Trump was right: the US fights ‘forever wars’, and only the names of the enemies change. America is never without an enemy, an heir and a spare. Military force remains the default American response to most problems. Australia needs to warn the new US administration that we’re not interested in illegal, expeditionary wars.
Americans won their independence from Britain with muskets. They then bought other mainland states or took them over by armed force. In the 1860s civil war, more Americans died than have so far succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic. From the 1890s, an American empire in all but name spread around the world, now secured by some 150,000 troops in more than 800 military bases.
The habit of US leaders is to declare ‘war’ on anything and everything, from homelessness and drugs to terror and Covid-19. By 1967, said Martin Luther King, the US government was ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today’.
Since 1945, all US presidents but Trump and Carter have started real wars. If you don’t count Panama, Grenada, Guatemala and Bosnia, none has ended in ‘victory’ for the US. But military force remains the default American response to most problems, external and internal.
President Eisenhower in 1961 memorably warned that the ‘military-industrial complex’ emerging from WWII could become a vast, permanent arms industry and expose the US to ‘the disastrous rise of misplaced power’. The complex arrived well before the collapse of communism. By 2001 it was a military-industrial-security-intelligence colossus that surged when Congress approved funds for the Bush administration to wage war on ‘terror’, communism’s successor.
The US and its allies used terrorism as a pretext for invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, and perpetrating state terror in the process. Similar pretexts and tactics were prepared for Iran. All the complex needs is a foreign enemy, to keep voters on side with patriotism and promises. After 1945 the enemy was the USSR, then Islamist terrorists, and now China.
Trump was right: the US fights ‘forever wars’, and only the names of the enemies change.
The complex comes at considerable cost. By late 2018 nearly $US6 trillion had been spent on wars, directly causing the deaths of close to a million people. The US military was engaged in fighting ‘terrorism’ in 79 countries, 39 per cent of the world’s nations.
Between 2002 and 2017 the US spent $US2.8 trillion on the war against terror and on counter-insurgency wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria – equivalent to 16 per cent of the US discretionary budget. In March 2019, President Trump proposed to spend $US750 billion on the military, and Congress approved.
Global military spending rose to $US1,917 billion, its largest increase since 2010. Warnings by Americans themselves about a ‘warfare state’ have not stopped the complex from growing, and the US now has a monstrous military establishment costing US$1 trillion a year, bigger than the forces of the world’s next eight nations combined. Just as the USSR did before it, the US shows symptoms of economic over-reach, and military over-extension.
In most of the American wars, the UK and Australia have been willing allies, bound by shared anti-communist ‘values’ that equated the national interest with global commerce, backed by military force.
For more than a hundred years, Britain’s armed forces have been engaged in military operations somewhere in the world. The British army was deployed for 38 years in Northern Ireland. Between 1949 and 1970, the UK initiated 34 foreign military interventions. Britain, since World War II, has had forces in some 50 operations abroad, though not in Vietnam, and now maintains 145 military sites in 42 countries.
Australia joined Britain as a minor player in several of these wars. Last year, Morrison quietly took over drone strike operations in Iraq and Syria from the UK, while publicly announcing military expenditure of A$270 billion, including missiles that could reach China, and cooperation with the US in militarising space.
Communism and then Islamist terrorism have lost their power to frighten voters in all three allied states, and ultra-right ‘domestic terrorism’ now looms larger than jihad.
We are warned of an array of new dangers, including cyber, drone and hybrid warfare, which Australia wages, too. In the UK, Russo-phobia has taken over as the bogey of official choice, while in Australia it’s fear of everything Chinese. A fearful electorate will accept surveillance, censorship, and repression, and be distracted from the real threats of global heating, successive pandemics, and nuclear devastation.
We might recall the multiple events used to justify successive American wars, against both communists and terrorists (‘53 Admitted False Flag Attacks’, Washington’s Blog, Global Research, 3 September, 2019). They include:
- in 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff planned to blow up American planes and commit terrorist acts in the US, blaming it on Castro to justify invading Cuba (ABC news report; US official documents).
- In 1962 the Department of Defence suggested bribing one of Castro’s subordinate commanders to initiate an attack on the US Guantanamo base.
- In 1963, the Department of Defence advocated promoting attacks on nations within the Organization of American States and falsely blaming them on Cuba.
- The NSA lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964, claiming North Vietnamese boats fired on USS Maddox to create a justification for attacking Vietnam.
- Former Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo suggested in 2005 that the US intelligence agencies should ‘create a false terrorist organisation’ that would ‘launch fake terrorist operations and claim credit for real terrorist strikes’.
Before the next such event, Australia might warn the new US administration that we’re not interested in illegal, expeditionary wars, nor in provoking an unwinnable war with China. Americans always need a coalition for war: Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand would be reluctant to join one. Without them and Australia, President Biden and his hawkish Secretary of State would need to consider re-deploying those who remain of their expert diplomats to rebalance Asia towards peace.