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Thursday, February 18, 2021

The U.S. War Machine: Now Under New Management

 










Electing Joe Biden is not enough to ensure a saner and less belligerent foreign policy.

by Medea Benjamin, Nicolas J S Davies

The Progressive

Feb 12, 2021 - The failure of the United States to respond effectively to a global pandemic is a predictable result of a political and economic system in which the health and other unmet needs of poor, working Americans always take a back seat to militaristic priorities. As Martin Luther King Jr. lamented in 1967, “I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.”

On the first day of 2021, the Senate joined the House in voting to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740 billion military spending bill to pay for “counterterrorism” wars that rage on despite Trump’s promises to end them. The veto override, the first in Trump’s presidency, allows for continued expansion of a war machine that the Trump Administration quietly but explicitly repurposed for a “new” Cold War and arms race against Russia and China.

We must confront the urgent need for a truly fresh look at the whole range of destructive policies the United States has pursued around the world for decades.

Like Trump in 2016, nearly all of the 2020 Democratic candidates for President made vague promises to end the nation’s “endless” wars. President Biden was not the most hawkish member of Obama’s Cabinet—that distinction belongs to Hillary Clinton. But the militarized “counterterrorism” policy that Biden explicitly supported is precisely what keeps these conflicts raging.

U.S. “counterterrorism strategy” relies on airstrikes, special operations forces, and the use of proxy forces to wage bloody wars with a minimum of politically sensitive U.S. casualties. What U.S. military strategists have called a “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war keeps these conflicts out-of-sight and out-of-mind of the American public.

Biden opposed Obama’s 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan, but after the surge failed, Obama reverted to the policy that Biden favored to begin with, which became the hallmark of their broader global war policy. In insider circles, this was referred to as “counterterrorism,” as opposed to “counterinsurgency.”

In Afghanistan, that meant abandoning large-scale deployments of U.S. forces and relying on air strikes, drone strikes, and “kill or capture” raids, while recruiting and training Afghan forces to do nearly all the ground fighting.

In the 2011 Libya intervention, the NATO-Arab monarchist coalition used a combination of proxy forces and airstrikes. They quietly embedded hundreds of Qatari special operations forces and Western mercenaries with the Libyan rebels to call in NATO airstrikes and train local militias, including Islamist groups with links to Al Qaeda. Ten years later, the forces NATO unleashed are still fighting over the spoils. ...Read More

Monday, January 25, 2021

Yemen Crisis Linked to Weapons Maker Raytheon’s Influence on US Foreign Policy

 

Smoke billows following a reported airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on November 27, 2020. MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

By Chrisana M. Panzica 

Truthout

Jan 22, 2021 - Since 2015, the U.S.-backed Saudi-led bombing and blockade of Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people and devastated the country, creating what the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Half the country’s people are on the brink of famine, the country has the world’s worst cholera outbreak in recorded history, and now Yemen has one of the very worst COVID death rates in the world: It kills 1 in 4 people who test positive.

People and organizations across the world are uniting to call for an end to this genocidal war on January 25 in an international day of action. President Joe Biden, who was part of the Obama administration which started U.S. support for the war, has vaguely promised to end U.S. support for the war. However, Biden’s promise should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Weapons manufacturers like Raytheon have a vested interest in continuing the war and wield an immense amount of power in Washington. It is unlikely the U.S. government will end the war without a fight — it’s on us to push it to do so.

Starting under Obama and continuing under Trump, the U.S. has been heavily involved in the war on Yemen, primarily through weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners. These weapons are by and large used to intentionally target and kill Yemenis. This bloodthirsty logic has been a driving force behind the war for almost six years.

Raytheon Technologies, the second-largest arms manufacturer in the world, is one major provider of these weapons. It stands out from the rest of its competitors because of its close ties with Saudi Arabia, having been the first weapons manufacturer to build a permanent operation there in the 1960s, hiring members of the Saudi royal family as consultants, and opening a branch of the company in Riyadh in 2017. After the war began in March 2015, Raytheon’s stock price went from about $108 to more than $180 in 2019, reflecting billions of dollars in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

Despite the countless threads connecting Raytheon to Saudi Arabia and its financial interest in continuing the war in Yemen, the company portrays itself as a neutral force which simply carries out the foreign policy of the U.S. government and therefore is not responsible for the destruction wrought by its weapons. When Vice President of Business Development and CEO of Raytheon Company International John D. Harris II was asked by CNBC in a February 2019 interview about the use of Raytheon bombs in Yemen, his response was: “We are an element of U.S. policy — our role is not to make policy, our role is to comply with it.” By characterizing itself as an obedient, law-abiding company, Raytheon not only attempts to weasel out of its culpability, but also obfuscates the horrific tragedy playing out in Yemen and other countries where its bombs fall.

The reality is the harrowing situation in Yemen can be directly traced back to Raytheon and other weapons manufacturers’ influence on U.S. foreign policy. This is not due to a lack of government “checks and balances” or oversight; rather, it is the result of a calculated policy of the U.S. government to ensure its dominant geopolitical position in the world, which includes maximizing the profit interests of these companies at the expense of Yemeni lives. The U.S. is also involved in Yemen to limit Iranian influence in the region and protect its access to seaborne oil trade that passes through the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb.

The harrowing situation in Yemen can be directly traced back to Raytheon and other weapons manufacturers’ influence on U.S. foreign policy.

Raytheon’s claims of neutrality fall flat when one takes a closer look at its influence on U.S. policy, including both explicit lobbying of government officials and its unified interests with members of the U.S. political elite. The revolving door between private companies and government positions has supported Raytheon’s goals — in fact, Raytheon has managed to insert itself as a permanent fixture at the highest levels of government. Obama and Trump both had former Raytheon lobbyists serve in senior roles in the Defense Department (William Lynn and Mark Esper, respectively), and Biden is continuing the tradition, choosing Gen. Lloyd Austin, who sits on the Raytheon board, for defense secretary and breezed through his confirmation hearing without issue on January 19.

Exporting Death

While the situation in Yemen continued to dramatically deteriorate during the Trump administration, Trump shares the blame with his predecessor. Obama played a key role in starting the war, giving Saudi Arabia a green light for its initial attack. He also worked to expand U.S. arms sales abroad, including to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, Obama oversaw a big increase in U.S. arms sales to foreign governments that has enabled Saudi Arabia’s current assault on Yemen. As a result, U.S. arms exports went from $6.9 billion in 2009 to $8.7 billion in 2012, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s database, a 25 percent increase. Of that, U.S. arms exports to Saudi Arabia increased by 4,489 percent between 2008-12 and 2013-17. (Continued)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Hybrid Wars: What Is New And What Is Not?




By Harry Targ

Diary of a Heartland Radical

On The Law of Hybrid Wars

Andrew Korybko, a Russian scholar/journalist, has written about a new concept, “hybrid wars,” with a long history in practice. The author refers to the Law of Hybrid War as “The grand objective behind every Hybrid War is to disrupt multipolar transnational connective projects through externally provoked identity conflicts (ethnic, religious, regional, political etc.) within a targeted transit state” (Andrew Korybko, “Hybrid Wars 1. The Law of Hybrid Warfare,” Oriental Review.org, 4/3.2016). His  concern was United States targeted efforts to undermine efforts by Russia to integrate with Eurasian states and the US desire to disrupt China’s “silk road” projects. It is clear that the concept refers also to efforts by imperial states, particularly the United States, to undermine any efforts by other countries to develop political and economic solidarity that might threaten regional or global hegemony. And Korybko added that ”Hybrid Wars are externally provoked asymmetrical conflicts predicated on sabotaging concrete geoeconomic interests.”

The tactics of Hybrid War prioritize identifying strategic weaknesses in target states. These do not necessarily prioritize targeting roads, bridges, or power plants for destruction but rather economic, political, ethnic, or other vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities may include ethnicity, religion, history, administrative boundaries, and socioeconomic disparities. Using “soft power” the imperial state supports the introduction of seemingly neutral technologies or processes, such as the internet in the target country. New intrusions are supported by some NonGovernmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Soros Foundation or the National Endowment for Democracy. NGOs claim to be motivated to facilitate political and economic development. As David Harvey has suggested NGO projects come with a frame of reference, a goal, and/or a conception of desirable economic or political paths the host country should take. From the Hybrid War perspective these intrusions are used to exacerbate the class, ethnic, and/or geopolitical tensions in the target state.

Most important for our analysis is the argument raised by Korybko that a critical precondition for imposing hybrid war (and a critical tool of it) is the pressure brought by “globally recognized” sanctions. Early in the process of imperial intrusion, victimized states experience increased costs for importing critical commodities, food, energy etc., constraints imposed on exports, and denial of loan requests from international financial institutions. As political instability increases, targeted states are forced to spend more on security, thus sucking resources away from domestic needs. Thus, the Law of Hybrid War involves an imperial state deciding that transnational projects constitute a threat to its rule and assessing historic vulnerabilities of targeted states. Then the imperialists institute policies of intrusion on target states through technology, expansion of an NGO presence, and organizing a global sanctions regime against the targeted state. From a Hybrid War perspective, the imperial power hopes for such an exacerbation of tensions so that regime change will occur without the introduction of foreign troops.

https://orientalreview.org/wpcontent/uploads/2015/08/AKHybridWarsupdated.pdf

Hybrid Wars in Latin America

A team of researchers affiliated with Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, published an essay online called “Venezuela and Hybrid Wars in Latin America,” June, 2019. The summary conclusion they drew indicates that “The elements of the hybrid war include: economic and financial suffocation economic destabilization, media and diplomatic blockades, the promotion of violence inside the country—including assassinations—the generation of chaos with the attack on essential services (including the electricity grid), the pressure for an institutional fracture or a coup d’etat and, finally, the threat of an external military intervention” (44).

 What we learn from the concept of Hybrid War (which is not new) is that instead of launching gun boat diplomacy as a first tactic (as in the case of over 30 US military interventions in Latin America from 1898 until the 1930s), the United States, in order to overcome developing regional solidarity against hegemony, identifies vulnerabilities in the most significant states (Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua) and launches a multidimensional campaign of destabilization, with traditional military intervention as just a last resort. High on the list are economic sanctions, commercial blockades, networking with dissidents from the wealthy, promoting a dissident local media, generating a whole media narrative for consumption in the United States and Europe that challenges the legitimacy of the existing governments, and generates a discourse among intellectuals, “experts,” that justify Hybrid War strategies. The latter particularly are inserted into left and progressive conversations about US policy. A significant facilitator of these destabilizing strategies iinclude socalled NonGovernment Organizations (NGOs) which often provide aid, promote education, advocate for specific economic development models, and promote religious agendas. At the level of culture the imagery of high mass consumption and how it is intimately connected to a neoliberal economic model undergirds the Hybrid War project. And again, if all else fails, militarism remains an option (and throughout the period of Hybrid War, war remains a threat). https://mronline.org/2019/06/10/dossier17venezuelaandhybridwarsinlatinamerica/

Meanings of the Hybrid War Concept for the Peace Movement

We can deduce a variety of conclusions from the Law of Hybrid Wars.

First, twenty-first century imperialism is not solely or primarily about fighting wars.

Second, hegemonic powers, such as the United States, see coalitions of states as a threat to global dominance. This is true in Eurasia, the countries along the Silk Road, and in Latin America where a crippled Bolivarian Revolution survives.

Third, strategists do not primarily act impulsively. They see a threat, which includes transnational cooperation and resistance. Strategists then identify weak links in threatened coalitions. They formulate multidimensional, stagebystage responses. And these responses involve economics, culture, sowing seeds of division, promoting demonic narratives about target states, and at the same time they leave “all options on the table,” which means traditional military action.

Fourth, the Law of Hybrid War suggests that the peace movement must treat economic blockades, efforts to isolate target states in the international system, blatant lies about target nations as acts of war.

Fifth, the peace movement needs to be wary of false narratives and NGOs that are presented as philanthropic.

Finally, it behooves the peace movement to be cognizant of twentyfirst century methods of imperialism; fashioning strategies that clearly and compellingly identify and combat economic sanctions, false narratives, and institutions that seem to be philanthropic as acts of war.

This analysis resonates currently with daily news accounts involving Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iran and, while more complicated, Russia and China.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Biden's Military Policy




A Chinese Perspective on Avoiding Military Clashes




By Li Yan

China Focus via PLA Daily

Dec 30, 2020 - When he enters the White House as president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden may find it hard to make any fundamental revisions to America's China policy. It is more likely for his administration to change the way pressure is exerted on China, or to add more engagement or cooperative elements. This is a rather widely held view among U.S. strategists, reflecting both the long-term impact of the Donald Trump administration's China policy and the possibility for the traditional Democratic worldview to reshape it.

This framework for analysis is particularly useful where U.S. military policy toward China is concerned. On one hand, the military questions have always been sensitive and served as a touchstone for the state of China-U.S. relations. The Trump administration has fundamentally changed U.S. policy toward China, with clear military and security implications. Over the past four years, the U.S. has launched a new round of military action targeting China, leading to a visible cooling down of mil-to-mil interactions across the board. On the other hand, the military is the key to peaceful co-existence or the lack of it between China and the U.S. On this point, both Republican and Democratic administrations agree. But there are subtle differences between them in the approaches and strategies for military competition with China.

The Biden administration may adopt a “cautious containment” military policy toward China. This policy will have two prominent features. First, containing or hedging China's military modernization drive will top the Biden administration's agenda in dealing with China. This is determined by the basic American perception of China's military development. In recent years, the U.S. has developed an increasingly grave evaluation of China's military modernization and about the military balance between the U.S. and China. The DIA's 2019 Chinese military power report and the Pentagon's 2020 report on China's military and security developments both discussed the rapid breakthroughs in various systems in Chinese military modernization and their impact on America's overseas military deployment, training and logistical support.From the U.S. perspective, a local balance of military power with China may soon emerge, particularly in the Western Pacific, threatening U.S. regional dominance. In this connection, for the U.S. it is imperative to contain China's rapid military development. With wide bipartisan agreement on this point, the Biden administration is very likely to carry on the Trump administration's policies and prioritize containment in its military strategy. More attention will be paid to reach the policy goal through more comprehensive means, such as better distributed military deployments in the region, technological research and development and greater reliance on alliances.

Second, while pursuing containment, the Biden administration will, with extreme caution, also make attempts to avoid major military frictions with China. In this connection, Biden may re-emphasize the role of military exchanges with China, which will mean opportunities for bilateral military dialogue and exchanges at all levels to restart.That is a major point of departure from Trump. During the Obama administration, with strong pushes from China, mil-to-mil exchanges developed significantly to become a highlight and stabilizer in China-U.S. relations. As a witness to the warm exchanges between the two militaries, Biden declared during his campaign that China was a “competitor rather than a threat,” indicating a desire to bear in mind military competition with China while managing competition to prevent it from triggering friction or even conflict.Biden's national security nominees include Tony Blinken, Jake Sullivan and Lloyd Austin, all former Obama administration officials with policy views similar to those of Biden himself. They are traditional and professional in foreign and military policies, emphasize the role of rules and allies and advocate caution with regard to the use of military means, which may add an element of caution to the American view of military frictions and the risk of an arms race.

The China-U.S. relationship has experienced a sharp decline over the past few years, and today it is at a new historical juncture. In his congratulatory message to Biden on his election, President Xi Jinping reiterated the spirit of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation and argued for healthy and stable development of relations. He hoped that the U.S. side will recognize again the significance of a stable China-U.S. relationship, that the two countries will move toward each other on major sensitive issues such as military security, take concrete measures to ensure peaceful coexistence and healthy competition, avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations through resumed mil-to-mil exchanges and secure a generally stable global security situation through practical cooperation.

Editor's Note: The author Li Yan is the deputy director of Institute of American Studies, CICIR. This article is originally published on chinausfocus.com. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.