The United States of America has become a byword for war. No other nation state has started as many wars or conflicts in modern times than the USA – the United States of Armageddon.
Beneath the Western media façade of “unpredictable” and “aggressive” North Korea, the real source of conflict in the present round of war tensions on the Korean Peninsula is the US. Washington is presented as a restraining, defensive force. But, in reality, the dangerous nuclear stand-off has to be seen in the context of Washington’s historical drive for war and hegemony in every corner of the world.
North Korea may present an immediate challenge to Washington’s hegemonic ambitions. However, as we shall see, Iran presents a much greater and potentially fatal challenge to the American global empire.
It is documented record, thanks to writers and thinkers like William Blum and Noam Chomsky, that the US has been involved in more than 60 wars and many more proxy conflicts, subterfuges and coups over the nearly seven decades since the Second World War. No other nation on earth comes close to this American track record of belligerence and threat to world security. No other nation has so much blood on its hands.
Americans like to think of their country as first in the world for freedom, humanitarian principles, technology and economic prowess. The truth is more brutal and prosaic. The US is first in the world for war-mongering and raining death and destruction down on others.
If the US is not perpetrating war directly, as in the genocide of Vietnam, then it is waging violence through surrogates, such as past South American dictatorships and death squads or its Middle Eastern proxy military machine, Israel.
That bellicose tendency seems to have accelerated since the demise of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago. No sooner had the Soviet Union imploded than the US led the First Persian Gulf War on Iraq in 1991. That was then swiftly followed by a bloody intervention in Somalia under the deceptively charming title Operation Restore Hope.
Since then we have seen the US become embroiled in more and more wars – sometimes under the guise of “coalitions of the willing”, the United Nations or NATO. A variety of pretexts have also been invoked: war on drugs, war on terror, Axis of Evil, responsibility to protect, the world’s policeman, upholding global peace and security, preventing weapons of mass destruction. But always, these wars are Washington-led affairs. And always the pretexts are mere pretty window-dressing for Washington’s brutish strategic interests.
Now it seems we have reached a phase of history where the world is witnessing a state of permanent war prosecuted by the US and its underlings: Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq (again), Libya, Pakistan, Somalia (again), Mali and Syria, to mention a few. These theaters of criminal US military operations join a list of ongoing covert wars against Palestine, Cuba, Iran and North Korea.
Fortunately, a twist of fate brought about by the Bolivarian Revolution of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has ensured that much of South America – the primary US so-called sphere of influence – remains off-limits to Washington’s depredations, at least for now.
The question is: why has the US such an inordinate propensity for war? The answer is: power. The global capitalist economy mandates a fatal power struggle for the control of natural resources. To maintain its unique historic position of commanding capitalist profits and privilege, the US corporate elite – the executive of the world capitalist system – must have hegemony over the world’s natural resources.
The cold logic of this propensity was articulated clearly by US state planner George F Kennan in 1948:
“We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”
In other words, Kennan was candidly admitting what US political leaders often dissimulate with fake rhetoric; that the US ruling elite has no interest in defending democracy, human rights or international law. The purpose is control of economic power, in accord with capitalist laws of motion.
Kennan, who was one of the main architects of US foreign policy in the post-Second World War era, also noted with candidness and prescience:
“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
Thus we see how after the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union collapsed the US has been flailing to contrive a replacement “enemy” and pretext for its essential militarism. The 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent “war on terror” has fulfilled this purpose to a degree, even though it is replete with contradictions that belie its fraudulence, such as the support given to Al Qaeda terrorist elements currently to overthrow the government of Syria.
The present threat of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula is not really about North Korea or the US-backed South Korean state. As in 1945, Korea was the site of the US flexing its military muscle towards its perceived main global rivals – Russia and China. As the Second World War drew to a close, the advances made by Communist Russia and China in the Pacific against imperialist Japan were a cause for deep concern in Washington with its eyes on the post-war global carve-up.
That is why the US took the unprecedented step of dropping atomic bombs on Japan. It was the most far-reaching demonstration of raw power by the US to its rivals. Russian and Chinese advances on the Korean Peninsula against the Japanese, which were welcomed by the Korean population, were halted dead in their tracks by the twin nuclear holocausts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The partition of Korea in 1945 at the behest of Washington was also part of the post-war demarcation for global influence and staking out control of resources. The American-instigated Korean War (1950-53) and the subsequent decades of tensions between the North and South states afforded Washington a permanent military presence in the Pacific.
Rhetoric about “defending our allies” reiterated again this week by US defense secretary Chuck Hagel is but a cynical chimera for the real purpose and rationale for Washington’s presence in Korea – strategic control of Russia and China for hegemony over natural resources, markets, transport, logistics, and ultimately capitalist profit.
Tragically, North and South Korea are still caught in the cross-hairs of Washington’s geopolitical war with Russia and China. That is what makes the present tensions on the Peninsula so dangerous. The US could gamble that a devastating strike on North Korea is the best way at this historical juncture for it to send another brutal message to its global rivals. Unfortunately, North Korea’s nuclear capability and truculent attitude – amplified by the Western mainstream media – could serve as a superficial political cover for Washington to again take the military option.
Iran, however, presents a greater and more problematic challenge to US global hegemony. The US in 2013 is a very different animal from what it was in 1945. Now it resembles more a lumbering giant. Gone is its former economic prowess and its arteries are sclerotic with its internal social decay and malaise. Crucially, too, the lumbering American giant has squandered any moral strength it may have had in the eyes of the world. Its veil of morality and democratic principle may have appeared credible in 1945, but that cover has been torn asunder by the countless wars and nefarious intrigues over the ensuing decades to reveal a pathological warmonger.
The American military power is still, of course, a highly dangerous force. But it is now more like a bulging muscle hanging on an otherwise emaciated corpse. Iran presents this lumbering, dying power with a fatal challenge. For a start, Iran does not have nuclear weapons or ambitions and it has repeatedly stated this, thereby gaining much-reciprocated good will from the international community, including the public of North America and Europe. The US or its surrogates cannot therefore credibly justify a military strike on Iran, as it might do against North Korea, without risking a tsunami of political backlash.
Secondly, Iran exerts a controlling influence over the vital drug that keeps the American economic system alive – the world’s supply of oil and gas. Any war with Iran, if the US were so foolish to embark on it, would result in a deathblow to the waning American and global economy.
A third reason why Iran presents a mortal challenge to US global hegemony is that the Islamic Republic is a formidable military power. Its 80 million-strong people are committed to anti-imperialism and any strike from the US or its allies would result in a region-wide war that would pull down the very pillars of Western geopolitical architecture, including the collapse of the Israeli state and the overthrow of the House of Saud and the other the Persian Gulf oil dictatorships.
US planners know this and that is why they will not dare to confront Iran head-on. But that leaves the US empire with a fatal dilemma. Its congenital belligerence arising from in its capitalist DNA, puts the US ruling elite on a locked-in stalemate with Iran. The longer that stalemate persists, the more the US global power will drain from its corpse. The American empire, as many others have before, could therefore founder on the rocks of the ancient Persian empire.
However, the story will not end there. The attainment of world peace, justice and sustainability does not only necessitate the collapse of American hegemony. We need to overthrow the underlying capitalist economic system that gives rise to such destructive hegemonic powers. Iran represents a deathblow to the American empire, but the people of the world will need to build on the ruins.