Caitlin Johnstone: Blame the Managers of Empire

If there is a hot war between the U.S. and a major power, it will be the result of the U.S. choosing escalation over de-escalation, brinkmanship over detente — not just once but over and over again.

U.S. Navy Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, testify on the review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2021 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Feb. 13, 2020. (U.S. Army, Zachery Perkins)

By Caitlin Johnstone

The commander of the U.S. nuclear arsenal has stated unequivocally that the war in Ukraine is just a warmup exercise for a much larger conflict that’s already in the mail.

Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp reports:

“The commander that oversees US nuclear forces delivered an ominous warning at a naval conference last week by calling the war in Ukraine a ‘warmup’ for the ‘big one’ that is to come.

‘This Ukraine crisis that we’re in right now, this is just the warmup, said Navy Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of US Strategic command. ‘The big one is coming. And it isn’t going to be very long before we’re going to get tested in ways that we haven’t been tested [in] a long time.’

Richard’s warning came after the US released its new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which reaffirms that the US doctrine allows for the first use of nuclear weapons. The review says that the purpose of the US nuclear arsenal is to ‘deter strategic attacks, assure allies and partners, and achieve US objectives if deterrence fails.'”

Not only does Richard appear to believe that a hot war between major world powers is a foregone conclusion, he has also previously stated that a nuclear war with Russia or China is now “a very real possibility.”

This is not an armchair warrior opining from his desk at a corporate newspaper or D.C. think tank, this is the head of STRATCOM. Richard would be personally overseeing the very warfare he is talking about.

What I find most striking about remarks like these is how passive they always make it sound. Richard talks about “The Big One” the way other people talk about California earthquakes, as though a hot war with China would be some kind of natural disaster that just happened out of nowhere.

This type of rhetoric is becoming more and more common. Describing an Atomic Age world war as something that would happen to the U.S. empire, rather than the direct result of concrete A-or-B decisions made by the empire, is becoming its own genre of foreign policy punditry.

This passive narrative overlay on the U.S. empire’s militarism is nothing new. Back in 2017’s Adam Johnson documented the way Western media are always describing the United States as “stumbling” into wars and getting “sucked in” to military interventions, like a cheating spouse making up bad excuses after getting caught:

“This framing serves to flatter two sensibilities: one right and one vaguely left. It satisfies the right-wing nationalist idea that America only goes to war because it’s compelled to by forces outside of its own control; the reluctant warrior, the gentle giant who will only attack when provoked to do so. But it also plays to a nominally liberal, hipster notion that the US military is actually incompetent and boobish, and is generally bad at war-making.

This is expressed most clearly in the idea that the U.S. is ‘drawn into’ war despite its otherwise unwarlike intentions. ‘Will US Be Drawn Further Into Syrian Civil War?’ asked Fox News (4/7/17). ‘How America Could Stumble Into War With Iran,’ disclosed The Atlantic (2/9/17), ‘What It Would Take to Pull the US Into a War in Asia,’ speculated Quartz (4/29/17). ‘Trump could easily get us sucked into Afghanistan again,” Slate predicted (5/11/17). The U.S. is ‘stumbling into a wider war’ in Syria, the New York Times editorial board (5/2/15) warned. “A Flexing Contest in Syria May Trap the US in an Endless Conflict,” Vice News (6/19/17) added.”

So let’s get real clear about this here and now: if there is a hot war between the U.S. and a major power, it will not be because that war was “stumbled into.” It will not be like an earthquake or other natural disaster. It will not be something that happens to or is inflicted upon the U.S. empire while it just passively stands there in Bambi-eyed innocence.

It will be the result of specific choices made by the managers of empire. It will be the result of the U.S. choosing escalation over de-escalation, brinkmanship over detente — not just once but over and over again, while declining off-ramp after off-ramp. It will be the result of real material decisions made by real material people who live in real material houses while collecting real material paychecks to make the choices they are making.

Another thing that strikes me about comments like those made by Charles Richard is how freakish and insane it is that no one responds with “Okay, well, then let’s change all of the things we are doing, because that’s the worst thing that can possibly happen.”

And make no mistake: that absolutely is an option. The option to turn away from the collision course with potentially the most horrific war of all time is available right now, and it will remain available for some time into the future. This isn’t 1939 when war is already upon us; if anything it’s more like the early 20th century precursors to World War I and all the stupid aggressions and entanglements which ultimately gave rise to both world wars.

One of the many ways our cultural fascination with World War II has made us stupid and crazy is that it has caused us to forget that it was the worst single event in human history. Even if a hot war with Russia and/or China didn’t go nuclear, it would still unleash unspeakable horrors upon this Earth which would reverberate throughout our collective consciousness for generations.

That horror should be turned away from. And the time to start turning away is now.

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

24 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: Blame the Managers of Empire

  1. onno37
    November 10, 2022 at 04:37

    The Americans have proven- over their 200 year history – that they lack the brains to negotiate & instead use brute power to dominate the FREE world!

  2. LeoSun
    November 10, 2022 at 01:06

    “Richard’s warning came after the US released its new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which reaffirms that the US doctrine allows for the first use of nuclear weapons. The review says that the purpose of the US nuclear arsenal is to ‘deter strategic attacks, assure allies and partners, and achieve US objectives if deterrence fails.’”

    SNAP!!! …imo, NPR is a snapshot of Robert A. Heinlein’s CONTROLLED VIOLENCE, For A Purpose, aka WAR:

    – “War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose.
    – The purpose of war is to support your govt’s decisions by force.
    – The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing his…but to make him do what you want him to do.
    – Not killing…but controlled and purposeful violence.” (Starship Trooper)


    THEREFORE, “China snubs US on Russia,” (March 19, 2022)

    “HE Who Tied The Bell To The Tiger, Must Take It Off; and, IT Takes Two Hands To Clap.”

    “With these simple dictums, Chinese President Xi Jingping rejected US POTUS’ efforts to pressure Beijing into abandoning Russia on the Ukraine Issue while implicitly blaming Washington & its NATO allies for the crises.”

    “All sides need to jointly support Russia and Ukraine in having support Russia and Ukraine in having dialogue and negotiation that will produce results and lead to peace. The US and NATO  should also have a dialogue with Russia to address the crux of the Ukraine crisis and ease the security concern both Russia and Ukraine.”

    Read more at: hxxp://

    No doubt about it, Caitlin Johnstone rocks the resolution, “That horror, “that a bunch of Hollow Men obsessed by the Second Coming won’t turn Cold War 2.0 into Armageddon,” (Pepe Escobar) “ should be turned away from. And the time to start turning away is now.” Caitlin Johnstone. KEEP It LIT. TY.

  3. George Philby
    November 10, 2022 at 00:05

    So, the Army now runs the USA?
    And decides when (not if, apparently) the “BIG” WAR should take place?

  4. November 9, 2022 at 20:54

    Here is my best effort at a response.

    We need a leader or three men together. A cabal, with charisma,dignity and an already good reputation. This cabal is the best available because there is no one heroic figure leading avaliable yet. Then these three can speak together and separately and show photos of burnt cities and bodies that is Nagasaki and heroshima. as graphically and horribly and truthfully as possible. Then one of them with a strong face like Scott Ritter’s can speak to what must be done, a plan devised by the three of them. I think people will listen better now than ever, given the fear land cynicism about mainstream media.

    Now pleases someone add to to these ideas please; they are wild and weak, yet who has proposed the better ones?? It has to start somewhere.

    I has in mind Scott Ritter, Alexander Mercouris, and a third man, older and wise.

  5. Richard J Bluhm
    November 9, 2022 at 18:58

    “There is no reason good can’t triumph over evil, if only angels will get organized along the lines of the mafia.” wrote Kurt Vonnegut in his 2005 book titled “Man Without a Country.” In it he quarried why Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, and Einstein gave up on humanity. Vonnegut did as well.

    • Frank Lambert
      November 10, 2022 at 10:51

      Good inteview of the great Kurt Vonnegut about his career and all, then about Kurt’s US Army service during WWII. Vonnegut was captured by the Germans and sent to a POW camp in Dresden, which was liberated by the Red Army. KV told Wolinsky, “I owe my life to the Russians, but I should say the Red Army, as their were non-Russian soldiers in it too, and the ones from the Eastern Provinces were very tough.” Words to that effect. He said, and RW agreed, that if that psychopathic lunatic (my words, not his) didn’t invade the Soviet Union and Stalin stayed neutral, he doubts the United States and the British “Empire” could have defeated the Germans, as they were the best trained and educated military force in the world, at that time. Similar words, as I can’t remember it all, but it might be on the www(dot)kpfa(dot)org archives if anyone is interested in the interview.

      In replying to your comment, what disgusts me, after the past 22 years, is so-called “progressives” in the media are still beholden to the DemoRAT Party and still think they can ‘reform” the Dem politicians. I guess after Russian hydrogen bombs land in Amerika, and this countries cities and towns look like Germany’s and Japan’s by the summer of 1945, or like North Korea’s, thanks to Abomb Harry, they might decide to give peace a chance, after all. My sardonic humor. I’ve seen documentaries of the plush, underground cities already constructed for the super-rich. Talk about delusional people?

  6. Mikael Andersson
    November 9, 2022 at 18:32

    Thanks Caitlin. Passivity is characteristic of our public administration, including the military. In their narrative everything happens TO them, never BECAUSE of them. All influences are exogenous. All actions are responses to externalities. In this era of public administration, and politics, nobody is an originator (other than the “baddies” who are doing bad things). Our team is always the victim. Life happens TO us, never BECAUSE of us. We are respondents to reality, never authors. Our impotence ensures that we can never escape the clutches of our invisible controllers, hiding behind the veil. Our grammar is consistently passive. We cannot imagine ourselves as the people who create our own stories. Change that, and change everything. Great article by the way. Right on point. Thanks.

    • Frank Lambert
      November 10, 2022 at 10:57

      Mikael, Caitlin’s articles and praise for her are well deserved, and your comment above is my sentiment as well. Very good, Mr. Andersson!

  7. November 9, 2022 at 16:40

    I recently read this quote from John Stewart Mill:”Let not anyone pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. He is not a good man who. without a protest, allows wrong to be committed in his name, and with the means which he helps to supply, because he will not trouble himself to use his mind on the subject.”
    So , if nothing else we should all call or write Biden and tell him to stop this utter evil; and perhaps it would help if we could get our Senator or Representative to introduce a law that says no personal taxes can go to this endeavor. I wonder if Code Pink, or some other group has a petition to sign against the unbelievable insanity of our military leaders?
    I appreciate the fact the Caitlin and CN are publishing this kind of information, but our comments here do nothing except tell us that we are not alone in our anger and despair. Somehow, somewhere there needs to be a powerful movement to tell the government that the vast majority of us do not approve of their behavior or their plans. As Caitlin points out, this time it actually means our lives are in the balance. Suggestions for a group movement, anyone?

    • Common Sense
      November 10, 2022 at 18:21

      Not too bad for a start ^^

      And then there is this humble draft to be hopefully somehow introduced at the highest U.N.- level:

      A reminder-

      It is a challenge to transition the giant industries including all the connected “jobs” from a destructive towards a constructive process/ progress.

      There is really a lot(!) to do to “repair”- looking at the human/ industrial made huge social and environmental damage in history and at present around the planet (including the oceans).

      Let’s shift (almost in the first place) the military budget (~ 2 trillion dollars per year) in a step by step international binding agreement within a 12 year time-frame to regenerating nature and social balance.

      The attached industries will follow consequently.

      Let our (military) guys and girls be good “forces”/ stewards for a healthy and as far as possible resilient planet, and a socially stable global society including all wonderful creatures sharing the world with us.

      By training the staff correspondingly and thoroughly.

      That would be really great & smart for national and global security!

      And lets make them finally undertake the long overdue clean up of all the highly dangerous, poisonous and tremendous mess, the military and their industries have been leaving or dumping about everywhere around the planet during and after past (world) wars.

      Including the deadly nuclear waste time bombs rotting somewhere.

      Dangerous work for decades.

      There is only one garden Eden we very likely are ever able to reach ^^

      The entire weapon industry (military- industrial complex) must become state owned and controlled for no monetary profit.

      Just maintained for the really necessary defence needs.

      Not more than that!

      And this can be probably done very well with just ~10% of the present budget/ cost in about every country.

      In the hands of a shareholders dictated industry they always will be looking for more profit every single day and year by year.

      And if there is no conflict/ crisis they will create one at its “best”. They even are in for multiple conflicts/ crisis if maximum profit is on the horizon.

      Again and again, always based on malicious propaganda, spread by “government” agencies, evil willing „think tanks“ and allied media.

      Accepting/ causing millions of civil deaths and natures destruction.

      There is a choice for what to use global yearly military spendings…
      … of now more than,. $ each year.

      We got to want it and insist on it!

  8. November 9, 2022 at 15:46

    I agree entirely with the article. The U.S. has become the evil empire.

  9. Ricardo2000
    November 9, 2022 at 15:45

    Martin Jacques: “At the heart of globalization is a new kind of intolerance in the West towards other cultures, traditions and values, less brutal than in the era of colonialism, but more comprehensive and totalitarian.”

    Russia suffered many abuses since 1991. Gorbachev offered Reagan drastic reductions in nuclear weapons. Reagan chose ‘Star Wars’, fantasy missile defences that will NEVER work properly. Instead of using the most reliable and safest method to destroy nuclear weapons: the negotiating table and verifiable treaties. Not least was the generous offer to join NATO, which had it been taken would have put the Northern hemisphere under a single shared peaceful authority, with Russian influence. But of course, the US would not share power or voice with anyone. NAYOYO needed Russia as an enemy to justify their corrupt militarism, rather than peaceful competition.

    Alexis de Tocqueville: “All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.”

  10. rosemerry
    November 9, 2022 at 13:13

    Well, Richard really is a Dick!!!

    The “war in Ukraine” is completely the fault of the USA. Russia is next door to this corrupt, nazified, indebted nation which the USA chose to interfere with under Obama/Biden, but Russia tried for years to del with peacefully and legally via the UN. Russia also made its red lines clear last year, and wanted Ukraine to be neutral as its constitution demands. There is NO excuse for the USA to do its usual job and push deeper.
    As for China, all the world even the USA knows that China includes Taiwan island. Accept it. Trade but do not be aggressive.
    Right now there is a meeting between Russia and India, and Indian FM Jaishankar explained all about agreements, multipolar world, and mentioned Russian and Indian cooperation in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Palestine and other countries where the USA (by coincidence!??) has not taken the cooperative way !!

  11. 10 to 1
    November 9, 2022 at 12:53

    Historian Joseph Schumpeter’s book, Imperialism and Social Classes, described ancient Rome in a way that sounds eerily like the United States,

    “There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, the allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest — why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies; it was manifestly Rome’s duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs.”

    • Frank Lambert
      November 10, 2022 at 11:03

      10 to 1: That’s a good book!

      Also, Michael Parenti’s book, “The Assassination Of Julius Caesar”, A People’s History Of Ancient Rome, is so informative, and I highly recommend it.

  12. susan
    November 9, 2022 at 12:44

    Has anybody really seen what happened when WE dropped ‘The A Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? If not, you need to do some research! If you think that any of us will come out of a nuclear war unscathed, you are sadly mistaken. Don’t be fooled by the macho bravado being displayed by these so-called leaders (really more like war mongers) of our country. They are absolute psychopaths and could care less about you and me…

    Ever heard of the ‘Downwinders’? I live in a town that is still covered with plutonium (half life 26000 years) from the above ground nuclear tests done at the Nevada Test Site and where people have some of the highest cancer rates in the USA. We may ‘survive’ a nuclear war initially but where exactly do you think the nuclear fallout will go? It certainly won’t go out of our atmosphere so it will circle the globe dropping its residual radioactive material around the world at random contaminating our water, our food, our animals (take a look at sheep that were ranging during those tests) our bodies and ultimately our habitat.

    • Frank Lambert
      November 10, 2022 at 11:05

      Susan: You nailed it! THANK YOU!

    • piccanin
      November 10, 2022 at 13:46

      I believe Smedley Butler when he say’s ‘all wars are bankers wars’, therefore there will never be a war between nuclear powers. A war that would do actual harm to the bankers and politicians would never be allowed. You will never see Waddesdon Manor under a mushroom cloud, unfortunately perhaps.

  13. Donald Duck
    November 9, 2022 at 12:31

    Just for a moment how exactly does the crackpot US military command think it can get away with a first strike st against Russia and to a lesser extent China? and simply walk away unharmed? In the vast hinterland of Russia it is possible for their long range nukes (Sarmat29) to be hidden in the forests, the North Pole, on locomotives, trucks, ships, bombers which can patrol over Russia and outside its borders, the same goes for nuclear submarines. And just for backup there is the Russian perimeter and dead hand defence system. In a future attack on Russia the perimeter defence would take ovcr initiated by the disturbance of the American onslaught. It would then go into an unstoppable attack mode with a broad range nukes aimed at the US and its proxies. Such a clash would eliminate the northern hemisphere, but the nuclear cloud would blot out the sun and that would be goodnight to the human race.

    I really find it difficult to believe that the US top brass can’t really be that crazy – but hey, you never know?

    • 10 to 1
      November 9, 2022 at 12:50

      The US won’t launch a first strike, but one of its proxies will launch a nuclear false flag. The US will immediately blame the event on Russia and launch in response.

      The nuclear attack won’t be the worst of the problems, those will come after the nuclear destruction. Those left will have a hard time finding food, medicine and all the things needed which are part of complex system of interdependencies. Once the system is broken, people will die by the millions from disease, starvation, and fighting over the things needed for life.

  14. doris
    November 9, 2022 at 11:50

    Thanks again, Caitlin, for telling it like it is. The psychopathic, corporate war-mongers in control are insane, and the majority of the Amerikan frogs scream “Turn it up!” as the hot water they’re already in reaches the boiling point. It’s astounding how ignorance and arrogance can rule so completely.

  15. Paul
    November 9, 2022 at 10:45

    Great article!

  16. Bushrod Lake
    November 9, 2022 at 10:40

    I’ve got to believe this guys have a contingency plan that would save them and wipe the rest of us, the great majority, out. This would save the “elites the trouble and expense of finding another planet (to destroy in time).

    • dan
      November 10, 2022 at 03:56

      Have you not heard of the underground where the Lew’s have citys and all matter of facilities.
      There is online proof from the semi – truck drivers as driving through the tunnels.

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