Behind Biden’s Invocations of “Democracy,” US Military Prepares for Nuclear War
Andre Damon / World Socialist Web Site
(February 5, 2021) — US President Joe Biden’s first major speech on foreign policy, delivered at the State Department Thursday, was hailed as a sharp reversal of Trump’s thuggish and bullying relations with other countries.
In a speech dubbed by Foreign Policy magazine as a “Kinder, Gentler Spin on ‘America First,’” Biden called on the United States to “lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example.”
Unlike Trump, who made a point of never using the terms “democracy” and “human rights” in connection with US foreign policy, these words were liberally sprinkled throughout the speech. Biden declared America would “unite the world in fighting to defend democracy.”
He added that America would defend the rights of “women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, the people of every ethnic background and religion,” and so on and so forth.
With the world having teetered on the brink of a series of major wars throughout the Trump presidency, millions of people who voted for Joe Biden did so, among other reasons, because they believed he opposed the type of nuclear brinksmanship expressed in Trump’s threats to unleash “fire and fury” on North Korea.
But the military is making clear that the new administration will not change what many in the US foreign policy establishment see as the Trump White House’s signature policy: the massive buildup of the US military and, in particular, the US nuclear forces in preparation for what Trump’s 2018 national security strategy called “great-power competition.”
Writing in Proceedings, the magazine of the US Naval Institute, Adm. Charles A. Richard, the head of the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM), made clear that the United States nuclear buildup, begun under Obama and massively expanded under Trump, will continue.
“Nuclear employment is a very real possibility,” Richard bluntly declared, saying that the US must prepare for such a war.
“There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons,” he wrote. “Consequently, the U.S. military must shift its principal assumption from ‘nuclear employment is not possible’ to ‘nuclear employment is a very real possibility,’ and act to meet and deter that reality.”
Richard continued, “we must also accept the gauntlet of great power competition with our nuclear-capable peers.”
In 2016, the Obama administration initiated a massive expansion of the US nuclear forces, planning to spend a total of $1 trillion on nuclear weapons over the next three decades. As part of this program, the military initiated the development of a nuclear-tipped cruise missile, which experts warned was a “uniquely destabilizing type of weapon.”
The title of a report by Andrew F. Krepinevich — “Rethinking Armageddon” — summed up the madness of this campaign. The longtime Pentagon advisor said the United States had entered the “second nuclear age.”
The four years of the Trump administration saw one guardrail after another removed from Washington’s use of nuclear weapons.
In August 2019, the Trump administration withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty as part of its efforts to vastly expand the US arsenal of nuclear weapons and loosen restrictions on their use.
The INF treaty, signed over 30 years ago by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, banned a whole class of weapons that had vastly increased the risk of a nuclear conflict.
As part of the treaty, the two countries agreed to end all use and production of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (310 to 3,417 miles).
By December 2019, the US military had tested a nuclear missile that would have been banned under the treaty. In February of last year, the US deployed a new, smaller “usable” low-yield nuclear weapon.
The systematic buildup of nuclear forces was accompanied by the Trump administration’s constant threats to use them. In 2017, as Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” upon North Korea, Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly slept in his gym clothes every night so he would have a head start in case a war between the two nuclear-armed powers broke out.
In June 2019, Trump ordered the bombing of Iran from air and sea, only to call the attack off at the last moment. When, on January 3, 2020, Trump ordered the murder of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani in Iraq, Iran retaliated by sending cruise missiles at American bases, miraculously only injuring, but not killing, US troops.
For all his invocations of “democracy” and “human rights,” Biden accepts the entire framework of “great power competition” initiated by Trump in preparation for a major conflict with Russia or China.
Like former President Barack Obama, who sought to capitalize on opposition to the Iraq war but started US wars in Syria and Libya and massively expanded the US drone wars throughout the Middle East, Biden’s invocations of democratic ideals and “diplomacy” are nothing but a cover for a warmongering policy.
Under conditions of a global pandemic, in which more than 3,000 people are dying every day in the United States alone, the US ruling elites’ preparations for nuclear war are a testament to the utter madness and irrationality of the entire capitalist system.
2010: The US Scraps the INF Treaty: Another Step Toward Nuclear War
(February 2, 20210 — At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the world stood on the brink of nuclear annihilation, President John F. Kennedy told his brother Bobby, “If this planet is ever ravaged by nuclear war, if 300 million Americans, Russians and Europeans are wiped out by a 60-minute nuclear exchange, if the survivors of that devastation can then endure the fire, poison, chaos and catastrophe, I do not want one of those survivors to ask another, ‘How did it all happen?’ and to receive the incredible reply, ‘Ah, if only one knew.’”
Unbeknownst to President Kennedy, who was seeking to avoid a nuclear war, or his general staff, many of whom wanted to start one, such a war would have wiped out not 300 million, people but all of humanity.
The theory of nuclear winter, discovered in the mid-80s and subsequently accepted by scientific consensus, concludes that a full-scale nuclear war, as planned by the United States military, would render the entire planet uninhabitable for a century.
But it is precisely such a nuclear apocalypse that the United States is not just blindly stumbling toward, but directly preparing for. As a recent article in Foreign Affairs told its readers: “Prepare for Nuclear War.”
On Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the United States would suspend its compliance with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, a 1987 agreement between the Soviet Union (and subsequently Russia) and the United States that bans the deployment of missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The move makes almost inevitable the United States’ withdrawal from the other key global arms control agreement, the New START treaty, agreed between the United States and Russia in 2011, in what US President Trump called “one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration.”
Little need be said about the White House’s official justifications for leaving the treaty: that Russia is in violation of the treaty’s provisions, despite repeated offers by Moscow for not only the United States, but international authorities and journalists, to inspect its missiles. The White House’s allegations are echoed by people who do not believe them and left unquestioned by a media apparatus that functions as a mouthpiece for the military.
In an article that fully backs the White House’s accusations against Russia, the New York Times‘ David Sanger, a conduit for the Pentagon, spells out with perfect lucidity the real reasons why the United States is leaving the INF treaty:
“Constrained by the treaty’s provisions, the United States has been prevented from deploying new weapons to counter China’s efforts to cement a dominant position in the Western Pacific and keep American aircraft carriers at bay. China was still a small and unsophisticated military power when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of a rapidly-weakening Soviet Union, negotiated the INF agreement.”
Sanger’s own words make perfectly clear why the United States wants to leave the treaty, which has nothing to do with Russia’s alleged violations: Washington is seeking to ring the island chain surrounding the Chinese mainland with a hedge of nuclear missiles. But Sanger somehow expects, without so much as a transition paragraph, his readers to believe the hot air spewed by Pompeo about Russia’s “bad behavior.”
The US withdrawal from the INF treaty is not the result of Trump’s peculiar fondness for nuclear weapons. Rather, it is the outcome of a reorientation of the United States military toward “great-power” conflict with Russia and China.
Over the past two years, the American military establishment has grown increasingly alarmed at the rapidity of China’s technological development, which the United States sees as a threat not only to the profitability of its corporations, but the dominance of its military.
Two decades ago, at the height of the dotcom bubble, China was little more than a cheap labor platform, assembling the consumer electronics driving a revolution in communications, while American companies pocketed the vast bulk of the profits. But today, the economic balance of power is shifting.
Chinese companies like Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo are capturing an ever-greater portion of the global smartphone market, even as their rivals Samsung and Apple see their market share slip. The Shenzhen-based DJI is the uncontested global leader in the consumer drone market. Huawei, meanwhile, leads its competitors by over a year in the next-generation mobile infrastructure that will power not only driverless cars and “smart” appliances, but the “autonomous” weapons of the future.
As the latest US Worldwide Threat Assessment warns, “For 2019 and beyond, the innovations that drive military and economic competitiveness will increasingly originate outside the United States, as the overall US lead in science and technology shrinks” and “the capability gap between commercial and military technologies evaporates.”
It is the economic decline of the United States relative to its global rivals that is ultimately driving the intensification of US nuclear war plans. The United States hopes that, by leveraging its military, it will be able to contain the economic rise of China and shore up US preeminence on the world stage.
But a consensus is emerging within the US military that Washington cannot bring its rivals to heel merely with the threat of totally obliterating them with its massive arsenal of strategic missiles. Given the fleet of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines possessed by both Russia and China, this option, even ignoring the effects of nuclear winter, would result in the destruction of the largest cities in the United States.
Rather, the US is working to construct a “usable,” low-yield, “tactical” nuclear arsenal, including the construction of a new nuclear-capable cruise missile. This week, a new low-yield US nuclear warhead went into production, with a yield between half and one third of the “little boy” weapon that leveled the Japanese city of Hiroshima, and hundreds of times smaller than the United States’ other nuclear weapons systems.
The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released last year, envisions using such weapons to turn the tide in conflicts that begin with conventional weapons, under the pretense (whether the Pentagon believes it or not) that such wars will stop short of full-scale nuclear exchanges.
Nearly 75 years ago, the United States, after having “scorched and boiled and baked to death,” in the words of General Curtis Lemay, hundreds of thousands of civilians in a genocidal “strategic bombing” campaign over Japan, murdered hundreds of thousands more with the use of two nuclear weapons: an action whose primary aim was to threaten the USSR.
But ultimately, the continued existence of the Soviet Union served as a check on the genocidal impulses of US imperialism.
Despite the triumphalist claims that the dissolution of the Soviet Union would bring about a new era of peace, democracy and the “end of history,” it has brought only a quarter-century of neocolonial wars.
But the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria have not achieved their intended purpose. Having spent trillions of dollars and killed millions of people, the global position of US imperialism is no better than when it launched the “war on terror” in 2001.
Now, the United States is upping the ante: setting “great-power conflict” with Russia and China on the order of the day. In its existential struggle for global hegemony, US imperialism is going for broke, willing to employ the most reckless and desperate means, up to and including the launching of nuclear war.
There is no peaceful, capitalist road toward managing the global crisis that has erupted with such force and violence. If humanity is to survive the 21st century, it will take the intervention of the working class, the only social force capable of opposing the war aims of the capitalist ruling elites, through the struggle to reorganize society on a socialist basis.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Warns of “Civilization-ending Nuclear War”
(January 24, 2021) — On Wednesday, Congressman Adam Schiff, speaking from the Senate floor during the second day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, said “the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”
For most of the American population, the assertion that “we” are fighting Russia will come as a surprise.
For years, the media has laughed off the danger of a war between the United States and Russia or China as a “conspiracy theory.” But Schiff raised the United States fighting Russia not just as a possibility, but as a statement of present fact.
The United States and Russia each possesses over 6,000 nuclear weapons. Just a fraction of these is sufficient to kill billions of people and destroy human society. A war between these two countries, in other words, would be a cataclysmic disaster.
And yet, the entire political establishment, from the Democrats with their anti-Russian hysteria to Trump with his bullying threats against the whole world are preparing for military conflict on a scale not seen since World War II.
On Thursday, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which for more than seven decades has maintained a Doomsday Clock, warned that human civilization is closer to midnight, i.e., total destruction, than at any other period in history, including the Cuban Missile Crisis at the height of the Cold War.
“Civilization-ending nuclear war — whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication — is a genuine possibility,” the group said in its annual report. “Any belief that the threat of nuclear war has been vanquished is a mirage.”
The report adds, “To say the world is nearer to doomsday today than during the Cold War… is to make a profound assertion that demands serious explanation.”
It adds: “[T]he international political infrastructure for controlling existential risk is degrading, leaving the world in a situation of high and rising threat. Global leaders are not responding appropriately to reduce this threat level and counteract the hollowing-out of international political institutions, negotiations, and agreements that aim to contain it. The result is a heightened and growing risk of disaster.”
Last year, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which prohibited the deployment of land-based missiles, including nuclear missiles, with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
Led by the United States, the world’s nuclear powers are massively expanding and modernizing their arsenals. In December, the US tested a ballistic missile that would have violated the treaty.
These moves are part of US preparations for what Defense Secretary Mark Esper called “high-intensity conflicts against competitors such as Russia and China.”
The latest missile test came just days after House Democrats voted for a massive military spending bill that stripped out language limiting the Trump administration’s ability to develop and deploy new nuclear weapons, while handing the president the largest military budget in US history.
After withdrawing from the INF treaty in August, the Trump White House is moving rapidly ahead with a $1 trillion plan to expand, “modernize” and miniaturize the US nuclear arsenal, effectively putting US nuclear forces on a hair trigger.
The expansion of US nuclear forces is central to the Trump Administration’s refocus on preparations for “great-power conflict” with Russia and China, in line with its doctrine, announced in 2018, that “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security.”
Elbridge A. Colby, one of the principal authors of the National Defense Strategy published by the Pentagon in January of 2018, commented in Foreign Affairs:
When future historians look back at the actions of the United States in the early twenty-first century, by far the most consequential story will be the way Washington refocused its attention on great-power competition.
It was time to call a spade a spade. The Trump administration, more realistic and blunter than its predecessors, did just that. “Trump,” as Henry Kissinger pointed out in the Financial Times in 2018, “may be one of those figures in history who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.”
The US military has made clear that its overriding concern today is how to effectively defend the likes of Taiwan and the Baltic states against a potential Chinese or Russian attack.
It is clear that any such conflict risks escalation into nuclear war. Last year, Colby penned an article in Foreign Affairs titled, “If You Want Peace, Prepare for Nuclear War.” He wrote:
The risks of nuclear brinkmanship may be enormous, but so is the payoff from gaining a nuclear advantage over an opponent.
Any future confrontation with Russia or China could go nuclear… In a harder-fought, more uncertain struggle, each combatant may be tempted to reach for the nuclear saber to up the ante and test the other side’s resolve, or even just to keep fighting.
“The best way to avoid a nuclear war,” Colby continued, “is to be ready to fight a limited one.” In this dangerous world, “US officials” must demonstrate that “the United States is prepared to conduct limited, effective nuclear operations.”
All of these policies are mad, and the people advocating them are criminals. But the universality of these plans—the fact that every major power is rearming—makes clear that this is the insanity not of individuals, but of a social class and a social order. It symptomatic of a crisis-ridden capitalist system, which is the root cause of war and attacks on democratic rights.
But all over the world, the working class, the only social force capable of stopping the resurgence of capitalist barbarism, is engaged in a wave of strikes and social upheavals. It is urgently necessary for workers entering into struggle against social inequality to take up the fight against imperialist war as a critical and inseparable part of the fight for socialism.
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