by James O’Neill New Eastern Outlook Dec 22, 2018
Two recent reports from the United States strongly suggest the United States is planning a major war with Russia and China, but are far from certain that they could in fact succeed in such a war. The reports also provide insights into how the United States will meet the budgetary demands of such war preparations, but almost zero appreciation of the social and human costs of such policies.
The first of these reports is entitled “Providing for the Common Defense” (November 2018). It is the report prepared for the purpose of assessing the National Defense Strategy document released in early 2018.
It acknowledges that changes “at home and abroad are diminishing US military advantages,” and that this diminution of these “advantages” poses a threat to “vital United States interests.”
Geopolitical shifts in the regional power structures are “undermining deterrence of United States adversaries and confidence of United States allies, thus increasing the likelihood of military conflict”.Should such a conflict eventuate, the United States could “suffer unacceptably high casualties and a loss of major capital assets.”
The report says that “America is losing its advantage in key war fighting areas such as air and missile defence, cyber and space operations, anti-surface and anti- submarine warfare, long range ground-based fires, and electronic warfare”.
It further acknowledges that “America’s edge is diminishing or has disappeared in many key technologies that underpin US military superiority”.
Such frankness is not without precedent in US strategy papers and the implications of the above quotations are a probable reason why the report has received almost zero coverage in the western mainstream media.
Acknowledgements of technological deficiency and strategic disadvantage do not sit comfortably with the image of an all-powerful America willing and able to defeat any threat to its own global interests or those of its allies. The latter prefer the comfortable delusion of an omnipotent US “umbrella.”
The Commission’s strategy for addressing this perceived falling behind and consequent loss of military omnipotence is however itself fatally flawed. The proposed “solution” is to spend vastly greater sums of money at a rate of 3-5% above inflation.
That means that a significantly greater share of the federal budget would have to be devoted to military spending. The only way that could be achieved, given that the United States government already has a huge growing deficit ($22 trillion and counting) would have to come, the report acknowledges, by cuts to social spending such as pensions, Medicare and social security. The “trade-offs” the report acknowledges will be “difficult”, a statement that seriously under- estimates the social devastation that such cuts would bring about.
This argument is put forward in a society which already spends more on defence than that spent by the next eight national military budgets combined. United States national infrastructure, in everything from bridges to schools is already crumbling; and these proposals will only accelerate that downward trend.
It does not seem to occur to the report writers that the entire premise that the United States should maintain its attempt to control the world for the benefit of the United States is neither desirable nor wanted by the vast majority of the worlds nations as evidenced by multiple UN General Assembly resolutions.
The second report is issued by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and is entitled: National Security: Long Range Emerging Threats Facing the United States as Identified by Federal Agencies (December 2018.) It has received even less publicity then the ‘Providing for the Common Defense’ document.
The probable reason for this mainstream media reticence is because the GAO report actually details where the United States is lagging in military capability viz a viz its two perceived principal rivals: Russia and China.
The fact of relative military weakness is not new. Andrei Martyanov in his book Losing Military Supremacy(2018) provided a detailed analysis of why Russian military technology was superior to the United States in several important fields. What Martyanov said about Russia applies with equal validity to Chinese technology.
Martyanov’s argument was dramatically illustrated by President Putin’s 1st March 2018 address to the Russian Parliament. The initial American reaction was to discount Putin’s claims, although within days the military industrial complex was demanding more funds to counteract the superiority of Russian weaponry outlined in Putin’s speech.
The GAO Report now provides an authoritative acknowledgement Putin was not bluffing. Under the section of the report headed “Weapons” it has this to say:
Hypersonic weapons. China and Russia are pursuing hypersonic weapons because their speed, altitude, and maneuverability may defeat most missile defence systems, and they may be used to improve long range conventional and nuclear strike capabilities. There are no existing countermeasures.
Missiles. Adversaries are developing missile technology to attack the United States in novel ways and challenge US missile defence, including conventional and nuclear ICBMs, sea launched land attack missiles, and space based missiles that could orbit the earth.
Aircraft. China and Russia are developing new aircraft, including stealth aircraft, which could fly faster, carry advanced weapons, and achieve greater ranges. Such aircraft could force US aircraft to operate at further distances and put more US targets at risk.
There is more in the same vein. The only caveat to add to those points is the use of the conditional tense. The use of such words as “may” or “could” is redundant. That technology is already operational.
A number of commentators argue the technology gap between Russian and Chinese systems and that of United States is now measured in decades. There is no evidence to suggest this gap could be bridged in the foreseeable future. A more likely scenario is the technological gap could widen.
Although there are powerful voices in the United States administration and ‘deep state’ generally sufficiently delusional and frankly crazy enough to believe the United States could “win” a nuclear war with Russia and/or China, the GAO report should act as a constraint on their wilder ambitions.
History demonstrates that it is unwise to underestimate the extent to which the United States will go to maintain its self appointed role is the world’s dominant hegemon, (see Michael Pembroke’s Korea (2018). The reality is that the era of United States dominance is now well past.
Rather than risk a nuclear war that would wreak unimaginable losses upon all the world’s peoples, including for the first time the United States, the more likely scenario will be an intensification of what Andrei Korybko calls ‘hybrid warfare.’ A current illustration of this is the campaign being waged against Huawei, ostensibly because of the potential for Chinese cyber espionage but in reality to weaken and undermine China’s 2025 program for leadership in artificial intelligence, quantum information and other sophisticated technologies, and enforce America’s allies to buy their inferior products.
Proxy wars in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America are also likely to increase exponentially.
These two reports demonstrate the United States lost its previous technological and military superiority. Equally, it is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to prevent any further erosion of its world wide role and its replacement by the two emerging countervailing superpowers, Russia and China.
Whether or not American determination will tip the world into a catastrophic nuclear exchange will be one of the major questions for 2019.