Like the self-proclaimed French revolutionary who cried, upon seeing a mob the street: “I must find out where it is going because I am its leader,” US President Joe Biden claims that the US must lead the world. How does he plan to do that? By spending trillions more on weapons to prevent the rise of China as a rival economic and military power.
These and other similarly grandiose prescriptions are contained in Biden’s National Security Strategy document released on October 12. Every American president feels he (there have been no ‘shes’ as America’s presidents so far!) must outline a grand vision not only for his own country but also the rest of the world. After all, they claim to be rulers of the world and know what is best for them. The 48-page document is full of such assertions that seem totally detached from reality.
Keeping America strong, presumably by undermining rival powers from getting stronger, the NSS asserts that the US must “proactively shape the international order in line with our interests and values.” What are these “interests and values”? Robbing other countries of their natural resources at throw-away prices to satiate America’s rapacious appetite for unbridled consumption is what passes off for American interests.
Its “values” include torturing innocent people in such locations as Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and Bagram (the last two have now been closed), and using drones to kill suspects—yes, mere suspects—in distant lands. True, American officials insist they don’t do torture. They only subject victims to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, such as waterboarding, prolonged sleep deprivation, slamming them against hard objects like a wall, and holding victims in stressful positions for prolonged periods.
The major thrust of the NSS prescription is to undermine China economically and militarily. Beijing has replaced “terrorism” and Russia as major threats to US hegemony. While Russia is still there among the villains that the US must contain, it is no longer seen as a major threat. It is a middle-level economic power.
So, how does the US plan to undermine China? The NSS document outlines several strategies. First, there must be “strategic public investments in America’s workforce, and in strategic sectors and supply chains, especially critical and emerging technologies, such as microelectronics, advanced computing, biotechnologies, clean energy technologies, and advanced telecommunications.”
This is a clear admission of the fact that the US is far too dependent on Chinese goods especially microelectronics. Similarly, over several decades, American corporations have outsourced consumer goods production to China where relatively cheap labour facilitates increased profits. Capitalism is about profit, not patriotism. If China were to stop selling cheap goods to the US, Walmart, J C Penny and many other stores would shut down laying off millions of workers. America has lost the competitive edge.
Second, the US relies on such militarily coercive organizations as NATO whose eastward expansion forced Russia to launch its ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine last February. Finland and Sweden will soon become full members of the military alliance.
The US has also cobbled together other alliances—Quad, AUKUS, the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity. There is also the I2-U2, an economic alliance that brings together such an odd assortment as Israel and India (I2), and the US and the United Arab Emirates (U2).
The Quad, comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia, has been a roaring failure. This has necessitated the formation of AUKUS (Australia, UK and US). Will it fare any better? It is doubtful because countries look for their own interests and they have realized that the US is a waning power, no longer commanding much respect globally. Take the case of Saudi Arabia and the UAE that refused to increase oil production despite pleas from Washington. On the contrary, they cut production on October 5 following the OPEC-plus decision.
The Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity comprises a long list of countries many of whom have little in common. It includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. India, that is both a member of Quad and this latest alliance formed in May 2022, is also a member of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and BRICS.
India is doing brisk business with Russia purchasing oil from it at discounted prices and reselling on the international market for a tidy profit. Will Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore or Thailand fight China to advance the American agenda?
The third plank of Washington’s ‘China containment policy’ is massive increase in military spending to produce more lethal weapons, including nuclear weapons. The arms manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank. America’s annual military budget of $813 billion will be surpassed many times over, raking in billions more in profits for the merchants of death.
War, and the weapons to wage it, is a racket. Not only are huge profits made but there is immense opportunity for theft without any accounting.
According to Brown University’s Watson Institute, “Pentagon spending has totaled over $14 trillion since the start of the war in Afghanistan [October 2001], with one-third to one-half of the total going to military contractors.” That is more than half the total GDP of the US.
Five major arms corporations—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman—received one-quarter to one-third of all Pentagon contracts in recent years. “The $75 billion in Pentagon contracts received by Lockheed Martin in fiscal year 2020 is well over one and one-half times the entire budget for the State Department and Agency for International Development for that year, which totaled $44 billion,” says the Brown University study.
Not surprisingly, “weapons makers have spent $2.5 billion on lobbying over the past two decades, employing, on average, over 700 lobbyists per year over the past five years. That is more than one for every member of Congress.” America has the best democracy money can buy, as Greg Palast helpfully reminds us!
Lobbying is a soft word for bribery. By paying congressmen and women, arms manufacturers also prevent any investigation of their corrupt practices. “In 2011, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated that waste, fraud and abuse had totaled between $31 billion and $60 billion.” This, it must be pointed out, is over and above the money spent in acquiring weapons.
Brown University’s study clearly put the finger on what is behind the exaggerated claims of the military challenges posed by China. These “have become the new rationale of choice in arguments for keeping the Pentagon budget at historically high levels. Military contractors will continue to profit from this inflated spending.”
Biden is complicit—like his predecessors—in stealing American taxpayers’ money to funnel to weapons makers by manufacturing artificial crises. Trillions of dollars spent on wars prevents investment in other sectors of the economy—infrastructure development, healthcare and education, for instance—thus depriving Americans of a decent living.