Thursday, February 4, 2016
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Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s speech Tuesday previewing the Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2017 spelled out Washington’s advanced preparations for military confrontations with the world’s second- and third-largest nuclear powers, Russia and China.
Delivered to the Economic Club of Washington, DC, an appreciative audience whose sponsors include the major arms manufacturers Boeing and Northrop Grumman as well as financial giants like Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, the defense secretary’s speech presented an unabashed declaration of Washington’s intentions to assert its hegemony over the world’s markets and resources by whatever means necessary, up to and including a nuclear holocaust.
The presentation made by Carter, a longtime technocrat of America’s military industrial complex, provides a powerful vindication of the warnings made by the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site that the deepening crisis of US and global capitalism is posing a real and growing danger of a Third World War.
The biggest increase proposed in the Pentagon budget is the quadrupling of funding for the US military buildup against Russia in Europe—projected to rise from $800 million to $3.4 billion. In addition to the 65,000 troops Washington already garrisons on the European continent, the funding increase will pay for the “heel to toe” rotation of full armored combat brigades into the former Baltic republics, on Russia’s doorstep, as well as other eastern European countries.
This proposal represents a flagrant and provocative violation of the agreements reached with Moscow in the wake of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union not to station large numbers of NATO troops on Russia’s borders.
In addition, large quantities of military hardware, including tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles and other weaponry, are to be stockpiled in close striking distance to Russia to allow for the speedy intervention of additional US combat brigades from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Poland Bulgaria and Romania.
President Barack Obama issued a statement Tuesday declaring that the 400 percent increase in funding to encircle Russia “will enable the United States to strengthen our robust military posture in Europe and improve our ability to uphold our Article 5 commitments to NATO members.” By invoking Article 5, which requires NATO to militarily defend any member against attack, Obama was reiterating the vow he made in 2014 that the US would put “boots on the ground” to defend the Baltic republics, thereby making their right-wing and virulently anti-Russian regimes the trip wire for a war that would have incalculable consequences.
The other major focus of Carter’s speech and of the proposed budget itself is the buildup of US military pressure against China under the banner of the “pivot to Asia,” with particular emphasis on the modernization of the US war fleet for confrontations in the South China Sea.
Carter did not mince words about Washington objectives, which are to use military force to maintain US hegemony in Asia and quell any threat to its dominant position from the rising economic power of China, subordinating China to US economic and strategic interests and reducing it to a semi-colony of US imperialism.
The US, the defense secretary said, would act to “maintain the stability in the region that we have underwritten for 70 years,” warning China that “to disrupt the security environment where half of humanity lives and half of humanity’s economic behavior is not a good idea.”
Washington, he continued, was carrying out its military buildup to be able “to impose unacceptable costs on an advanced aggressor that will either dissuade them from taking provocative action or make them deeply regret it if they do.”
Employing the language of total war, Carter added, “In this context, Russia and China are our most stressing competitors.”
All of these proposals to escalate military confrontations that lead in the direction of global catastrophe are being made without even the semblance of a public debate, never mind the support of the American people, who have repeatedly demonstrated their hostility to militarism and war. The drive toward World War III is unfolding largely behind the backs of the public, with the corporate media and the two major parties showing no interest whatsoever in making the chilling implications of the Pentagon’s preparations known to the population.
As for Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president, his role as a rubber stamp for the US military and intelligence apparatus was briefly noted in Carter’s remarks Tuesday. Asked whether there would be a further increase in the number of US troops deployed in Iraq and Syria—where funding for military operations is also being increased by 50 percent to $7.5 billion—he responded in the affirmative, adding, “Every time the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and I have asked the president for more capability to do that, he said yes, and I expect that will continue.”
The massive spending on war preparations is to be paid for through ever more draconian attacks on the living standards, jobs and social conditions of the broad masses of working people. The extent of the diversion of social resources to militarism can be seen in the Pentagon’s proposal to increase its spending on research and development for the production of newer and more deadly weapons to nearly $72 billion. This amount alone exceeds the entire US federal budget for education in 2015, never mind the trillions more that are to be spent in the coming years for new generations of nuclear submarines, bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
In July 2014, the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) issued a statement entitled “Socialism and the Fight Against Imperialist War.” The statement drew out the fundamental dynamics of the drive toward world war that find expression in Carter’s speech and the Pentagon’s proposed budget. It declared:
“The danger of a new world war arises out of the fundamental contradictions of the capitalist system—between the development of a global economy and its division into antagonistic nation states, in which the private ownership of the means of production is rooted. This finds its most acute expression in the drive of US imperialism to dominate the Eurasian landmass, above all those areas from which it was excluded for decades by the Russian and Chinese revolutions. In the west, the US, in league with Germany, has orchestrated a fascist-led coup to bring Ukraine under its control. But its ambitions do not stop there. The ultimate objective is to dismember the Russian Federation, reducing it to a series of semi-colonies to open the way for the plunder of its vast natural resources. In the east, the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia is aimed at encircling China and transforming it into a semi-colony. Here, the objective is to ensure domination of the cheap labour that is one of the key global sources of the surplus value extracted from the working class and the life-blood of the capitalist economy.”
The ICFI went on to explain that the objective roots of the US drive for world domination ensure that an imperialist world war is inevitable outside of the revolutionary intervention of the international working class to put an end to the capitalist system and establish socialism. It stressed that the same contradictions that are the driving forces for war provide the objective impulse for socialist revolution.
In the year and a half since the ICFI issued its statement, these contradictions have only sharpened, intensifying existing wars and heightening the danger of new ones from the Middle East, to Eastern Europe, to the South China Sea, while at the same time driving the working class into increasingly bitter struggles against austerity and exploitation.
The historic question confronting humanity is the necessity for the working class to carry out the world socialist revolution before the capitalist ruling class can complete its descent into a war that threatens nuclear extinction. This places the greatest urgency on the political task of building the Fourth International as the revolutionary leadership of the world working class.
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Presenting a preview of the Pentagon’s $583 billion budget, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter stressed that the US military is shifting its focus toward war against both Russia and China even as it escalates ongoing interventions in the Middle East.
Speaking before the Economic Club of Washington Tuesday morning, Carter said the gargantuan budget for fiscal year 2017, which is to be presented next week, had been prepared to confront what he called “a new strategic era.” The thrust of Carter’s speech, delivered in the dry cadence of a longtime technocrat in the field of mass destruction, was that US imperialism is preparing for a new world war.
The biggest single change in the budget is the quadrupling of funding for the so-called European Reassurance Initiative, which is being increased from $789 million to $3.4 billion. This initiative was introduced by the Obama administration in the wake of the crisis provoked in Ukraine two years ago, when the US and Germany orchestrated a coup spearheaded by neo-fascist forces that overthrew the Moscow-aligned government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
In September 2014, Obama, speaking in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, committed the US to the military defense of the three former Soviet Baltic republics, vowing that this pledge was “unwavering” and “eternal” and would include “American boots on the ground.”
According to a report published Tuesday in the New York Times, the increased funding will be used to ensure that the US and NATO maintain a full armored combat brigade at all times on Russia’s western border, along with the forward deployment of weapons and military hardware in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as in other eastern European countries such as Hungary and Romania.
The Times quoted a Pentagon official as saying that what was being prepared was a “heel to toe” rotational troop presence in the region, meaning that combat units would be continuously deployed. This provocative and reckless tactic is designed to evade a 1997 agreement with Moscow known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act, in which both sides pledged not to station large numbers of troops on each other’s borders.
The US, Carter insisted, must have the capacity to counter Russia “theater-wide,” meaning it must maintain forces capable of attacking Russia wherever it sees fit.
The money for this anti-Russian escalation is to be taken from the Overseas Contingency Operations account, the war-fighting fund that has paid for US wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. While from an accounting standpoint this is meant to circumvent spending caps on the Pentagon’s regular budget, it also signals that what is involved is the active preparation for a military confrontation between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
Included in the budget proposal are plans for a substantial buildup of US imperialism’s nuclear war arsenal. It calls for the allocation of $13 billion over the next five years to develop and produce a fleet of new submarines armed with nuclear ballistic missiles. Pentagon sources said it also provides for a new Air Force bomber as well as new generation of land-based nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Pentagon’s proposed budget emphasizes the development of naval firepower, with the aim of escalating the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” which has seen increasingly provocative US military operations in the South China Sea. “We’re making all these investments that you see in our defense budget that are specifically oriented towards checking the development of the Chinese military,” Carter said.
The pretense that funding for the vast US military apparatus is driven by the need to keep up with the growth of the Chinese or Russian military is absurd on its face. American military spending last year was greater than that of the next seven largest powers combined. It spent nearly three times as much as China and roughly seven times as much as Russia.
Carter listed five “challenges” that he said the Pentagon budget must seek to counter. At the top of the list were Russia and China, followed by North Korea and Iran. Dead last were the ongoing US interventions against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which was lumped together with the so-called war on terror generally, which for nearly 15 years has been presented to the American people as the justification for the uninterrupted growth of American militarism.
Nonetheless, the Pentagon budget provides a substantial increase in funding in this area as well. Totaling $7.5 billion, it includes $1.8 billion to pay for 45,000 bombs and rockets needed to replenish the stockpile that has been depleted by continuous air strikes in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
The US defense secretary emphasized that the shift in strategy was based on a “return to great power competition.” This required the US military to prepare to confront “a high-end enemy” with the “full spectrum” of armed power. This situation, he added, was “drastically different than the last 25 years,” referring to the period since the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Carter insisted that “America is still today the world’s leader” and the “underwriter of stability and security in every region across the globe, as we have been since World War II.”
The US military, he said, had to prepare for confrontation with those “who see America’s dominance and want to take that away from us… in the future so we can’t operate effectively around the globe.”
The mission spelled out by the US defense secretary is essentially a military struggle to impose US control over every corner of the planet. America’s residual military superiority is to be employed to counter the effects of the protracted decline of American capitalism and its domination of the global economy. To this end, US imperialism must confront every real or potential rival for both global and regional hegemony. The path outlined in Carter’s speech leads inexorably toward World War III.
U.S. troops are going back into Iraq, our presence in Libya is escalating, and Obama has widened the war in Afghanistan—all without much of a public debate.
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Almost five years after the United States and its NATO allies launched a campaign in Libya to overthrow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the United States is on the verge of massively escalating its military operations in the war-torn country. According  to the New York Times, the new effort is “expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops.” It is unclear how long this newest effort will last.
The announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announcing combat troops were going back to Iraq last week . While U.S special forces have been conducting “clandestine reconnaissance missions in Libya to identify militant leaders and map out their networks” over the past year, the New York Times report marks the first time overt combat troops will be deployed in the North African nation.
The 2011 campaign was itself something of a bait and switch. What was originally sold as simply a no-fly zone quickly became regime change. A few weeks after the UN-sanctioned bombing of Libya’s infrastructure and air capacity, the scope of the campaign pivoted when President Obama, along with Presidents Sarkozy and Cameron of France and the UK respectively, announced the entirely new objective : NATO airstrikes, in concert with ongoing CIA support of rebels, to overthrow the Qaddafi government.
After this was quickly achieved, the pundit classes rallied to congratulate a job well done. As Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept noted Wednesday :
War advocates such as Anne-Marie Slaughter  and Nicholas Kristof  were writing columns celebrating their prescience and mocking war opponents as discredited, and the New York Times published a front-page article  declaring: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May be a Model for Other Efforts.”
It was widely expected that Hillary Clinton, one of the leading advocates for and architects of the bombing campaign, would be regarded as a Foreign Policy Visionary for the grand Libya success: “We came, we saw, he died,” Clinton sociopathically boasted  about the mob rape and murder of Qaddafi  while guffawing on 60 Minutes.
Despite the fanfare at the “overthrow” of Qaddafi (who suffered a brutal death  at the hands of a mob), not much has been made of the U.S. military’s slow escalation of its involvement in Libya over the past year. This time the objective, much like in Iraq after the U.S. deposed its leader, is destroying the presence of ISIS, a process that could take, in the words  of former Defense Secretary Panetta, “thirty years.” And it's an escalation that has largely gone under the public's radar.
Slowly trickling wars are a common feature in U.S. policy. The latest war in Iraq against ISIS was originally sold as “limited,” “humanitarian” airstrikes  to save the Yezidi trapped on a mountain from ISIS, and it has now gone on for over a year and a half, spans two countries, and soon will include “boots on the ground.” All this with neither the corporate media nor Congress, which hasn’t yet brought military authorization to a vote, paying much attention.
This new level of indifference on the part of the public about what is an ISIS war spiraling into a massive global effort has even bothered the normally hawkish Times. In the context of Libya, it wrote :
This significant escalation is being planned without a meaningful debate in Congress about the merits and risks of a military campaign that is expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops.
That is deeply troubling. A new military intervention in Libya would represent a significant progression of a war that could easily spread to other countries on the continent. It is being planned as the American military burrows more deeply into battlegrounds in Syria and Iraq, where American ground troops are being asked to play an increasingly hands-on role in the fight.
It’s always difficult to tell if public indifference is what leads to a media blackout or the other way around, but the Times is correct that a broad public discussion about the wisdom of committing to potentially decades-long military efforts is disturbingly absent.
When the U.S. began its anti-ISIL efforts in August 2014, ISIL was in two countries. Now, after tens of thousands of aerial ordinances have been dropped on two continents, ISIS now has a presence in over 20 countries . The U.S. has even expanded its war in Afghanistan  to include ISIS, the White House announced last Thursday. None of the major presidential candidates, including the most progressive member of the U.S. Congress, Bernie Sanders, outwardly opposes the U.S.' current anti-ISIL efforts, including the once-unpopular drone program.
Over the past two weeks, the Defense Department and the Obama administration have been peppering the media with their plans to massively increase the war effort in Libya as well as Iraq, Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere. All the evidence points to the fact that war-makers in Washington and Brussels are gearing up for a major effort that could very well last a long time. The question is, will we ever have a public debate about it?