The reckless and provocative character of the Pentagon chief’s speech is underscored by the targets of his saber-rattling: Russia, with the world’s second largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, and China with the third.
The subject of the forum was the restructuring of the military-intelligence apparatus to deal with the threats that strategists for US imperialism anticipate in the coming years. As Carter noted after 14 years of counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism–two skills they wanted to retain–they were in the middle of a strategic transition to respond to the security challenges that will define their future. A Canadian journalist and bureau chief for The Globe and Mail newspaper, Patrick Martin, has more disclosures on the issue by recapping the bold parts of speech delivered by the US defense secretary; in fact showing the White House militaristic policy.
Giving only brief mention of the ongoing US wars in Afghanistan and against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, the US defense secretary said he wanted to focus his remarks on another kind of innovation for the future, which is how they’re responding to Russia, one source of today’s turbulence, and China’s rise, which is driving a transition in the Asia-Pacific.
Ashton Carter paid tribute to the warmongering of the Reagan administration (1981-1989) in which he served, holding his first Pentagon job as an aide to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. He credited Reagan with a military buildup that contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union, particularly America’s support for the so-called mujahedeen in Afghanistan, although Carter was diplomatically silent about this support giving rise to Al Qaeda.
The US defense secretary claimed that both Russia and China, in different ways, were challenging the foundations of international order laid down by successive US administrations throughout the period since the end of World War II. He said “The principles that serve as that order’s foundation, including peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom from coercion, respect for state sovereignty, freedom of navigation and overflight–are not abstractions, nor are they subject to the whims of any one country.”
Actually, those principles have been systematically violated by the US in war after war over the quarter century since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was the existence of the USSR, not any respect for “principles,” that set limits to the depredations of US imperialism.
From 1991 on, Washington has felt itself empowered—its strategists wrote openly of a “unipolar moment” in world history—to use military force in an increasingly unrestrained and reckless fashion. Wars and other military interventions have followed in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Haiti, Yemen and now Syria, along with the ongoing buildup of US forces along the western border of Russia and the coastal waters of China.
Towards the end of his speech, Carter referred in passing to the “more than 450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain, in the air, ashore and afloat.” That figure exceeds the total number of troops deployed by all other countries in the world outside their own borders. By itself, that number demonstrates the basic reality of 21st century global politics, that is: US imperialism considers itself the policeman of the world, entitled to intervene in any country, to bomb and kill at will, against any challenge to its domination. According to Carter, “Russia appears intent to play spoiler by flouting these principles and the international community. Meanwhile, China is a rising power, and growing more ambitious in its objectives and capabilities.”
After denouncing Russia for what they liked to dub as “violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia” and for its recent legally intervention in Syria, Carter raised the danger of what he called “Moscow’s nuclear saber-rattling.” The US defense secretary claimed that this “raises questions about Russia’s leaders’ commitment to strategic stability, and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.”
In fact, Ashton Carter used this nonexistent danger to justify the vast US expansion of its own nuclear arsenal, by far the world’s largest, in an Obama administration initiative now estimated to cost more than $300 billion.
The US defense secretary also hinted enthusiastically at the potential of new weapons for use against Russia, including “new unmanned systems, a new long-range bomber, and innovation in technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers, and new systems for electronic warfare, space and cyberspace.” Carter reiterated the US commitment to Article V of the NATO charter, which requires an all-out war by NATO in the event of a conflict between Russia and one of the Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, each ruled by rabidly anti-Russian cliques and with large Russian-speaking minorities. Few citizens of the United States—or Britain or Germany, for that matter—realize that their governments are committed to war with a nuclear-armed Russia in the event of a border clash with Estonia. Let’s not forget that the US often put forth words of commitments, but it never shows up committed to basic international norms in different parts of the world.
In a blatant show of warmongering, the US official also hailed recent NATO exercises, including Trident Juncture, simulating a Russian invasion of one of the NATO countries in Eastern Europe, in which 4,000 American troops participated. On China, he was less openly confrontational, and he revealed that he had accepted an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Beijing in 2016.
Militaristic rhetoric was unnecessary, however, since he was coming straight from a well-publicized appearance on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The ship is one of the American aircraft carriers redeployed from the Middle East to the Pacific as part of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” aimed at confronting China with a massive military buildup.
The visit to the aircraft carrier took place shortly after a US destroyer, the USS Lassen, made a provocative sally in Chinese waters around an islet in the South China Sea, not far from the carrier task force. The US deliberately challenged the 12-mile limit China has declared around its islets in that sea, on the grounds that the islets are either manmade or have been artificially expanded.
Responding to questions in media reports about whether the US Navy engaged in what is technically known as “innocent passage,” which would concede Chinese territorial claims, or a “freedom of navigation exercise,” which asserts that the waters are international, not Chinese, Carter made it clear that it was the latter. He emphasized the connection between the repositioning of US military assets to the Pacific, the establishment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an anti-Chinese trade bloc dominated by the US and Japan, and the buildup of US alliances in the region. Mere provocation!
Just as important as the rampant militarism of Carter’s speech was its bipartisan character. Carter is a lifelong Democrat, and his threats to Russia and China have the full backing of the liberal wing of the US ruling elite. His remarks were not impromptu or offhand comments, but part of a carefully prepared, deliberately bipartisan event. It was in a forum on the “Force of the Future” sponsored by the Reagan Foundation, which operates the presidential library in Simi Valley, outside Los Angeles. And the Obama administration was represented by Carter, his deputy Robert Work and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. A question comes to mind here, “what is the US following with this militaristic approach towards the world issue?” Don’t forget that hollow, threatening tone has been part of the US literature in foreign policy domain, today pointing towards Russia and China, against others on the other day.