Sunday, June 9, 2024

Out of Touch: The Empire Has Lost Its Mind

 Out of Touch: The Empire Has Lost Its Mind

Jim Kavanagh

I've been trying to figure out something to say that captures the insanity of the present conjuncture, and a friend steered me to an article in the Washington Post about American strategy towards China that epitomizes the delusional and dangerous thinking that underlies American policy around the world.

In the piece, titled “Preparing for a China war, the Marines are retooling how they’ll fight,” WaPo National Security Reporter, Ellen Nakashima explains the U.S. “military’s latest concept for fighting adversaries like China from remote, strategic islands in the western Pacific…striving to adapt to a maritime fight that could play out across thousands of miles of islands and coastline in Asia.”

The strategy, dubbed “Force Design” involves the “forward deployment” of “smaller, lighter, more mobile” Marine units called Littoral Combat Teams throughout the  First Island Chain, “a crucial stretch of territory sweeping from Japan to Indonesia.” These smaller, lighter Teams will be “as invisible as possible to radar and other electronic detection,” and will “gather intelligence and target data… as well as occasionally sink ships with medium-range missiles”— thus “enabl[ing] the larger joint force to deploy its collective might.”

Of course, there is no other “adversary like” China, and this is the “latest concept” for nothing else but winning a war against the People’s Republic of China (PRC), blocking any attempt by the PRC to forcibly reunify its Taiwan province with the mainland. What’s remarkable is that, in carefully describing how this innovative war-fighting strategy might work (“The reality of the mission is daunting”), Nakashima makes painfully clear how utterly ridiculous it actually is.

Because “U.S. ships and planes must travel thousands of miles, or rely on the goodwill of allies to station troops and weapons”; because “Even if you get Marines into these remote locations, ‘resupplying them over time is something that needs to be rehearsed and practiced repeatedly in simulated combat conditions’”; because “though…no longer weighed down by tanks,” the new, “lighter, more mobile” units will have “Rogue NMESIS unmanned truck-based launchers” firing two “naval strike missiles” that weigh 2,200 pounds each, and “you’ve got to have a whole bunch at the ready and that’s a lot more stuff to hide, which means your ability to move unpredictably goes down,’’ and “resupplying these weapons in austere islands without runways requires watercraft, which move slowly, or helicopters, which can carry only a limited quantity at a time”; because “logistical challenges in a vast maritime region” are a nightmare and there’s a  lot of “uncertainty over whether regional partners…would allow U.S. forces to fight from their islands”; because “China now has many more sensors — radar, sonar, satellites, electronic signals collection — in the South China Sea than the United States” and “The United States would have to expend an unacceptable amount of ordnance to degrade those capabilities to blind China”; and, ultimately, because

China not only has the region’s largest army, navy and air force, but also home-field advantage. It has about 1 million troops, more than 3,000 aircraft, and upward of 300 vessels in proximity to any potential battle. Meanwhile, U.S. ships and planes must travel thousands of miles, or rely on the goodwill of allies to station troops and weapons. The PLA also has orders of magnitude more ground-based, long-range missiles than the U.S. military.

So, except for the fact that these invisible, lighter, and more mobile units will be bogged down by their equipment and impossible to resupply, may not have any islands to land and hide on, will certainly be detected by the PLA if they try to, and will be wiped out toot sweet by a military force that is orders of magnitude larger and better equipped, Littoral Combat Teams are just the ticket for winning a war against China.

So, even as this article is ostensibly telling us how the US military has figured out a way to defeat China in a war in its neighborhood, the article is—without recognizing it—demonstrating quite concretely how “orders of magnitude” impossible that actually is.

Complementary to its brilliant strategy for defeating China militarily is the US’s most excellent strategy for punishing China economically and diplomatically, if it doesn’t stay in its place within the “rules-based order.” First, send Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to tell the Chinese they must limit their “industrial capacity” because it is “simply too large” and must stop supporting—i.e., selling things to—Russia or face “significant consequences.”  Then, send Secretary of State Antony Blinken to repeat the threat of “consequences” to China if it doesn’t break with Russia.

Here's how that worked out:

Because, as the US knows and Yellen says, China’s industrial (and therefore military) capacity dwarfs the rest of the world, and makes it the largest trading partner for most countries in the world, including the European Union:

Who is in the position of imposing “consequences”? In this world, not the one US politicians and media think they still inhabit?  What’s the US going to do to bring China to its knees? Cut them off from SWIFT?  You mean as it did with Russia, which is now demanding to be paid in rubles for its essential products? The US’s  “sanctions” warfare will be as scary to China economically as their “lighter, more mobile” island teams are militarily. The US is confronting, but refusing to recognize, the consequences of its decades-long transformation from productive to finance capitalism.

What’s happened to US cities and rural towns over the last thirty years? 

What happened to US infrastructure?

It is astounding to witness US neocon imperialists ignoring the reality that is staring them in the face and they are often describing in their own words. They’re still partying like it’s 1999, convinced of their own omnipotence and of the essential weakness of their adversaries. They still think they can intimidate and escalation-dominate the most populous and economically dynamic country on earth.

Fact is, all they still can do, quite extensively, is blow shit up. Fact is, the PRC does not want to use military force to re-integrate its island province, which the United Nations, the United States, and the government of Taiwan officially recognize as part of one nation, China. But, if the US pushes Taiwan into a de facto or de jure status of a militarized independent country serving as an American client state—which is exactly what the US is doing—China will at some point use force to stop that. And fact is, if the PRC wants to re-integrate Taiwan forcibly, it will. The United States will not be able to stop that, though it will be able to blow up a lot of shit—maybe the whole world—based on a refusal to recognize reality. The denial of an inconvenient reality will bring the US into a conflict that will bring a more terrible reality about.

It's Ukraine bis, of course. I started with China because the reality is so obvious. China is so much more powerful than Russia seemed in 2014-2022 and so much farther from US assets like NATO. After decades of a massive state-directed, industrial-scale military development program directed by purpose, not profit, no person attached to reality can have any doubt about what China is, and the US is not, capable of in a war in the Western Pacific.

In 2022, no one was certain how the “sanctions from hell” and the best NATO-trained army in Europe would work out for Russia. But we—and Russia and China—have learned. Because of its ability to re-energize a massive, state-directed military industrial program prioritizing purpose over profit during the last two-and-a-half years, Russia has become militarily and economically stronger. It's able, for example, to produce at least three times more artillery shells than the US and Europe combined, for a quarter of the cost. Thus, it is in the process of defeating a thrice-rebuilt NATO army manned by Ukrainian soldiers.

That’s the reality the neocon imperialists have created in the Russia-Ukraine theater, a reality they are desperately tying themselves into discursive and epistemological knots to ignore and deny. Even as—in the same breath as—they know and say that Ukraine is losing, they concoct fantasy scenarios where, by virtue of new wonder weapons from countries that have already largely disarmed themselves by sending weapons to Ukraine, or advisors/soldiers from countries with ill-prepared armies that have not fought an industrial-scale war since 1945, or forcibly conscripted Ukrainians handed a gun and sent to the front, they are going to stop a now well-supplied and battle-hardened Russia from winning.

Ukraine can’t win but it cannot be allowed to lose, and Russia can’t lose but cannot be allowed to win is the knot they’ve tied themselves into.

Fact is, the only way one may think that knot can be broken is if the US enters the war with tactical nuclear weapons—the outcome Ukrainian fascists have always known was necessary and sought, the reality American politicos are facing but cannot admit. In their mirror, it’s the Russians who, though they are winning the conventional war, are threatening to use nuclear weapons.

Again, the denial of the terrible reality will bring a worse one about.

Of course, there's no more terrible denial of reality then they're taking place right now over Palestine-Israel-Gaza.

Biden does have a red line but will never not support Israel. Israel is not engaged in a major military operation in Rafah and is not targeting civilians in a way that violates violating international humanitarian law or American policies. There is no plausible case for genocide. Israel is not responsible for rejecting a ceasefire proposal that Joe Biden said it had proposed and was very much like one that Hamas had proposed, which is why Hamas either did or did not reject it and is responsible for rejecting it anyway, even though Israel did. I do abhor the right-wing Netanyahu government and its murderous policies, but I do not deny them any of the weapons with which they carry out those policies, which does not make me responsible for them. The occupying power, Israel, does, and the occupied Palestinians do not, have a right to self-defense, except under international law but not under the rules of the rules-based order. We always do let countries who kill doctors, journalists, teachers at home with their families and burn children to death in tents investigate themselves, except Russia.

None of this bears any relation to reality. The simple reality is—as everybody knows but won’t say—the USG is staunchly Zionist, supports Israel unconditionally, will provide it whatever it needs to do anything it wants, including killing and expelling most Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and will likely be dragged into the war in Lebanon and Iran that Israel wants and needs. Denying the reality of Zionist colonial violence is taking the US into a conflict that will bring a more extensive terrible reality about.

To avoid recognizing the reality of what is happening and what they are doing in these dangerous theaters of conflict, US (and European) empire managers have concocted a confused, unreal discursive atmosphere that can be called schizophrenogenic—it makes one, and is designed to make one, crazy. I think a lot of people share the feeling that we’ve been thrown into a Buñuel-esque theater of the absurd.

This isn’t your daddy’s Ship of State, crewed by intelligent imperialists like George Ball, James Baker, or Henry Kissinger, who knew rule one of staying afloat was to keep Russia and China apart, and rule two was not to allow small fish to drag you into a maelstrom. It’s the new Minnow, being run aground by Captain Joe, Professor Sullivan, and Antony Blinkilligan on precisely the shoals every American mariner was warned to avoid. And they think they are the adults in the room.  

They have abandoned any serious effort at honesty or intellectual or political integrity to the point where they've lost touch with reality itself. They don't seem to realize that, let alone care about it. The most frightening thing is they are not just fooling us, they're fooling themselves into worse and worse trouble. It's delusional and dangerous. Out of touch and out of time. 

The constant in all this—the reality about itself that it cannot recognize—is that the US drives toward war. Because it thrives on war. War is the basis of its declining political economy. Its preferred “solution” to all these crises is to turn them into US-managed “forever” wars that sustain its only remnant of productive capacity—making expensive boutique weapons—and its waning global hegemony.  Effective solutions, consonant with reality, would end that hegemony once and for all.

The US cannot recognize this reality about itself, or the reality that the world does recognize it and rejects all of its pretensions.

Which leaves us, like the Buñuel characters, trying to figure out how to get out of this damn room.


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