Historians rarely like to predict the future. Nobody likes to be proven wrong, and saying I told you so is often cold comfort. But with mainstream media outlets in hysterics over the imminent threat of war in the Western Pacific, a little perspective would not go astray right now.
The US is not about to invade North Korea. Period. It has nothing to gain and everything to lose by doing so. Pyongyang poses no immediate threat. It has no long range ICBMs or miniaturised warheads, and is a long way, maybe decades away from having them. Besides, why provoke China and Russia with a firefight so close to their borders? Why risk starting a war which would almost certainly spill over into South Korea and Japan, two of the world’s biggest economies? No, Washington will simply learn to deal with the fact that the DPRK now has a limited defensive capability and isn’t about be bullied into submission.
And why shouldn’t it have a defensive capability? Ghaddafi surrendered Libya’s WMD in 2003 and look what happened to Libya. Iraqi peace initiatives failed to stave off the destruction of that country at the hands of a maniacal US led coalition. Put yourself in Kim’s position, leader of a country once the victim of one of the bloodiest wars of American aggression in history, of which US General Curtis Le May later recalled: “We burned down just about every city in North Korea and South Korea both. We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million more from their homes.” Thankfully the doctrine of pre-emptive warfare, or its latest iteration, preventative war, is reserved for the US alone. North Korea is not about to fire the first shot, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson well knows, recently reassuring Americans not to worry about North Korea and to “sleep well”.
So why all the bluff and bluster? One might well speculate. Could it simply be to make Trump appear presidential in the face of sliding approval ratings? Or perhaps to restore the balance of US belligerency after the strategic withdrawal from Syria? Or could it possibly be to provide cover for military adventures elsewhere? In November 2008, at a time when all attention was focused on the Mumbai bombings, Israel seized the opportunity to launch an attack on Gaza which escaped media scrutiny. There are murmurs at the time of writing that Israel may be planning another ground invasion of Gaza, and possible occupation of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Would the US come to the aid of its client regime in such a scenario? It’s certainly one to keep an eye on.
The overwhelming success of the constituent assembly plebiscite in Venezuela has also provoked a strong reaction from the White House, with the bigly commander-in-chief now openly threatening military action. It’s ironic that Maduro is branded a “dictator” by many of Washington’s allies, including the unelected president of Brazil, Michel Temer. More bizarre that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, representing the Saudi regime which continues to commit war crimes in Yemen, should come forward to condemn the ‘breakdown of the rule of law in Venezuela’. News of human rights violations has spread far and wide through the corporate press, sparking calls for intervention.
Speaking of Yemen, the doubling down on the genocidal attacks on the people of this war torn state in recent weeks has also been underreported, with the US committing ground troops to ostensibly take part in “intelligence sharing”, whatever that means in today’s Pentagon doublespeak. As if years of war, famine, displacement, and poverty weren’t enough, the people of Yemen now have to contend with an outbreak of Cholera which has so far affected 300 000. Yemen is of vital geostrategic interest to war profiteers seeking easy access to Ethiopia’s untapped oil and gas reserves, and the Port of Aden and soon to be completed Bridge of Horns will provide an alternative trade route to the Strait of Hormuz, currently controlled by Iran.
Relations between the Philippines and US have soured significantly since the populist leader Rodrigo Duterte assumed power last year. Duterte’s moves toward an independent foreign policy favouring ties with Russia and China have earned the ire of Washington, and there are rumours of a possible coup attempt against him, which could once again assume the guise of “humanitarian intervention”, based on his alleged human rights abuses in his ongoing War on Drugs and Criminality. Alternately, reports are surfacing that the US may intervene in Marawi against ISIS. In either case, regime change will be high on the agenda.
Moving further west, all signs point to preparation for a regime change operation in Thailand as the US seeks to assert a united Southeast Asian front to counter China’s rise. A provisional military government has held power in Thailand since the ouster of President Yingluck Shinawatra in 2014. The Shinawatra family have deep ties the US establishment, dating back to Thaksin Shinawatra’s time as adviser to US-based equity firm, the Carlyle Group. In the 2011 elections, Yingluck openly ran as a proxy for her brother Thaksin, a criminal fugitive living in Dubai.
Finally there is Ukraine, where the government of Petro Poroshenko indicated recently that it ‘has not ruled out’ a military drive to take the eastern province of Donbass by force. This comes on the heels of a New York Times story titled Russia’s Military Drills near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression. (Err, pardon? Since when does NATO have a border???) Anyway, just the usual baseless McCarthyite bluster to which we’re all well accustomed. During his recent tour of Estonia and Georgia US Vice President Mike Pence also reaffirmed America’s readiness to defend Baltic countries against, you guessed it, “Russian aggression.”
As a president who was elected on an anti-war platform (his promise of no more regime change earned him a standing ovation at the 2016 Republican National Convention), Trump should probably be commended for his efforts to date. But if history is anything to go by (hardly an ‘if’), it won’t be long before American bombs of freedom and democracy begin falling on unsuspecting civilians in some part of the world where the US has no business being. While there are any number of theatres where a military option could readily be used, the Korean Peninsula is not likely to be one of them, and herein lies the ultimate irony: For all the scaremongering about weapons of mass destruction, had Iraq or Libya had a nuclear deterrent, the US would not have invaded them either.