By Chris Fry
Biden has pledged to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a move that is 20 years overdue. But as welcome as that news is, if it is actually carried out, it appears one main motive for this is to engage in preparations for a new war with a technologically more advanced foe. Biden’s Defense Secretary implied that very point in a speech at the Pacific Command on April 30:
“The way we’ll fight the next major war is going to look very different from the way we fought the last ones.
“We can’t predict the future,” Austin said. “So what we need is the right mix of technology, operational concepts, and capabilities – all woven together in a networked way that is so credible, flexible, and formidable that it will give any adversary pause.”
The Pentagon’s top Asia Pacific commander, Admiral Philip Davidson, in his March 9 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, laid out a timeline for a U.S war with China very similar to Trumpist Steve Bannon’s (see part 1) He called for a massive military buildup in the region that was music to the ears of every war contractor and their minions in Congress:
“I worry that they’re [China] accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order… by 2050.
“Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that. And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”
He called on lawmakers to approve the installation on Guam of an Aegis Ashore anti-missile battery, capable of intercepting the most powerful Chinese missiles in flight.
Guam “needs to be defended and it needs to be prepared for the threats that will come in the future,” Davidson said.
In addition to other Aegis missile defense systems destined for Australia and Japan, Davidson called on lawmakers to budget for more long-range weaponry “to let China know that the costs of what they seek to do are too high.”
“A wider base of long-range precision fires, which are enabled by all our terrestrial forces – not just sea and air but by land forces as well – is critically important to stabilize what is becoming a more unstable environment in the western Pacific,” Davidson said.
While the Pentagon has said it was in favor of placing such missiles in the region, allies in Asia have so far appeared to be opposed to the idea of hosting them.
Davidson said, however, that missile defense was not enough to deter a potential adversary:
“Missile defense is the hardest thing to do. And if I’m the manager of a baseball team, if I can have the best defenses in the world but if I can’t score some runs, I can’t win the game,” Davidson said.
“Winning the game” against the PRC is a top topic of discussion in the myriad of “think tanks” connected to the Pentagon, as well as the right-wing corporate media. The alt-right Washington Examiner published an April 30th article titled “How to Fight China in the South China Sea”, where various war strategies were discussed. According to the article’s author, Tom Rogan, the goal of the U.S. Navy should be to turn “the Chinese navy into coral reefs.”
One of the U.S. general staff’s main complaints about the U.S. strategy in the Vietnam War was the White House exercised too much restraint on “local commanders” (which is an absurd notion given the massive firepower unleashed on the people of Vietnam). Concerned that Biden’s White House might do the same, the article quotes the Hudson Institute think tank’s Bryan Clark’s dangerous strategy to ensure that “local” commanders can spark or enlarge the conflict without waiting for orders from higher up or civilian officials because the Chinese commanders are “fanatical,” a typical racist trope:
He [Clark] pushes for a shift from the current hierarchical, centralized command structure to a heterarchical structure which sees command authority localized. This is necessary in that any South China Sea fight will take place in an “extremely contested electromagnetic spectrum environment.” This will disrupt communications, and battlefield awareness at range. It is thus “incumbent upon us to have the decision support tools for [any warship] commander to be able to operate effectively in the contested environment with those forces. [These commanders] can’t just [fight] based on tactics or doctrine that they’ve learned or that they’ve gained through habit, because the opponent can figure that out and predict it.”
While Clark is on the money here, the Navy’s obsessive discipline approach to its best fleet commanders is deeply problematic. Aside from the submarine force, the Admirals have encouraged a culture of risk avoidance rather than one of aggressive risk taking. That is not a good recipe for confronting fanatical Chinese fleet commanders.
It should be remembered that it was a phantom non-existent “enemy attack” by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Tonkin Gulf that was used by the U.S. to escalate the war in Vietnam in 1964. Now these militarists want to actually use the intense confusion created by cyber warfare to allow hot-shot local commanders to escalate minor or accidental incidents into full-scale war without authorization from civilian officials.
Biden drafts imperialism’s junior partners into war
One big difference between Trump’s and Biden’s anti-China campaign is that Trump chose to “go it alone” versus the PRC, imposing tariffs outside of the World Trade Organization and sending the U.S. fleet into the South China Sea without enlisting NATO or other allies to intimidate the PRC.
Biden is actively drafting U.S. imperialism’s junior partners into this escalating potential war. In an April 27th article, CNN reports that Britain is deploying an eight-ship strike force, led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, in May to the South China Sea as well as the Taiwan area. The article clearly defines what the target of the UK’s show of force is, quoting the British government’s defense review:
“China’s increasing power and international assertiveness is likely to be the most significant geopolitical factor of the 2020s,” the review said, describing Beijing as “the biggest state-based threat to the UK’s economic security.”
Rather than blame Brexit for the UK’s economic woes, the British government under U.S. pressure blames China. Other capitalist countries are sending warships into the area.
In response to Biden’s building this anti-China military and propaganda mobilization, China held high level meetings with Vietnamese officials on April 26th to manage disputes and resolve differences over the South China Sea. And it has pledged aid to pandemic-ravaged India despite a sometimes-violent border dispute:
Wang Xiaojian, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in India, said the country had the firm support of China’s government and its people in the fight against the pandemic. “We will encourage and guide Chinese companies to actively cooperate with India to facilitate acquiring medical supplies, and provide support and help according to India’s need,” he said, in an embassy statement on Monday night.
The left must mobilize the masses against a new war
There have been voices of concern raised among some in the corporate media over this Trump/Biden push for war with China. An April 2nd article in the Nation magazine is titled “Are the U.S. and China Stumbling into War?”The author describes the Pentagon strategy under Biden:
For Washington in the Biden era, assertive military maneuvers in the East and South China Seas are a way of saying: No matter how far such waters may be from the United States, Washington and the Pentagon are still not prepared to cede control of them to China. This has been especially evident in the South China Sea, where the US Navy and Air Force regularly conduct provocative exercises and show-of-force operations intended to demonstrate America’s continuing ability to dominate the region—as in February, when dual carrier task forces were dispatched to the region. For several days, the USS Nimitz and the USS Theodore Roosevelt, along with their accompanying flotillas of cruisers and destroyers, conducted mock combat operations in the vicinity of islands claimed by China.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Wall Street, the whole corporate media and leaders from both political parties stand united behind this new military adventure against the PRC.
It should be remembered that it was Lyndon Johnson, the author of Medicare, Medicaid, and the War on Poverty as well as Civil Rights legislation, who escalated the Vietnam War, despite opposition from such historic figures as Malcom X, Muhammed Ali and Martin Luther King. It was the “compassionate conservative” George W. Bush who launched the war on Iraq on false pretenses and started the endless war of occupation in Afghanistan, despite millions who poured into the streets in protest.
It was “Yes we can!” Obama who first “pivoted to Asia,” which began the first parade of U.S. warships off the coast of China.
Joe Biden presents himself as a “nice guy” (although he supported Bush’s wars in the Middle East). He has signed the massive COVID rescue package and proposed a popular huge “infrastructure” bill. He has supported the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the brutal murder of George Floyd and saluted the union movement. At the same time, he is escalating the conflict with the PRC into a confrontation billed as a contest between the U.S. and the “authoritarian” and even “genocidal” China.
This is the history of imperialism. Reforms are granted so that the mass of workers and oppressed will quietly accept Wall Street’s new military adventures. The billionaire class dreams that these will generate huge profits and sustain U.S. corporate hegemony over the rest of the world. The corporate media tries to whip the masses into a pro-war frenzy.
These dangerous military provocations under Biden could easily lead to a catastrophic war with millions of casualties, not among the war profiteers on Wall Street and their minions in Washington of course, but among the masses of workers and oppressed. Progressives must not let that happen! The war drive against China must be challenged at every level! No to war! U.S. imperialism out of Taiwan and the South China Sea!