The Navy’s War Versus Bolton’s War

Michael T. Klare says the Pentagon is spoiling for a fight, but with China, not Iran.

By Michael T. Klare

The recent White House decision to speed the deployment of an aircraft carrier battle group and other military assets to the Persian Gulf has led many in Washington and elsewhere to assume that the U.S. is gearing up for war with Iran. As in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. officials have cited suspect intelligence data to justify elaborate war preparations. On May 13, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan presented top White House officials with plans to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East for possible future combat with Iran and its proxies. Later reports indicated that the Pentagon might be making plans to send even more soldiers than that.

Hawks in the White House, led by National Security Advisor John Bolton, see a war aimed at eliminating Iran’s clerical leadership as a potentially big win for Washington. Many top officials in the U.S. military, however, see the matter quite differently — as potentially a giant step backward into exactly the kind of low-tech ground war they’ve been unsuccessfully enmeshed in across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa for years and would prefer to leave behind.

Bolton receives command-and-control update from Air Force Gen. John Hyten,
Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska., Feb. 14, 2019. (U.S. Navy/ Julie Matyascik)

Make no mistake: if President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. military to attack Iran, it would do so and, were that to happen, there can be little doubt about the ultimate negative outcome for Iran. Its moth-eaten military machine is simply no match for the American one. Almost 18 years after Washington’s war on terror was launched, however, there can be little doubt that any U.S. assault on Iran would also stir up yet more chaos across the region, displace more people, create more refugees, and leave behind more dead civilians, more ruined cities and infrastructure, and more angry souls ready to join the next terror group to pop up. It would surely lead to another quagmire set of ongoing conflicts for American soldiers. Think: Iraq and Afghanistan, exactly the type of no-win scenarios that many top Pentagon officials now seek to flee. But don’t chalk such feelings up only to a reluctance to get bogged down in yet one more war-on-terror quagmire. These days, the Pentagon is also increasingly obsessed with preparations for another type of war in another locale entirely: a high-intensity conflict with China, possibly in the South China Sea.

After years of slogging it out with guerrillas and jihadists across the Greater Middle East, the U.S. military is increasingly keen on preparing to combat “peer” competitors China and Russia, countries that pose what’s called a “multi-domain” challenge to the United States. This new outlook is only bolstered by a belief that America’s never-ending war on terror has severely depleted its military, something obvious to both Chinese and Russian leaders who have taken advantage of Washington’s extended preoccupation with counterterrorism to modernize their forces and equip them with advanced weaponry.

For the United States to remain a paramount power — so Pentagon thinking now goes — it must turn away from counterterrorism and focus instead on developing the wherewithal to decisively defeat its great-power rivals. This outlook was made crystal clear by then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2018. “The negative impact on military readiness resulting from the longest continuous period of combat in our nation’s history [has] created an overstretched and under-resourced military,” he insisted. Our rivals, he added, used those same years to invest in military capabilities meant to significantly erode America’s advantage in advanced technology. China, he assured the senators, is “modernizing its conventional military forces to a degree that will challenge U.S. military superiority.” In response, the United States had but one choice: to reorient its own forces for great-power competition. “Long-term strategic competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”

U.S. guided-missile destroyer receiving underway fuel replenishment while patrolling Indo-Asia-Pacific region, 2015. (U.S. Navy/Corey T. Jones)

This outlook was, in fact, already enshrined in the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America,” the Pentagon’s overarching blueprint governing all aspects of military planning. Its $750 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020, unveiled on March 12, was said to be fully aligned with this approach. “The operations and capabilities supported by this budget will strongly position the U.S. military for great-power competition for decades to come,” acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan said at the time.

In fact, in that budget proposal, the Pentagon made sharp distinctions between the types of wars it sought to leave behind and those it sees in its future.

“Deterring or defeating great-power aggression is a fundamentally different challenge than the regional conflicts involving rogue states and violent extremist organizations we faced over the last 25 years,” it noted. “The FY 2020 Budget is a major milestone in meeting this challenge,” by financing the more capable force America needs “to compete, deter, and win in any high-end potential fight of the future.”

Girding for ‘High-End’ Combat

If such a high-intensity war were to break out, Pentagon leaders suggest, it would be likely to take place simultaneously in every domain of combat — air, sea, ground, space, and cyberspace — and would feature the widespread utilization of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and cyberwarfare. To prepare for such multi-domain engagements, the 2020 budget includes $58 billion for advanced aircraft, $35 billion for new warships — the biggest shipbuilding request in more than 20 years — along with $14 billion for space systems, $10 billion for cyberwar, $4.6 billion for AI and autonomous systems, and $2.6 billion for hypersonic weapons. You can safely assume, moreover, that each of those amounts will be increased in the years to come.

Planning for such a future, Pentagon officials envision clashes first erupting on the peripheries of China and/or Russia, only to later extend to their heartland expanses (but not, of course, America’s). As those countries already possess robust defensive capabilities, any conflict would undoubtedly quickly involve the use of front-line air and naval forces to breach their defensive systems —which means the acquisition and deployment of advanced stealth aircraft, autonomous weapons, hypersonic cruise missiles, and other sophisticated weaponry. In Pentagon-speak, these are called anti-access/area-defense (A2/AD) systems.

Airman at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, launching a Stealth Fighter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

As it proceeds down this path, the Department of Defense is already considering future war scenarios. A clash with Russian forces in the Baltic region of the former Soviet Union is, for instance, considered a distinct possibility. So the U.S. and allied NATO countries have been bolstering their forces in that very region and seeking weaponry suitable for attacks on Russian defenses along that country’s western border.

Still, the Pentagon’s main focus is a rising China, the power believed to pose the greatest threat to America’s long-term strategic interests. “China’s historically unprecedented economic development has enabled an impressive military buildup that could soon challenge the U.S. across almost all domains,” Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and now the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, typically testified in March 2018. “China’s ongoing military modernization is a core element of China’s stated strategy to supplant the U.S. as the security partner of choice for countries in the Indo-Pacific.”

As Harris made clear, any conflict with China would probably first erupt in the waters off its eastern coastline and would involve an intense U.S. drive to destroy China’s A2/AD capabilities, rendering that country’s vast interior essentially defenseless. Harris’s successor, Admiral Philip Davidson, as commander of what is now known as the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, or USINDOPACOM, described such a scenario this way in testimony before Congress in February 2019: “Our adversaries are fielding advanced anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems, advanced aircraft, ships, space, and cyber capabilities that threaten the U.S. ability to project power and influence into the region.” To overcome such capabilities, he added, the U.S. must develop and deploy an array of attack systems for “long-range strike[s]” along with “advanced missile defense systems capable of detecting, tracking, and engaging advanced air, cruise, ballistic, and hypersonic threats from all azimuths.”

If you read through the testimony of both commanders, you’ll soon grasp one thing: that the U.S. military — or at least the Navy and Air Force — are focused on a future war-scape in which American forces are no longer focused on terrorism or the Middle East, but on employing their most sophisticated weaponry to overpower the modernized forces of China (or Russia) in a relatively brief spasm of violence, lasting just days or weeks. These would be wars in which the mastery of technology, not counterinsurgency or nation building, would — so, at least, top military officials believe — prove the decisive factor.

The Pentagon’s Preferred Battleground

Such Pentagon scenarios essentially assume that a conflict with China would initially erupt in the waters of the South China Sea or in the East China Sea near Japan and Taiwan. U.S. strategists have considered these two maritime areas America’s “first line of defense” in the Pacific since Admiral George Dewey defeated the Spanish fleet in 1898 and the U.S. seized the Philippines. Today, USINDOPACOM remains the most powerful force in the region with major bases in Japan, Okinawa, and South Korea. China, however, has visibly been working to erode American regional dominance somewhat by modernizing its navy and installing along its coastlines short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, presumably aimed at those U.S. bases.

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, is welcomed aboard a People’s Liberation Army Navy warship, by Chinese commander Yuan Yubai, Qingdao, China, 2016, as part of a program to enhance maritime cooperation. (U.S. Navy/Matt Knight)

By far its most obvious threat to U.S. dominance in the region, however, has been its occupation and militarization of tiny islands in the South China Sea, a busy maritime thoroughfare bounded by China and Vietnam on one side, Indonesia and the Philippines on the other. In recent years, the Chinese have used sand dredged from the ocean bottom to expand some of those islets, then setting up military facilities on them, including airstrips, radar systems, and communications gear. In 2015, China’s President Xi Jinping promised President Barack Obama that his country wouldn’t take such action, but satellite imagery clearly shows that it has done so. While not yet heavily fortified, those islets provide Beijing with a platform from which to potentially foil U.S. efforts to further project its power in the region.

“These bases appear to be forward military outposts, built for the military, garrisoned by military forces, and designed to project Chinese military power and capability across the breadth of China’s disputed South China Sea claims,” Admiral Harris testified in 2018. “China has built a massive infrastructure specifically — and solely — to support advanced military capabilities that can deploy to the bases on short notice.”

To be clear, U.S. officials have never declared that the Chinese must vacate those islets or even remove their military facilities from them. However, for some time now, they’ve been making obvious their displeasure over the buildup in the South China Sea. In May 2018, for instance, Secretary of Defense Mattis disinvited the Chinese navy from the biennial “Rim of the Pacific” exercises, the world’s largest multinational naval maneuvers, saying that “there are consequences” for that country’s failure to abide by Xi’s 2015 promise to Obama. “That’s a relatively small consequence,” he added. “I believe there are much larger consequences in the future.”

Chinese destroyer arrives in San Diego, March 21, 1997, for the first visit by a Chinese warship to the mainland U.S. as part of a good will trip. (DoD, Felix Garza)

What those consequences might be, Mattis never said. But there is no doubt that the U.S. military has given careful thought to a possible clash in those waters and has contingency plans in place to attack and destroy all the Chinese facilities there. American warships regularly sail provocatively within a few miles of those militarized islands in what are termed “freedom of navigation operations,” or FRONOPS, while U.S. air and naval forces periodically conduct large-scale military exercises in the region. Such activities are, of course, closely monitored by the Chinese. Sometimes, they even attempt to impede FRONOPS operations, leading more than once to near-collisions. In May 2018, Admiral Davidson caused consternation at the Pentagon by declaring, “China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States” — a comment presumably intended as a wake-up call, but also hinting at the kinds of conflicts U.S. strategists foresee arising in the future.

‘Showing the Flag’

The U.S. Navy sends a missile-armed destroyer close to one of those Chinese-occupied islands just about every few weeks. It’s what the U.S. high command likes to call “showing the flag” or demonstrating America’s resolve to remain a dominant power in that distant region (though were the Chinese to do something similar off the U.S. West Coast it would be considered the scandal of the century and a provocation beyond compare). Just about every time it happens, the Chinese authorities warn off those ships or send out their own vessels to shadow and harass them.

On May 6, for example, the U.S. Navy sent two of its guided-missile destroyers, the USS Preble and the USS Chung Hoon, on a FRONOPS mission near some of those islands, provoking a fierce complaint from Chinese officials. This deadly game of chicken could, of course, go on for years without shots being fired or a major crisis erupting. The odds of avoiding such an incident are bound to drop over time, especially as, in the age of Trump, U.S.-China tensions over other matters — including tradetechnology, and human rights — continue to grow. American military leaders have clearly been strategizing about the possibility of a conflict erupting in this area for some time and, if Admiral Davidson’s remark is any indication, would respond to such a possibility with considerably more relish than most of them do to a possible war with Iran.

Brian Hook, special representative for Iran, speaking about Iran’s export of weapons and destabilizing influence in the region, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, Nov. 29, 2018. (DoD/ Lisa Ferdinando)

Yes, they view Iran as a menace in the Middle East and no doubt would like to see the demise of that country’s clerical regime. Yes, some Army commanders like General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, still show a certain John Bolton-style relish for such a conflict. But Iran today — weakened by years of isolation and trade sanctions — poses no unmanageable threat to America’s core strategic interests and, thanks in part to the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, possesses no nuclear weapons. Still, can there be any doubt that a war with Iran would turn into a messy quagmire, as in Iraq after the invasion of 2003, with guerrilla uprisings, increased terrorism, and widespread chaos spreading through the region — exactly the kind of “forever wars” much of the U.S. military (unlike John Bolton) would prefer to leave behind?

How this will all play out obviously can’t be foreseen, but if the U.S. does not go to war with Iran, Pentagon reluctance may play a significant role in that decision. This does not mean, however, that Americans would be free of the prospect of major bloodshed in the future. The very next U.S. naval patrol in the South China Sea, or the one after that, could provide the spark for a major blowup of a very different kind against a far more powerful — and nuclear-armed — adversary. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. His most recent book is The Race for What’s Left.” His next book, “All Hell Breaking Loose: Why the Pentagon Sees Climate Change as a Threat to American National Security,” will be published later this year.

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52 comments for “The Navy’s War Versus Bolton’s War

  1. Hawaiiguy
    June 12, 2019 at 15:11

    If we wish to know an immenent attack on Iran is reality, simply monitor Israels top zionist travel. If there’s mass flights back to its concentration camps of America then we know the war is coming. Still, better to watch Iran bomb Israel even if it’s 3mpty of its top genocidal leaders.

  2. June 12, 2019 at 08:56

    Read all the comments. A wish that such sentiments will spread and lead to change. Tulsi Gabbard is on to something and perhaps other political aspirants will begin to join her in the chance that she is hitting a chord that wakens a sleeping public. She needs money. Hope she finds it.

  3. June 12, 2019 at 08:19

    Starting off, I assume this is the same professor who produced incontrovertible evidence years ago that the world is running out of oil. That harkens back to the CIA telling Carter the same thing which caused him to lower the thermostats in the White House and walk around wearing sweaters. In the article one comment caught my eye.

    ” “The negative impact on military readiness resulting from the longest continuous period of combat in our nation’s history [has] created an overstretched and under-resourced military,”

    Translated, the Pentagon wants even more money to create more dangerous toys.

    You can also look at the article as saying the generals and admirals are tired of these penny ante wars and they want a real one. I think the whole world hopes they don’t get their wish. That they have not managed to win the “little ones” should give the war drummers pause and raise an alarm for the rest of us.

  4. SteveK9
    June 11, 2019 at 18:40

    Another ridiculous article by this author. It’s been pointed out by others that Iran would close the Strait of Hormuz. They would also attack Saudi oil facilities, pumping stations, ports, etc. This would crash the World economy. Also, Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon would attack US facilities and Israel. I suppose Israel could then destroy Iran with nuclear weapons.

    And of course Russia and China would just sit around and do nothing, while this was happening?

    • Michael Cosenza
      June 15, 2019 at 00:01

      I think you need to rethink what you’re saying. Nuclear war cannot be contained in one particular locale. Radiation (alpha, beta & gamma) will spread throughout the globe eventually destroying/maiming all breathing things.

  5. Walter
    June 10, 2019 at 23:26

    No plan survives first contact. China plays long game… I have heard the claim that it won’t be a long war before…no surface ship can live in modern war.

    Yes, Iran can be smashed…but with that comes global econocrash due to every oil terminal and every pumpstation being also smashed, in Saudi and of course in all of Israel no target left unsmashed.

    Make deal and join OBOR with Rus and Chin, or see Imperial Collapse…after which Rus and Chin divvy up north america…

    So, learn Russian or Chinese? Get job as translator quisling.

    Only a gang of idiots could have achieved such a zuswang…no individual could be so dumb.

  6. Dunderhead
    June 10, 2019 at 19:00

    This is all bluster, while I’m sure that many of the clowns that supposedly run the US military actually believe in their bravado the performance and maintenance of the US military is appalling, despite the obscene spending the US military is at its worst force strength in modern history. If these clowns think they can go toe to toe with the Iranian Revolutionary guard in a fight that will be almost certainly in a place of their choosing the US high command is just blustering to save face. Actually going against the Russian or Chinese on the other hand has a almost per determined outcome, how long would it take for the Banksters who actually run things to pull the plug on the Fed, probably less than a New York minute. Let the ghouls from the military industrial complex and tinhorn generals live it up for the last fit of American empire because it is over.

    • June 10, 2019 at 22:24

      @ “… if President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. military to attack Iran, it would do so and, were that to happen, there can be little doubt about the ultimate negative outcome for Iran. Its moth-eaten military machine is simply no match for the American one. … But Iran today — weakened by years of isolation and trade sanctions — poses no unmanageable threat to America’s core strategic interests …”

      Prof. Klare forfeited all credibility with these false statements. But is the falsity willful or the product of ignorance?

      Iran has the power to bring the economies of all western nations to their knees through its unquestionable ability to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which some 20 per cent of all oil passes. Iran also has a multitude of anti-ship missiles dug into the mountains to the north of the Strait. It also has huge fleets of mini-submarines and fast boats both capable of laying mines and launching torpedoes. The U.S. has no capability to block Iran from closing the Strait.

      U.S. Navy tests of its ability to clear mines a very few years ago displayed an inability to even locate more than a very few dummy mines. And that bodes ill for the Navy’s ability to reopen the Strait in time to save the West from economic devastation.

      A view of a nation’s warmaking power that only compares numbers and qualities of weapons ignores what a nation is capable of doing with its weapons. Iran has a destructive power against the bombs. American Empire that far outweighs a few nuclear weapons.

      To portrait Iran’s power as anything less is but to fan the flames of yet another ill-considered U.S. war.

  7. Gyre07
    June 10, 2019 at 17:58

    Equating a war with Iran with the attack on Iraq in terms of US casualties is a foolhardy assumption. Hussain’s military assumed that it would never be attacked by a major superpower, whereas Iran has been anticipating the same since the Shah (US puppet) was ejected. And all the sanctions in the world cannot account for the effectiveness of Iran’s asymmetric warfare potential. I suspect that the same ‘think tanks’ which assumed Hillary’s political win in 2016 are the same ones responsible for guesstimating the Navy and USAF’s ability to wage a war on Iran’s civilian population without a significant loss of American and allied lives in the effort.

  8. Charron
    June 10, 2019 at 16:40

    If we send 120,000 troops to the mideast as a response to the threats that we claim are coming from Iran, that action will inevitably end up in a war. Inevitably. Our government can’t possibly send 120,000 troops to threaten Iran and then turn around and bring the troops back home without going to war. Once the troops are there, they must end up engaged in a war. Just like Iraq, when I saw all the troops and equipment being sent next to Iraq I knew that meant Bush had decided to invadeed Iraq. war. I didn’t need to spy on Bush’s secret plans, I knew that politically he could not bring all that hardware and soldiers home without using them. It would be too embarrassing not to use them against Iran.

  9. David Otness
    June 10, 2019 at 15:25

    “…But Iran today — weakened by years of isolation and trade sanctions — poses no unmanageable threat to America’s core strategic interests…”
    Utterly, if not perversely laughable. Beginning with the choke-point at the Strait of Hormuz. All kinds of lethal mischief to be found right there. World economy-stopping stuff.

    “Deterring or defeating great-power aggression is a fundamentally different challenge…”
    “Aggression.” That’s us. Overtly so. Pure double-speak as we bully, bully, bully, in the hallowed name of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex. War for Wall Street is what we do. Going back to Wall Street’s intentional arming the German war machine back in the early 1930s to confront and destroy the USSR. How’d that work out? Just fine for the profiteers… Ike warned us all those years ago and we have proven unable to deter it at great cost to our infrastructure and social fabric.

    I’m curious: since China holds so much of our debt, and our tax base is dubious for sustaining another goddamned war, let alone keeping this leaky ship of state afloat, just how are going to pull this off?
    This smells like a knave’s way of defaulting on our debt, just another day of moral decay in the USA.
    These psychopaths and their sociopathic acolytes for whom every problem is a nail they conjure up are irredeemably reprehensible. Period.

    And Netanyahu—first and foremost one of the former—brags on how he got Trump to void the Iran deal. Kushner isn’t even a double agent. As a long-time family buddy-buddy with Bibi, it’s clear whose interests he considers primary. We’ve already surrendered to Israel. A long, long time ago. Now it’s just a matter of squeezing the last drops of blood from the quivering carcass of the USA. And they’re doing it.

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 10, 2019 at 17:12

      David Otness, I simply can’ thank you enough for your accurate outrage and logic, keep it up!

  10. Pablo Diablo
    June 10, 2019 at 13:20

    “My goal is to trap the United States into an unnecessary and illegal war and bankrupt them” — Bin Laden October 2001
    Six Trillion dollars later and we haven’t won a War, just keep asking for more money. Bolton belongs in prison

  11. Hide Behind
    June 10, 2019 at 12:19

    Contrary to others, I see no defeats of US State , DOD, and, DOE by their Military Force or Economic warfare since end of Vietnam Conflict.
    I do see different levels of success, and a true enlargement of those partial and full successes on a worldwide basis.
    First off one cannot say US power resides in US alone; It has the resources of majority of old British Commonwealth, including British Isles, and Europes visible growth of NATO both military and military industrials reaching far beyond boundaries and have added enemies and nations far beyond the original North Atlantic Treaty Organization
    Chartered Intent.
    Since 1975 what were once not even termed emerging markets have now emerged as major contributors, Brazil and a few South and Central America’s nations, all nations bordering Mediteranean, and over 30 of Africas, those in and Above Afghanistan of Central Asia, all partaking and a small level of each nation profiting in a global war making economy.
    The pipelines fro. Central Asia thatbin through Afghanistan and a totaly broken into an subject submission of Balkanized old Yugoslavia, why is it that the flows from them have never once been interrupted; those so necessary to European and Hense Global economic growth.
    The profits flowing out of Iraq to US, Israeli, European and Middle East Banking and Industrial concers, with US Green Zone taking a cut as middlemen totals 100s of billions with Iraqs Quizling government, and its now European recognized semi-autonomous Kurdistan getting no more than table scraps.
    As to Syria, even that comical Russian Bear agreed to not cross into a new Semi- Autonomous Kurdistan.
    Who gets the trade routes, forget the obvious oil and gas, that have been laid wide open into and out of Africa’s Central heartland resources by destruction of Libya which was not just US planned but planned by Brits, Commonwealth¿¿¿?, US/Israel, one and ame, and Europeans NATO military?
    US has floating Military bases under new Central Commans from Diego Garcia to
    Phillipines, all that have Israeli and European military representation within them complete to Nationals flying US Aircraft and shipboard as well as within all US newly reorganized Central Command Structures that cover military responsability of all sea and land masses and now include a portion of that reorganization of a Space Command.
    Geo-politics is not just one where diplomacy is primarily economic trade missions as of past, today it is but part economics set and held by Europes old colonial powers with Israel/US but recent joiners, its most visible military military enforcement arm.

    • Gyre07
      June 10, 2019 at 18:05

      Talk about ‘rose colored glasses’, you should be working for the Pentagon’s PR department (if you aren’t already). If you don’t consider the extremely expensive military occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the withdrawal from Syria as ‘defeats’ for the US I would suggest that you reflect on the quote attributed to OBL about his desire to bankrupt the US via it’s predictable attempts to expand it’s empire across the middle and far east in the context of the trillions we’ve already flushed down the military rathole called the US budget since 2002.

      • June 10, 2019 at 22:37

        Not to mention other factors such as:

        * The plummeting use of the dollar in settlement of debts as nations aggressively pursue de-dollarization in favor of other currencies;

        * The breathtaking success of China’s One Belt One Road project in building out a China-centric world economy.

        China exports economic infrastructure while we pour our money down the military weapons rathole that returns almost nothing on investment.

        Who’s winning that economic war?

      • June 11, 2019 at 14:13

        You are right. I am reminded of a cartoon that appeared in the New York Times soon after it was obvious that the US had entered a quagmire in Iraq. It showed a toomstone with the epitaph on it that read. ” Here lies Rosy Scenario”.

        You have to wonder which organization has the more stupid people, Congress, The Senate or the Pentagon. I vote for the Senate and Congress because they keep believing the leaders in the Pentagon despite their dismal record. I mean what idiot is willing to swallow the theory that China and Russia will sit on their nuclear arsenals while there countries are destroyed. To believe that the US mainland would not be hit is to believe in fairies. To believe such a thing is suicidal.

  12. Truth first
    June 10, 2019 at 12:15

    So the good old US of A has started numerous conflicts since WW2, many based on bullshit. Hows that workin out fer ya?
    Your infrastructure in good shape? Medical care for all? Free university? Inequality in check? All things considered a happy, healthy, peaceful country?

  13. Jeff Harrison
    June 10, 2019 at 12:00

    Your peroration has certain opportunities for improvement. FYI and/or E, denigration is not actually a valid argument for almost anything. Iran’s “moth eaten” military is armed with Russian S300 air defenses. Not trivial. They are so eviscerated by American sanctions that they can only continue to design new ballistic missiles and air defense missiles and their own damn aircraft. Not to mention that the Iranians have copied the stealth drone that they took control of and forced down a few years back. They also have Russian SSN anti-ship missiles specifically designed to evade the US’s Aegis radar systems. The real reason that the Navy isn’t interested in attacking Iran is that a few years back in war games, the red team admiral using strategy and tactics that the Iranians have demonstrated they will use, handed the blue team their ass.

    You are right that the US military would like to engage a near peer military power (we have no actual peers, except maybe Russia with all those nukes) especially since that’s the kind of adversary that the US military is actually armed for. On the other hand, I suspect that you are unaware that militaries the world over are always confident of a quick victory and be home by dinner. It never, never works out that way. I suspect that the military has forgotten how difficult it can be to sustain a military operation half way around the globe when you don’t have the active support of the locals. I doubt, for example, that you could get S. Korea, Japan, or the Philippines to join in an attack on China. I suspect that Russia would be glad to join in on the attack, just not on our side.

    We need real civilian leadership in Washington. With the military largely having been in actual power since WWII, we have had what one might expect – non stop war. Militaries are good at war, peace? Not so much.

    • evelync
      June 10, 2019 at 15:53

      Jeff – your comment “I suspect that the military has forgotten how difficult it can be to sustain a military operation half way around the globe” reminds me of Andrew Bacevich’s point made in his 2016 book “America’s War for the Greater Middle East” – he said something to the effect that tanks can travel maybe 5 miles before they have a failing part to replace/repair…..

      The “planners” must be delusional.
      They never seem to stop and ask themselves – are the people of this country in danger or am I simply buckling to the illusion of “strategic interests” AKA the MICIMATT’s profits that are the only ones whose short term interests are being served, if anything at all is…..
      I think regular Americans are thinking that these military adventures make us less safe and betray the volunteers who sign up to serve their country….and make the world less safe and more unstable.


  14. W. R. Knight
    June 10, 2019 at 10:46

    We don’t need a fight with anyone except the war mongers in the so-called “defense” establishment. That includes Bolton and all the other chicken-hawks who have never served in the military but are eager to send other people’s children to fight and die in unjustified wars that only serve to enrich the rich, at the expense the rest of us.

    We should rename the Department of Defense the Department of War, it’s original name, because that’s what it’s all about. If it were truly about defense, it would cost less than one fourth the amount we spend every year.

  15. evelync
    June 10, 2019 at 10:35

    Is the military thinking based on an opinion that the people of this country are too stupid and incompetent and ignorant to be able to coexist in a multipolar world and that our economy would be destroyed by competition?
    Are they this confident in our “exceptionalism” and our “economic version of capitalism” – deeply flawed – to allow the world to live in peace?

    Have they never read Ricardo’s theory of trade and comparative advantage? That tells us, I think, that everybody can win?

    Are they desperate to blow up the planet?

    Assange brilliantly suggested in a video up on youtube that perhaps the reason we have not encountered planets with “advanced” “intelligent” life when there are perhaps millions of planets that could support evolution may be that the competitive nature of evolved species leads inevitably to it blowing itself up with “advanced” technologies and aggressive nature.

    Assange also said in the same video that we’ve been taken to war on lies and his hope has been that perhaps the truth will help us avoid blowing ourselves up. A raison d’être perhaps for his life’s work?

    The reason these “best and brightest” are dangerous is because they think they KNOW.
    When in fact they are idiots and are never held accountable by us for their predictable unintended consequences.
    They like to use the phrase “hindsight is 20-20” and then move on to the next folly.

  16. June 10, 2019 at 09:58

    Time for people to wise up and protect our beleaguered Planet Earth, nearly in seizure from human waste and corruption. While these antiquated-thinking old men push for more war! The Pentagon fails every audit imposed on them (not often), Bolton has never fought in a war while pushing USA into ripping up the ME for Israel since Bush II (I believe he has dual citizenship with Israel, which should not be legal for his US position. Foreign Agent, eh?)

    We need forward thinkers, we need a planet of cooperating nations, not these tired old school windbags! Of course, complicating the bleak picture is confusion of religious ideologies and poorly educated people who don’t know how they’re fooled by the power players. Trump is among them, the Big Tweety-Bird! While the cities are abandoned to squalor and homelessness, states with busted budgets, what is that to defend?

    • AnneR
      June 10, 2019 at 10:19

      So true Jessika so true.

      And the military is one of the biggest perpetrators of environmental damage around – on top of costing so many non-Americans lives, destruction of their habitats, and the American taxpayers (none of them among the 1%-10%) their health and welfare.

    • Realist
      June 10, 2019 at 13:49

      Boy howdy do you hit the nail on the head regarding Bolton’s status as a foreign agent. He and Maria Butina could have a fascinating debate over who is truly the undeclared foreign operative and, hence, deserving of jail time. Unfortunately, there is never any sanity to be found in the U.S. federal government which is just a front used to control the American military machine… but never for the well-being of the American people.

  17. Curious
    June 10, 2019 at 09:35

    When you mention the short time frame I can only be baffled. Is this what our War Colleges produce? War in the 40s?
    Putin had a good comment in this regard and I paraphrase: our friends on the other side of the Atlantic have this idea of invisible planes ( the general said that) and have these goals which are in complete denial of international law. Are they stupid? No, I don’t think so, but can the count? I think they can.
    The US has admitted no defense for their hypersonic weapons and if Putin is telling the truth about their mini nuke engine which can send missiles into the US by way of the South Pole- a totally unprotected area of US defense- they could wipe out the pentagon in 2 days without even a nuke, just mega bombs.
    The US military seems insane and certainly Bolton doesn’t help matters.
    Stay in your own backyard is wise advice.
    Think of the ongoing pollution of the military from Agent Orange (still a problem) and their heinous depleted Uranium bomb residue traveling all over the Middle East by dust and wind so newborn babies are deformed at birth. A short digression from the point above but the world should yell in hatred at the US military.

    • Realist
      June 10, 2019 at 13:37

      Right now, I see the top candidates to fill the symbolic roles of the Four Beasts of the Apocalypse as the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Airforce and the U.S. Marines. They will destroy humankind, and they will do it purposefully, systematically and thoroughly, leaving no one behind to even mourn the passing of our kind. They have already chosen this perfect state of non-existence as your coming fate, whether you like it or not. It’s a decision no one can ever reverse if they succeed, hence the ultimate exercise of power. It’s an extrapolation of the reasoning that the only way you can truly possess a thing is to destroy it.

      • Curious
        June 13, 2019 at 01:42

        This is a remarkable last sentence Realist, and quite disturbing. The very essence of power.

  18. Skip Scott
    June 10, 2019 at 08:26

    For pennies on the dollar, Russia and China have made most of our weaponry obsolete. Yet we still pretend that air craft carriers are defendable, and anti-missile systems aren’t so much scrap metal. How much “conventional war” will be tolerated before someone just says “f-it”, and let’s loose the nukes? I don’t think the Russians or the Chinese will just “roll over” and accept vassal status, and our own military and political leadership is full of characters that remind me of Dr. Strangelove.

    Furthermore, winning the war and winning the peace are different entirely, as we proved in Iraq, Libya and Ukraine. So, in the final analysis, we can’t win against large or small powers.

    We can only hope that someday saner minds will prevail, and we will begin to wage peace and accept a multi polar world. It is either that or total destruction. Why waste so much money and effort pretending otherwise?

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 10, 2019 at 09:43

      Thanks Skip, I found this just yesterday and I’ve been pushing it as a contrast to contemporary times.

      • Skip Scott
        June 10, 2019 at 10:46

        Hi Bob-

        Good link. Much of the information contained is also in James Douglass’ “JFK and the Unspeakable” but I hadn’t heard about the Alabama Air National Guard role in the Bay of Pigs.

    • Realist
      June 10, 2019 at 13:13

      The next president MUST make the Pentagon, the intel agencies and the MIC accountable for burning through all of America’s assets with absolutely nothing positive to show for it, while killing, maiming and making homeless millions of foreigners and destroying Earth’s environment in the process. Tulsi Gabbard needs to focus her campaign on ending America’s Everywhere and Forever War and then follow through at all costs if the cheating, scheming powerbrokers allow her to be elected. I’d say the rhetoric she is presently delivering is the last hope of this planet for long-term survival. There is NO other declared candidate who even vaguely wants peace. They all just want some personal payoff for allowing the End Timers to write the demonic history they want. If her agenda does not prevail, just kiss off the future. All the promised new technology to transform our future lives into heaven on Earth? Just so much bullshit to distract us from the planned demolition these maniacs really have in store for this planet.

    • Abby
      June 10, 2019 at 19:35

      Skip, Putin has vowed that if NATO ever attacks Russia that he would make sure that it was the only country still standing afterwards. As stated here Russia has built some very good weapons that we have no defense against. But I’d like to know why the warmongers think that if we attack Russia or China why they wouldn’t send some missiles our way? This country hasn’t known destruction from war for two centuries, but I’m betting that it is going to see some if we continue doing what we’ve been doing.

      The thing that most military worshippers don’t hear is that we aren’t using the military for defense, but to make sure that our special interests continue to get their hands on all resources. War for oil and profits is the ultimate war crime.

      • Skip Scott
        June 11, 2019 at 08:10

        No one will be “standing” after such a conflict, and I suspect that Putin knows it. Those who aren’t lucky enough to be vaporized will have radiation sickness and a nuclear winter to deal with. If you call living in a bunker on canned goods “standing”, all I can say is “have fun”.

  19. Garr
    June 10, 2019 at 08:24

    Pentagonian orcs are seeking a worthy competitor in their goal to destroy Earth with pollution.

  20. MichaelWme
    June 10, 2019 at 07:35

    When Trump said he was thinking of pulling troops out of Syria, Secretary of Defence Mattis resigned in disgust, to the applause of the establishment media. Americans have died to establish the neo-colony in Syria, geographically small but economically important as it controls almost all the oil resources in Syria, starving the Syrian government of funds. For Trump to even say he was thinking of withdrawing, squandering the American lives lost to establish that neo-colony, is considered nothing less than treason by Mattis and the media. Of course, Trump did not withdraw a single soldier, but just his thinking about it was denounced.
    Iran, unlike Iraq, has built defences just for an attack by the US. A quick and easy victory, leaving behind a destroyed nation that pose little threat to US interests, is not that likely. Iran has many mobile missiles the US will not be able to detect and neutralise, and they have promised to sink the fleet in the Gulf of Oman and destroy Riyadh and Tel Aviv, a threat that is very likely to be real if Trump allows an attack on Iran.
    I’ve read many US ‘experts’ saying that neither China nor Russia has MAD, the US military is now so advanced that the US has AD over all of its possible enemies with not the slightest risk to the US. This, of course, makes MAD possible, when it was not, ever since the USSR developed MAD and Truman fired MacArthur for suggesting the US use nuclear weapons in the Korean conflict and risking MAD. For the first time since 1951, the US is saying it can no longer be deterred by MAD.
    The only good thing is that, since 2017, Trump has shown that he tweets a great deal of covfefe bluster, but he has not allowed the US military to start any new shooting wars, only trade wars, and we can all hope that this continues. It’s the only hope we have.

  21. Sally Snyder
    June 10, 2019 at 07:22

    Here is a look back in time at what a large number of former American ambassadors had to say about John Bolton:

    Given his penchant for blustering and bullying, this unelected, multi-administration Washington insider is a man to be feared. However, there is one thing he must be credited for – he certainly is a force for global insecurity.

  22. triekc
    June 10, 2019 at 06:05

    “Its moth-eaten military machine is simply no match for the American one.” Perpetuating the myth of the vaunted US military effectiveness on winning wars. By any reasonable measure, US Military a black hole you throw money in. Facilitate and produce waste, fraud, and abuse should be in the military mission statement. US has charged billions debt annually for decades, during which time the only “wins” the US military can count were Grenada and increases in stock market casino equity making the owners of military industrial complex and fossil energy shares more rich. Otherwise, in the hundreds of illegal military or police actions taking place all over the globe during the last 70 years, the US military has gotten its ass kicked, settled for a tie and or never returned home. To be fair, the US military air forces are very effective taking off in their super expensive, high tech, break down prone, jets and dropping very expensive, not so “smart” ordnance on defenseless 3rd world women and children. One estimate i read on Internet, the US has illegally murdered over 20 million civilians in its many illegal “wars” since WWII – almost all those casualties were caused by aerial bombing of defenseless people. However, their record fighting 3rd world peasants armed with antiquated and home made weapons and bombs, is far less successful. US Military is like the storm troopers on Stars Wars and the 3rd world peasants are the rebels, while the former look imposing and scary with their high tech white uniforms, machine like drill precision, and wiz bang gear, the latter shoot their old reliable laser weapons with much better accuracy and seem to always live to fight another day

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 10, 2019 at 08:40

      triekc you picked exactly the right statement to quote with the moth-eaten selection. This sounds like all of the Neocon talking heads who, to a one, decided years ago that they were personally to valuable to waste their precious lives on War. Certainly the American population must recognize this deception by now, if not, then I recommend that the first squad in the assault by headed by John Bolton and the members of PNAC…

      • June 10, 2019 at 11:55

        John Bolton invented a completely cock and bull story for why he avoided going to war in Vietnam. According to his Wikipedia entry: in a 2007 interview, Bolton explained his comment in the reunion book saying his decision to avoid service in Vietnam was because “by the time I was about to graduate in 1970, it was clear to me that opponents of the Vietnam War had made it certain we could not prevail, and that I had no great interest in going there to have Teddy Kennedy give it back to the people I might die to take it away from.” But, by 1970 no sane person would ever have expected Edward “Teddy” Kennedy to run for president in the forseeable future, let alone reach the White House. And for one reason only, Chappaquiddick. To read more on this you can follow the link:

    • Rochelle
      June 10, 2019 at 08:53

      Underestimating Iran is silly. Let’s not forget that when NATO bombed Yugoslavia, their (then-)advanced stealth aircraft was shot down by a Cold War-era Soviet air defense system, which even by then was considered ancient. Iran is, of course, nowhere comparable to Yugoslavia or even Iraq. Dwelling on the ease with which the US took out the Iraqi military in 2003 — after having devastated it beforehand in the first Gulf War — as a basis for thinking 120,000 troops will be enough for Iran is a folly.

      But more importantly, technologies don’t win wars. They may win battles, but the war on the whole depends on the soldiers and a supportive or critical population. In the case of Iran, I would advise clueless Americans to travel there and speak with some Iranians: they are a determined and industrious people, and I have no doubt the vast majority of them would rally behind their government if the US attacks.

      With China, I’m not so sure — there’s a fair amount of resentment towards the government, for good reasons — but a war would likely move the populace to fight for their country. Even if the US manages to neutralize the Chinese anti-ship defenses, it’s dangerous to think that the vast mainland will be left defenseless. For starters, China is getting the advanced S-400 air defense systems from Russia, and its own standing army is very large — over 2.5 million active and reserve — and it can conscript much of its billion populace if needed. It has the capital reserves to do so. It also has the industrial capabilities to support a prolonged conflict, and can churn out new arms and materiel continuously.

      Assuming no nukes fly, the assumption that a war with China will be over shortly (short of a truce) is a prime example of manifest destiny hubris Americans inherited from the British and never shook off. It will turn into a war of attrition, and the US will be at a massive disadvantage as it has little manufacturing on its soil beyond weapons. That’s assuming China doesn’t crash the US economy first, which it certainly is capable of.

    • Abby
      June 10, 2019 at 19:39

      The other thing that our warmongers aren’t counting on is if they do attack Iran then they will plug up the straits of Hormuz and sink the global economy. $100-200 for a barrel of oil will certainly be on the menu.

      Plus there’s the fact that we might have to reinstate the draft and that will cause lots more problems.

  23. Donald Duck
    June 10, 2019 at 05:33

    It would appear to the PTB of the west that both Russia and China have committed the cardinal sin of simply existing! Outrageous! I wonder how these ‘strategists’ think that this goes down, not just in Russia and China, but in the rest of the world. To exist is to be a ‘threat’ to the US empire and its vassals. Ergo, we must go to war to safeguard freedom, human rights, motherhood and apple pie. This crazed idiocy is what passes for leadership in the west.

    Are they actually demented or is it just a bluff. Russia and China are almost certainly preparing for an attack on their territory. If the US thinks it can win I think we’re really in Strangelove territory. Being in the twilight of my years I have become a little philosophic about the collective insanity of the US empire. What will be will be.

  24. Realist
    June 10, 2019 at 04:53

    What I am reading is the scenario of an insane militaristic state deliberately starting yet more wars of aggression, this time to preemptively destroy absolutely any other country with the slightest bit of parity to the American military machine. Certainly no other country has a fraction of the planet-wide empire of military bases that America imposes on the world. Everyone else pretty much stays in their own backyard.

    Not mentioned is the fact that neither of these potential adversaries are provoking or challenging the United States in any areas other than manufacturing, trade or the extraction and sale of natural resources. I thought “capitalism” and “freedom,” including so-called free trade, is what we stood for. Of course, the jackasses running the American economic machine don’t even need Russia or China to lose jobs or natural gas production to a bunch of third world countries.

    These imagined adversaries to Washington are certainly not throwing down the gauntlet to the American brass. Rather every step they take in foreign policy seems measured to minimize friction with the crazies in Arlington. America’s obsession with signing up every last two-bit duchy and principality in Europe, including strategic pieces of the old Soviet Union and Czarist Russis (i.e., Ukraine and Georgia), as part of NATO is engendered by the same mad hubris that led Hitler to annex Austria, the Sudetenland, and the Polish Corridor as prelude to WWII.

    There’s a similar warped mindset at play when Washington thinks it should be able to dictate the relationship between what had been integral parts of the Chinese Empire for nigh on to five thousand years. The Persians, whom they also wish to casually destroy, only have a written history (etched on stone edifices) of at least three thousand years. It’s shear smack for a 200-year old upstart country (but hardly a nation) of professional war criminals to declare itself the arbiter of any people’s continued existence.

    Washington’s perfect model of the future will not be realised until every piece of geography on the world map is part of NATO and buying boatloads of expensive, resource-consuming arms from the American MIC, except for Russia and China which will be left as smoldering ruins. Part of the dream also avoids even contemplating the American Hiemat taking the slightest damage in the brief surgical exchange it envisions in the ending of Russian and Chinese civilisations. Our imagined first strikes always create so much shock and awe (at least at the think tank level) that the Russians and Chinese never bother to strike back.

    Also notably avoided in this discussion of future American grandeur is the cost to an American public that is already suffering from a domestic economy that has been thoroughly looted to pay for its “Forever Wars.” Those wars are why American kids can’t acquire an affordable college education (or a decent primary one), why retirement for senior citizens is rapidly becoming a quaint notion, why medical care is becoming the death of the middle class, and why we now enjoy the national infrastructure of a backward third world shithole. If the American military brass really aspire to what the author describes in this article, they are psychopaths beyond anyone the Third Reich ever put in charge and they are guaranteed to end civilisation, the human species and probably all multicellular life on the planet.

    • AnneR
      June 10, 2019 at 08:14

      Totally agree – I would only add that Kare’s sneer about the Iranian military is completely unnecessary and the sort of thing a preening adolescent would say. Nor is it so true – wars are not *won* from the air (and not in F35s by all accounts), but on the ground; there US forces, on their own, without assistance from Sunni jihadists- guerrillas, aren’t all that hot, actually.

      The people at the Pentagon are addicts – of money, power, killing – anyone, anywhere beyond these shores that is. And of course in true DC style they’re military whatsits one moment, executives of military materiel corporations another…

      There is something truly psychopathic about those in power in this country (and I would aver, in the UK, too). They really do seem to get their jollies from imagining all of the death and destruction they can cause to others.

    • Randal Marlin
      June 10, 2019 at 12:07

      I suspect that “Hiemat” is a misspelling of “Heimat” meaning one’s own country or native land. I found this word in my 1970 Langenscheidt’s pocket book dictionary. Curiously, my larger dictionary by Cassell and Co. first published in 1909 and reprinted down to 1934, does not contain the word.
      That makes me think that “Heimat” was popularized only under Hitler, something that fits with the general narrative above.

      • Realist
        June 10, 2019 at 14:01

        Yes, I could not edit it by the time I noticed the typo.

        I feel fairly certain that the German word inspired coining of the term the “Homeland” as well as creation of the Department of Homeland Security during Herr Bush’s administration.

        • Walter
          June 11, 2019 at 07:23

          Helen Thomas and I exchanged emails about the then-new introduction of nazi language to the US – there’s much more than “homeland/heimat” . She noticed it too.

          Prescott Bush, of course, was a nazi collaborator.

          Some may wish to become familiar with Michael/Doerr “Nazi-deutsch” – a lexicon of the language of the third reich. Another source> Language of the Third Reich: LTI: Lingua Tertii Imperii (Klemperer) also.

          • Curious
            June 13, 2019 at 02:26

            Klemperer has a good, but rather densely worded book. The point realist made was one I thought about soon after the word “homeland’ was introduced. Nazisprache also included Heimatland often as well as the ‘Vaterland’. I had studied the language of the Nazis in school and it stunned me a bit when it was introduced. The Germans of course have the luxury of making up their own compound nouns by the sheer nature of their language. We have but the quaint, and often repeated, ‘patriot’ ‘freedom’ ‘heroes’ ad hocly inserted everywhere and they all supposedly mean something. Let’s not forget ‘freedom fries’.
            But what the US lacks in creative nouns, it now makes up for it by using the teachings of Joseph Goebbels quite well.

    • Dave P.
      June 11, 2019 at 14:50

      As always, a perfect, accurate. sweeping analysis of domestic and World events, and of mindset of people running the Empire for a long time now.

  25. Tom Kath
    June 9, 2019 at 23:52

    These notions of a DECISIVE, let alone CONCLUSIVE victory “within days or weeks” are pure Rambo mentality. Reality is never represented in the movies.
    Even Hitler’s “National Socialism” is far from defeated.

  26. g wenk
    June 9, 2019 at 22:38

    Klare writes, “still, the Pentagon’s main focus is a rising China, the power believed to pose the greatest threat to America’s long-term strategic interests.” One might suggest that America’s (and the World’s) long-term strategic interests would focus on climate change, and the impending destruction to our ecosystems and civilization as a whole. It is beyond comprehension that these “strategists,” from the pyschopathic Bolton, and on down the hierarchy, continue to act as if this world were one extended video war game, caring little for the horrific carnage they leave in their wake. One can only dream that someday, soon, we will have adults for leaders.

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