Amid all the alleged threats to the world’s reigning superpower, one rival is
quietly, forcefully emerging: China. And the U.S. is closely scrutinizing China’s intentions.
On August 13, a Pentagon study expressed concern that China is expanding its military
forces in ways that “could deny the ability of American warships to operate in international waters off the coast,”
Thom Shanker reports in The New York Times.
Washington is alarmed that “China’s lack of openness about the growth,
capabilities and intentions of its military injects instability to a vital region of the globe.”
The U.S., on the other hand, is quite open about its intention to operate freely throughout
the “vital region of the globe” surrounding China (as elsewhere).
The U.S. advertises its vast capacity to do so: with
a growing military budget that roughly matches the rest of the world combined, hundreds of military bases across the globe,
and a huge lead in the technology of destruction and domination.
China’s lack of understanding of the rules of international civility was illustrated
by its objections to the plan for the advanced nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington to take part in the
U.S.-South Korea military exercises near China’s coast in July, with the alleged capacity to strike Beijing.
By contrast, the West understands that such U.S. operations are all undertaken to defend
stability and its own security.
The term “stability” has a technical meaning
in discourse on international affairs: ”domination
by the U.S”. Thus no eyebrows
are raised when James Chace, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explains that in order to achieve “stability”
in Chile in 1973, it was necessary to “destabilize” the country—by overthrowing the elected government of
President Salvador Allende and installing the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, which proceeded to slaughter and torture
with abandon and to set up a terror network that helped install similar regimes elsewhere, with U.S. backing, in the interest
of stability and security.
It is routine to recognize that U.S. security requires absolute control. The premise
was given a scholarly imprimatur by historian John Lewis Gaddis of Yale University in “Surprise, Security, and the American
Experience,” in which he investigates the roots of President George W. Bush’s preventive war doctrine.
The operative principle is that expansion is “the path to security,” a
doctrine that Gaddis admiringly traces back almost two centuries—to President John Quincy Adams, the intellectual author
of Manifest Destiny.
When Bush warned “that Americans must `be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary
to defend our liberty and to defend our lives,”’ Gaddis observes, “he was echoing an old tradition rather
than establishing a new one,” reiterating principles that presidents from Adams to Woodrow Wilson “would all have
understood … very well.”
Likewise Wilson’s successors, to the present. President Bill Clinton’s
doctrine was that the U.S. is entitled to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies
and strategic resources,” with no need even to concoct pretexts of the Bush II variety.
According to Clinton’s defense secretary, William Cohen, the U.S. therefore must
keep huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions
about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security.” This prescription for
permanent war is a new strategic doctrine, military historian Andrew Bacevich observes, later amplified by Bush II and President
As every Mafia don knows, even the slightest loss of control might lead to unraveling
of the system of domination as others are encouraged to follow a similar path.
This central principle of power is formulated as the “domino theory,” in
the language of policy-makers, which translates in practice to the recognition that the “virus” of successful
independent development might “spread contagion” elsewhere, and therefore must be destroyed while potential plague
victims are inoculated, usually by brutal dictatorships.
According to the Pentagon study, China’s military budget expanded to an estimated
$150 billion in 2009, approaching “one-fifth of what the Pentagon spent to operate and carry out the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan” in that year, which is only a fraction of the total U.S. military budget, of course.
The United States’ concerns are understandable, if one takes into account the
virtually unchallenged assumption that the U.S. must maintain “unquestioned power” over much of the world, with
“military and economic supremacy,” while ensuring the “limitation of any exercise of sovereignty”
by states that might interfere with its global designs.
These were the principles established by high-level planners and foreign policy experts
during World War II, as they developed the framework for the post-war world, which was largely implemented.
The U.S. was to maintain this dominance in a “Grand Area,” which was to
include at a minimum the Western hemisphere, the Far East and the former British empire, including the crucial energy resources
of the Middle East.
As Russia began to grind down Nazi armies after Stalingrad, Grand Area goals extended
to as much of Eurasia as possible. It was always understood that Europe might choose to follow an independent course—perhaps
the Gaullist vision of a Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was partially intended
to counter this threat, and the issue remains very much alive today as NATO is expanded to a U.S.-run intervention
force responsible for controlling the “crucial infrastructure” of the global energy system on which the West relies.
Since becoming the world-dominant power during World
War II, the U.S. has sought to maintain a system of global control. But that project is not easy to sustain. The system
is visibly eroding, with significant implications for the future. China is an increasingly influential player—and challenger.
This is the first of two columns by Noam Chomsky about China. The second will appear
at InTheseTimes.com on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
© The New York Times News Service/Syndicate
Part ii of this by Noam Chomsky
Views » October 5, 2010 » Web
China’s Growing Independence and the New World Order
Of all the “threats” to world order, the
most consistent is democracy, unless it is under imperial control, and more generally, the assertion of independence.
These fears have guided imperial power throughout history.
In South America, Washington’s traditional backyard, the subjects are increasingly
disobedient. Their steps toward independence advanced further in February with the formation of the Community of Latin American
and Caribbean States, which includes all states in the hemisphere apart from the U.S. and Canada.
For the first time since the Spanish and Portuguese conquests 500 years ago,
South America is moving toward integration, a prerequisite to independence. It is also beginning
to address the internal scandal of a continent that is endowed with rich resources but dominated by tiny islands of wealthy
elites in a sea of misery.
Furthermore, South-South relations are developing, with China playing a leading role,
both as a consumer of raw materials and as an investor. Its influence is growing rapidly and has surpassed the United States’
in some resource-rich countries.
More significant still are changes in Middle Eastern arena. Sixty years ago, the influential
planner A. A. Berle advised that controlling the region’s incomparable energy resources would yield “substantial
control of the world.”
Correspondingly, loss of control would threaten the project of global dominance. By
the 1970s, the major producers nationalized their hydrocarbon reserves, but the West retained substantial influence. In 1979,
Iran was “lost” with the overthrow of the shah’s dictatorship, which had been imposed by a U.S.-U.K. military
coup in 1953 to ensure that this prize would remain in the proper hands.
By now, however, control is slipping away even among the traditional U.S. clients.
The largest hydrocarbon reserves are in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. dependency ever since
the U.S. displaced Britain there in a mini-war conducted during World War II. The U.S. remains by far the largest investor
in Saudi Arabia and its major trading partner, and Saudi Arabia helps support the U.S. economy via investments.
However, more than half of Saudi oil exports now go to Asia, and its plans for growth
face east. The same may be turn out to be true of Iraq, the country with the second-largest reserves, if it can rebuild from
the massive destruction of the murderous U.S.-U.K. sanctions and the invasion. And U.S. policies are driving Iran, the third
major producer, in the same direction.
China is now the largest importer of Middle Eastern oil and the largest exporter to
the region, replacing the United States. Trade relations are growing fast, doubling in the past five years.
The implications for world order are significant, as is the quiet rise of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization, which includes much of Asia but has banned the U.S.—potentially “a new energy cartel
involving both producers and consumers,” observes economist Stephen King, author of Losing Control: The Emerging
Threats to Western Prosperity.
In Western policy-making circles and among political commentators, 2010 is called “the
year of Iran.” The Iranian threat is considered to pose the greatest danger to world order and to be the primary focus
of U.S. foreign policy, with Europe trailing along politely as usual. It is officially recognized that the threat is not military:
Rather, it is the threat of independence.
To maintain “stability” the U.S. has imposed harsh sanctions on Iran,
but outside of Europe, few are paying attention. The nonaligned countries—most of the world—have
strongly opposed U.S. policy toward Iran for years.
Nearby Turkey and Pakistan are constructing new pipelines
to Iran, and trade is increasing. Arab public opinion is so enraged by Western policies that a majority even favor Iran’s
development of nuclear weapons.
The conflict benefits China. “China’s investors and traders are now
filling a vacuum in Iran as businesses from many other nations, especially in Europe, pull out,” Clayton Jones reports
in The Christian Science Monitor. In particular, China is expanding its dominant role in Iran’s
Washington is reacting with a touch of desperation. In August, the State Department
warned that “If China wants to do business around the world it will also have to protect its own reputation, and if
you acquire a reputation as a country that is willing to skirt and evade international responsibilities that will have a long-term
impact … their international responsibilities are clear”—namely, to follow U.S. orders.
Chinese leaders are unlikely to be impressed by such talk, the language of an
imperial power desperately trying to cling to authority it no longer has. A far greater threat to
imperial dominance than Iran is China’s refusing to obey orders—and indeed, as a major and growing power, dismissing
them with contempt.
This is the second of two columns by Noam Chomsky about China. In These Times
published the first, “China and the New World Order,” in September.
© The New York Times News Service/Syndicate