Monday, February 6, 2012

Duelling with China - the subtext of Obama's wars

Around this time last year, Anders Fogh Rasmussen posed as a man of peace. “There can be no justification for anyone, political movement or state, to perpetrate violence deliberately targeting civilians,” the NATO secretary-general said in an interview with the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz.

If Rasmussen was true to his words, he would be handing himself into the police. A new report by several organisations has presented evidence indicating that NATO categorised civilian areas of Libya as military targets. Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, who helped prepare the report following a visit to Libya, concluded “we have reason to think that there were some war crimes perpetrated”, identifying NATO’s killing of 47 non-combatants in Sirte during September 2011 as an incident of particular concern.

The truth is that Rasmussen is too busy with high politics to fret about the little people of Libya. Near the top of his “to do” list is the preparation of a summit in Chicago slated for May.

Hosting the event in his adopted hometown, Barack Obama will more than likely use the occasion to boost his prospects of re-election by illustrating how the US controls the alliance and is adamant that it continues doing so. The only caveat I wish to add to this prediction is that Obama may be slightly more nuanced in his choice of words.

“Smart defence”

My forecast is based on two documents published in January (as well as America’s general belligerence).

NATO’s annual report says that “smart defence” will be the hot topic in the Windy City. In his preface, Rasmussen implies that “smart defence” involves making the kind of planes and weapons supplied by the US to attack Libya more available to other members of the alliance. In keeping with these straitened times, it is a question of “doing better with less by working more together,” he wrote.

It would be naive to think that “smart defence” will mean any loosening of America’s iron grip over NATO.

The second document aiding me as an amateur clairvoyant comes from the Pentagon and is called “Sustaining US Global Leadership”. Despite containing some mollifying language about finding “partners” throughout the world, this tract effectively threatens both China and Iran with military action. “Sophisticated adversaries”, it warns, will “complicate our operational calculus” by means ranging from cyber warfare to ballistic missiles.

A wet dream for prospectors

The provocative talk is not confined to the Pentagon. In 2010, Hilary Clinton declared that the US had a “national interest” in the South China Sea. “National interest” is a synonym for “economic interest”; with its vast amounts of unexploited gas and oil, the South China Sea is one big wet dream for prospectors.

Duelling with China should be seen as either a key factor behind or the subtext to the wars Obama has inherited, as well as the fresh ones he has initiated or appears intent on declaring (under pressure from his clients in Israel and the Zionist lobby at home).

Trade magazines for the energy industry have been commenting lately about China’s increasing involvement in Central Asia. A gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and China opened in 2009 and has been extended to carry gas from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

All of those countries are in the same neighbourhood as Afghanistan. The official narrative holds that America and NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan is purely a response to how the Taliban sheltered Osama bin Laden. More quietly, the West’s marauders have been plotting to get their paws on Central Asia’s resources.

Shortly before his death in 2010, the diplomat and businessman Richard Holbrooke was examining ways of increasing energy cooperation between Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Considering Holbrooke’s track record, it’s impossible to believe he undertook that work for benevolent reasons; in the 1970s, the same Holbrooke helped keep up the flow of arms to Suharto’s regime in Indonesia. Holbrooke was unperturbed by the likelihood those weapons would assist the genocide being undertaken in East Timor; rather, his assessment was that the US needed to have cordial relations with Indonesia because it was an “important oil producer”.

Attacking any “enemy”, any time

After the Pentagon issued its aforementioned paper, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta bragged about a “bunker-buster” bomb assembled for the US military by Boeing. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Panetta said the purpose of this Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) is to “be able to get at any enemy, anywhere”.

His words are indicative of how there has been no change in mindset between the Bush and Obama administrations on foreign policy. As Tariq Ali wrote in his book The Obama Syndrome, the only differences have been in “diplomatic mood music”.

Later this month George W Bush will be decorated with the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, Estonia’s highest civil award. Why? Because he helped the country join NATO in 2004.

Estonia is one of 13 former Soviet republics so far used by NATO as transit routes to bring troops and equipment to Afghanistan. Obama wants to go a step further; in the past few weeks, he has promised to support Georgia’s bid for full NATO membership.

The consequence of NATO expansion is that Russia is encircled by its Cold War foe. Just as Russia is feeling the heat, the US is stoking the fires of animosity towards China.

Many of us wept the night Obama was elected. There’s no point in shedding new tears of disappointment. Rage is a better response.

●First published by New Europe, 5-11 February 2012.

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