Very few US official figures are known for their sense of irony, least of all the Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, and it is unfortunate that he and others lacking appreciation of unintentional absurdity would be unable to find dark amusement in the contrast between two recent parallel events.
On February 25 the Defence Secretary and his uniformed glove puppet, Air Force General Breedlove, appeared in front of the House Appropriations Committee to provide justification for spending as much on military affairs as the next eight nations in the world. It is likely he chose Breedlove to accompany him rather than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking Pentagon officer, because Breedlove is the Supreme Allied Commander Europe — the man responsible for carrying out the policy of confrontation with Russia.
Carter is the man who declared last year that “the US military has helped to maintain peace and stability in [Asia] for 70 years,” having had a slight lapse of memory about the US war in Vietnam from 1955 to 1973 in which 58,220 members of its military forces lost their lives while hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Vietnam and its unfortunate neighbours died in merciless US bombing onslaughts. Countless thousands of children were sentenced to infirmity and grotesque deformity by Washington’s use of hideous poisons intended to destroy trees other vegetation.
As for the glove puppet, Germany’s Der Spiegel recorded a year ago that “General Philip Breedlove, the top NATO commander in Europe, stepped before the press in Washington [and said] that Putin had once again ‘upped the ante’ in eastern Ukraine — with ‘well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defence, battalions of artillery’ having been sent to Donbass. ‘What is clear,’ Breedlove said, ‘is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.’ German leaders in Berlin were stunned. They didn’t understand what Breedlove was talking about. And it wasn’t the first time. Once again, the German government, supported by intelligence gathered by the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, did not share the view of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander . . .”
This was not surprising — because there was not a word of truth in any of his wild assertions.
At the very time Carter and Breedlove were speaking to the ever-receptive “support our troops” Congressional Committee (“under your leadership, the men and women who serve in the US military answer the call time and again to leave their loved ones, put themselves in harm’s way, and execute challenging missions abroad”) the count-down to test-firing a US Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was under way.
The defence secretary told the American public that “It’s a competitive world out there. We compete with China, we compete with Russia, we compete with terrorists. And we have to win.”
Minuteman missiles have nuclear warheads and are manufactured by the Boeing Company which is proud that “the Minuteman program established Boeing as a leader in large-scale system integration. Today, the combined heritage of the Minuteman programs of Boeing and Autonetics continues as Boeing Strategic Missile Systems (SMS), supporting the Air Force with system evaluation, testing, training and modernization.”
The US arsenal of deployed nuclear weapons includes 450 Boeing ICBMs, each having an explosive power of 475 kilotons (Kt). The US bombs that totally destroyed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about 20 Kt.
On February 25 Boeing’s shares opened at 116.35 and went to a high of 117.60. Next day they reached 119.45. By March 17 they had increased to 129.23. It seems they’ve taken off with comparable velocity to Minuteman missiles, boosted by statements on the part of the military and their legions of supportive politicians that China and Russia are threatening the United States. (We should remember that Eisenhower, in the first draft of his speech warning us all about the military-industrial complex, wrote “the military-industrial-Congressional complex.”)
Washington fails to realise — simply refuses to understand — that the only thing wanted by Russia and China is that the United States should mind its own business and stay out of other nations’ affairs that do not concern it. Secretary Carter states that militarily “We compete with China, we compete with Russia” — but Russia and China don’t want to compete with the United States. They just want to progress and develop economically and socially and stay in their own backyards, with secure borders, while trading with as many countries as possible.
Neither Russia nor China has 700 military bases in over 40 countries round the world. Neither Russia not China attempts to vastly expand military alliances specifically designed to threaten the United States. Neither Russia nor China possess nuclear-armed Carrier Strike Groups or Amphibious Ready Groups of the type and strength that the US deploys threateningly around the coasts of sovereign nations who prefer to mind their own business.
The latest US move to threaten China is deployment to the South China Sea of the nuclear-armed aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and the guided missile destroyers USS Stockdale and USS Chung-Hoon. They and their many escort vessels arrived off China on 4 March to join the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam and its fleet of ancillary ships.
In another wonderfully ironic episode, just as this mighty US attack fleet was arriving to menace China (and North Korea), Defence Secretary Carter announced to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco that “China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea.” Mystically, he observed that “Specific actions will have specific consequences” and when asked what these might be, he “told reporters the US military was already increasing deployments to the Asia-Pacific region and would spend $425 million through 2020 to pay for more exercises and training with countries in the region that were affected by China’s actions.”
With good historical justification, China maintains that most of the islet chains and groups in the South China Sea are its sovereign territory, although some areas are claimed by Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The United States has got nothing to do with these disputes. Washington has no treaties with any of these nations that would require military intervention in the event of one of them having a disagreement with another country.
There has not been an instance of Chinese interference in passage of a merchant ship in the South China Sea, and there never will be.
The United States has no territory of its own closer than the Pacific island of Guam, where, according to the US Congressional Research Service, “Since 2000, the US military has been building up forward-deployed forces . . . to increase US operational presence, deterrence, and power projection.” In other words, the US build-up is intended to confront China, which is now, understandably, being forced to increase its own military forces to be prepared for what might happen as a result of US “power projection.”
Complementing the US muscle-flexing in the South China Sea, the indefatigable Breedlove explained why Washington is indulging in similar antics in Europe. Ignoring the fact that the insurgency against Syria’s government was energetically supported by the US, in training and equipping what it absurdly called “moderate rebel forces,” thus contributing to massive destruction and creating a dire refugee problem, Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the refugee crisis in Europe is all the fault of Russia. “Together,” he declared, “Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration . . . to break European resolve.”
In a fit of fantasy Breedlove announced that Russia has “chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat” to the United States and its allies, and emphasised that the Supreme Allied Command Europe, “is deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary.”
The US is deliberately and most aggressively threatening China and Russia. Its military representatives are making belligerent statements that are intended to implant fear in Moscow and Beijing.
But the immature bluster and bravado of such as Breedlove and Carter do not create fear in those they seek to intimidate. In their target countries they create resolve to stand up to the menace presented by belligerent rhetoric and incessant deployment of military force against them.
This is exactly what is happening at the moment, and the US may be in for some nasty surprises.
But in the meantime, no doubt shares in Boeing and the other parts of the military-industrial complex will continue to go ballistic.