Posted on May 17, 2012 with Comments 5
by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
KINGSTON, NY, 08 MAY 2012 — An emerging foreign policy trend is Cold War II. The US military/security complex, with help from Obama and Hillary Clinton, is working overtime to revive the profitable long-term stalemate of the Cold War that lasted four decades from the Berlin airlift to the Reagan-Gorbachev accord. During this long period Congress and the public supported an endless array of weapons systems to deter the “Soviet threat,” which, until President Richard Nixon’s opening to China in the early 1970s, comprised together with China the “Communist threat.”
This threat was not all spin. It had an element of real potential, but the threat was hyped to the limit. In the 1950s in Atlanta, Georgia, and elsewhere school children were issued military dog tags, just like the ones GIs would yank off the necks of their dead colleagues in the war movies, with their blood type in event of a nuclear attack. Some Americans built bomb shelters on their home properties. Senator Joseph McCarthy led a witch hunt for communists, and although there were some communists and communist sympathizers in sensitive positions, McCarthyism had many innocent victims, just like “the war on terror.”
Anyone with a social conscience was suspect. The Hollywood blacklist or equivalent suspicion fell upon the likes of Bertolt Brecht, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, and Lena Horne. Even Carl Foreman, who wrote the screenplay for High Noon, the Gary Cooper Western, was blacklisted, and the stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, was investigated by the House Committee on un-American Activities. Even Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the Manhattan Project and the “father of the atomic bomb” was under investigation for “left-wing associations” while he developed the first nuclear weapon for the US government. Oppenheimer was on the FBI’s Custodial Detention Index for arrest in case of national emergency.
Whether serious or not, the “Soviet threat” was more real than the “Muslim threat.” The Red Army had defeated Hitler’s previously undefeated armies. In the aftermath of World War II many believed that only nuclear weapons could stop the Red Army from overrunning Western Europe. When the Soviet Union acquired the hydrogen bomb, the public was willing to support the amounts of military spending and security measures necessary to protect the West from the Soviet threat.
New Threat Needed
When the Soviet threat disappeared 20 years ago, the military-security complex was at a loss. A new threat was needed to keep the money and power flowing into the military-security complex. China wasn’t an option. Its new leaders were embracing capitalism, and China was on its way to becoming Washington’s largest foreign creditor. How do you bash your banker? Moreover, China was welcoming American corporations that had discovered that it was profitable to produce in China the goods and services that they sold in US markets. The influential American interests that were becoming allies with China caused the military-security complex to look elsewhere for an enemy.
With the help of the neoconservatives, the military-security complex found the enemy in the Muslim Middle East among the independent states that were not US puppets.
The Muslim wars of the first and into the second decade of the 21st century have not been satisfactory replacements for the “Soviet threat.” There is nothing powerful about Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran comparable to the Soviet Union or even to 1950s Red China, which fought the US superpower to a standstill in Korea.
The problem with the “war on terror” is that it is a hot war, not a cold one, that goes on forever. Although expensive and, thereby, rewarding to the profits and power of the military-security complex, the problem with hot wars is that when they do go on forever, no one believes you are a superpower.
Why is it that Superpower America was in Iraq for eight years and only “won” after putting the insurgents on the US military payroll and paying them to stop killing American troops? How come after 11 years in Afghanistan the US Superpower and its NATO mercenaries have failed to subdue the Taliban, a few thousand guys armed with AK-47s? Recently, the Taliban took over Kabul, the American occupied capital of Afghanistan, and attacked the Western embassies for several hours. Last week the Taliban confidently announced its spring offensive against “the invaders.”
Eight- and eleven-year hot wars are definitely profitable, but when they cannot be won, what happens to the Superpower’s reputation? What happens to the morale of its armed forces? The evidence is in: military suicides exceed combat deaths.
To protect its superpower status and morale of the military, Washington needs a new enemy, an enemy it can hype without coming to blows. Washington’s first choice was Russia. Washington did everything possible to provoke Russia. Washington took NATO into Eastern Europe. Washington unilaterally withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty in June 2002. Since this time, Washington has surrounded Russia with anti-ballistic missile bases designed to negate Russia’s nuclear deterrent and to make Russia impotent in the event of US aggression against Russian interests. Washington sponsored “color revolutions” in former Soviet republics and has attempted to make Georgia and even Ukraine members of NATO.
It has taken the Russians a long time to understand that Washington is not a trustworthy ally for peace. Finally, the Russian Chief of General Staff, Nikolai Makarov said at an international conference on May 3 attended by Washington’s operatives and its NATO puppets that Russia will preemptively strike the anti-ballistic missile sites “if the situation worsens.”
Washington has told the Russians the transparent lie that the anti-missile shield is directed at Iranian nuclear missiles. However, the Russians understand full well that Iran has no such missiles. In other words, Washington is doubly provoking Russia by providing an obvious false reason for its naked aggression against Russia.
It took the Russian government a decade to understand the American threat. In the meantime, Washington gave up on drawing Russia into a new cold war and turned to China.
This turn was not completely easy. China had become Washington’s largest foreign creditor, purchasing with its export earnings the US Treasury bonds that finance the military-security complex’s profitable wars. Moreover, China is the site of a number of major US corporations that produce in China for their US markets.
Starting trouble with China is not without costs.
But costs mean little to the profits of the military security complex, because the costs are almost entirely external to their own profits. The costs fall on the population and the world as a whole, not on the military-security complex.
It is difficult to demonize Russia, as Russia does not own massive amounts of US debt and does not have large trade surpluses with the US that can be attributed to “currency manipulation.” The fact that China pegged its currency to the dollar in order to solidify its value as China entered world trade allows Washington to claim that China is “manipulating its currency to America’s disadvantage.
Cold Warriors Turn To China
China is being constructed into America’s new bogyman, with Putin in reserve. Once the military-security complex discovered that China was no longer needed as a creditor, because the Federal Reserve was willing to assume the role of all creditors and purchase the entirety of the debt issued to cover Washington’s huge annual operating deficit, every provocation possible has been thrown at China.
The insults heaved at China go beyond hypocritical human rights accusations or asylum for Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. A year ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Washington has a “national interest” in the South China Sea. This interest showed itself last month in joint US-Philippines military exercises. China’s response was a warning that the joint military exercises raise the risks of armed confrontation over the disputed South China Sea. The Liberation Army Daily put the warning bluntly: “Anyone with clear eyes saw long ago that behind these drills is reflected a mentality that will lead the South China Sea issue down a fork in the road to military confrontation and resolution through armed force.”
Despite such warnings, Washington continues to stick its nose into China’s disputes with Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia, revealing, in the words of the Liberation Army Daily “the United States’ intention of trying to draw more countries into stirring up the situation in the South China Sea.”
To increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, Washington intends to construct a naval base on South Korea’s Jeju Island. Washington has sent US Marines to Australia and is reassigning US Marines from Japan to other Asia-Pacific locations. Pentagon spokesman George Little said the reassignment “signals our commitment to Asia Pacific and it is a reflection of our emphasis on Asia Pacific.” A deal is being cut for the US Navy to return to Subic Bay, and according to some reports Washington is working to get the Philippine government’s agreement for Japanese Self-Defense Forces to be stationed alongside US troops on Philippine bases.
Thus has Washington positioned itself on the side of the Philippines in the dispute with China over the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, and on the side of Japan in the dispute with China over the Diaoyu Islands. Washington has intentionally militarized the area as its means of instigating a profitable long-term cold war with China.
Unlike Cold War I when the US economy was growing and the incomes of Americans were rising, today the US economy remains mired in years of recession. Much of the US industrial and manufacturing base has been lost. For a decade or longer the economy has been unable to create high-productivity, high-wage jobs. Both citizens and government are deeply in debt. The unemployment rate declines because discouraged Americans unable to find jobs drop out of the work force and cease to be counted as unemployed.
Washington might imagine that the Federal Reserve can continue to finance $1 trillion annual military/security budgets by monetizing the government’s debt. However, printing money with which to buy things eventually means high inflation.
There are only two ways to finance Cold War II. One is to continue to collect the payroll tax but cease to pay Social Security and Medicare benefits. The other is to seize the remaining wealth in private pensions and IRAs.
Cold War II is going to be a bad experience for Americans.
The Chinese economy is dynamic and vibrant. It has been growing at unprecedented rates for 30 years. China has trade surpluses, large reserves of foreign exchange, and has raised 600 million people out of poverty. The US is broke, and its citizens are sinking into poverty.
In other words, the US has lost Cold War II before it begins.
Publisher’s Note: Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week, and professor of economics, Dr. Roberts served on personal and committee staffs in the House and Senate and as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy during the Reagan Administration.