On UN Day, at a panel on Nuclear Disarmament, Secretary General Ban-ki Moon spoke about his 2008 five point proposal for nuclear disarmament, including the requirement for negotiations to ban the bomb. It was dismaying when the next speaker, a retired US Air Force General, Michal Mosley, breezily assured the audience and his fellow panelists that it certainly was now possible to rid the world of nuclear weapons, since atomic bomb technology is thoroughly out of date. He boasted that today “we” have long range attack weapons of such “unbelievable precision and lethality” that we no longer need nuclear weapons in the US arsenal. Our conventional weapons are ever so superior to those of any other nation. He said this as his fellow co-panelists, the Russian and Chinese ambassadors, took in the full import of his braggadocio, to my extreme embarrassment as a US citizen. Did the General consider for a moment the effect his words were having on the Ambassadors and the other non-US participants in the meeting? His astonishing disregard for the effect of such provocative war talk on our fellow earth mates seems to be a major failure of our “tin ear” foreign policy.
Hillary Clinton proclaimed a similarly tone-deaf policy in an article in November’s Foreign Affairs, “America’s Pacific Century”, remarking that now that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were winding down, we were at a “pivot point” and that “one of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will be to lock in a substantially increased investment—diplomatic economic, strategic and otherwise—in the Asia-Pacific region.” Calling for “forward-deployed” diplomacy, she defined it to include “forging a broad-based military presence” in Asia…that would be “as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic…capable of deterring provocation from the full spectrum of state and non-state actors” She added that just as our NATO alliance “has paid off many times over…the time has come to make similar investments as a Pacific power”.
Citing our Treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand as the “fulcrum for our strategic turn to the Asian-Pacific”, she also spoke of the need to expand our relationships to include India, Indonesia Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia Vietnam, and the Pacific Island countries. While acknowledging “fears and misperceptions that “linger on both sides of the Pacific”, stating that “some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth” she blithely asserted, “we reject both those views …a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America”. This said as the United States aggressively lines up a host of new nations in an expanded Pacific military alliance, providing them with missile defenses, ships, and warplanes, encircling China. What is she thinking?
Shortly after Clinton’s article appeared, Obama went to Australia to open up a new military base there with a token 250 US soldiers, and a promise of 2500 to come with plans for joint military training, promising that “we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.” He also adopted the “Manila Declaration”, pledging closer military ties with the Philippines and announced the sale of 24 F-16 fighter jets to Indonesia. Clinton just paid a visit to Myanmar, long allied with China, to re-establish relations there.
In her article’s conclusion Clinton bragged, “Our military is by far the strongest and our economy is by far the largest in the world. Our workers are the most productive. Our universities are renowned the world over. So there should be no doubt that America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership in this century as we did in the last.” Didn’t anyone tell her that the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest in the 52 years the census bureau has been publishing those figures? Or that the United States deteriorating transportation infrastructure will cost the economy more than 870,000 jobs and would suppress US economic growth by $3.1 trillion by 2020, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers?
The tone-deaf quality of US foreign policy pronouncements is like an infant who pulls the covers over his head to play peek-a-boo, thinking he can’t be seen so long as he can’t see out. China has responded as would be expected. A Pentagon report warned Congress that China was increasing its naval power and investing in high-tech weaponry to extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond. It ramped up efforts to produce anti-ship missiles to knock out aircraft carriers, improved targeting radar, expanding its fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and warships and making advances in satellite technology and cyber warfare. What did we expect? And now, having provoked China to beef up its military assets, the warmongers in the US can frighten the public into supporting the next wild burgeoning arms race in the Pacific and what appears to be endless war.
This month, Mikhail Gorbachev , in The Nation , observed the US elite’s “winner’s complex” after the end of the Cold War, and the references to the US as a “hyperpower”, capable of creating “a new kind of empire” . He said, “[t]hinking in such terms in our time is a delusion. No wonder that the imperial project failed and that it soon became clear that it was a mission impossible even for the United States.” The opportunity to build a “truly new world order was lost.” The US decision to expand NATO eastward “usurped the functions of the United Nations and thus weakened it. We are engulfed in global turmoil, “drifting in uncharted waters. The global economic crisis of 2008 made that abundantly clear. “
Sadly, the powers in control of US public policy and their far-flung global allies appear to have learned nothing from the extraordinary opportunity we lost for a more peaceful world at the Cold War’s end. We are now repeating those expansionary designs in Asia, and “thus we continue to drift towards unparalleled catastrophe” as Albert Einstein observed when we split the atom which “changed everything save man’s mode of thinking”.
Alice Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Network.