This article has been reproduced from the Socialist Standard (March 2001), the monthly journal of The Socialist Party of Great Britain
George Bush sets out his intent for a new approach to U.S.A. foreign policy.
Rarely have Americans elected to office a president as impetuous, callous and as indifferent to the well-being of others as George W Bush, who even as a presidential candidate, signing more death warrants than any Governor in history, made no secret of his hawkish ambitions, determined to forge ahead with the “Son of Star Wars” National Missile Defence (N.M.D.) system and to propel the world into another arms race and all the old cold war hostilities that accompany it and, indeed, perhaps signing the future death warrants of hundreds of millions.
The recent Pentagon report Proliferation: Threat and Response came as a godsend for the Bush camp, anxious to rationalise a planned $60 billion increase in defence spending, inclusive of investment in the N.M.D. programme which would deploy thousands of air defence missiles to intercept intercontinental ballistic weapons fired by the proverbial “rogue states”.
The report would have it that the threat to mainland America is as great now as during the Cold War era and that apocalypse is just over the horizon, discerning a credible threat from North Korea within 10 years, Iran within 15 years and Iraq within 20 years. The report is critical of China for its continuing use of arms sales to “advance its strategic and economic interests”, but is silent on the U.S. domination of the global arms market and its related hegemonic aspirations. Likewise, the amnesiacs who compiled the report lambast Iraq for its “pursuit of regional hegemony”, Syria for its excessive $1 billion defence budget (the U.S. defence budget is currently $300 billion) and North Korea for its stockpiling of chemical weapons (when the U.S. has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons on the planet). At every turn, it seems, there’s a rogue state just itching to lob a nuclear or biological weapon at the defender of global peace and democracy, and it is this warped logic that informs the hawkish stance in Washington. No mention is made of the fact that even without N.M.D., any state stupid enough to throw anything bigger than a grenade at the U.S. would be bombed back into the Stone Age.
Nevertheless, it is talk that is demanding a $60 billion increase in U.S. defence spending (which is actually China’s total military budget), and rhetoric that the cold warriors Bush has given cabinet posts to are more than familiar with. Once a critic of N.M.D., Colin Powell, of Gulf War fame (a man who came to prominence covering up the My Lai massacre and later up to his neck in the arms for hostages scandal and the illegal supplying of arms to the Contras) is now Secretary of State and the Pentagon’s top N.M.D. salesperson. Other cabinet posts have gone to other Reaganite hawks such as Richard Armitage, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Candaleezza Rice.
Whereas Bush sees N.M.D. as a “constitutional and moral requisite” (he incidentally also believes humans and fish can coexist peacefully) U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld agrees that “it is in many respects a moral issue”, that N.M.D. is essential to counter “the raw and random violence of the outlaw regime or the rogue state armed with missiles of mass destruction”, that N.M.D. would make the U.S. “less isolationist”, “less vulnerable and more prepared to help its allies”.
At a defence conference in Munich in early February, at which the implications of N.M.D. were discussed, concern was raised that N.M.D. would undoubtedly spark an arms race. Rumsfeld declared that N.M.D. would not destroy arms control agreements including the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, but later suggested the 1972 treaty was “ancient history”.
Sergei Ivanov, head of the Russian National Security Council told the conference that “the destruction of the 1972 A.B.M. Treaty will result in annihilation of the whole structure of strategic stability and create prerequisites for a new arms race”. As much, and more, was hinted at back in late 1999 when Republican hawks celebrated a Senate vote not to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and announced their intention to scupper the 1972 A.B.M. Treaty which outlawed Star Wars’ missiles systems capable of intercepting incoming missiles. For it was then that Russian Defence Minister Nikolai Mikolov, acknowledging Russia could not match U.S. technology, declared Russia would simply deploy more warheads capable of overwhelming the U.S. nuclear umbrella system.
In November last year the Kremlin announced plans to cut its number of men under arms by 360,000 and to shift the emphasis from nuclear weapons to conventional arms. This decision has since been shelved and will be reconsidered in March at the earliest. Meanwhile, in direct response to Washington’s announcement that the U.S. intends to go through with the Son of Star Wars anti-missile programme, whatever shape this may be (air-based, sea-based, space-based) and regardless of any objections, Russia has announced it will seek an anti-U.S. diplomatic alliance with China, North Korea and Iran.
As well as Russia, both India and China have expressed concern about the N.M.D., fearing it will very much provoke an arms race and force them to expand their own nuclear weapons programmes. Whist France and Germany are wholly opposed to N.M.D., the British government is currently playing its cards close to its chest. Though the Brisish Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office claim they are “not convinced of the merits” of N.M.D., Defence Secretary Geoffrey Hoon, asked if the U.S. would be allowed to upgrade their early warning system at Fylingdales in Yorkshire replied: “We share of course U.S. concerns about emerging threats. The U.S. is our closest ally”.
For Tony Blair’s part, whilst it is felt he is bending towards the idea, keen to placate his U.S. cronies, his government is under no pressure to make a decision for several months, which suits New Labour down to the ground. It should also be remembered that Blair is facing a general election this year so has no intentions of losing votes as a result of arguments with anti-nuclear protestors. It is, however, a safe bet that Blair will indeed see an election victory as his mandate to commit Britain to Bush’s wider game plan for global U.S. domination.
It is a fair guess that there is more behind N.M.D. than Washington lets on. For instance, the moment you begin installing a sophisticated missile defence shield is the moment your adversaries begin seeking ways around it. Whilst N.M.D. may well take out the incoming missile, what of the biological or nuclear bomb in the suitcase or the suicide bomber?
A more likely explanation lies in the fears of the Republican right that the only discernible threat to U.S. hegemony in the 21st Century will come from China as it develops into the economic giant many think it capable of—a serious challenger for U.S. profits. What better way to curtail China’s economic ambitions than to compel it to channel more money into defence and away from other social programmes, economically hamstringing it? A similar tactic had been employed against the former Soviet Union during the Reagan administration in the late eighties, forcing state capitalism into an early grave as it found itself unable to meet the costly demands of an escalating arms race weighted heavily in the favour of the U.S..
It is poignantly ironic that George W Bush is preparing to raise the global security stakes when just over ten years ago his father George Bush, as president, announced to the world the benefits of the coming “peace dividend” in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the “collapse of communism”; a world in which there would no longer be the need for countries to invest heavily in military hardware now the bogeyman had been exorcised—that money was now to be used for health, education and other social programmes. But there again, George senior did announce at his inauguration that the 20th Century had been the “American Century” and that he’d be doing his damnedest to ensure the 21st was also an American century. So maybe George junior is simply following out his father’s promises. Ensuring the 21st century will also be ruled by force and woe betides any one silly enough to mess with U.S. interests.
One thing is sure. The U.S. is deadly serious about possible threats to its strategic and economic interests in the 21st century and has already toyed with a future confrontation with a possible rising superpower. In January, the U.S. air force, along with 250 military and civilian “experts”, completed its first major war games in space at the Space Warfare Centre in Colorado, rehearsing a conflict set in 2017 between China and the U.S.. It is no great leap of the imagination to envisage the projected winner.
As we have announced several times in the past year, if we are to prevent the 21st century becoming a more violent re-run of the 20th, that witnessed two world wars, the first use of nuclear weapons and many hundreds of smaller conflicts—all in the name of profit—it is essential we, the victims, the cannon fodder, the class that has the biggest price to pay to satisfy the whims of the mighty, begin to organise now; not tomorrow when N.M.D. is in place, nor in years to come when the sirens are screaming. We as a class have suffered too much and have too much to lose to leave decisions regarding the future of our planet in the hands of group of arrogant, conceited and profit-crazed individuals. Let’s really organise to take their power away, before it is too late.
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