donderdag 5 augustus 2010

How superpower America tries to safeguard its dominant position

(This article first appeared on August 2, 2010, in the Dutch versionHoe grootmacht Amerika zijn dominante positie probeert te vrijwaren”.)

The US sees China as its main challenger. To safeguard world dominance, it is encircling China militarily, aimed at controlling energy and mineral sources. With military dominance no longer translating in political advantage, the US must develop soft power and settle for a multipolar world.

In the geopolitical landscape of today, the US perceives China as its only real rival. It fears to be outflanked by China. Not in military, but in economic terms. Oil played an important role in the war in Iraq, valuable minerals in the Afghanistan war, commodities which the USA wants to keep under its exclusive control. Emerging economic world power China must continue to play second fiddle, whereby the US counts on its military dominance. Its termination in 2002 of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty must be seen in this context. The American missile shield is not intended against Iran or North Korea, but against China. After the ABM cancellation, America must also pull out of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 to be able to finalize its missile shield. China considers American space weapons a threat to its nuclear deterrence. Now that the US blocks any negotiation in this field at the Geneva Disarmament Conference, China has announced it will not stay idle to see the US advance its hegemonic position.

To safeguard its world domination, the US feels obliged to expand its army even further. It recognizes that it will have to leave its economic world position to China. The trade balance remains very negative. In the meantime, Japan has acquired a tremendous foothold in China. At the end of the day, Japan will have to choose for China. The future of Japan is in Asia, amongst others in Siberia. In contrast to China, Japan has the means to ensure economic development in that vast area. With the growth of a domestic market in China Japan will withdraw from Western markets more and more. The first signs of a more self-aware Japan were marked with the arrival of the new Japanese Government of Hatoyama. The US has more than 700 military bases abroad. Only the 90 bases in Japan are financed by Japan. The Japanese island of Okinawa is home to 35 US bases. When Prime Minister Hatoyama wanted to close one of these bases, near-panic broke in the United States. Very indicative of the concerns of the USA in the Obama era.

Early this year, the US-China relationship deteriorated severely due to the sale of high-tech weapons to Taiwan, including 200 Patriot missiles. The header "U.S. Arms for Taiwan Send Beijing a Message" in the New York Times was telling. China responded with the suspension of its military ties with the US, which causes bad blood until today. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates canceled a visit to Beijing, after which both the White House and the Pentagon sent a series of unambiguous messages to China. The US confronted China before. Newly appointed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced: "The Government is working on improving the relationship with a number of Latin American countries in response to the growing influence in the Western hemisphere of Iran, China and Russia". Tensions increased when the US sent three of its most modern submarines to South Korea, the Philippines and Diego Garcia, to finalize the move of 60% of its 53 attack submarines to the Pacific Ocean. China perceived the move as power display unrivalled since the cold war, close to a siege on China and a sign of Washington’s determination to safeguard its military dominance in Asia.

Today, the US encircles China through agreements with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mongolia and Taiwan. The war in Afghanistan is going into its 10th year without any sign of the removal of the Western military presence from China's backyard. The US remains nestled in Japan and South Korea, has returned to the Philippines, and signed military agreements with almost all countries in South-East Asia, including India. It has allocated 60% of its Tomahawk cruise missiles to the 7th fleet in waters that China considers its sphere of interest. And the US jumped on the case of the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan to increase the pressure further. China had to adopt a tougher stand on the issue of the North Korean nuclear arms. What the press now describes as "messages" used to be referred to as gun boat diplomacy. There is no country, coalition or international organization in the world which has arrogated the right to divide the world into operational military zones. The US is doing just that. Of the 6 zones, the Pacific Command, which was set up at the beginning of the cold war, is the largest: the zone covers 50% of the world, 36 countries, 60% of the world's population, and a US military of 300,000, further reinforced by the treaties with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea.

Meanwhile also NATO confirmed its support in the Cheonan incident: "The Alliance is committed to strengthening cooperation with South Korea and strives to provide Security Council ruling that reflects the NATO position". The fact that the US uses the Cheonan incident to put pressure on North Korea is indicative of how precarious the US feels faced with the changing geopolitical landscape. But the conclusion that the disaster was caused by a North Korean torpedo has been challenged. The enquiry was carried out by South Korea, the USA, Australia, the UK and Sweden (North Korea and China were excluded), but not signed by the experts. The South Korean people wonders: why did the Cheonan not detect a North Korean submarine, why could the 58 survivors not make a statement, is there a correlation with the recent elections? The Russian enquiry shows that there were no North Korean submarines in the area of the Cheonan, the ship had hit the bottom of the sea and had fishing nets around the screw and went under probably by a mine. The eagerness with which the United States has jumped on this incident to put further pressure on North Korea reminds of the war rhetoric aimed at Iraq at the time, and at Iran today. The US does not tolerate nuclear power neither in the Middle East in competition with its ally Israel, nor on the Korean peninsula.

The Western way of war seems to be out of date. However destructive the weapons systems, they provide no victory. There are just two countries in the world which have not yet understood this message: the US and Israel, who continue to believe in military superiority. In their political language "peace" is a code word for "permanent subjugation of the opponent". Military dominance no longer translates in concrete political advantage. Force incites resistance. Resistance movements will no longer be intimidated, self-confident countries protect themselves with nuclear arms against attacks with conventional weapons. Today, the term "victory" is a chimera. The future belongs to "soft power". Twenty years ago, a grumpy Madeleine Albright asked: "Why do we have this superior military power if we cannot use it?". Today, the West must wonder: What is the point of the continuous deployment of our superior military if that simply does not work? Any avoidance of this question argues the corruption and dishonesty of our political class.

Sources: see the Dutch version "Hoe grootmacht Amerika zijn dominante positie probeert te vrijwaren” of August 2, 2010.

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