perceived threats, in particular by “great powers,” such as Russia and China, as well North Korea and others. Peace Action noted that “the expansion of our nuclear arsenal called for in the Nuclear Posture Review would cost the American taxpayers an estimated $1.7 trillion adjusted for inflation over the next three decades.”
“Who will celebrate the National Defense Strategy?” asked Bacevich. “Only weapons manufacturers, defense contractors, lobbyists, and other fat cat beneficiaries of the military-industrial complex.” To boost production, Trump is urging the State Department to spend more time selling U.S. weapons abroad.
Escalating Conflicts Risk Global War
In his first year as president, Donald Trump handed over decision-making power to “his generals” and as expected, this resulted in increased warfare, bombing and deaths. There has been a nearly 50 percent increase of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during Trump’s first year, leading to a rise in civilian deaths by more than 200 percent compared with the year before. Trump has also broken the record for special forces, now deployed in 149 countries or 75 percent of the globe.
Many areas risk escalation to full-scale war, including conflict with Russia and China.
In Syria, the seven-year war, which has killed 400,000 people, began during Obama’s presidency under the stated policy of defeating ISIS but had as its transparent goal the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. This January, Secretary of State Tillerson made this objective clear, saying that even after the defeat of ISIS the US would stay in Syria until Assad was removed from office.
The U.S. is now moving to Plan B, the creation of a de facto autonomous Kurdish state for almost one-third of Syria defended by a proxy military of 30,000 troops, mainly Kurds. Marcello Ferrada de Noli describes that in response, Syria – aided by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah – “continues victorious and unabated in its pursuit to retake the full sovereignty of its nation’s territory.” Turkey is moving to ensure no Kurdish territory is created by the U.S.
On the North Korea front, the U.S. has continued massive military exercises, practicing war games that include nuclear attacks and assassination of their leadership. The latest dangerous talk coming from the Trump military is regarding the need to give Pyongyang a “bloody nose” – aggressive rhetoric that hints at a possible U.S. first strike. This could lead to war with China and Russia, as Beijing has said if the United States attacked first it would defend North Korea. This comes while North and South Korea are actively seeking peace and are cooperating during the Olympics. At least the U.S. has pledged not to hold any provocative war games during the Olympics scheduled this month in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Other hotspots to keep an eye on are in Iran, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Iran: The United States has sought regime change in Tehran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution removed the U.S.-backed Shah. The current debate over the future of the nuclear weapons agreement and economic sanctions are focal points of conflict. While observers find Iran has lived up to the agreement, the Trump administration continues to claim violations. In addition, the U.S., through USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy and other agencies, is spending millions annually to build opposition to the government and foment regime change, as seen in recent protests.
In addition, the U.S. (along with Israel and Saudi Arabia) is engaged in conflict with Iran in other areas, including Syria and Yemen. There is regular propaganda demonizing Iran and threatening war with Iran, which is six times the size of Iraq and has a much stronger military. The U.S. has been isolated in the UN over its belligerence toward Iran.
Afghanistan: The longest war in U.S. history continues after 16 years. The Pentagon has been hiding what is happening in Afghanistan because the Taliban has an active presence in about 70 percent of the country and ISIS has gained more territory than ever before resulting in the Inspector General for Afghanistan criticizing the Defense Department for refusing to release data. The long war has recently included Trump dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb in history and resulted in allegations of U.S. war crimes that the International Criminal Court seeks to investigate. The U.S. has caused devastation throughout the country.
Ukraine: The U.S. supported a coup in Ukraine that sparked a conflict in 2014 on the Russian border, a conflict that continues to claim lives daily. The U.S. spent billions on the coup, but documents outlining the Obama administration’s involvement have been withheld. The coup was complete with Vice President Biden’s son and John Kerry’s long term financial ally being put on the board of Ukraine’s largest private energy company. A former State Department employee became Ukraine’s finance minister. The U.S. continues to claim Russia is the aggressor yet the Trump administration is providing arms to Kiev, which enables it continue its military operations in eastern Ukraine.
These are not the only areas where the U.S. is creating regime change or seeking domination. In a recent statement that raised eyebrows across the Americas, Secretary of State Tillerson warned Venezuela may face a military coup while winking that the U.S. does not support regime change (even though it has been seeking regime change to control Venezuelan oil since Hugo Chavez came to power). Tillerson’s comment came as Venezuela negotiated a settlement with the opposition. Regime change is the mode of operation for the U.S. in Latin America.
The U.S. supported recent questionable elections in Honduras, to keep the coup government Obama supported in power. In Brazil, the US is assisting the prosecution of Lula, who seeks to run for president, in a crisis that threatens its fragile democracy protecting a coup government.
In Africa, the U.S. has military in 53 of 54 countries and is in competition with China, which is using economic power rather than military power. The U.S. is laying the groundwork for military domination of the continent with little congressional oversight — to dominate the land, resources and people of Africa.
Opposition to War and Militarism
The antiwar movement, which atrophied under President Obama, is coming back to life.
World Beyond War is working to abolish war as an instrument of foreign policy. Black Alliance for Peace is working to revitalize opposition to war by blacks, historically some of the strongest opponents of war. Peace groups are uniting around the No U.S. Foreign Military Bases campaign that is seeking to close 800 U.S. military bases in 80 countries.
Peace advocates are organizing actions. The campaign to divest from the war machine kicks off from February 5 to 11 highlighting the economic cost of war. A global day of action against the US occupation of Guantanamo Bay is being planned for February 23, the anniversary of the US seizing Guantanamo Bay from Cuba through a “perpetual lease” beginning in 1903. A national day of action against US wars at home and abroad is being planned for April. And Cindy Sheehan is organizing a Women’s March on the Pentagon.
There are many opportunities to oppose war in this new era of “Great Power” conflict. We urge you to get involved as you are able to show that the people say “no” to war.