Monday, September 30, 2002

American Kampf

According to the Moscow Times, it is nothing less than an American Mein Kampf -- “it” being the “Rebuilding America’s Defenses -- Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century a think-tank report from the New Citizenship Project, an offshoot of the conservative Bradley Foundation, a branch of Rockwell Automation, a former defense contractor.

For those who think of Mein Kampf as nothing but a racist rant, the comparison is inapt. For those who remember Hitler's book as an outline and argument for German geo-political hegemony, the comparison is not off the mark. The difference would be that whereas Mein Kampf spoke of dominating Europe for 1000 years, Rebuilding American’s Defenses speaks of controlling the world for a hundred.

The Report’s essential thrust is straightforward and hard: We won; We Rulez; It’s Gonna Stay that Way. The Report draws an unstated but boorishly obvious analogy between the United States and the Roman Empire. With little surprise, its thesis, argument and conclusion is that Pax Americana must be supported by American legions posted around the world and ready to cut the wheat whenever it grows too tall --- to quote Dionysus of Syracuse.

But it is what is lacking from the Report that reveals how miserably it falls short of the analogy it grasps at. There is not a word, not a single word, about Ara Pacis. Why, there isn’t even an iota about the sublimity of American Opera. Cecille B. de Mille may titillate adolescent males with images of clanking and trampling legions but the Augustan Peace, as it was known, was not made great and enduring by engines of war.

If the Roman Empire commands our historical respect now it is because in its day it galvanized the aspirations and consent of the Mediterranean world. Far more than legions, it was the diffusion of prosperity and cross cultural interchange that made for the Roman peace. It was to this that the Altar of Peace hailed with its embracing image of the goddess Roma suckling her infants, uniting East and West, conjoining farming with commerce, the ox and the lamb -- an image which was later morphed into the mothering spirit of Christian Civilization.

The difference between a thug and a statesman is the latter’s subordination of force to some greater goal that commands the aspirations and assent of the ruled. For the thug, and for the Orwellian State power is an end in itself. The report for America’s New Century draws no distinction between Augustus and Attila. It offers nothing more than an Altar of Power.

The Report’s preamble states the matter thus:
“As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world’s most preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: ... Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?
“[What we require is] a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States’ global responsibilities.
“Of course, the United States must be prudent in how it exercises its power. But ... [i]If we shirk our responsibilities, we invite challenges to our fundamental interests.”
What these “principles” and “interests” are, the Report does not say. Apart from one vague allusion to “liberty and democracy”, the switching ad hoc from one term to the other leads to the conclusion that the report’s authors see no real distinction between a principal and an interest. There is certainly no hint that the vexatiousness of having to choose between one and the other has ever crossed their minds.

The Report is more specific when it comes to what it calls “key findings”.
“This report, proceeds from the belief that America should seek to preserve and extend its position of global leadership by maintaining the preeminence of U.S. military forces. ... The challenge for the coming century is to preserve and enhance this “American peace.”
The Report chastises the Clinton administration for jeopardizing this peace by failing to maintain “sufficient military strength” and it goes on to list the main military muscle programs it wants to see established. The Report continues,
“Fulfilling these requirements is essential if America is to retain its militarily dominant status for the coming decades. ... The true cost of not meeting our defense requirements will be a lessened capacity for American global leadership and, ultimately, the loss of a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity."
Of course these “findings” are not findings at all but simply conclusionary assertions. In the realm of bureaucratic and legislative reports, “findings” refer to the facts and circumstances of a situation or problem which need to be addressed. For example, the inability of 78% of college graduates to distinguish between a finding and a conclusion, would constitute a factual finding leading to a proposed revamping of college curricula.

Here, however, what is listed as an objective factual finding is simply the “belief” that America should continue to be top dog. American preeminence and power is attached to no other goal or aim or undertaking other than the maintenance of power seen as a good in itself.

The authors apparently regard this belief as so self-evident that it is sufficient to state, vaguely, further on that since the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been “no shortage of powers” seeking to undermine American leadership. “Like a boxer between championship bouts,” the report explains, America has rested and enjoyed the good life; but this is bad. It is bad because, the findings are “that America should seek to preserve and extend its position of global leadership.”

The role of the military in the post Cold War era is “to secure and expand the zones of democratic peace;’ to deter the rise of a new great power competitor; defend key regions of Europe, East Asia and the Middle East; and to preserve American preeminence through the coming transformation of war made possible by new technologies.”

All disciplines (as they are rather comically called) have a certain babble and cant which the disciples expect to hear and which lulls them into the conviction that they are engaged in some kind of dialectic rather than an articulated form of barking. Thus, at this point, past preamble, introduction and findings, it is well to ask exactly what the Report has offered over and beyond being written in some sort of knowing, authoritative style. Not much. It has told us that American power must be preserved and extended as a premise, means and end.

Having established the principle and interest of American preeminence, the Report outlines “four missions” of defense policy. These four missions are not framed as particularized military responses to distinct sets of geo-political issues. They are represent rather a sliding scale (“variables”) of military strikes and responses adjusted to the single and indiscriminate purpose of perpetuating and extending American global rule

According to the Report, the first of these missions is to insure “the safety of the American homeland.” The second is to retain “sufficient forces able to rapidly deploy and win multiple simultaneous large-scale wars” in Europe, East Asia, “the Middle East and surrounding energy producing region.” The third mission consists in maintaining a “constabulary” capacity by means of military outposts and “continuing no-fly-zone and other missions in Southwest Asia. ” The fourth is to introduce “advanced technologies into military systems” including “the prime directive .. . to design and deploy a global missile defense system” among other things.

The layout of these missions is somewhat misleading in that they appear to follow a traditional region-by-region defense hierarchy. The impression given is that they fall into two broad categories: a missile defense system defending the “homeland” on the one hand and military operations “elsewhere” on the other. Elsewhere, in turn, appears to divide into conventional, continental wars on the one hand and misc. ops. here and there to keep order among the natives, on the other.

However, that is not the Report’s framework notwithstanding the utterly bizarre reference to miscellaneous missions in Southwest Asia -- as if the third mission involved someplace other than “the Middle East and surrounding energy producing region.” It doesn’t. What the Report contemplates, in so far as the Middle East is concerned, is both large scale theatre wars and constabulary missions.

The Report also makes clear that these so called constabulary missions are not peacekeeping occupations after the sturm und drang. On the contrary, “[t]hese constabulary missions are far more complex and likely to generate violence than traditional ‘peacekeeping’ missions.” These missions “demand forces basically configured for combat.” While they should be equipped “with special language, logistics and other support skills” and while they should include their own intelligence components, “their first order of business is... to establish security, stability and order” for which reason they “must be regarded as part of an overwhelmingly powerful force.”

It is an odd constabulary that generates violence and what the report envisions is something in the order of a geo-political SWAT team. A combative strike force, less and leaner than “full-theatre” army groups, but one nevertheless fully complemented by naval, air and missile forces, capable of smashing enemy deterrence and establishing the stability and order of pax americana in any given region, at will.

Nor is SWATing seen as anything distinct in kind from missile defense. The Report is clarion clear in its call for “[b]uilding an effective, robust, layered, global system of missile defenses” as “a prerequisite for maintaining American preeminence.” The layering would allow for missile defenses to be projected from elsewhere than the homeland and forms the ballast of the “overwhelming” force which the constabulary spearheads.

Stripped of the man-as-machine jargon, the four missions boil down to being able to smash and blast at what ever degree of force desired simultaneously if need be anywhere in the world.

Nor is this capacity seen as aimed at maintaining geo-political balances. The very term “balance” implies an equilibrium between contending forces. But the Report makes repetitively clear that the only balance it is concerned with is America’s undeterred preeminence....which is of course not a balance at all. Although the report carefully avoids talking about preemptive regime changes, it leaves little doubt that American preeminence should be pro-assertive. Thus, the curiously inverted meaning given in the report to the word deterrence.

Through the end of the Cold War, “deterrence” and “containment” were peas in the same strategic pod. They referred to defensive measures calculated to defend against and prevent attack or expansion. However, in the newspeak of the report, deterrence becomes a bad thing and refers to a state’s ability to resist American advances:
“In the post-Cold War era, America and its allies, rather than the Soviet Union, have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most wish to develop deterrent capabilities.”
A marvel of historical and linguistic inversion the sentence implicitly espouses the abandonment of any obeisance to the notion that American military policy is essentially defensive. If we have become “objects of deterrence” it is because our military policy is “projective”. Thus, what turns these states into “rogue regimes” is that they are a threat to the United States, and what makes them a “threat” is that they might be “capable of cobbling together a minuscule ballistic missile force” which would make it more complex and difficult for the United States to project its power or “assert[ ] political influence abroad.”
“[W]eak states operating small arsenals of crude ballistic missiles, armed with basic nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction, will be a in a strong position to deter the United States from using conventional force, no matter the technological or other advantages we may enjoy. Even if such enemies are merely able to threaten American allies rather than the United States homeland itself, America’s ability to project power will be deeply compromised.”
“Building an effective, robust, layered, global system of missile defenses is a prerequisite for maintaining American preeminence.”
To be clear in case one got lost: the purpose of a missile “defense” system is to project American power against rogue regimes that don’t get in line. Clearly, a no first use policy would take the intimidating bite out of this global maw of iron teeth; so while the report may not announce verbatim the nuclear first use policy announced by the Bush Administration earlier in 2002 it does so by implication notwithstanding the layered double-talk.

Once it is understood that the capacity for deterrence by others is a thing to be defeated, the nature of the “constabulary” also comes into focus.

Rather gratuitously at this point, the Report notes that “past Pentagon war-games have given little or no consideration to the force requirements necessary not only to defeat an attack but to remove these regimes from power and conduct post-combat stability operations.” In other words, in addition to “kick em out” and Pentagon’s military mission should be expanded to include “grind em down”.

Nor should there be any illusion of Pax Americana as somehow reflecting an international consensus. It is American preeminence we are talking about here. Thus, the Report states that the constabulary forces “demand American political leadership rather than that of the United Nations.
"Nor can the United States assume a UN-like stance of neutrality; the preponderance of American power is so great and its global interests so wide that it cannot pretend to be indifferent to the political outcome in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf or even when it deploys forces in Africa."
In this new world order, “diplomacy” (which the report mentions about twice) is little more than the demand before the punch.

Lest anyone think that there might be some limitation on American power projection based on the nature of geo-politics as the balance of forces at an inter-national level, the Report goes on to state that American preeminence includes maintaining “the general stability of the international system of nation-states relative to terrorists, organized crime, and other “non-state actors.” Enter the FBI as a global actor.

As if the foregoing were not sufficient evil for the day, the Report boldly goes where not even Mein Kampf dared to soar. American rule will not be limited to Earth. “The ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations space medium, and an ability to deny others the use of space” – must be an essential element of our military strategy.” “Space power” the report crows will be to the 21st century what sea power was to the 19th and to Teddy Roosevelt’s Big Stick.

The Report’s imperious reach does not end in outer space. It sinks its purview into cyberspace as well. “Any nation wishing to assert itself globally,” the report says, “must take account of this other new “global commons.”
“The Internet is ... playing an increasingly important role in warfare and human political conflict. From the early use of the Internet by Zapatista insurgents in Mexico to the war in Kosovo, communication by computer has added a new dimension to warfare. Moreover, the use of the Internet to spread computer viruses reveals how easy it can be to disrupt the normal functioning of commercial and even military computer networks. Any nation which cannot assure the free and secure access of its citizens to these systems will sacrifice an element of its sovereignty and its power.”
The conflation of two distinct issues -- viruses and ideas -- deserves attention. Although it may be a tad hyperbolic to associate a worm with the loss of sovereignty, one can assume for the sake of argument that a State has a police interest in insuring a virus-free internet. But the Zapatista use of the internet to publish their grievances and demands is quite a different matter. Free speech -- the publishing of one’s propaganda of choice -- was and remains one of the principal purposes of the Internet.

The Report seeks to entirely pervert this purpose. In the report’s view, the internet is simply another “dimension of warfare” and its use is something to be discussed in the same breadth as computer viruses.

The Report makes a brief and almost snide obbligato to a “host of legal, moral and political issues” involved before going on to make clear its view that:
“Taken together, the prospects for space war or “cyberspace war” represent the truly revolutionary potential inherent in the notion of military transformation.”
Oh wow...kewl. But having betrayed perhaps a little too much excitement, the report returns to its tone of feeling-less jargon:
“These future forms of warfare are technologically immature, to be sure. But, it is also clear that for the U.S. armed forces to remain preeminent and avoid an Achilles Heel in the exercise of its power they must be sure that these potential future forms of warfare favor America just as today’s air, land and sea warfare reflect United States military dominance.”
What are “these potential future forms of warfare”? That the military (or anyone for that matter) has a legitimate interest in protecting itself against viruses, hacking, code cracking etc. is beyond question. And because it is beyond question that is not what the Report is talking about. Nor is it talking about using computers to control missiles, calculate trajectories and so on. No; it is talking about "cyberspace war" and this can only mean controlling information and using mis-information.

When the Report speaks of the sovereign obligation to “assure the free... access” to the internet it means to includes assuring freedom from hearing the dissenting views of “insurgents” and providing a “safe-surfing” that favors America’s preeminence and power.

When the Report speaks of “the coming transformation of war made possible by new technologies” it is not simply talking about such nifty stuff like laser guided bullets and bombing cities with sticky goo but rather of finding ways to militarize as many things as possible, including data and information which will be subordinated to strategic goals where once they were thought of as servants of truth.

In the end, the Report is more interesting for what it does not say than for its 90 pages of circular and tedious formulations of the need to perpetuate and project preeminence and power. Not once does the Report reference any other higher or even just other value than having and extending power. It does not address world poverty. It does not address sustainable growth and ecological issues. It does not address, even in the tired panaceas of neo-liberalism , how America might provide some Ara Pacis which commands the hopes and relieves the miseries of the world. The report does not even address the narrower more selfish needs of assuring energy production and delivery.

It may well be the case that the world would be better off if everyone took to heart Socrates’ dictum that it is better to suffer evil than to commit it. But that postulation will not get very far around the beltway; and no “realist” would argue that the United States should not think about and plan for clobbering the other guy. But among reasonable men, clobbering is a means not an end; and by this is meant that it is calibrated and conditioned to a spectrum of goods and tradeoffs. The complete absence of any discussion of ends indicates that in the view of the Report’s authors the means of power is and end itself. Nor can a discussion of ends be sloughed off on the grounds that the only immediate concern was tools because means cannot be analyzed without reference to the requirements of the ends they are meant to subserve.

The absence of any discussion of values other than power per se makes the reader all but gasp for some raison d’etre behind layered, global, space positioned missile defenses backing up massive insert and destroy constabularies. The Report offers little more than open ended hints.

One of the interesting features of the report is the assumptions it makes concerning future theatres of operation. The Report is silent on Latin America and makes only one brief passing mention of Africa. It evidently considers the first to be under heel and the second to be unimportant.

The sense one gets from the report is that aside from our treaty obbligatos, the report does not envision any serious military exigencies in Europe. Although it mentions Europe as a potential major theatre there is little up front discussion of where any threat might come from or why the hostilities would erupt, given that the report acknowledges the demise of the Soviet Union. The clue is in the Report’s reference to the creation of a new “American security perimeter in Europe removed eastward.” The use of the word “remove” is cute. No doubt one could hear chuckles coming from the PNAC headquarters on Park Avenue. What is meant, obviously, is rolling back the Russian sphere influence and replacing it with a cordon sanitaire stretching from the Baltic states, through the Balkans and into the Caucasus and Central Asian underbelly. While the Report apparently thinks that the Russian will roll over like docile circus animal, it acknowledges a potential for all hell breaking loose in Europe.

The Report's next stated area of concern was the Pacific/East Asia theatre. However, it proffers no analysis of Sino-American relations nor any reasoning for its conclusion that the preponderance of American military force should refocused and redeployed toward the Far East. Bearing in mind Napoleon’s famous dictum , one can accept, at least in theory, that if a future “full theatre” threat to United States exists it would very likely come from China. One does not have to be a think-tank expert to realize that China, far more than North Korea and far more than the once Soviet Union, has the potential to present a military and economic challenge to America. Such a threat, involving economic and military factors with countries and locations as removed as India, Australia, Japan and Mongolia, would be rife with complexities, none of which are given even the most superficial analysis, other than to say that over the long term we should prepare to blow the hell out of the Far East.

Instead the Report tarries at length in what it disingenuously calls “Southwest Asia." Why so coy? It is hardly surprising that the Middle East would be designated as a possible theatre of conflict. What is noteworthy is that the Report does not make a single mention of Israel or of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead the Report asserts that instability in the region is entirely due to the “rogue” states of Iraq and Iran.

Astonishingly enough, the Report makes no claim that Iran or Iraq were supporting “terrorism”. It makes no claim that they were currently (September 2000) developing any kind of weapon of mass destruction, although it suspected they probably would like to. Instead the Report tacitly assumes the success of no-fly zones and daily bombing runs over Iraq. In final analysis the Report concedes that neither rogue Iraq nor rogue Iran present any serious danger to the United States, stating both candidly and cryptically “While none of these operations involves a mortal threat, they do engage U.S. national security interests directly, as well as engaging American moral interests.”

Moral interests? It is almost too much even for black comedy. What could possibly be meant?
“In the post-Cold War era, America and its allies, rather than the Soviet Union, have become the primary objects of deterrence and it is states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea who most wish to develop deterrent capabilities. Projecting conventional military forces or simply asserting political influence abroad, particularly in times of crisis, will be far more complex and constrained when the American homeland or the territory of our allies is subject to attack by otherwise weak rogue regimes capable of cobbling together a minuscule ballistic missile force. Building an effective, robust, layered, global system of missile defenses is a prerequisite for maintaining American preeminence.”
Evidently the Report was so preoccupied with dancing around the Ally Who Shall Not Be Named, that it broke one of its ellipses. (Doubletalk can get confusing, but the Soviet Union was never an “object of deterrence” given the altered meaning of the word in the sentence.) What the paragraph says is that states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea are threats (to us) because they wish to be able to deter threats to themselves. Accepting for the sake of argument that another countries defensive capacities constitute a threat, the question remains how and in what way those capacities would amount to a threat to the United States? The answer given is that threat arises “when the American homeland or the territory of our allies is subject to attack by otherwise weak rogue regimes capable of cobbling together a minuscule ballistic missile force.”

Parsing the rationale, the Report argues that the American “homeland” could be subject to “minuscule ballistic missiles” cobbled together by “rogue regimes.” In other words, we should be concerned (on a prioritized basis) that North Korea or Iran or Iraq will launch a jumbo fire-cracker at the United States.

It is simply beyond inane and it contradicts the previous acknowledgement that Iran, Iraq and North Korea’s “deterrent” capacities do not present any “mortal” threat to the United States. There is only one state that could suffer any damage (if that) from garage-made mini-missiles. “America” got tossed into the disjunctive threat equation simply as a way of masquerading that the Report’s focus was on Israeli security in which, it asserts, we have a “moral” interest.

Thus while the Report asserts U.S. global and inter-planetary power projection as a pre eminent good anywhere anytime, the near-term geo-political interests it singles out is (1) the encirclement of Russia (including control over the energy regions in the Caucasus) and (2) the protection of Israel by destroying Iraq and Iran’s deterrent capacities.

The Report was finished in September 2000. It is not shy in its criticism of Clinton’s policies and assumes rather confidently that the next administration would be amenable to the “findings” presented.

The confidence of its authors was not misplaced. “The safety of the American homeland” has now become the Office of Homeland Security. The “rogue states” of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, have emerged as the Axis of the Evil. The Bush Doctrine on nuclear weapons has fleshed out the meaning of “nuclear superiority is nothing to be ashamed of”. The Defense Department’s Office of Disinformation has given us a taste of “future forms” of information warfare; and the Patriot Act has given us a taste of just how difficult and complicated the administration considered that “host of legal, moral and political issues” concerning privacy and free speech. Last but not least, the administration’s lust for war with Iraq is giving us an example of the constabulary forces in action.

©WCG, 2002

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