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Decline and Danger

The largest U.S. embassy in world, in Baghdad, Iraq, was just drastically downsized. Official troop withdrawal ended in December 2011. The plan even six months ago was for 14 permanent U.S. bases. Tens of thousands of U.S military forces, renamed “trainers,” were to remain in Iraq as a continuing presence for decades, as in other U.S. bases worldwide.

The Iraqi Parliament dashed those grand plans when, despite pressure, threat and bribes, it refused to sign a Status of Forces Agreement — SOFA — guaranteeing immunity to U.S. troops. Every effort of the U.S. to handpick a government of collaborators, every effort at positioning a loyal puppet regime, ended in failure. Even the most corrupt forces were more fearful of the anger from below than lured by the promises of a departing imperialist army.

Now the 16,000 contractors and mercenaries left in Iraq to guard 2,000 U.S. personnel, labeled “diplomats” and housed at the giant embassy, find that they can’t securely leave the grounds, “train” Iraqi units or meet with Iraqi officials. Contractors can’t get their weapons or even vehicles registered and can’t enter and leave the country at will. Truckloads of equipment needed to feed these personnel are now routinely denied entry at the border. The “diplomats” are reduced to eating stockpiled Meals Ready to Eat.

The scale of U.S. defeat in Iraq can no longer be hidden, nor can the level of animosity towards the U.S. by the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi population. After the U.S war and eight-year occupation of Iraq, the plans to dominate the region for the next generation are in complete retreat.

Imperialism’s position in Afghanistan is even worse. U.S.-NATO forces face more danger from the Afghan soldiers they are training than from Taliban guerrillas. According to a classified coalition report, it is a “rapidly growing systemic homicide threat, a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern history.” (New York Times, Jan. 20, 2012)

The animosity — from Afghan officials and warlords, once considered loyal collaborators, to Afghan soldiers in the field and civilians in isolated villages or major cities like Kabul and Kandahar — runs so deep that it raises serious questions regarding any future U.S. role in the country.

According to the classified report, the U.S. and its NATO allies are dependent on an Afghan army that is permeated with anti-Western sentiments and incapable of fighting the Taliban when NATO’s combat mission ends in 2014. The imperialist mission might even end sooner. Britain, France and Germany are under intense domestic pressure to withdraw troops. France suspended its military training of Afghan forces after a series of attacks in which Afghan soldiers fired on French soldiers. German troops already avoid all ground fighting.

Mercenaries, outsourcing and high-tech weapons

More than half of the more than 200,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan today are notoriously unreliable paid contractors — mercenaries. They suffer more than half the casualties.

U.S. strategists were confident of their ability to occupy and dominate both Iraq and Afghanistan for future decades. Neither country had any weapons of defense or infrastructure to organize a resistance. In Iraq, massive U.S. bombardment in 1991 had laid waste to the entire country and systematically destroyed water, sanitation, sewage, food processing and basic infrastructure. This was followed by 13 years of harrowing sanctions that left the population emaciated and impoverished, and, U.S. planners assumed, incapable of resistance. Already impoverished Afghanistan had been ground down by 20 years of civil war. Despite these weaknesses, the Pentagon, CIA and State Department failed to secure U.S. domination of either country.

Confronted with the impossibility that even tens of thousands of troops in a highly coordinated “surge” could end resistance in Iraq or Afghanistan, the newest Pentagon solution is drones. Thousands of pilotless drones now hover over battlefields and rural villages.

The drones are seen as a spectacular new advance in military technology. They enable the Pentagon to wage war anywhere on the globe without significant domestic casualties and without arousing domestic opposition. Military planners brag that targeted assassinations against totally defenseless populations are the wars of the future.Technicians behind a screen in Utah or Syracuse, N.Y., can evaluate suspicious activity, such as a large gathering in a village, and launch a Hell Fire missile from an unmanned Predator drone. These “soldiers” have no way of knowing if the missile is striking a “terrorist” gathering or a wedding party, nor of confirming if it is hitting a peasant planting a field or planting a bomb. It is open season on these “targets.”

Drone attacks, the newest high-tech tactic of choice, has turned a key U.S. ally — Pakistan — into an unstable, unreliable opponent. Polls measure mass hatred of the U.S. by the Pakistani population at more than 90 percent. Anti-U.S. sentiment runs through all social strata and all national and religious groups in Pakistan. It impacts every level of the military and every political group.

The clearest sign of just how pervasive this resistance to U.S. dictates has become is the Pakistani government’s announcement that it will refuse to abandon construction of a pipeline to transport Iranian natural gas into Pakistan and in the future even into India, despite new U.S. sanctions on all trade with Iran, especially oil and gas.

Outrage at the drone attacks has unhinged U.S. plans not only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also most recently in Yemen. There the drone attacks added fuel to the mass opposition demanding the overthrow of the 33-year U.S.-supported dictator Ali Saleh.

U.S. militarism grows more reckless

Each of these disasters for U.S. imperialism actually increases the danger of far more reckless and expanding war policies.

Special Operations Forces are also seen as the agile new solution. The commander of the Special Operations Command, Admiral William H. McRaven, is seeking and is expected to receive new authority to move elite Special Op forces around the world faster and outside normal Pentagon deployment channels. These Special Op forces will operate with greater autonomy throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The U.S. State Department has voiced concern that commando units carrying out targeted assassinations and other clandestine Special Ops missions, treating the whole world as a free-fire zone with open season hunting for anyone branded as a “terrorist,” will arouse greater anger at this affront to sovereignty. Since September 2011 Special Op Units have acted in 70 countries.

These units are especially active in the Middle East, focused on Syria, Iran, Turkey, Libya, Egypt and Pakistan. Special Op Units escalate instability without securing new hegemony.

The growing danger exists that U.S. corporate power, seeing its ability to ram through its dictates decline on every side, is increasingly driven to military solutions. The more the U.S. loses its grip on the region, the more desperate imperialism may become to risk all in a wild adventure to recoup its past domination.

An attack on Iran is more likely not because of anything that Iran has done, but because Iran’s continued influence in the region is a direct threat to U.S. hegemony. And Iran is not the only target.

The Pentagon is planning for World War III against China. Ominous announcements have been made of a growing U.S. military presence in the Asia Pacific, 2,500 Marines in northern Australia, combat ships stationed in Singapore, increased military presence in the Philippines, a deal to provide Taiwan with
Patriot missiles and a dangerous plan to surround China with missile defense systems in South Korea and Japan, along with new advanced weapons sales to India.

U.S. capitalism in irrevocable decline

The Pentagon has weapons that can destroy the world, but it has come up against the limits of the capitalist system it serves. This is a system that is today in decline and decay.

The U.S. global position at the end of World War II, following the massive destruction of industry in Europe, Japan and the Soviet Union, was based on the undisputed fact that with 5 percent of the world’s population it produced half the world’s marketable commodities. The U.S. economy was a powerhouse. The dollar was the dominant currency. Its political position was based on its economic strength.

Today U.S. imperialism’s desperate attempt to maintain global hegemony is expressed entirely through its ruthless projection of military muscle. Increasingly, new weapons function in secret and in total violation of the national sovereignty of every other country. The U.S.’s economic position continues to decline, but Wall Street’s corporate power is determined to reconfigure its military into speedier, more secretive, more destructive and unchallenged light units able to leap the globe. Today’s corporate rulers, however, no longer operate in a world where they alone have access to and understanding of technology.

The capitalist system is long past the time when it could play any progressive role with respect to more archaic, feudal forms of society. Now imperialism blocks with every and any reactionary force in a desperate attempt to stop any effort by workers, peasants or other oppressed peoples to assert their rights or gain a larger share of their labor or resources.

The present crisis of capitalism is far more serious than the cyclical crises of the past. It is an unsolvable crisis because technology is so fantastically productive, with production taking place on a global scale at the cheapest possible wage. The system has no solution to the growing mass unemployment.

Unlike the pre-WWII period, when billions of dollars in orders of everything from life vests and uniforms to tanks and ships could get the stagnant U.S. economy humming again, the past 70 years of military contracts have left the economy awash in every type of weapon.

Now, the sophisticated, high-tech weapons systems, guided missiles, Trident submarines, nuclear weapons, drones, satellites and aircraft carriers the Pentagon orders no longer provide enough new jobs to revive the U.S. economy and boost it back to its former pre-eminent position. It is not enough to spur a new cycle of expansion.

U.S. imperialism is totally dependent on this giant continued subsidy of military production, yet it is not enough to stave off recession, depression and the crisis of capitalist glut.

Surprisingly, it is not enough to defeat the poorest countries in the world. It is not even enough to keep its imperialist NATO allies and even U.S. puppet forces in line.

Military production won’t resolve capitalist crisis

In the past, bloody imperialist expansion and giant military subsidies were the way out of capitalist crisis. Now, big-budget military contracts, the historic stimulant used to artificially jump-start the capitalist economy, can no longer revive it.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a net loss for imperialism. They cost trillions of dollars but have been unable to secure new markets, new sources of super profits or guaranteed sustainable profits.

Today there is no end in sight to U.S. wars. This militarism will only exacerbate the struggle at the center, the fierce contention over the federal budget and the distribution of tax dollars. This battle will increasingly be between the ever-growing military budget, the billions and now trillions used to bail out the banks, and the drastically shrinking funds for every other social need and expenditure. Understanding this unsolvable contradiction
will provide us with a fighting materialist approach to the struggle against imperialist war and bank bailouts.

In a period when hospitals and schools are being closed, tens of thousands of state and city workers are losing their jobs, entire cities are being gutted of industries and millions of homes are foreclosed, the growing share of resources going to the capitalist war economy will become increasingly intolerable to the masses at home.

Capitalism is a ruthless economic system that has always been dependent on an ever-expanding market. It produces only what can be sold at a profit. But now, no matter how much money from the U.S. taxpayers is handed over to banks and to giant military corporations, it is no longer enough to bail out the capitalist system.

But even if it is not enough to reverse the overall economy, that will not stop the military corporations from demanding more and more as their private pillage. New wars must be projected and existing wars dragged out. Getting government money is state-guaranteed profits.

Battle over budget is inevitable

The proponents of ever-expanding militarism overwhelm other voices among the very top ranks of U.S. corporate, political and media power. To continue to bail out banks and fund military contracts, they will loot every pool of accumulated funds, especially Social Security and Medicare.

The relentless increases in the military budget during a time of such draconian cuts both demand a mass fight back and open real possibilities for that fight back, linked to the struggle over the budget. Actively challenging the war profiteers that are guaranteed billions on contracts can help to politicize the fight and teach valuable lessons. Exposing major corporations that are receiving billions of dollars while millions of workers are facing life-threatening cuts and linking these campaigns would build class-consciousness and class anger.

The money and resources do exist to more than solve the problems of the 99%. But without a clear explanation and a mobilized response, workers can fall prey to the endless corporate propaganda that there is no money.

Today’s military machine is less and less able to promote the interests of a ruling class that is shrinking, consolidating and merging into a tiny elite. Two hundred multi-billionaires own more wealth than 2 billion of the poorest people on the planet. The ruling class is driven to sow division, racism, fear and increased repression at every level. It is their only way to hold this corrupt and decaying system together, when millions are facing ruin.

The days are long past that any progressive ideology emanated from any sector of the capitalist class. The very inability of the 1% to revive the economy, the constant increases in military spending and the relentless cuts in every essential program sow the seeds of the rulers’ own demise. But it will take an enormous mobilized class-conscious force to bring them down. The more we are able to take militant actions that link the movement against the endless wars and the giant subsidies of the military to the fight against deadly cuts in social services, the more the anti-war movement will take on the working class character that it needs to succeed.

Solidarity is the answer

The vicious and unpredictable character of a dying system makes solidarity and class-consciousness more important today than at any time in human history. To remain vital and relevant, any movement against the horrific cutbacks that are on the agenda, and against the Pentagon’s ever increasing costs, must consciously oppose the growing racist repression at home, the increase in attacks on people of color, the demonization of Muslims and the criminalization of youth.

The raids against immigrant workers have intensified in the past four years. The racism of the police, using endless stop and frisk tactics, drug raids, and street sweeps of Black and Latino youths criminalizes a whole generation of youth and means that the prison population, already the largest in the world, continues to grow. This climate of repression and growing racism must be challenged.

New means of communication are linking people together in ways that were never even conceived of earlier. The more that revolutionary forces reach out to each other and consciously combat racism, sexism, and bigotry against lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people, the more it is possible to build a combative and fighting spirit.

To justify imperialist wars, endless new terror threats are hyped in a media blitz, supposedly coming from Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Pakistan or Palestine. Standing up to a media frenzy of fear and bigotry, and refusing to join in the chorus of political attacks on an oppressed country is the only possible response.

Without a doubt the Pentagon has the weaponry to destroy the planet and all of its inhabitants many times over. But the generals are not all-powerful. While staying aware of their enormous destructive capacity, we will gain perspective and maintain our morale if we also examine their weaknesses. They have an Achilles’ heel — it lies within the contradictions of the very system that created this monstrosity.

By examining the converging crises of the capitalist system and its military, this small book aims at mobilizing the forces that can stop the war machine.

Sara Flounders
February 12, 2012