OUR CURRENT CONTEXT - U.S STRATEGY IN ASIA (AND THE WORLD)
Just as the Cold War was both real and a fade behind which the U.S. pursued its two century march to global empire, the ﾒwar on terrorismﾓ is simultaneously real and the distraction being used to mobilize the U.S. people and the international community to impose what Vice President called ﾒthe arrangement [for] the twenty-first centuryﾓ many months before 9-11. The ﾒArrangementﾓ is being designed and imposed to guarantee that ﾒthe United States will continue to be the dominant political, economic and military power in the world.ﾓ3 Vice President Cheney, who is the wizard of President Bushﾕs Oz, (the hidden conductor of President Bushﾕs mad orchestra) made the Administrationﾕs vision clear again during the recent holidays. He and his wife sent Christmas cards that were dominated by a quotation by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of the U.S. Republic two hundred years ago: ﾒAnd if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?ﾓ As New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote, ﾒItﾕs hard not to see that as a boast that the U.S. has become the global superpower because God is on our side.ﾓ
Within the U.S. , the elite debate is no longer whether or not the U.S. has become an empire, but ﾒWhat Kindﾓ of empire it will be. 4 The Bush Administration's unilateralist National Strategy Statement proclaims that the world has arrived at the end of history, in which there is but ﾒa single sustainable model for national success.ﾓ Only those nations that adopt the U.S. versions of ﾒfreedom, democracy, and free enterpriseﾓ can be assured ﾒfuture prosperity.ﾓ5 Going beyond the Bush I (Wolfowitz-Cheney) doctrine that made prevention of the emergence of any regional or global rival the ﾒfirst priorityﾓ of U.S. foreign and military policy and the Clinton-era doctrine of Full Spectrum Dominance, Washington now threatens to ﾒact preemptivelyﾓ to prevent the emergence of potential rivals.
This is unprecedented in U.S. history, and has been described by the internationally renowned legal scholar Richard Falk as ﾒfascist empire.ﾓ It applies not only to Iraq and Iran, which have been perceived as the major obstacles to enduring U.S. hegemony in the oil rich Middle East, and to the DPRK which may or may not have a small arsenal of nuclear weapons, but also to China, which is seen as a ﾒstrategic competitorﾓ and even to the European Union. Unchecked by countervailing powers, and under the political cover of the September 11, 2001 trauma which it has shamelessly exploited, the Bush Administration refuses to be bound by security enhancing treaties and international law which limit U.S. power and options. Thus it rejected the Kyoto Protocol, renounced the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, subverted the Biological Weapons Convention and the International Criminal Court, launched its invasion of Iraq in violation of the United Nations Charter, and has indefinitely imprisoned hundreds of ﾒenemy combatantsﾓ and is ﾒprivatizingﾓ the Iraqi economy in serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. While pursuing its ostensible counterproliferation policy against so-called ﾒAxis of Evilﾓ nations, the Bush Administration is further undermining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty with its first-strike nuclear war doctrine, funding for new research and development of ﾒusableﾓ nuclear weapons, and accelerating preparations for resumption of nuclear weapons testing.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Democratic presidential contenders echo Joseph Nye's worldview that the U.S. is ﾒBound to Lead,ﾓ but that it must do so in a more sophisticated manner. They are committed to the U.S. remaining the world's unchallenged military power, but they argue that disciplining the far reaches of the U.S. empire must be done through more credible multi-lateral coalitions, not unilaterally and under cover of coalitions of the coerced. They give greater value to the use of the ﾒsoft powerﾓ: cultural imperialism and creative diplomacy that respects the needs and ambitions of allied sub-imperial powers. And, like Bill Clinton before them, even as they refuse to consider serious reductions in U.S. military spending, they understand that reducing the U.S. budget deficit is essential for the U.S. and global economies in the near-term and for maintaining U.S. power over the longer term.
What does the U.S. National Security Strategy, which was promulgated just over a year ago midst the drum beats for the invasion of Iraq, tell us about U.S. policy and ambitions in Asia? Wrapped in Bush Administration rhetoric, the Statement promises to ﾒenhance our Asian alliances and friendshipsﾓ. To that end, it pledges to:
ｷ Encourage ﾒJapan to continue forging a leading role in regional and global affairsﾉﾓ
ｷ Remain engaged with South Korea in confronting potentially nuclear North Korea,
ｷ Build on ﾒ50 years of U.S.-Australian alliance cooperationﾓ
ｷ ﾒ[M]aintain forces in the region that reflect our commitments to our allies, our requirements, our technological advances, and the strategic environment
ｷ ﾒ[B]uild on ﾉ these alliances,ﾓ and with ﾒASEAN and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, to develop a mix of regional and bilateral strategies to manage change in this dynamic region.ﾓ
The Statement says that ﾒthe United States and Russia are no longer strategic adversariesﾉﾓ The U.S. , it says, seeks ﾒa constructive relationship with a changing China ﾓ Yet, even with Washington and Beijing collaborating to contain Islamist forces and North Koreaﾕs nuclear weapons program, China is seen as the primary potential strategic competitor. In the tradition of the iron fist and the velvet glove, the Strategy Statement paternalistically warns that China ﾒ is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness. 7
Since it humiliated Kim Dae Jung and derailed the near-complete negotiations with Pyongyang of the last days of the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration has used confrontation with North Korea to discipline its Northeast Asian allies and to provide cover for its accelerating military preparations to encircle China.
Divisions with the Bush Administration have led many to wonder if the U.S. actually has a coherent North Korean policy. Bushﾕs three horsemen, Powell, Rumsfeld and Karl Rove seem to be pulling the Administrationﾕs Korea policy chariot in wildly different directions. This reflects competing demands and the contradictions of the Administrationﾕs military, economic, and political ambitions. We do know is that between the Iraqi quagmire; South Korean, Chinese, and Russian pressure; and election year incentives that we have bought some time. With 240,000 U.S. warriors now engaged in one of the greatest movements of U.S. military forces since the Second World War, as they are rotated in and out of Iraq, the Bush Administration is not eager to launch another major war until it can seriously reduce U.S. military forces in Iraq and addresses the stresses of its over-extended military. This is not to say that we might not find ourselves in a manufactured crisis on the eve of the November presidential elections, or that calculations and miscalculations wonﾕt lead to war in Northeast Asia during a second Bush Administration.
In truth, the confrontation with North Korea is not about North Korea. Both Republican and Democratic leaders and elites fear the possibility of Northeast integration over the long-term in ways that parallel the creation of the European Union. South Korean investors and the majority of South Koreans under thirty years of age increasingly look to China ﾐ not to the United States ﾐ as they prepare for their future and longﾑterm security. The Roh government has gone one step further, calling for greater Northeast Asian integration. Thus the Bush Administration and others in the U.S. power elite fear that, over the long-term, integrated Northeast Asian economies and political systems could gradually marginalize Washington and challenge U.S. regional and global dominance. They are looking twenty, thirty, fifty years into the future. To prevent this possibility, to provide political cover for containment of China, and to deepen the U.S. alliance with Japan (consistent with the National Security Statement) the Bush Administration is using the crisis with North Korea to discipline its regional allies and reconsolidate its regional power.
Since early in the 19th century, when U.S. merchants enjoyed the profits the opium and other trade with China , the Middle Kingdom has been Washington 's primary preoccupation in Asia . Even before the National Strategy Statement identified China as a ﾒstrategic competitor,ﾓ Joseph Nye, who led U.S. Asia policy through most of the Clinton era, warned that twice during the 20th century the dominant powers (Britain and the U.S.) failed to integrate rising powers (Germany and Japan) into their systems, resulting in two catastrophic world wars. The challenge for the 21st century he argued was to manage China 's integration into the U.S. dominated system. The strategy that he and his ally Ezra Vogel pursued an unsophisticated version of carrot and stick diplomacy: engagement and coercive containment. Thus the Clinton Administration ultimately supported China 's entry into the WTO, while it pursued the negotiation of a ﾒgrand bargainﾓ with Beijing by threatening to surround the Middle Kingdom with so-called ﾒmissile defensesﾓ that could ﾒneutralize all of China 's missile forces.ﾓ 8
The ﾒWar on Terrorismﾓ has also provided new opportunities for Washington to pursue its campaign of encirclement, containment, and integration of China into its system. We see this in the campaign to ﾒdiversifyﾓ and ﾒreconfigureﾓ U.S. military bases and forces across Asia.
As they returned to power three years ago, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their neo-con allies let it be known that they modeled themselves after Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Admiral Mahan, the men who ﾐ in the 1880s and 1890s ﾐ envisioned the possibility of the U.S. replacing Britain as the world's dominant power and then built the military needed to do it. The 1890s, with the U.S. conquest of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the establishment of military bases in those countries was the high point of formal U.S. colonialism. That was just before it turned to the more sophisticated doctrine of neo-colonialism that we have seen since the ﾒOpen Doorﾓ diplomacy toward China at the beginning of the last century, the forging of Washingtonﾕs Cold War alliance structure, and the creation of the World Bank, the IMF and WTO.
Yet, todayﾕs military colonization in Okinawa and elsewhere, like 19th and 20th century colonialism, has its foundation in unequal treaties ﾐ including SOFAs, that guarantee U.S. troops extra-territoriality much like that enjoyed by the English in India and China, the French in Vietnam, and the Dutch in Indonesia, at the high point of European colonialism. Essential resources ﾐ be they land, water, transportation routes, or hospitals ﾐ are at the disposal of the colonial/neo-colonial power. Racism and national chauvinism, the psychological and ideological foundations that are essential to the dehumanization and domination are in place and blind the U.S. occupiers. Candy, ice cream, movies and clothing fashions introduced by the occupiers affect peopleﾕs tastes. Like the cultural imperialism of religious missionaries, these new tastes facilitate the psychological internalization of cultural imperialism and help to bind the occupied nation to the market of the colonizer. And, just as the U.S. naval base at Subic Bay served as a jumping off point for disciplining Qing Dynasty China and winning market share, U.S. bases in Okinawa, Tokyo, Seoul, and General Santos serve as foundations for the coercive domination of the Asia-Pacific ﾐ the motor force of the worldﾕs 21st century economy ﾐ and the Middle East oil that fuels it.
Recall, too, that since the Bush Administration came to power, it has not been shy about proclaiming its commitment to the so-called ﾒRevolution in Military Affairs.ﾓ RAM is the near-complete integration of information technologies into U.S. war fighting doctrines; to its air, land, sea and space based weapons systems; and to the militaryﾕs infrastructure ﾐ including to the global network of U.S. foreign military bases.
Pre-inaugural reports, prepared in 2000 under the direction of (now) Assistant Secretary of State Armitage and (now) Ambassador Khalilzad recommended, that the U.S. reaffirm its commitment to, and ﾒdiversifyﾓ the location and concentrations of, U.S. military bases and forward deployed troops across the Asia-Pacific. Thus, as Rumsfeld restructures and redesign the U.S. network of foreign military bases, some will indeed be close and some will be merged. But this is being done as part of an effort to augment U.S. military power, not to reduce it. In the Asia-Pacific, it means moving the center of gravity of U.S. troops and bases from Northeast Asia further to the south, the better to encircle China, to fight the so-called ﾒWar on Terrorism,ﾓ and to more completely control the sea lanes over which Persian Gulf oil ﾐ the life blood of East Asia's economies ﾐ must travel.
The continued presence of U.S. troops in Okinawa remains central to the strategy, with Guam serving as both a revitalized hub for U.S. Asia-Pacific forces and a fall-back option should Okinawan and Japanese resistance to U.S. bases here again reach the intensity of 1995-96 or the period immediately preceding reversion. This may seem unlikely today, but as we learned in 1995 and from the Korean reaction to the deaths of two Korean school girls who were killed by a U.S. tank in 2002, the atrocities of occupying military forces and the stubborn insistence of people to protect their security and dignity can unexpectedly release pent up social and political forces that shake the foundations of the worldﾕs most powerful military alliances.
One of the most disturbing aspects of Rumsfeldﾕs restructuring campaign is the redeployment of U.S. forces in Korea, moving them from the Demilitarized Zone and Seoul south of the Han River. Moving U.S. troops from Seoul has parallels to the SACO strategy here in Okinawa, where the goal has been to reduce the impact of the U.S. footprint on Korean population centers, and thus to undermine popular opposition to the continued presence of U.S. military forces. Giving the Korean people and anti-bases movement some ﾐ but not all ﾐ of what they have been demanding for decades has done nothing to pacify Korean public opinion. The planned redeployment actually increases the likelihood that the U.S. will initiate military attacks, and thus a catastrophic Peninsula-wide war, while reducing the number of U.S. troops likely to be consumed in the resulting conflagration. For this reason the plan has sent a shock wave through Korean political society.
Elsewhere in Asia, U.S. bases in Australia are to be augmented. As the Philippine press reports, the Bush Administration seeks to move from the ﾒVisiting Forcesﾓ and MSLA agreements to the reestablishment of traditional military bases in the former colony. The access agreement with Singapore is being expanded, and the way is being opened for U.S. forces to return to Thailand. The ﾒwith us or against usﾓ doctrine and the invasion of Afghanistanﾓ opened the way for Pakistan , Uzbekistan , Kyrgristan, and Tajikistan to surrender sovereignty and to ﾒinviteﾓ the Pentagon to establish what are likely become permanent U.S. military bases. Washington is again re-engaging with the Indonesian military, and it is deepening its incipient alliance with India.
The invasion of Iraq also opened the way for reorganizing the U.S. infrastructure of military bases in Europe and the Middle East. With Germany balking at joining in the invasion of Iraq and limiting the roles that U.S. bases there could play in the war, Washington threatened to punish Germany by withdrawing its bases ﾐ something that I am sure that many Germans celebrated. New bases were established in those bastions of democracy and human rights Romania and Bulgaria. To the south, Bush and company removed one of the precipitating causes of the 9-11 attacks, the majority of U.S. troops and bases in Saudi Arabia which many Moslems experienced as sullying Islam's holiest land. Those troops, bases, and functions were transferred to Qatar and Kuwait. Bases in Djibouti and Bahrain were expanded. And now, in addition to plans for Iraq to serve the U.S. as a source of oil that can be used to leverage Saudi Arabia and OPEC, U.S. military planners look forward to using Iraq as a bastion of U.S. military power in the Middle East for decades to come.
Africa, too, is to have an augmented role in the U.S. global military network. The U.S. is in the process of negotiating the creation of a ﾒfamilyﾓ of military bases across the continent which will include major installations for special forces and Marines ﾒthat could be robustly usedﾓ both for major military interventions and to reinforce U.S. control of African oil. That oil is anticipated source of 25% of U.S. oil imports a decade from now. ﾒHostsﾓ for this new ﾒfamilyﾓ are to include Algeria , Mali , and Guinea (which has also been targeted as a source of oil), with Senegal and Uganda providing refueling installations for the Air Force.
And, Washington hasn't forgotten its own ﾒbackyard,ﾓ Latin America. Although Puerto Ricans prevailed in their fifty year struggle to close the base at Vieques, new military bases are now sprouting across the Andean nations, and the U.S. is increasingly militarizing the Caribbean.
This ﾒdiversifiedﾓ and unprecedented infrastructure is to be built on several conceptual pillars. U.S. forward deployed forces are to be organized along a three-tiered integrated structure: 1) major hub bases like those in Japan, Okinawa, Guam, Britain, Qatar, and Honduras; 2) smaller centers or ﾒForward Operating basesﾓ like those in South Korea, Diego Garcia, Kuwait, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan, and Australia; and 3) ﾒLilly padsﾓ that will serve as jumping off points in countries ranging from Lithuania to Tajikistan, and Djibouti to the Andean nations in South America The Pentagon will also be seeding the seas with floating arsenals and runways to reinforce its military interventions.
An important dimension of the restructuring campaign is to increase flexibility. Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their associates want total freedom of action. If Germany or another vassal state are reluctant to permit U.S. military bases and installations to be used for a given purpose, Rumsfeld's Pentagon wants be sure that it will have bases in other countries that they can turn to. Similarly, like Okinawa and South Korea, they want their military infrastructure to be able to serve multiple functions: for example, to deter Pyongyang while also being available for ﾒregime changeﾓ war, to influence Japanese and Korean foreign and domestic policy, or to assist U.S. military interventions across East Asia and, perhaps, again in the Persian Gulf.
Another important goal is to increase the speed that terrorizing and overwhelming violence can be brought to bear on a targeted nation. With forward deployed troops and munitions and with the new ﾒlily padﾓ bases, the goal is to be able to strike before the target of U.S. attack can prepare its defenses or, as in the case of Iraq, even develop a long term strategy of resistance.
POPULAR AND COORDINATED RESISTANCE
As the Afghan and Iraqi quagmires and President Bushﾕs now ridiculed aircraft carrier announcement of ﾒmission accomplishedﾓ in Iraq demonstrate, theory is not necessarily practice. Human factors, including peopleﾕs commitments to basic decency, to national self-determination, pride, and human solidarity have been known to intervene and to change the course of history.
A year ago, more than half a million U.S. Americans protested in New York City, opposing the threatened invasion of Iraq. Ours was one of many demonstrations that day that rallied ten million people across the planet in the worldﾕs largest peace demonstration. We did not prevent the invasion, but even the New York Times recognized that international public opinion had become the worldﾕs ﾒsecond superpower.ﾓ Those demonstrations and others that followed have limited U.S. war making possibilities and will mightily contribute to the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Today, the foci and energies of that movement have changed significantly. Much as in the early phases of the Vietnam War, we are searching for ways to gain access to and disseminate information about what is really happening in Iraq. We are working to link the anti-war movement with movements for economic and social justice. We are laboring to build unity among divergent forces in our movement: people primarily concerned about the Middle East, or the Philippines, or Colombia, Korea, foreign military bases, nuclear weapons, or the rights of minorities. We are identifying ways to take advantage of the opportunities, and to overcome the challenges, of organizing during an election year, while we look for meaningful ways to act in solidarity with peoplesﾕ struggles from Okinawa to Palestine. We continue to experiment with ways to transcend political differences that in our culture make it challenging for religious and secular activists, Marxists and Democrats; feminists, pacifists and anarchists to work collaboratively. And those of us who have just been energized by the World Social Forum in Mumbai will be bringing new perspectives and proposals back to our organizations and movements.
Several things are quite new in this generation of the U.S. peace movement. There is a growing recognition that the problem is not the aberration of (yet another) particular war, but as even the New York Times tells us, we are dealing with an Empire. Veterans groups, family members of soldiers sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and of 9-11 victims are playing leading roles in the U.S. peace movement. And, after decades of silence, mainstream celebrities are recording songs and speaking out against the war.
United for Peace and Justice, that largest and most democratic of the major U.S. peace and anti-war coalitions has adopted a schedule of actions for the coming year. It includes joining in the March 20 global day of protest against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, April 15 tax day demonstrations, nationally coordinated actions during the NPT Prep Comm meeting on May 1 to support of nuclear disarmament, late July protests at the Democratic National Convention and late August protests and the Republican Convention that will re-nominate George Bush, and a second National Assembly on December 10, Human Rights Day.
Organizations like the AFSC are taking on additional initiatives: sending delegations to Iraq, helping to build the Boston Social Forum that will proceed, the Democratic Partyﾕs national convention in Boston in July, educating about the dangers of U.S. Asia-Pacific militarism, collaborating with the European Network for Peace and Human Rights and the Asia Peace Assembly, and mobilizing to prevent additional funding for research and development of new nuclear weapons.
Friends, years ago the U.S. writer Ralph Ellison wrote that ﾒAll roads lead to the Golden Day.ﾓ That may not be entirely correct, but it is clear that there are no simple answers to the fundamental questions of how we rid Japan and Asia of U.S. military bases and how we end the U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations. The truth is that all empires eventually fall, and it is people who create and drive the forces of history, and that the Bush Administration has dangerously over reached the limits and capacities of U.S. power. Rather than sit back and wait for the unanticipated outrages and catastrophes that will provide us now openings, I look forward to the ideas, opportunities and projects that I trust will emerge in this discussions in this conference, and to working together in the years ahead.
With persistence and imagination, we will prevail.
* Dr. Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs and of the Peace and Economic Security Program of the American Friends Service Committee in New England. Additional materials can be found at www.afsc.org/pes.htm. He can be contacted at JGerson@afsc.org or at AFSC, 2161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Ma. 02140, USA
ﾒDefending the Iraqis, Newsweek, Jan. 12
Nicholas D. Kristof, ﾒThe God Gulfﾓ, New York Times, 1/7/04