When Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011 many Americans must have assumed the War on Terror was over. The American public had endured an embarrassing, drawn out occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan and the continual humiliation that the world’s most powerful nation couldn’t find and fix a rich Saudi. Now he was dead and 9/11 a distant memory, things could go back to normal. They were wrong. Empire has continued its global campaign and even accelerated its rate of killing.
In my previous article, I examined the nature of this continuing war. It is increasingly fought by remote drones and Special Operations units. It’s increasingly hopeless. The important question as residents of an Empire in flux we must now ask is: what is the next external threat?
We live in the largest, most technologically advanced nation on Earth. Our military spending as a percentage of GDP dwarfs any other nation. Yet it is all starting to come apart at the seams. In the Pacific Ocean, our aging 7th Fleet is being piloted by 26 year old women who crash destroyers into shipping vessels. Destroyers are chronically understaffed, and in dire need of repair. When one examines and begins to learn about the under-investment in the American Navy, serious questions begin to arise about how well the Empire can face conventional threats that may present themselves.
Anyone who has looked at the collapse of the Soviet Union may recognize eerie similarities. Lower ranked officers being tasked to do the best they can with increasingly limited resources. Having to find unofficial, insecure workarounds. Having to pay lip-service to ideologically destructive notions tearing apart the fabric of their military. It begs the questions just where all the funding pouring into the USG Empire’s military industrial complex is going? Perhaps the corruption is becoming more transparent? Regardless of that, the evidence suggests an inability to face new threats.
The external military threats the USG Empire is most likely to face are now in the East. The 7th Fleet is meant to be the bulwark in defending the USG Empire’s claims to the region. It is through the 7th Fleet that we guarantee Japan’s security. It is with the 7th Fleet that we challenge the Chinese meddling in waters they claim. It is with the 7th Fleet that we retain strike options against DPRK.
With the 7th Fleet seemingly in pretty dire straits with a number of very high profile accidents and incidents, it is somewhat surprising to me we have not seen more testing behavior from the Chinese. Were I the gambling sort I would expect to see them start to slowly maneuver in part to take advantage of this opportunity. Empire has become so focused on fighting a ground and drone war against Jihadis they have neglected our conventional power house, the Navy, that secures Empire in this part of the world.
The dilemma of DPRK also presents itself to both the vying superpowers in the region. China, for a long time has used Pyongyang as a weapon. There are some signs that the leash they have been given has become too slack of late and Trump’s diplomatic mission with DPRK has seen small success because the Chinese have worked to reel Kim back. To solve the DPRK problem, whatever that ‘problem’ may be requires the US to exert pressure upon China, who in turn wield more influence than joint training operations in the South ever can.
The next year will be an interesting one for us to observe. If DPRK becomes resurgent again as a ‘threat’ to Empire’s interests, is this because of directives from Beijing, or are they gaining more courage to act unilaterally? Will Beijing seek to test the US via their ally instead of in a more direct confrontation over say islands that Japan lays claim to?
China as a rising super-power was once a given, however that assessment has looked more shaky in recent years. Their own demographic problems related to the one child policy, their ethnic culture of corruption, and energy being put towards the Uighur minority all suggest their rise is no longer as guaranteed as it once was. On a military level they have been investing more in their Naval ability, they must hope it is more effective than their type 95 rifle. Despite all this, China under Xi is certainly not to be underestimated and their territorial aims in the region, combined with the USG’s weakened force projection could lead towards confrontation.
Where else might we see threats to Empire? NATO got the full Trump treatment relatively quickly after he entered office and it seems obvious that despite their outrage the Germans simply won’t be able to step up and meet demand. Likewise, the actions of the rebellious Eastern bloc put more strain on alliances once considered stable. Despite appearances Putin is not a mastermind chess player, but what he is good at is responding quickly to opportunities. Ukraine was the prime opportunity that presented itself, and after considerable US meddling there, they took what was rightfully theirs.
One hope many of us had with the election of Trump was that he would dissuade the Deep State from continuing on a war-path footing with Russia. Thankfully his gutting of the State Department and the revulsion he’s brought about has removed a good many Empire boot-lickers from the foreign service. An Empire headed by Clinton would have looked very different. A no fly zone over Syria was her first focus in foreign policy. It is not difficult to imagine her using our Spec Ops Ninjas to cause trouble someplace like Ukraine. Russia, for now, is less of a threat to Empire in part because Empire has toned down and revised some of its European meddling. Personally, I see escalating conflict with Russia relatively unlikely – though we should avoid creating Black Swans.
The last of the threats to Empire alongside China, DPRK, and Russia is Iran. Now Iran is not a direct threat to USG, but it is a direct threat to one of the vassal states. Though to call Israel a vassal state would imply that we receive money from them, but the opposite is true, as America recently promised them $38 billion over 10 years. Despite this lop-sided arrangement America is forever drawn into possible conflict with any Arab state that decides to make trouble for Israel. Again, this is in spite of the fact Israel seemed to handle itself relatively well in previous conflicts. The Israeli lobby will always ensure that hawks around both parties keep a low level burning desire to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” as one brain dead former POW observed during his Presidential run. Despite this hunger for conflict, Iran does not seem in a strong position currently to cause trouble right now. This lessens Empire’s appetite for engagement. The most likely route to intervention would be some kind of widespread popular revolt against the Mullahs. Yet each time this has happened lately it has fizzled out before the calls to “do something” became too great. Empire is certainly weary of large scale endeavors in this region.
Where does this leave us then? We have China, DPRK, Russia, and Iran standing somewhere on the horizon. And yet the Empire’s military and intelligence services have spent the past decade and change focused on GWOT. It focused on creating a global hit squad of Special Operators and drones. They have leveraged intelligence and technology to kill 21 year old Yemenis and eliminate aging Pakistani tribal allies of the Taliban in remote regions. Much of Empires expertise has been pointed very narrowly during this time. As these larger threats manifest on the horizon the last 10 years may begin to look very odd indeed.
The other side of this coin is that Empire won’t be able to quickly shift its mindset, it took a few years before it fully engaged in the GWOT directive so it will take some to change course. Jihadi’s aren’t going away either, the reasons America is opposed in the Middle East have simply been kicked further down the road. If Trump and company are able to at least extricate some forces however, it could lessen their hunger to strike at us. That region will continue to smolder.
Permit me to end with the use of a bad analogy. The USG Empire is like a heavyweight boxer. He prepared for a huge fight that never came and grew slovenly. He was then forced to drop a weight division to deal with opponents he’d never heard of. Now his weight is gone and it is no longer just one brooding Slavic opponent in the ring against him. Instead there are multiple, all gaining in size and strength. He keeps running, but he’s neglected key parts of his arsenal. His jab is weak, his right hook weaker. Opponents know he could still be dangerous, but they are more willing than ever to prod and push him to a battle of their choosing. As unfortunate citizens of this Empire, we sit watching the ring, who steps in to fight Empire will impact us and it is worth watching his opponents carefully.