Two Russian nuclear-armed bombers circled the western Pacific island of Guam this week in the latest sign of Moscow’s growing strategic assertiveness toward the United States.
The Russian Tu-95 Bear-H strategic bombers were equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and were followed by U.S. jets as they circumnavigated Guam on Feb. 12 local time—hours before President Barack Obama’s state of the union address.
Air Force Capt. Kim Bender, a spokeswoman for the Pacific Air Force in Hawaii, confirmed the incident to the Washington Free Beacon and said Air Force F-15 jets based on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, “scrambled and responded to the aircraft.”
“The Tu-95s were intercepted and left the area in a northbound direction. No further actions occurred,” she said. Bender said no other details would be released “for operational security reasons.”
The bomber incident was considered highly unusual. Russian strategic bombers are not known to have conducted such operations in the past into the south Pacific from bomber bases in the Russian Far East, which is thousands of miles away and over water.
John Bolton, former U.N. ambassador and former State Department international security undersecretary, said the Russian bomber flights appear to be part of an increasingly threatening strategic posture in response to Obama administration anti-nuclear policies.
“Every day brings new evidence that Obama’s ideological obsession with dismantling our nuclear deterrent is dangerous,” Bolton said. “Our national security is in danger of slipping off the national agenda even as the threats grow.”
Defense officials said the bombers tracked over Guam were likely equipped with six Kh-55 or Kh-55SM cruise missiles that can hit targets up to 1,800 miles away with either a high-explosive warhead or a 200-kiloton nuclear warhead.
The F-15s that intercepted the bombers were based at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and were deployed to Guam for the ongoing annual Exercise Guahan Shield 2013.
Two U.S. B-2 strategic bombers were deployed to Guam in late January and last fall advanced F-22 fighter bombers were temporarily stationed on the island. Three nuclear-powered attack submarines and the Global Hawk long-range drone also are based in Guam.
About 200 Marines currently are training on the island. Earlier news reports stated that Japanese and Australian military jets joined U.S. jets in the Guam exercises.
Guam is one of the key strategic U.S. military bases under the Obama administration’s new “pivot” to Asia policy. As a result, it is a target of China and North Korea. Both have missiles capable of hitting the island, located about 1,700 miles east of the Philippines in the Mariana island chain.
This week’s bomber flights are a sign the Russians are targeting the island as well, one defense official said.
Guam also plays a key role in the Pentagon’s semi-secret strategy called the Air-Sea Battle Concept designed to counter what the Pentagon calls China’s anti-access and area denial weapons—precision guided missiles, submarines, anti-satellite weapons, and other special warfighting capabilities designed to prevent the U.S. military from defending allies or keeping sea lanes open in the region.
Defense officials disclosed the incident to the Free Beacon and said the Russian bomber flights appeared to be a strategic message from Moscow timed to the president’s state of the union speech.
“They were sending a message to Washington during the state of the union speech,” one official said.
The bomber flights also coincided with growing tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku islands. A Chinese warship recently increased tensions between Beijing and Tokyo by using targeting radar against a Japanese warship.
The U.S. military has said it would defend Japan in any military confrontation with China over the Senkakus. The bomber flights appear to signal Russian support for China in the dispute.
Meanwhile, Obama on Wednesday telephoned Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reiterate U.S. nuclear assurances to its ally following North Korea’s third detonation of an underground nuclear device.
A White House statement said the president told Abe, who visits Washington next week, that the United States “remains steadfast in its defense commitments to Japan, including the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.”
“It shows that the Russians, like the Chinese, are not just going to sit idly by and watch the United States ‘pivot’ or ‘rebalance’ its forces toward Asia,” said former State Department security official Mark Groombridge.
“One could argue the Russians were poking a bit of fun at the Obama Administration, seeing how they flew these long-range bombers close to Guam on the same day as the state of the union address,” he said.
“But the broader implications are more profound,” said Groombridge, now with the private strategic intelligence firm LIGNET. “The Russians are clearly sending a signal that they consider the Pacific an area of vital national strategic interest and that they still have at least some power projection capabilities to counterbalance against any possible increase in U.S. military assets in the region.”
Airspace violations by Russian Su-27 jets triggered intercepts by Japanese fighters near Japan’s Hokkaido Island last week. The Feb. 7. incident prompted protests from Tokyo and took place near disputed territory claimed by both countries since the end of World War II.
The Russian air incursion around Guam was the third threatening strategic bomber incident since June. On July 4th, two Bear H’s operated at the closest point to the United States that a Russian bomber has flown since the Soviet Union routinely conducted such flights.
The July bomber flights near California followed an earlier incident in June when two Bear H’s ran up against the air defense zone near Alaska as part of large-scale strategic exercises that Moscow said involved simulated attacks on U.S. missile defense bases. The Pentagon operates missile defense bases in Alaska and California.
Those flights triggered the scrambling of U.S. and Canadian interceptor jets as well.
The bomber flights near Alaska violated a provision of the 2010 New START arms treaty that requires advance notification of exercises involving strategic nuclear bombers.
Military spokesmen sought to play down the June and July incidents as non-threatening, apparently reflecting the Obama administration’s conciliatory “reset” policy toward Russia that seeks better relations by tamping down criticism of Moscow, despite growing anti-U.S. sentiments and policies from the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey questioned his Russian counterpart, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, during a meeting at the Pentagon July 12th.
The latest Russian nuclear saber rattling through bomber flights comes as the Obama administration is planning a new round of strategic arms reduction talks with Russia. State Department arms official Rose Gottemoeller was recently in Moscow for arms discussions.
The president was expected to announce plans to cut U.S. nuclear forces by an additional one-third in a new round of arms reduction efforts with Moscow.
However, the president did not announce the plans and said only during his state of the union speech that he plans further arms cuts.
“Building Guam as a strategic hub has played a critical role in balancing U.S. security interests in responding to and cooperating with China as well as in shaping China’s perceptions and conduct,” wrote Government Accountability Office analyst Shirley A. Kan in a September 2012 report.
“Since 2000, the U.S. military has been building up forward-deployed forces on the westernmost U.S. territory of Guam to increase U.S. presence, deterrence, and power projection for potential responses to crises and disasters, counterterrorism, and contingencies in support of South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, or elsewhere in Asia.”
AND……… Speaking of ALLEGED METEORS:
Well, people *can* take protective measures if they are warned a
bit in advance of a possible meteorite strike. They can get away
from windows to avoid flying glass. They can take shelter in a
central room on the lowest floor of a building. And certainly,
everyone should start filling plastic and glass bottles with tap water,
and purchase canned sardines, salmon, tuna fish, chicken, canned
beans, dried lentils, barley, etc.
Notice that RT (Russian Television) is warning us of another meteor
threat, *not* our U.S. television networks. In fact, our own Gov't,
NASA, is lying to us, right through your TV screen -- telling us:
"Oh, that asteroid pass and that meteorite strike are unrelated, folks.
Just a coincidence."
We should all realize that politicians and television are *not* going to
warn you in advance of a meteorite strike. The money powers who
own and control politicians and the TV networks will not alert the public.
They do not want to disturb their stock market.
By Spengler http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/NK27Dj02.html It is symptomatic of the national condition of the United States that the worst humiliation ever suffered by it as a nation, and by a US president personally, passed almost without comment last week. I refer to the November 20 announcement at a summit meeting in Phnom Penh that 15 Asian nations, comprising half the world’s population, would form a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership excluding the United States.
President Barack Obama attended the summit to sell a US-based Trans-Pacific Partnership excluding China. He didn’t. The American led-partnership became a party to which no-one came.
Instead, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, will form a club and leave out the United States. As 3 billion Asians become prosperous, interest fades in the prospective contribution of 300 million Americans – especially when those Americans decline to take risks on new technologies. America’s great economic strength, namely its capacity to innovate, exists mainly in memory four years after the 2008 economic crisis.
A minor issue in the election campaign, the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative was the object of enormous hype on the policy circuit. Salon.com enthused on October 23,
This agreement is a core part of the “Asia pivot” that has occupied the activities of think tanks and policymakers in Washington but remained hidden by the tinsel and confetti of the election. But more than any other policy, the trends the TPP represents could restructure American foreign relations, and potentially the economy itself.
As it happened, this grand, game-changing vision mattered only to the sad, strange people who concoct policy in the bowels of the Obama administration. America’s relative importance is fading.
To put these matters in context: the exports of Asian countries have risen more than 20% from their peak before the 2008 economic crisis, while Europe’s exports have fallen by more than 20%. American exports have risen marginally (by about 4%) from their pre-2008 peak.
Exhibit 1: Asian, European and US exports
China’s exports to Asia, meanwhile, have jumped 50% since their pre-crisis peak, while exports to the United States have risen by about 15%. At US$90 billion, Chinese exports to Asia are three times the country’s exports to the United States.
After months and dire (and entirely wrong) predictions that China’s economy faces a hard landing, it is evident that China will have no hard landing, nor indeed any landing at all. Domestic consumption as well as exports to Asia are both running nearly 20% ahead of last year’s levels, compensating for weakness in certain export markets and the construction sector. Exports to the moribund American economy are stagnant.
Exhibit 2: China’s exports to Asia vs USA
In 2002, China imported five times as much from Asia as it did from the United States. Now it imports 10 times as much from Asia as from the US.
Exhibit 3: Chinese imports from the US and Asia
Following the trade patterns, Asian currencies began trading more closely with China’s renminbi than with the American dollar. Arvind Subramanian and Martin Kessler wrote in an October 2012 study for the Peterson Institute:
A country’s rise to economic dominance tends to be accompanied by its currency becoming a reference point, with other currencies tracking it implicitly or explicitly. For a sample comprising emerging market economies, we show that in the last two years, the renminbi (RMB/yuan) has increasingly become a reference currency which we define as one which exhibits a high degree of co-movement (CMC) with other currencies.
In East Asia, there is already a RMB bloc, because the RMB has become the dominant reference currency, eclipsing the dollar, which is a historic development. In this region, 7 currencies out of 10 co-move more closely with the RMB than with the dollar, with the average value of the CMC relative to the RMB being 40% greater than that for the dollar. We find that co-movements with a reference currency, especially for the RMB, are associated with trade integration.
We draw some lessons for the prospects for the RMB bloc to move beyond Asia based on a comparison of the RMB’s situation today and that of the Japanese yen in the early 1990s. If trade were the sole driver, a more global RMB bloc could emerge by the mid-2030s but complementary reforms of the financial and external sector could considerably expedite the process.
All of this is well known and exhaustively discussed. The question is what, if anything, the United States will do about it.
Where does the United States have a competitive advantage? Apart from commercial aircraft, power-generating equipment, and agriculture, it has few areas of real industrial pre-eminence. Cheap natural gas helps low-value-added industries such as fertilizer, but the US is lagging in the industrial space.
Four years ago, when Francesco Sisci and I proposed a Sino-American monetary agreement as an anchor for trade integration, the US still dominated the nuclear power plant industry. With the sale of the Westinghouse nuclear power business to Toshiba, and Toshiba’s joint ventures with China to build power plants locally, that advantage has evaporated.
The problem is that Americans have stopped investing in the sort of high-tech, high-value-added industries that produce the manufactures that Asia requires. Manufacturers’ capital goods orders are 38% below the 1999 peak after taking inflation into account. And venture capital allocations for high-tech manufacturing have dried up.
Exhibit 4: Venture capital allocations for export-related industries collapse (March 2003=100)
Source: National Venture Capital Association
Exhibit 5: US capital goods orders nearly 40% below 1999 peak in real terms
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Without innovation and investment, all the trade agreements that the Washington policy circuit can devise won’t help. Neither, it should be added, will an adjustment in exchange rates.
It is hard to fathom just what President Obama had in mind when he arrived in Asia bearing a Trans-Pacific Partnership designed to keep China out. What does the United States have to offer Asians?
It is borrowing $600 billion a year from the rest of the world to finance a $1.2 trillion government debt, most prominently from Japan (China has been a net seller of Treasury securities during the past year).
It is a taker of capital rather than a provider of capital.
It is a major import market but rapidly diminishing in relative importance as intra-Asian trade expands far more rapidly than trade with the United States.
And America’s strength as an innovator and incubator of entrepreneurs has diminished drastically since the 2008 crisis, no thanks to the Obama administration, which imposed a steep task on start-up businesses in the form of its healthcare program.Washington might want to pivot towards Asia. At Phnom Penh, though, Asian leaders in effect invited Obama to pivot the full 360 degrees and go home.
(Reuters) – Police in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan will board and search ships which enter into what China considers its territorial waters in the disputed South China Sea, state media said on Thursday, a move which could raise tensions further.
The South China Sea is Asia’s biggest potential military trouble spot with several Asian countries claiming sovereignty.
New rules, which come into effect on January 1, will allow Hainan police to board and seize control of foreign ships which “illegally enter” Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing, the official China Daily reported.
“Activities such as entering the island province’s waters without permission, damaging coastal defense facilities and engaging in publicity that threatens national security are illegal,” the English-language newspaper said.
“If foreign ships or crew members violate regulations, Hainan police have the right to take over the ships or their communication systems, under the revised regulations,” it added.
(Reuters) – China’s military buildup poses no threat to the world, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said on Tuesday, in an effort to allay fears among Asian neighbors amid long-running maritime disputes.
The United States, Japan and many other Southeast Asian states have frequently expressed worries about China’s double-digit defense spending increases and expanding naval reach, saying Beijing’s plans lack transparency.
“There is absolutely no need for that,” Liang told Reuters, when asked about neighbors’ concerns.
“The Chinese military must develop, but there’s no ‘worry’ or ‘fear’ as the outside world says,” he said before a meeting with visiting U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “That’s not what China is about.”
China’s growing military influence has coincided with a more assertive diplomatic tone, evident in rows with Japan and Southeast Asia over disputed islands. China has also told the United States, with President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia, not to get involved.
Liang, speaking at China’s Defense Ministry, stressed the need for cooperation between Beijing and Washington, which has called on China to share more about its military ambitions.
“We should develop the ties between us, between our two militaries, touch on some of our differences, resolve conflicting views,” Liang said before meeting Mabus.
Summary: Temporary blackouts leave China’s Internet users unable to access many Chinese Web sites as well as other unblocked foreign sites. Chinese Telecoms deny any network issues.
At approximately 11am local time yesterday, Internet users around China reported significant Internet blackouts. Not only were they unable to access some Chinese sites, but also many foreign Web sites that had not previously been blocked.
The issue was not isolated to China. Web users in Hong Kong and Japan also reported issues with accessing Chinese sites. A number of explanations immediately came to light, with the most viable cause being the 8.7 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia on Wednesday, that might have damaged undersea cables.
However, reports from China’s major telecommunication companies — China Telecom and Unicom — suggest that this was not the case. China Telecom confirmed that the earthquake had not interfered with the underwater cables in any way.
Both companies also shot down theories that the outage could have been caused by some sort of blip in the system, with Telecom insisting that there was no issue with their network. As all Chinese Internet traffic passes through the two networks’ infrastructure to get overseas, this had seemed like a likely culprit.
With the mystery of what happened becoming murkier, many have been speculating as to what could have caused the blackout.
It was arguably far too quick to be a response to Anonymous’ war rally against China’s Great Firewall, which even they admitted will take time to crack.
Others have suggested that the temporary outage might have been a test run of an emergency ‘kill switch’, in case extreme measures need to be taken in the ongoing crackdown of the Chinese Internet.
According to Tech in Asia, VPNs that had previously allowed Internet users to get around the Great Firewall were down, but that smaller VPN providers seemed to be unscathed. This could suggest a deliberate targeting of such services, but at the moment, we can only speculate.
Admittedly, it does seem as though such a ‘kill switch’ would be extreme and far-fetched. However, the absence of clearer explanations lends the theory some credibility. China’s Ministy of Industry and Information Technology has been silent over the blackout, and so have much of the state-run media.
China Daily, People’s Daily and Xinhua, some of China’s major news publications are continuing to cover the growing ‘rumours’ issue, but not the blackout.
It could be relatively insignificant, but as Wall Street Journal’s Josh Chin points out, “the episode did illustrate just how jumpy China watchers and China Internet users have become in recent days.”
According to their website, the American NGO, Invisible Children, claims now to have had over 80 million viewers to their YouTube video, “Kony2012,” since its release on YouTube a few weeks ago. For anyone with the patience to sit through the entire YouTube of Kony2012, it is questionable how truthful the figure of 80 million viewers is. Eighty million is unprecedented in YouTube history by all accounts.
The video features such prominent Hollywood personalities as Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Lady GaGa, Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and other notables. It’s a slick, sentimental story directed by Jason Russell, a 33-year-old now-hospitalized American filmmaker who apparently just underwent a bizarre mental disconnect on the streets of San Diego.[Endnote] The YouTube video depicts a young Ugandan, Jacob Acaye, whom Russell claims he befriended some ten years earlier after Acaye escaped conscription into Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as an 11-year-old killer. The film portrays Kony as the world’s worst beast and terrorist, in effect, Africa’s Osama bin Laden. [Endnote]
The Invisible Children NGO is itself opaque. It reportedly rakes in millions from sales of such things as buttons, Invisible Children T-shirts, bracelets and posters priced from $30-$250, but it ranks low on transparency regarding other donors. The group, which employs around 100 people, is expected to raise millions of dollars from their “Kony2012” video, but so far it refuses to say how much has been donated or how it will spend the money. The founders of the group, who advocate direct US military intervention in response to the LRA, had been previously criticized for posing with guns alongside members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in 2008, an organization widely accused of rape and looting. The group issued a statement in response: “We thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, ‘Haha – they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace’.” [Endnote] HaHa…
According to the London Guardian, Invisible Children’s “accounts show it is a cash-rich operation, which more than tripled its income in 2011” to nearly $9 million, mainly from personal donations. Of this, nearly 25% was spent on travel and film-making. Most of the money raised has been spent in the US, not for Africa’s “invisible children” or even visible ones. According to information obtained by the Guardian, “the accounts show $1.7million went to US employee salaries, $850,000 in film production costs, $244,000 in ‘professional services’ – thought to be Washington lobbyists – and $1.07 million in travel expenses. Nearly $400,000 was spent on office rent in San Diego” Charity Navigator, a US charity evaluator, gave the organization only two stars for “accountability and transparency.” [Endnote] The USAID, a State Department agency which coordinates its foreign interventions with the Pentagon and CIA, openly states on its website that it has funded Invisible Children Inc. in the past. [Endnote]
The bizarre thing about “Kony2012” is that Joseph Kony either fled Uganda or was killed fleeing more than six years ago. It is claimed he fled to the wilds of Congo or Central Africa, hence he makes a perfect echo of the elusive Osama bin Laden, justifying US military action across the rich terrain of central Africa from Uganda to the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda and beyond.[Endnote] Like Joseph Kony, Osama bin Laden was reliably reported to have died in Afghanistan years before his staged murder by Navy Seals a year ago. But his legend was kept alive to justify spreading the US War on Terror; so now, with the legend of Joseph Kony propagated by Invisible Children Inc. in San Diego. The issue is not whether Kony had committed atrocities; that is beyond dispute. The issue is whether “Kony2012” is being falsely promoted to justify US military intervention where it is unwanted by all parties.
One American human rights worker in Uganda in a recent interview declared, “Invisible Children’s campaign is…an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa. Invisible Children are ‘useful idiots’, being used by those in the US government who seek to militarize Africa, to send more and more weapons and military aid, and to bolster the power of states who are US allies. The hunt for Joseph Kony is the perfect excuse for this strategy – how often does the US government find millions of young Americans pleading that they intervene militarily in a place rich in oil and other resources?” [Endnote]
The “Kony2012” video is being credited with giving the US Congress the spur to demand US military forces be sent to not just Uganda, but to the entire region of central Africa where the elusive Kony and his child army warriors are allegedly terrorizing the land. Democrat Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Republican Ed Royce have just introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the Pentagon’s AFRICOM (Africa Command) to proceed with “expanding the number of regional forces in Africa to protect civilians and placing restrictions on individuals or governments found to be supporting Kony.” [Endnote] Last year before the “viral” YouTube airing of “Kony2012”, McGovern and Royce also sponsored “The Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.” The media attention to the YouTube makes their case easier for military intervention. After all, it’s “humanitarian”; it’s about children, isn’t it?
Even the politically correct Washington Post was moved to write critically, “The very viral campaign to capture Kony by the nonprofit Invisible Children has largely been a U.S. phenomenon. Ugandans say the LRA has not been active for years.” [Endnote]
Already President Obama has sent 100 US elite special forces troops to Central Africa to serve as “advisers” in efforts to hunt down Kony. If it all has echoes of Vietnam in the early 1960’s it is not accidental. This is now the prelude to a huge Pentagon militarization of the entire region of central Africa, following the NATO destruction of order in Libya, and the chaos in Egypt and other Islamic states targeted by the US State Department’s “Arab Spring,” better termed these days as, “Arab Nightmare.”
“Kony2012” was produced by an apparently well-financed NGO headed by Russell called Invisible Children Inc. in San Diego. The video reeks of US State Department propaganda with its slick camera effects and repeated scenes of Russell’s small boy to make it appear credible. Rosebell Kagumire, an award-winning Ugandan journalist responded to the clamor over Invisible Children’s “Kony2012” video, accusing Invisible Children Inc. of “using old footage to cause hysteria.” [Endnote] Kagumire adds,
Is it about the dollars or a false belief that unless Americans know about it, no solution comes our way? … the Juba Peace Talks 2006-2008, which restored stability and paved way for the end to abductions in northern Uganda, was not an American invention. It was local civil society and peace actors like the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiatives (ARLPI) who pushed for a negotiated solution. In fact the moment America got involved, we witnessed “Operation Lightening Thunder”- a military operation with disastrous effects as the LRA eluded air strikes, and scattered into DR Congo and the Central African Republic where they continue to commit atrocities in retaliation.[Endnote]
The entire brouhaha over Joseph Kony appears to be a flank in a major AFRICOM and US State Department campaign especially to undermine Chinese influence in central Africa — now that they have successfully driven the Chinese oil companies out of Libya, and carved out a new “republic” of South Sudan containing much of the oil that fuels China’s economy. That splitting of South Sudan and its oil, for those who did not follow it closely, was a consequence of sending in US and NATO special forces to “stop genocide” in Darfur. George Clooney was also the poster boy for the Darfur action.
There is good reason for the apparent sudden interest of the Pentagon and politicized US NGOs to focus on action in central Africa. So long as the world largely ignored it, Washington policy was to let institutions such as the IMF bleed the countries like Congo and allow western mining companies to extract valuable mineral wealth for pennies on the dollar. A few years ago all that began to change when China turned its attention to Africa, and especially its Great Rift Belt.
Great Rift Belt
The region in question, according to the filmmakers of “Kony2012”, includes not only Uganda where in recent years a giant oil field was discovered, but also some of the planet’s richest mineral lands — including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and the US-sponsored Republic of South Sudan. The area lies in the extraordinary geographical conjuncture called the Great Rift Belt or Valley stretching from Syria in the north, down through Sudan and Eritrea and the Red Sea, and deep into southern Africa across the eastern Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and into Mozambique.
This East African Rift System, as geologists term it, is “one of the geologic wonders of the world,” and also prospectively, one of the richest treasures of subsurface minerals, including clearly vast untapped reserves of oil and gas.[Endnote]
The red line on this map shows the eastern and western faults of the Great Rift Valley, which runs 4,500 miles from southern Africa, under the Red Sea, and into Syria in southwestern Asia. it is so huge a geological feature that it is prominently visible to lunar and space-shuttle astronauts.
Ever since British oil company, Tullow Oil, discovered an estimated 2 billion barrels of oil in Uganda in 2009 the geopolitical importance of the entire central African region suddenly underwent change. CNOOC Ltd., China’s biggest offshore oil explorer, is in a joint venture with Tullow Oil to develop three oil blocks in Uganda’s Lake Albert basin. [Endnote]
According to geologists, “the East African Rift is suspected to be one of the last great oil and natural gas deposits on earth.” In a recent article, Time noted, “Seismic tests over the past 50 years have shown that countries up the coast of East Africa have natural gas in abundance. Early data compiled by industry consultants also suggest the presence of massive offshore oil deposits.” [Endnote]
This region of central and east Africa is considered one of the hottest unexplored regions in the world for potential hydrocarbons—oil and gas. In 2010 Texas oil company Anadarko Petroleum discovered a giant reservoir of natural gas off the coast of Mozambique. Estimates are that Somalia holds perhaps 10 billion barrels of untapped oil.[Endnote] The chronic political unrest and AFRICOM-backed tensions there—convenient for western oil majors seeking to maintain absurdly high oil prices by controlling supply—prevent the development of the oil. While West and North Africa have undergone tens of thousands of oil well drillings over the last decades, East and Central Africa, including Darfur and South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic are all but terra incognita in terms of drilling.
This all runs smack up against the popular talk of “Peak Oil.” Far from exhausting the Earth’s resources of oil and gas, oil companies everywhere, from the eastern Mediterranean to offshore Brazil to the Gulf of Mexico and now the Great Rift Belt of eastern and central Africa, are discovering huge new potentials almost daily. We are, as oil economist Peter Odell once noted, not running out of oil, “We’re running into oil.”
Oil is one of the most highly politicized businesses on the planet, and secrecy in the industry among the four giant Anglo-American companies makes the CIA and MI6 look like amateurs. Since the publication in 1956 by Shell Oil geologist King Hubbert of his unproven thesis[Endnote] that oil fields deplete like Gaussian Bell Curves, Big Oil has fostered the myth of looming oil scarcity. It serves an obvious aim of maintaining their grip on the prime energy source for the world economy. Oil and its control is a geopolitical foundation of the post-1945 American Century.
China alters African geopolitical calculus
So long as Africa was the “forgotten Continent” in terms of independent oil and gas explorations, Washington policy was to ignore it. As former South African President Thabo Mbeki recently put it, “Liberated from the obligation to secure the allegiance of independent Africa in the context of its global anti-Soviet struggle, the US had found that Africa was otherwise not of any importance in terms of its global strategic interests.” [Endnote]
But as Mbeki pointed out, by 2007 that all began to change as China began making economic and diplomatic inroads all over Africa: “There was increasing international competition for access to Africa’s oil and other natural resources, including by China. China was becoming a ‘formidable competitor for both influence and lucrative contracts on the Continent.’” [Endnote]
But Washington’s vision of so-called ‘globalization’ of the world economic system allows for no one who does not read from their sheet of music. Hillary Clinton put it clearly enough: “If you’ve got people who are choosing a different path, then you have to use all the tools of your suasion to try to convince them that the path that you wish to follow is also the one that is in their interest as well.”[Endnote] George W. Bush put it more succinctly: “You’re either with us or you’re against us….”
Since China hosted more than 40 African heads of state in 2006 in Beijing, and followed that with highest-level state visits across Africa — with Chinese oil companies and industry signing multi-billion deals with the “forgotten” Africa — Washington suddenly took notice. In 2008 President Bush authorized creation for the first time of a single Pentagon command, AFRICOM, for the African continent. As Daniel Volman, director of the African security Research Project in Washington stated, “a number of developments—especially the continent’s increasing importance as a source of energy supplies and other raw materials—have radically altered the picture. They have led to the growing economic and military involvement of China, India, and other emerging industrial powers in Africa and to the re-emergence of Russia as an economic and military power on the continent. In response the United States has dramatically increased its military presence in Africa and created a new military command—the Africa Command or AFRICOM—to protect what it has defined as its “strategic national interests” in Africa. This has ignited what has come to be known as the “new scramble for Africa” and is transforming the security architecture of Africa.”[Endnote]
By 2012 China had become the second largest foreign investor in Uganda after Britain. It is the major investor in the oil resources of South Sudan. In July 2007, the China oil company CNOOC signed an agreement with the Somali government to search for oil in the Mudug region where some estimate that reserves could amount to five to ten billion barrels of oil.[Endnote] The Chinese investments in this part of Africa also include the joint venture which CNOOC signed with Tullow Oil in 2011 for the Ugandan fields. [Endnote]
What is clear is that “Kony2012” is not documentary fact but manipulative propaganda, which is being used to advance an AFRICOM military presence in the richest mineral region in the world before China and perhaps India and Russia preempt it. It hearkens back to the colonial resource wars of the 19th century, with the only difference being the presence of the Internet and YouTube to propagandize it at warp speed.
*F. William Engdahl is author of Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order. He may be contacted from his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.
These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.
When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and what we could do to help them get there.
My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.
I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.
Three years ago, I wrote an article in which I made some very specific predictions about the incoming Obama administration. I wrote the piece in the form of a letter to my pro-Obama friends and said that by the end of his term, Obama’s administration would not look very different from that of George W. Bush. I told them that if I was wrong about my predictions, I would re-think all of my beliefs about our political system and about politics generally, and if I turned out to be right, I asked them to do the same.
I don’t know if any of my friends took me up on my challenge – I’m guessing they didn’t, since I never heard from any of them about it. But I do know that many of them are disappointed in what Obama has done so far, and that many are feeling hopeless about the upcoming election, resigned to their belief that there is “no better alternative.” Incredibly, some of them plan to vote for Obama again.
It is for this reason that I would like to revisit those predictions I made three years ago. I still have nearly a year to go, but I think it is clear to anyone paying attention that Obama is not the pro-peace, pro-civil liberties candidate many of his supporters believed him to be. Nor is he going to “fix” the economy anytime soon. What may not be so clear though is that there is a better alternative. It also may not be clear that there is a way to support that alternative without sacrificing the option to vote for Obama in the general election.
So let’s look at those predictions. If we’re already on the same page about Obama’s presidency, then just skip this part and go to the last section of this article to read about the better alternative.
I confined my predictions to the areas where I believed my pro-Obama friends and I shared common ground: A desire to end our country’s wars of aggression around the world; A desire to see our basic civil liberties protected; and a desire to have a healthy economy. Here is what I wrote, and here’s what has happened:
At the end of Obama’s first four-year term:
The US will still have an active military presence in Iraq.
Obama ended the war in Iraq, right? Not exactly. While the administration may have officially declared the war to be over (an interesting feat in itself as it was never declared to have begun in the first place), the US does indeed maintain an active military presence there. Several hundred military personnel will remain under the Office of Security Cooperation, the US has built an embassy the size of the Vatican, with 17,000 employees, and there are an estimated 3,500-5,000 private contractors who will be working with Iraqi security forces.
The US will have attacked at least one more country that poses no direct threat to us. (I’m not even going to count his early air strikes on Pakistan.)
Libya. Yemen. Somalia.
Military spending will have increased.
At the end of Bush’s term – a year that featured the “surge”, which made military expenditures unusually high, the US defense budget was $667 billion. At the end of 2011, the (estimated) defense budget was $708 billion. Even adjusted for inflation, this is an easy one.
Even more significant though, is that under Obama, war funding has also increased. While this figure did peak at $189.94 billion in Bush’s last year, dropping to $159.21 billion for 2009, total war expenditures under Bush were $625.41 billion, while in his first three years Obama has already spent $497.6 billion. He would have to bring war expenditures down below $127.81 billion for 2012 (from $169.7 billion in 2011) in order to come in a penny under the George Bush years.
4. US citizens will be no safer from terrorist attacks. I say this because I believe the (sadly all-too-accurate) perception of the US as an imperialist warmongering nation will persist. I realize this one is open to interpretation. I would just ask you to honestly ask yourselves at the end of these four years whether this is the case.
I say I got this one right too. But as I said, it’s open to interpretation.
It is perhaps in this area that it is easiest to see how perfectly seamless Obama’s administration has been with that of his predecessor. There are differences to be sure, but differences that are of importance only to policy wonks, not to the people who are suffering from and paying for the US’s interventionist foreign policies.
As a dramatic illustration of this cohesion, listen to this video of US General Wesley Clark (ret). Clark tells of a memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office in October of 2001, outlining a plan to attack and remove the governments of seven different countries in five years. The countries listed were Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan and finally Iran. Listen to General Clark and then try to tell yourself that President Obama is not simply continuing where the Bush administration left off.
More than 1% of US adults will still be in prison. This number will very likely be even higher than it is today, and the black and Hispanic portion of that population will not have decreased by any significant amount.
As of August, 2011, the US prison population was an astonishing 2.4 million, or roughly 1.16% of the adult population, and the number of black and Hispanic prisoners remains wildly disproportionate to population ratios.
We will still suffer from the kind of police abuse that is becoming more and more common: military-style raids on unarmed civilians in their homes; the shooting and tasering of unarmed citizens; and police and judicial corruption leading to the jailing of many more innocent people than can be acceptable under any system…
I think it’s hard to argue that these trends have in any way abated. If anything, law-enforcement has become more militarized, more turned against the people it is supposed to protect. If this is news to you, you might want to spend some time here or here catching up.
“No-Fly” lists will still be in place, and there may even be more restrictions on travel.
What do I even need to say here? Full-body scanners? Officially sanctioned sexual molestation forced upon those who do not wish to submit themselves to the potential health risks and privacy violations of said scanners? Forcing a terminally ill cancer patient to remove her adult diaper in order to board her plane? Spilling a bladder cancer survivor’s urine all over him? Forcing a disabled six-year-old to take off his braces in order to walk through the metal detector? I would ask “how much worse can it get?” but I’m afraid I might find out.
There will be more restrictions on gun ownership and the right to self-defense.
This one hasn’t yet come to pass. Second-Amendment activists insist that it will, but we’ll have to see.
The police tactics and suppression of dissent at the 2012 RNC and DNC conventions will be just as brutal as they were in 2008.
We’ll see. But given the treatment of “Occupy” protesters around the country, and that Congress has just passed a law that would outlaw any protests near certain government officials – whether or not the protesters are even aware that the officials are there – I’m fairly confident this prediction will turn out to be accurate.
Government surveillance of US citizens will continue…
Not only is the Obama administration intent on spying on US citizens, it has asked for legislation requiring all communications devices to allow “back-door” government access to private communications. It has also “…asked Congress that new and expanded power be given the FBI in accessing Internet customers’ records without first obtaining a court order if the agency views the information involves terrorism or intelligence issues.”
“What makes this trend all the more pernicious is that at exactly the same time that the Government is demanding greater and greater access to what you do and say, it is hiding its own conduct behind an always-higher and more impenetrable wall of secrecy. Everything you do and say must be accessible to them; you can have no secrets from them. But everything they do – including even criminal acts such as torture, assassinations and warrantless surveillance – is completely off-limits to you, deemed “state secrets” that not even courts can review in order to determine their legality.”
When I wrote my predictions for the Obama administration, I bent over backwards to give him every benefit of the doubt in the arena of civil liberties. I wrote:
“I have to admit that this is the one area where Obama’s presidency is already looking different from that of his predecessor. In his first few days in office, President Obama signed executive orders to 1) close Guantanamo within a year; 2) officially ban the use of torture in the military; 3) close the CIA-run secret prisons around the world; and 4) review detention policies and procedures and review individual detention cases. He has also suspended the military trials at Guantanamo for 120 days, and has acted to combat government secrecy. These are all good things and Obama is receiving well-deserved praise for them.”
I now feel like a fool for having written those words. Not only is Guantanamo still open, not only does torture and indefinite detention continue, not only is Government secrecy as bad or worse as under Bush but Obama has signed into law one of the most heinous pieces of legislation imaginable, the National Defense Authorization Act, granting the government the right to detain, indefinitely and without trial or charges, any American citizen. He has also claimed for himself the right to assassinate an American citizen, and has in fact carried out at least one such assassination – again without a trial or any charges being made.
I should really just stop here. The NDAA by itself makes the case that the Obama administration is at least as bad as the Bush administration. There’s nothing more I need to say. However since I did include a couple of predictions about the economy, let’s go there:
The US will have massive inflation. The dollar will lose at least 50% of its value against most goods and services, and certainly against the goods and services most people use every day. This is a very conservative estimate. It will probably be much worse.
OK, this clearly hasn’t happened yet. And if it hasn’t happened before the end of Obama’s first term, I will admit I was wrong about this. However I still maintain that it will happen – and fairly soon.
This isn’t just some random prediction. Since the housing and stock market collapses of 2008, the government and the Federal Reserve have been pursuing even more inflationary policies than those that caused the problem in the first place. The graph below helps to illustrate the magnitude of just how much new money has been put into the economy through government stimulus and bailouts. This shows the level of excess reserves – reserves held above the required ratio to deposits. This excess is currently just sitting there – it has not yet been lent out. But when the banks start lending it out (and it looks like they are starting to), it will create massive inflation. (For a more scholarly understanding of how creating more money is inflationary, see this Scrooge McDuck cartoon.)
Unemployment in the US will be worse than it is now. It will be at least in the double digits.
I should have been more specific with this one. The official unemployment rate in January of 2009 was 7.8%. It is now 8.3%. So I got the first part of this right. I’ll concede the second part, but not because unemployment isn’t in the double digits – it actually is. Official unemployment measurements do not include either short-term or long-term “discouraged workers”, nor do they include those who work part-time because they cannot find full-time work. Once you include these groups, the current rate of unemployment is around 22%, putting it in the double digits. But real unemployment was already in the double digits back when I made this prediction, at around 16.5%. So I say that I got the first part of this right but not the second.
As a relevant aside: In promoting its 2009 stimulus plan, the Obama administration made the claim that without the stimulus, unemployment would rise. It presented a graph to illustrate its projections for just how bad unemployment would get unless government spent hundreds of billions of dollars stimulating the economy. Well, government DID spend hundreds of billions of dollars stimulating the economy and guess what? The unemployment rate rose even higher than the government’s worst-case scenario projections (see graph).
So what? There’s no better alternative to Obama.
When Obama passed the NDAA bill, it gave me chills. Not because of the terrifying implications of the bill itself, but because I really believed he might veto it – not on the grounds he had stated when he threatened to, but in order to placate those of his supporters who are rightly concerned about the erosion of civil liberties. When he did not, I realized – more clearly than I ever had before – that he feels no need to placate anyone.
This fact was driven home to me when I spoke with some of my friends who had supported Obama in ’08 and were disappointed with what they’ve seen so far. One said to me that despite her disappointment, she was probably going to vote for him again because she feared it would be “worse” with whoever the Republican nominee was. I have come to realize that, for those who are immersed in the two-party system and who truly believe there is a difference between Republican and Democrat, there is literally nothing their candidate can do that will cause them to withdraw their support. Like a battered spouse who simply can’t imagine anything better than what they’ve got, they cling to their man because they believe that the other side can always produce something worse.
The truth is that we live in a one-party state. And until more people come to realize this and to reject the Party’s rule over their lives, its grip will just continue to tighten. So it probably seems odd that I’m going to recommend that you vote, and even odder that I ask you to vote for a Republican candidate. But I am.
Ron Paul has a thirty-plus year history of opposing aggressive wars, violations of personal freedom and the government spending and monetary policy that are now bankrupting our country. He also has a thirty-plus year record of keeping his word and voting his conscience, which is more than I can say for any other politician.
Maybe you don’t want to vote for Ron Paul because you object to some of his policy views. I think writer Anna O. Morgenstern addressed this concern quite well when she said:
“…if you’re going to slag off on Ron Paul for his (admittedly flawed) domestic policy views, then you’re sort of missing the point. His main appeal is that he’s the only anti-war candidate, and the war(s) are one of the few things that are directly under a president’s control. So if you vote for someone else, you’re basically saying “I’m willing to sacrifice innocent foreigners to have a better domestic policy”.
And keep in mind that under Obama, or for any of the establishment candidates, “a better domestic policy” includes a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to big financial corporations, arresting and jailing people indefinitely without charging them, and maintaining the highest prison population in the world.
The best part about what I’m suggesting though is that you don’t have to give up your option to vote for Obama in the presidential election in order to support Ron Paul. You can vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries (which are going on right now) help him to win the Republican nomination, and in no way be bound to vote for him in the general election. Should he not win the nomination, or should you just decide in November that you still prefer Obama, you can still vote for Obama. But think about it: A presidential race between Barack Obama and Ron Paul. Would you really choose Obama? If yes, I’d really like to know why.
Tomorrow is Super Tuesday. There are ten primaries and caucuses, eight of which are open or “semi-open”, meaning that you don’t have to register Republican in order to vote. (To find out whether your state has open or closed primaries, go here.) If you live in one of the Super Tuesday states, please think about going out and voting for Ron Paul. And please ask everyone you know to do the same.
When I made my predictions three years ago, I wrote:
“For years, I have said that real progress towards peace, freedom and respect for individual rights cannot come from working within the very system that sustains itself through war and the expansion of state power over people’s lives. If in fact the Obama administration does herald great and significant change in these areas that we agree upon, then I promise to rethink these beliefs… If I am wrong about this, then I promise to re-think everything. But if I am not, then I hope you will do the same. Let’s talk again in four years.”
If anything, my beliefs about political systems have only been reinforced by what I’ve seen these past three years: That political systems and politicians serve only their own interests, that they cause the problems they purport to cure, and that there is no significant difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, both of which serve to expand the state at our expense.
We should of course be wary of placing our hopes for “change” in a politician who will rule over us. Any politician. Even Ron Paul. If we want to live in peace, then we must reject the coercive violence upon which a political system is built. We cannot continue to grant individuals the right to rule over others, the monopoly to both make and enforce laws, the monopoly on “justice” and on defense – and then act surprised when those individuals use their powers to their own benefit and to our detriment.
Ron Paul is the “anti-politician”. He is the anomaly, the exception that proves the rule that politicians cannot be trusted. I don’t support him because I believe he is the answer to all of our problems – we’re going to have to dig a lot deeper for that. I support him because I believe that if elected, he stands a good chance of putting a halt to the bloodshed that is US foreign policy and to putting a big dent into the massive injustice that is our justice system. I believe that he would do everything in his power to restore habeas corpus, and to put the brakes on the government spending, corporate bailouts and inflationary policies that are running the economy into the ground.
If any of these are things that you care about, then go and vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries. Register Republican if you have to, just do it! If you don’t, fine. That’s your choice and I guess you’ve got your reasons. But don’t come running to me when your man disappoints you once again.
The “tide of war is receding” is a phrase President Barack Obama has employed ad nauseam—once in his State of the Union address, twice in the course of remarks last month at the unveiling of the Pentagon’s new military strategy document, once again during his speech at the United Nations, also in his announcement of troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a Veteran’s Day address.
The constant repetition of this hackneyed metaphor is aimed at obscuring the obvious—that US militarism has escalated dramatically under the Democratic president and its tide threatens to engulf the entire planet.
Among the latest indications is a behind-the-scenes campaign by the chief of the US military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for greater autonomy in dispatching elite killer squads to every corner of the globe.
Adm. William McRaven, who heads SOCOM, is, according to the New York Times, seeking “more autonomy to position his forces and their war-fighting equipment where intelligence and global events indicate they are most needed.”
The admiral’s proposal, the Times notes, “would also allow the Special Operations forces to expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
McRaven argues that “[t]hickening the Special Operations deployments in these other regions would allow the United States to be ready to respond more rapidly to a broader range of threats.”
SOCOM includes as its key sub unit the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, which is made up of such outfits as the Navy Seals and the Army’s Green Berets, which carry out armed missions abroad. It is one area of the US military that is being spared even the minimal cuts that are being imposed on the Pentagon budget.
Its funding is being increased, a top officer in SOCOM reassured those attending last week’s annual conference of the National Defense Industries Association, the premier lobby for America’s vast military-industrial complex. “Because we will be continuing to engage in counter-terrorism operations around the globe, we are going to protect the investments in special operations forces,” Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, SOCOM’s vice commander, told the audience of war profiteers. He confided that Pentagon plans are to increase the command to “70,000 SOF [special operations forces] warriors.”
SOCOM’s personnel has doubled since 2001 to its current headcount of 66,000, while its budget has risen from $4.2 billion to $10.5 billion. JSOC’s growth has been even more meteoric, going from just 1,800 troops in 1980 to over 25,000 today.
Special operations forces have already been deployed in over 75 countries, ranging from the Dominican Republic and Peru to the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia and central Asia.
According to published reports, the US troop withdrawal from Iraq and the draw-down of tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines from Afghanistan is to be offset by more extensive use of special operations forces. In Iraq, some of these forces will be kept in the country covertly, operating out of uniform, while others will be just across the border in Kuwait. In Afghanistan, a force of some 9,000 special ops troops will remain even after the 2014 formal deadline for a NATO troop withdrawal.
In both countries, JSOC units have been involved in some of the worst atrocities. They carried out wholesale assassinations of opponents of the Iraqi occupation during the 2007 “surge” ordered by the Bush administration, and were implicated in systematic torture of detainees.
In Afghanistan, these units were responsible for the infamous 2002 wedding massacre, when they called in an AC-130 gunship to rake a wedding party and other civilian targets, leaving hundreds dead and wounded. They remain hated by the population for their night raids against Afghan homes and the calling in of air strikes.
Over the past decade, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have tied down 80 percent of special operations forces. If the White House and the Pentagon are now discussing shifting their expanded use to become a more global strike force, it is because they anticipate not a “receding tide” of war, but rather an explosion of US militarism.
The Obama administration has relied ever more heavily on these elite military units, which have become what amounts to a secret army under the command of the US president and accountable to no one. JSOC, like the CIA, has been empowered to draw up kill lists of alleged terrorists and launch assassination missions. Unlike the CIA, it is not required to secure a “presidential finding” authorizing lethal covert operations, or submit to congressional oversight.
The increasing reliance on such methods has been facilitated by the embrace of militarism and imperialism by a layer of the affluent upper-middle class that previously was identified with anti-war sentiments. Typical of this milieu is Newsweek editor Tina Brown, who penned a nauseating editorial recently praising Obama for being “the Caped Crusader when it comes to commanding America’s killing machine.” She described a recent exploit by American special ops forces in Somalia as “like hearing from afar the lost chords of ‘America the Beautiful,’” adding that “Seal Team 6 has become a more vivid symbol of the power of the great American idea than positive GDP statistics.”
Those prepared to extol the exploits of elite killing squads abroad as the essence of the “American idea” will not shrink from the use of similar methods in suppressing any challenge to the rule of the financial elite at home.
The deepest global economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s once again confronts mankind with the threat of world war and dictatorship. A successful struggle against these threats can be waged only by means of the independent political mobilization of the working class against their source, the capitalist profit system.
China’s Vice President Xi Jinping is warning the United States against a military build-up in Asia, ahead of his arrival in Washington Monday for a four-day visit.
Xi, who is expected to take charge of China’s ruling Communist Party later this year, made the remark in a written response to questions submitted by TheWashington Post newspaper. He said Asian countries long for peace and development, and do not want to see the United States scale up military deployments and strengthen military alliances in the region.
U.S. President Barack Obama has announced plans to “pivot” U.S. military power toward Asia even as it cuts back in other regions. The two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House Tuesday.