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INTRODUCTION by Vijay Prashad
1 – WHAT IS PROPELLING THE UNITED STATES INTO INCREASING INTERNATIONAL MILITARY AGGRESSION? by John Ross (Luo Siyi)
2 – WHO IS LEADING THE UNITED STATES TO WAR? by Deborah Veneziale
3 – “NOTES ON EXTERMINISM” FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY ECOLOGY AND PEACE MOVEMENTS by John Bellamy Foster
THE UNITED STATES IS WAGING A NEW COLD WAR: A SOCIALIST PERSPECTIVE
At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos (Switzerland) on May 23, 2022, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made some remarks about Ukraine that struck a nerve. Rather than be caught up “in the mood of the moment,” Kissinger said, the West—led by the United States—needs to enable a peace agreement that satisfies the Russians. “Pursuing the war beyond [this] point,” Kissinger said, “would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself.” Most of the commentary from the Western foreign policy establishment rolled their eyes and dismissed Kissinger’s comments. Kissinger, no peacenik, nonetheless indicated the great danger of escalation towards not only the establishment of a new iron curtain around Asia but perhaps open—and lethal—warfare between the West and Russia as well as China. This sort of unthinkable outcome was too much, even for Henry Kissinger, whose boss, former President Richard Nixon, spoke frequently of the Madman Theory of international relations; Nixon told his chief of staff Bob Haldeman that he had his “hand on the nuclear button” to terrify Ho Chi Minh into capitulation.
During the lead-up to the U.S.’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, I spoke to a senior member of the U.S. State Department who told me that the prevailing theory in Washington amounts to a simple slogan: short-term pain for long-term gain. He explained that the general view is that the nation’s elites are willing to tolerate short-term pain for other countries—and perhaps for working people in the United States, who could experience economic difficulties due to the disruptions and carnage created by war. However, if all goes well, this price will result in long-term gain as the United States would be able to maintain what it has sought to maintain since the end of the Second World War, which is primacy. If all goes well is the premise that sent shivers down my back as he spoke, but what rattled me just as much was the callousness about who must face the pain and who would enjoy the gain. It was quite cynically said in Washington that it was worth the price that Iraqis and working-class U.S. soldiers be negatively impacted (and die), so long as large oil and financial companies could enjoy the fruits of a conquered Iraq. This attitude—short term pain, long-term gain—is the defining hallucination of the elites in the United States, who are unwilling to tolerate the project of building human dignity and the longevity of nature.
Short term pain, long-term gain defines the dangerous escalation by the United States and its Western allies against Russia and China. What is striking about the posture of the United States is that it seeks to prevent a historical process that seems inevitable, which is the process of Eurasian integration. After the collapse of the U.S. housing market and the major credit crisis in the Western banking sector, the Chinese government, alongside other Global South countries, pivoted to build platforms that were not dependent upon the markets of North America and Europe. These platforms included the creation of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) in 2009 and the announcement of One Belt, One Road (later the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI) in 2013. Russia’s energy supply and its massive metal and mineral holdings, as well as China’s industrial and technological capacity, drew many countries into association with the BRI despite their political orientation, with Russia’s export of energy undergirding this association. These countries included Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, and Portugal, while Germany is now China’s largest trading partner in goods.
The historical fact of Eurasian integration threatened the primacy of the United States and of the Atlantic elites. It is this threat that drives the dangerous attempt by the United States to use any means to “weaken” both Russia and China. Old habits continue to dominate in Washington, which has long sought nuclear primacy to negate the theory of détente. The United States has developed a nuclear capacity and posture that would allow it to destroy the planet to maintain its hegemony. The strategies to weaken Russia and China include an attempt to isolate these countries through the escalation of the U.S.-imposed hybrid war (such as sanctions and the information war) and a desire to dismember these countries and then dominate them in perpetuity.
The three essays in this volume closely and rationally analyze the longer-term trends that have now manifested in Ukraine.
John Bellamy Foster, the editor of Monthly Review, catalogued the “escalation domination” theory of the U.S. establishment, which has been willing to risk nuclear winter—which means annihilation—to hold onto primacy. Despite the actual numbers of nuclear weapons held by Russia and the United States, the latter has developed an entire counterforce architecture that it believes can destroy Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons and then pulverize these countries into submission. This fantasy emerges not only in the turgid documents of U.S. policy makers, but it also appears occasionally in the popular press, where arguments are made about the importance of a nuclear attack against Russia.
Deborah Veneziale, a journalist based in Italy, excavates the social world of militarism in the United States, looking at how the various factions of the U.S. political elite have come together to support this strategy of confrontation against Russia and China. The intimate world of think tanks and arms production companies, of politicians and their scribes, has negated the constitutional protections of checks and balances. There is a rush to conflict so that the U.S. elites can protect their extraordinary control over global social wealth (the combined net worth of the richest 400 U.S. citizens is now close to $3.5 trillion, while the global elites, many of them from the United States, have hoarded nearly $40 trillion in illicit tax havens).
John Ross, a member of the No Cold War collective, writes that the United States has qualitatively escalated its military assault on the planet through the conflict in Ukraine. This war is dangerous because it shows that the United States is willing to directly confront Russia, a major power, and that it is willing to escalate its conflict with China by “Ukrainizing” Taiwan. What can constrain the United States, Ross argues, is China’s resilience and its commitment to defending its sovereignty and its project, as well as the growing annoyance in the Global South against the U.S.’s imposition of its foreign policy objectives. Most countries in the world do not see the Ukraine War as their conflict since they are gripped with the need to address broader dilemmas of humanity. It is telling that the head of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said on May 25, 2022 that Africa has become “the collateral victim of a distant conflict, that between Russia and Ukraine.” The conflict is distant not only in terms of space, but also in terms of the political objectives of countries in Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America.
This study is jointly produced by Monthly Review, No Cold War, and Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. We invite you to read it, share it with friends, and discuss it wherever you get the opportunity. Precious human life and the longevity of the planet are at stake. It is impossible to ignore these facts. Most of the people of the world would like to get along with our real problems. We do not want to be dragooned into a conflict that is driven by a parochial desire by the Western elite to maintain their preponderant power. We affirm life.
This publication is issued under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. The human-readable summary of the license is available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
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