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New US National Defense Strategy Is Again Offensive

By David Macilwain | American Herald Tribune | January 23, 2018

Last week “Mad Dog” Mattis announced a new US Defence Strategy, the first for a decade and with a radical change of focus, from fighting terrorism to fighting Russia and China. The US DoD put it like this:

“The National Defense Strategy seeks to implement the pillars of the National Security Strategy: peace through strength, the affirmation of America’s international role, the U.S. alliance and partnership structure and the necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power.”

According to Deputy Defense Secretary Elbridge A. Colby this strategy is necessitated because of:

“the erosion of U.S. military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, which, if unaddressed, could ultimately undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion and imperil the free and open order that we seek to underwrite with our alliance constellation.”

“The strategy aims at thwarting Chinese and Russian aggression and use of coercion and intimidation to advance their goals and harm U.S. interests, and specifically focuses on three key theaters: Europe, the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East, Colby said.”

Whether this is a new strategy or just a new declaration of the existing one depends on your point of view. In announcing it at the press conference Jim Mattis stressed the supposed shift from fighting terrorism to countering Russia and China, as well as their effective allies North Korea and Iran. Following hot on the heels of Tillerson’s confrontational outburst, and refusal to get out of Syria following the defeat of Islamic State, the sudden shift looks rather convenient – the US can now claim it must stay in Syria to counter Russia’s growing influence in the region.

What’s new!  Wasn’t this always the US plan, as laid out a decade earlier in “Which path to Persia?” – a plan that seems to be relentlessly moving forward despite all obstacles, including particularly international law?

While there have been a few setbacks in the US project to advance its goals around the globe against the interests of Russia and China and their allies, the escalation in aggressive US confrontations in those “key theatres” since Trump came to power makes nonsense of Colby’s claim that the new policy is “not a strategy of confrontation, but it is strategy that recognizes the reality of competition.”

Even if that were true, it only emphasizes the fundamental difference in approach between the great powers. Neither Russia nor China see competition or confrontation as their goals, leave alone the insulting and ludicrous “aggression, coercion and intimidation” which the US attributes to them. Faced with a rational and responsible partner rather than the expansionist and exceptionalist US, it is a desire for collaboration and co-existence that evidently motivate China and Russia, and also lie at the center of their own developing cooperation.

Symbolizing this difference – or rather conflict – between world views, is the ongoing dispute over the South China Sea. Just before Mattis announcement, the US sent a ship into the disputed waters as part of its “freedom of navigation” exercises, and received an immediate demand to leave from China, which has long lost patience with this serial provocation. In this area one of America’s “constellation” allies Australia is forced to take sides, and reveals itself as an accomplice to the ongoing Imperial crimes.

Despite Australia’s crucial economic dependence on China, its current government seems to be going out of its way in provoking and insulting Chinese leaders and representatives. As Mattis made his announcement, PM Malcolm Turnbull was in Japan visiting a missile defense base and talking about joint exercises and military cooperation. Australia also took part in the provocative exercises against North Korea with the US and South Korea at a time of high tension last year, despite Russian and Chinese warnings against them.

And when it comes to the South China Sea issue, it must be pointed out that China’s legitimate concerns are to maintain the freedom of navigation through its main transport artery to the West and Australia. Given the US coalition’s participation in exercises simulating a blockade of these channels it’s not hard to see and support China’s defensive stand on this issue.

Part of the “new strategy” in the Indo-Pacific is also likely to be an expansion of the US presence and bases in Australia. “In the new security environment” – whatever that is – the stationing of US strategic bombers in Northern Australia is now being proposed. Along with the massive regional US surveillance base in Pine Gap, nuclear-armed bombers will make us a prime target for one of China’s ICBMs, so no doubt we’ll also be getting THAAD missile defense systems.

On reflection it appears that the “new” US “National Defense” Strategy is little more than the one pursued fifty years ago against the Soviets and the Chinese Communists. Fifteen years of the “Global war on Terror”, culminating with the scourge of “Islamic State” was just means to the same end, and can now be discarded.

The tragedy is that with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jing Ping we really had a chance for diplomacy, law and peace to prevail.

*(Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis announces the National Defense Strategy at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Jan. 19. Image credit: DoD photo/ Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm/ flickr)

January 24, 2018 - Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. An exceptional overview; thank you! (I use “exceptional” deliberately…the US, on the other hand and by any reasonable/rational measure, is oceans and light years removed from being “exceptional.”)

    “The tragedy is that with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jing Ping we really had a chance for diplomacy, law and peace to prevail.” Amen.

    Comment by roberthstiver | January 24, 2018 | Reply


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