In the period before the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, the United States government announced its new military doctrine. Its new approach and how it might maintain control was expressed in a Pentagon-authored paper, the National Defense Strategy, which became official policy.
It involved abandoning its “war on terror” approach and resuming its push to remain the pre-eminent military power. Invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were sold as a means of protecting the world from a threat. The result was insecurity and the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The US began to appreciate that the remnants of its international prestige lay in tatters and, as its economic power was also waning, something needed to be done.
The paper says: “Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy, aware that our competitive military advantage has been eroding … Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security.”
The aim of the new military doctrine is made clear: The US must remain “the pre-eminent military power in the world”, it is important that “the balance of power remains in our favor” and the world should be organised in a way “that is most conducive to our security and prosperity … and preserve access to markets".
The US has upped the ante in the years since that document came into being. It has certainly manipulated events in Europe to suit its best interests. Russia, feeling the heat and doubtless fearing further NATO encroachment, reacted in exactly the manner that the US wanted. Russia has demonised itself and allowed the US to parade as a supporter of freedom and sovereignty.
The same new military doctrine explains why the US is concentrating efforts against China — placing the world on the edge of an abyss. All of this, as the Defense Strategy informs us, is primarily designed to “preserve access to markets”.
The fact that the US felt the need to change direction and focus more directly on great power rivalry is revealing.
It is no secret that its place as global hegemon — politically, economically and militarily — is seriously threatened.
The fact that it is willing to place all this on public record is also revealing. Each time the US has made a significant policy shift it has been done in the light: the world is meant to know. Each shift in line is designed to let potential enemies see what might be in store and to let possibly reluctant allies know the price that breaking the alliance might bring.
It is also important to remember that these policy shifts are achieved with fanfare and almost universal support from the corporate media. This should not be all that surprising as, when all is said and done, the media is an arm of the state and plays a central role in maintaining a sense of unity among the people.
So, if the US has announced a new military doctrine, what of previous versions? In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson implemented a policy that would allow the US to wage war simultaneously against the Soviet Union and China, while still providing for what was described as a “small” war in a regional setting.
By the late 1960s and the Richard Nixon presidency all that had to be re-thought. China and the Soviet Union were no longer allies and the Vietnam War was consuming US attention. The policy shifted, accordingly, to give the US the capacity to wage war against one major power while allowing it to fight a regional conflict.
The next significant step was taken by George Bush snr in 1990. His line was based on the fact that the Soviet Union was disintegrating and, of course, China was well ensconced in the capitalist camp. Any potential force would, in his estimation, be used against “regional threats”.
President Bill Clinton adapted this further in 1993 to fit a policy whereby the US could fight and defeat one adversary at a time. It was to be a case of fight, win, dig in, fight, win, dig in. In effect, it was to prepare the way for the US to be in a state of near perpetual war.
US foreign policy, based as it is on military power and projection of power, shifted dramatically with its “war on terror” campaign that unleashed devastation for a quarter of a century. It was a policy that developed almost inevitably from its earlier promotion and support for the Mujahadeen fighters in Afghanistan during the period of Soviet occupation. By arming and supporting Osama bin Laden a Pandora’s box was opened, and the wasteland created is there for all to see.
President Barack Obama addressed West Point officers in 2014, bluntly stating that “the United States will use military force, unilaterally, if necessary, when our core interests demand it”.
The US armed forces have dropped 46 bombs a day on average for the past 20 years. The US war on terror displaced, either permanently or on a temporary basis, more than 30 million people and led to the deaths of more than 900,000 people, 360,000 of whom were civilians.
Whichever military doctrine is implemented by the US, it is inevitably described as having certain clear and unchanging components.
The first is that the policy exists to assure allies that they will remain secure, or possibly to coerce allies that compliance is required.
The second is, officially, to convince adversaries that they ought not to threaten the US or its “interests”. The final element is to make everyone understand that if deterrence does not work, then the power of the US military will prevail.
The fact that an imperialist power such as the US should expect the world to dance to its tune is not altogether unsurprising. It goes with the territory of being the global hegemon. The fact that it can be so brazen about letting the world know what it is thinking becomes a tactical, even psychological, weapon.
What is particularly significant in all of this is the power of the media in selling the idea that each shift in focus and each change in military doctrine is not merely in the US’ interests but in the best interests of the world.
Marx and Engels wrote about class and of how the ideas of a ruling class in any society are intrinsically its ruling ideas. It becomes all but impossible to think in any other way but the way that we are conditioned to think.
The media, as a vital arm of the state, show this to be the case. The US rulers changed tactics as necessity required to ensure that they remain the supreme global power and the media of the world sold the changes as an advertiser would sell breakfast food.
US foreign policy has been framed by force projection and the crudest of threats against real or imagined foes and potentially reluctant allies. President Joe Biden's grotesque message rings in our ears: “If I had to bet on which country is going to lead economically in the 21st century … I’d bet on the United States. But I’d put it another way: It’s never a good bet to bet against the United States.”
Our leaders know how the land lies and none of them are gamblers.